There was only one real surprise included in Hekia Parata’s announcement on schools 10 days ago; Spreydon School is to be moved to the site of Manning Intermediate, which is to close. A quick recap; Manning Intermediate is to be closed, and the year 7 and 8 students will start at Hillmorton High from next year (a year earlier than the Ministry officials promised in a public meeting I attended). The vacant Manning site will now be the new home for Spreydon Primary, which you could argue makes sense, as they can utilize the existing buildings there. EXCEPT THEY ARE KNOCKING DOWN ALL THE BUILDINGS AT MANNING AND REBUILDING IT FROM SCRATCH TO HOUSE SPREYDON SCHOOL. I’m sorry for the all-caps, but this is mental. It’s going to cost between $5 and $10 million to move Spreydon from a working campus, 600m down the road to a place that is currently functioning as a school.

So why on earth are they doing this? They keep boasting of how much money that they are throwing at Canterbury schools – though the headline figure ($1 billion over 10 years) isn’t that much more than the amount that was already budgeted for the region pre-quakes ($750 million). If the country is in such a tough place financially, then does it make sense to move a school that doesn’t need to be moved to a site that was made vacant by closing a school that doesn’t need to be closed? Add to this the uncertainty it will cause to the nearby Rowley Avenue School:

Rowley Avenue School principal James Griggs was shocked to read in the media that Spreydon School was to be rebuilt on the nearby Manning Intermediate site and opened in 2017. “We genuinely didn’t know anything about it,” Griggs said. “We weren’t even told when it was announced.” It would not only bring the two primary schools closer, but Griggs feared his school would struggle to compete with a “new, shiny and finished” neighbour.

It looks to me as though this special-character bilingual school will be the victim of the education reshuffles in the area that, ultimately, stem from White Flight. When I went to Manning Intermediate in the early/mid-1990’s, it drew in students from a number of primary schools; mainly Spreydon, Hoon Hay, Rowley and West Spreydon. Manning had a role of around 300. Now, it’s about half that. When I biked up Hoon Hay Road at the time kids were heading to school a few weeks back, I was appalled to see the kids walking and biking to school – in Christchurch South Intermediate uniforms. They were white kids, living on the block next to Manning Intermediate, and they were going to be biking around 5km to South, rather than walking less than 400m to get to Manning. This is what will happen to Rowley when Spreydon moves onto the Manning site; it will draw all the white kids from the area, leaving the role at the bilingual Rowley school to dwindle until the Ministry steps in to close it.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned earthquakes in that sentence – because I don’t believe it has anything to do with them. This is about the Government’s agenda towards specialized schools – whether they be intermediates, bilingual schools, or schools for children with special needs. They’ve been using the earthquakes as a screen to push this shit through, but make no mistake; if they succeed, they’ll be rolling them out in school near you.