Our Letter to the MOE
Sandra Orr, Simon Cruikshank and David Hobern,
Ministry of Education.
This letter has been written to express our extreme disappointment, dissatisfaction and frustration at the way the transition of responsibility of the gymnasium complex at the old Shirley Boys’ High School site to the incoming occupiers, Banks Avenue School has been handled. After the demolition of the buildings on the greater site, the gymnasium complex was left isolated and as a result of neglect and inaction, has suffered badly from vandalism. This has led to a decision by the Ministry that the building and surrounding amenities are no longer fit for purpose and therefore will not be handed over to Banks Avenue School. This outcome is a direct result of a lack of a cohesive handover plan and neglect and indifference on the part of the Ministry.
The effects of this decision can be considered on two stages: one; the effect on the school, its morale and its ability to operate successfully with limited facilities and resources and two; the effect on the community.
Banks Avenue School suffered, as did many schools in the wider Christchurch education community, from the 2010/11 earthquakes. They have had to endure the loss of their school hall, multiple maintenance issues patching up earthquake damage, safety issues, a reduced pupil catchment area, and increased demands to cope with traumatised families and children. The move to a new site was first confirmed at least four years ago and the school has gone through a protracted period of planning for the rebuild on the new site. The contractual arrangement included the demolition of the old Shirley Boys’ High School buildings except the Spartan Room, gymnasium and all weather courts, and a new school built along the Averill St boundary. Landscaping, car parking, etc were all included in the new design. The school was excited about the prospect but now, in 2020, there is little evidence of any sort of realisation of those plans. The latest announcement preventing access to the buildings in question is a devastating and morale sapping blow to the Board and the Staff at the school. The playing field area has also not been maintained leading to concerns about uncontrolled vegetation growth and the presence of rats.
In mid 2019 the Richmond Residents’ and Business Association wrote to the Ministry of Education, Banks Avenue School, and the Christchurch City Council seeking discussions about the use of the gymnasium complex with a view to developing an important community resource. The Ministry of Education replied in November to say they had received the request for discussion but never advanced the suggestion. The City Council replied that it had no jurisdiction in the matter but that they could see merit in the idea and would be keen to be part of any discussions. Other community leaders also became involved in initial discussion. All of these have been left hanging by a lack of response and commitment by Ministry staff.
The Ministry of Education has also not recognised the role they contribute to the health and well-being of the wider community. The Shirley cluster (which transitioned into the Ōtākaro Kāhui Ako) was formed in the year after the earthquakes and included Shirley Boy’s High School (since demolished and moved to a new site 7 kilometres away), Avonside Girls’ High School (since demolished and moved to a new site 7 kilometres away), Marian College (since demolished and moved to a new site in the central city), Richmond School (since closed), Hammersley Park School (since closed), Shirley Intermediate School, Banks Avenue primary School (to be relocated on to the ex S.B.H.S. site, and Shirley Primary School. The suburb of Richmond and the surrounding areas had the educational heart ripped out of the area creating an educational vacuum especially at the secondary level.
At the same time, community resources which met social and physical needs were severely compromised: meeting venues were at a premium, sporting facilities and recreational areas were all either closed permanently or had to go through a refurbishment process. All this contributed a perilous state of well-being in the area. The perceived availability of the complex at the new school site was an exciting addition for both the school and the community with the type of activity and the facilities it would have offered.
The Richmond Residents’ and Business Association strongly urges the Ministry to act immediately in
- Reconsidering its decision not to hand over access of the gymnasium site complex to Banks Avenue School
- Immediately begin the process of restoring the buildings to their former state.
We Are Richmond
Richmond Residents’ and Business Association.
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