By Coralanne Child, Ministry of Education, New Zealand
The earthquakes that rocked the South Island of New Zealand changed the education landscape for learners in and around the country’s third largest city. Now there is an opportunity for the community to have a say in the future shape of education provision.
While devastating, the earthquakes have created an opportunity to not only renew education facilities but to do so in a way that will deliver better results for students in line with what our community has told us they want.
The first step in an extensive consultation process was initial engagement with the sector and key stakeholders, including parents and students, about the future shape of the network. The outcomes provided the basis for developing a draft directions document that would present a range of proposals for consideration during wider community consultation.
Proposals included the concept of education campuses that cater for all learners, from early childhood education through to tertiary, and provide a range of health and other services; and standardising elements of school design to create flexible learning spaces that could be built quickly, support innovative teaching and learning practices, and provide assurance of structural integrity.
Focus groups have been a key feature of community engagement, ensuring input from a wide range of groups including educationalists, young people and business leaders. It was particularly important to hear from the local Māori and Pasifika communities and the people located in the worst-affected areas of the city. These discussions were a catalyst for schools and other bodies to establish their own forums.
A web-based information portal has, and will continue to be, a critical tool in facilitating engagement.
Through consultation we have received formal feedback and submissions from more than 750 groups and individuals. The indications are that the community is not only ready for change but it also wants to continue its involvement in discussions and decision making as the long and challenging journey to renewal continues.
Community engagement will continue to ensure that the people most affected can contribute to, help determine and share ownership of the future network of education provision.
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