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Education facility under threat

28 May 2007

The future of Christchurch’s South Learning Centre hangs in the balance with the Government declining the City Council’s application for continued funding.

Set-up in September 2003 at South Christchurch Library, following the closure of Sydenham School, the Centre provides leading edge technology and innovative learning opportunities for 23 schools in South Christchurch and the local community.

Mayor Garry Moore says he is disappointed the Ministry of Education left it to the 11th hour to decline the application.

"It is unacceptable to have waited more than five months for a decision from the Ministry and now be told with less than five weeks of funding remaining that the Ministry is ‘unable to find a ready source for on-going funding of this centre’ which has been a partnership with Council.

"I acknowledge that when the Ministry contributed $850,000 in 2003 to set-up the centre it was a one-off grant to fund expenses related to use by local schools. But surely this Centre has been such an outstanding success, making a significant contribution to the learning of students in South Christchurch, as well as the professional development of these teachers - why kill a success story?"

Council requested an on-going financial commitment from Government for the next five years of $205,000 annually or $20 per student per annum.

He says the schools report the Centre has brought technology into the classrooms, making it part of everyday life for students. "Student motivation and engagement in learning has been enhanced by the experience and parents have been able to join in sessions and learn alongside their children.

"Not only is South Learning Centre held up as an example of education excellence and innovation in this country but it is recognised internationally. It is one of this country’s flagships for digital development.

"This was a status recognised by the Government in 2005 when it chose to co-locate Parliament’s launch of New Zealand’s Digital Strategy at South Learning Centre."

Mr Moore says educational parties from Australia and Malaysia have visited the Centre to look at introducing a similar concept within their own countries. Next month the Ministry of Education, from Victoria, will also be visiting South Learning Centre to look at it as a model of New Zealand educational excellence.

"It is a tragedy that the loss of service to the 23 schools in South Christchurch will be detrimental to the community and regrettable.

"If the Ministry remains unwilling to fund the Centre, Council will consider closing the facility at the end of next month when funding runs out.

"It will be a sad day for everyone if this service is lost to our community and in particular the schools and students who have benefited from this innovative, cost-effectiveness and integrated service."

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