Thursday, 2 May 2013

The mockery of the Christchurch school closures and the Ombudsman

Dame Beverly Wakem of the Ombudsman's
office making the announcement.
In March it was announced that the Ombudsman would be taking a fresh look into the process of the proposed closures and mergers of Christchurch schools as part of the review of education in Christchurch post earthquakes.

Here is the link to the video on TV1 News:

The Ombudsman said they would investigate the process of consultation process used last year.

This investigation will focus on how information was not released or was not released in a timely manner to allow schools to use and respond to it when presenting their submissions against the closure.  The results of this investigation will not be known until the second half of 2013.

After the announcement was made, Hekia Parata, the Minister of Education, said that it would not delay her decision making.  Hekia Parata said the government and the Ministry of Education had acted properly in their consultation.  She is expected to announce her final decisions to be actioned before the 2014 school year begins later this month.

What is truly galling about this investigation however is that the decisions and actions of the Minister will not be investigated.  Only the actions of the Ministry of Education will be investigated.

I truly believe this makes a mockery of the Ombudsman's office when they can not properly assess the whole process.  The MOE acts on the directives of the Minister, so surely the Minister's actions should be taken into account.

And if the Ombudsman does find discrepancies in how the consultation process was managed, it will be far too late, because the Minister will have already made her decisions and the process of the changes being made will be in action.

I believe that the process should be delayed until the outcome of the Ombudsman's investigation is complete and reported on.  I believe that the actions and the decisions of the Minister should also be included in the review for the sake of fairness and transparency.

After all, once the changes are made, it will be too late for some schools when they find they have been acted against unfairly.

The law surrounding the powers of the Ombudsman are well below the standard on this occasion.

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