Ministry apologises for engagement failures

The Ministry of Education has apologised for failures during our early engagement with the Christchurch community over school closures and mergers in the wake of the Canterbury Earthquakes

“We didn’t provide the information people needed and as a result, they were shocked and surprised by our announcement on 13 September 2012 about proposed closures and mergers,” Ministry Chief Executive Iona Holsted says.

“They deserved better. We let them down and we are sorry. We know this undermined trust and confidence in us, as the Ombudsman’s school closures report confirms.

 “We should have provided better information in the lead-up to the Lincoln announcement about how the budget and decision-making process to develop initial proposals worked. The way we informed schools of those proposals was poorly handled and the information we provided then and in the immediate aftermath was not good enough.

“We didn’t set out to mislead or to keep people in the dark, but the result was that we weren’t as transparent as we should have been.

“The scale of the damage and disruption caused to schools meant this was an extraordinary situation - we’d never encountered anything like it before.   As the Ombudsman says it was a “herculean task of educational renewal in a post-disaster environment”.

“Our intentions were good, but we should have done a better job. We apologise for any distress that this caused parents, students, teachers, leaders and their communities,” Ms Holsted says.

“Through the consultation process that followed the initial announcement, changes were made to the original Christchurch closure and merger proposals.  We’d like to thank school leaders and their communities for the considerable time and effort they put into working with us on that.

 “As the Ombudsman found, we have done a lot of work since the beginning of 2013 to provide the right information to the schooling sector in Christchurch and to put things right.

“We changed our approach and the improvements we made along the way have become part of our standard approach to school closures and mergers. “We now engage with schools earlier in the process and provide them with the  information they need as early as we can.

“We have agreed to both of the Ombudsman’s recommendations. We will work with the sector to revisit the closure and merger guidelines that we developed with them in 2013 to ensure they provide sufficient clarity around our policy and practice and reflect good consultation practice,” Ms Holsted says.

Find out about the progress being made rebuilding Christchurch schools.


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