Salisbury School profoundly disappointed with Minister of Education’s poor decision

MEDIA RELEASE                

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Salisbury School profoundly disappointed with Minister of Education’s poor decision

The Salisbury School Board of Trustees is profoundly disappointed with the Minister of Education the Hon Hekia Parata’s announcement today that she intends to close the Salisbury residential special school in Nelson. The Minister intends to close the Salisbury by January next year, in favour of a co-educational residential facility at Halswell School located over 400 kilometres away in Christchurch. “Parents are right to be anxious about their daughters’ safety at Halswell because a co-educational residential environment is inappropriate, unreasonable and potentially dangerous. By only offering a co-educational option the Minister is removing choice for parents,” says Board Chairperson Helen McDonnell. The Board is dismayed by the Minister’s decision and is deeply concerned about the risks to their girl’s safety and welfare. Lumping special needs boys and girls together in a residential environment could put young girls at unnecessary risk of harm. “We are profoundly disappointed in today’s announcement,” says McDonnell. “Closing Salisbury School puts the safety of our girls at risk, and denies them the chance to get the specialist education they deserve and which their futures depend on.” “The welfare and education of our girls has always been our paramount concern,” she says. “The Minister has clearly not taken into account the challenges that special needs girls face in coeducational environments nor the clear evidence against such an environment for our students. She has also ignored the wishes and concerns of the school, our student’s hard-working and involved parents, and the wishes of the wider community.” The Board is concerned that the decision to close Salisbury School is yet another mishandled process by the Ministry of Education. The Board understands that the Ministry needs to balance competing pressures, but it considers that the right process has not been followed or complied with. “The Minister has also not seriously considered the solutions we put forward; solutions that offered safe, cost effective single-sex schools for students with complex intellectual impairment,” she says. “Both the models we presented would have saved the Government millions of dollars. 2 One option would have saved more than $3 million and the other about $7.3 million, which the Government could have reinvested into its new wrap around service. I am absolutely stunned that the Minister doesn’t want to protect these vulnerable girls, while also being able to save a significant amount of money. “We now have no choice but to consider our options including possible legal action. We have serious concerns about the process followed and wish to do everything we can to ensure that the safety, welfare and future of our girls is protected,” concluded McDonnell. Salisbury School is a residential school for girls in Nelson that provides a 24 hour a day; seven-day a week living and learning environment to post-primary special needs girls from around New Zealand. – Ends –

Media Contact: Emma Thompson, 021 190 1533

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