The Earthquake that occurred in Christchurch on February 22 damaged many schools and made them uninhabitable.
Following Government guidelines, the staff and students of damaged schools are now sharing the property of other institutions that are deemed safe, in order that students do not lose an academic year.
ACT Party MP Heather Roy welcomed the move, saying that her 2009 Report had advocated such a policy for all schools in the country all the time, and not as a quick fix during crises.
The Report, called, School Choice- Free to Learn, was prepared by the Inter-Party Working Group, which studied the school system to suggest improvements.
Ms Roy said that school buildings and facilities were generally used between 9 am to 3 pm on working week days, for about 40 weeks a year.
“This is terrible under-utilisation of an asset and costs the state dearly,” she said.
According to her, some schools had the Government’s permission to offer morning and afternoon sessions but Education Minister Anne Tolley had turned it down.
She had quoted the Education Act, which specified that students must attend school for at least two hours before lunch and two hours after lunch.
Ms Roy said the Law should be amended to afford flexible hours for schools.
“The flexible hours now given to Christchurch should be extended to other schools in the country and they would welcome the opportunity.
“When decisions are made sans polling and handwringing based on the obvious an in the cold hard light of a crisis, common sense often prevails,” she said.
A liberal Report
The Free to Learn Report had said that options for parents and students should be akin to those available in other countries where education was compulsory.
It said such self-managing systems afforded gains, leading to parental satisfaction and better student outcomes.
The Group recognised the crucial role played by teachers and a need existed to improve the quality of teachers and increase their numbers.
The Report said that the education policy should have appropriate environment to permit entry of new education providers and enable successful schools and organisations to expand and franchise to meet parental demand.
“A good policy will also increase opportunities and remove impediments to the establishment of Special Character Schools, permit schools to lease or licence their premises to alternative providers, remove credential requirements for teaching, and recognise the value of prior learning,” it said.
In line with the ACT Party principles, the Report suggested removal of the zoning system and allow parents and caregivers to choose schools that are best suited to their children.
“Schools and education providers should be granted the freedom to determine the size and character of their roll. There should be a system of targeted funding (which can be split and used in one or multiple sites in a state, state-integrated, for-profit or not-for-profit schools, either through scholarships or tax credits on children’s compulsory schooling for parents and caregivers or guardians,” the Report said.
Ms Roy said a well-structured education policy will help lift education standards for all children, not just for 25% as the Government envisages in its current policy.
Picture for Indian Newslink by Dr George Abraham, Christchurch ©