State school mergers
The Minister of Education may merge 1 or more schools (known as merging schools) with another school (known as the continuing school) to form a single entity.
A decision about a merger, other than for a state integrated school, is made under section 156A of the Education Act 1989 (the Act). A decision is made after consultation by the:
- boards, with parents of the students at the schools, and
- Ministry (on behalf of the Minister of Education), with boards of schools where the roll might be affected.
A merger consultation process may be initiated on the Minister's direction or following an application submitted by the boards to the Ministry of Education.
Note that a merger of state integrated schools has its own process, under section 431 of the Act.
What to think about
- Why would we want to merge these schools?
- What are the educational benefits for students that we'd hope to achieve?
- What has been happening to rolls in the area over the past 10 years?
- Will there be educational and/or social advantages for the students in a larger school?
- Will there be advantages for the staff in a merged school?
- How will the boards identify the continuing and merging schools for the merger as well as the location for the continuing school? (The Ministry of Education may be able to offer assistance with this through a facilitator.)
- What class levels should the continuing school cater for? If they differ from the present range, include this request with your application.
- Are all the schools involved financially viable?
- Will the continuing school consider a name change? If so how will this be decided? (There's a process for schools to request a name change through the Ministry.)
What you should do
Contact your local Ministry of Education office for an information pack for boards of trustees and a school merger application form.
The board will need to send the application to the Ministry by 1 April of the year before it wishes to implement the merger, to ensure that all the necessary processes can be completed in time for the start of the new school year.
The board should also contact their local Ministry of Education office to discuss a timeline that will take account of all the necessary consultation processes.
The Ministry can provide support for the board as it moves through the process. This includes:
- consulting the staff of the affected schools about the proposal and what it would mean for employees of the boards of trustees.
- consulting the school communities about the possible merger and its implications for students. The boards are required to take reasonable efforts to consult with parents of all full time students (other than adult students) at the school, record the results of the consultation and consider the views that have been expressed before deciding to proceed with the application.
- informing any other schools where the roll might be affected by the change and invite comment from them.
- seeking advice on staff employment issues from the New Zealand School Trustees Association (or the board of trustees' employment advisor).
- informing the relevant employees' unions about your proposal.
- considering if the school's existing property can support the merger? Will there be a roll increase and will any additional facilities be required? If so, you would need to discuss this with the Ministry before proceeding.
- keeping documentation of all of your consultation actions and responses.
Other relevant information
The board will also need to consider whether any changes will be required to the existing school transport services as the school merger could impact on transport provision for other schools.For information about this, contact your Ministry of Education School Transport Agent or read our section on school transport.
The Education Development Initiative (EDI) policy provides funding support for schools that merge. The funding comes from the savings to the Crown generated by the merger. The board will need to discuss with the other schools and Ministry staff what they want to achieve with this funding. It must be used for the educational benefit of students and to enhance schools' education delivery.
A Memorandum of Agreement will have to be developed with each school and the Ministry to specify the amount of EDI funding and how it will be used. The funding follows the students from the merging school(s). This means that although most of it is likely to go to the continuing school, it may also be distributed to schools outside the merger that received students from the merging school(s).
The process of change
When the Minister of Education has decided that the schools may merge and a notice has been published in the New Zealand Gazette, the change becomes legal. The Gazette notice will identify the continuing school and its site and will state the merger date, which will be at least a full school term after the publication date.
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