National's prefab classroom claim is rubbished by principals

by John Gerritsen / 06 September, 2017

A prefab classroom at Vogeltown School, New Plymouth. Photo /  Ministry of Education

Principals have scotched the National Party's claims that school buildings are in their best condition ever and that 3700 prefabricated rooms are state-of-the-art classrooms.

In Monday night's leaders' debate, National Party leader Bill English said the government had spent about $5 billion bringing schools up to scratch after 20-30 years of poor management, as well as $1bn on new schools in Christchurch.

He said the prefabricated classrooms were "modern learning environments" - a new style of open-plan classroom.

But principals told RNZ that was not true.

Deidre Alderson, principal of Auckland's Willowbank School, said about half the school's classrooms were prefabricated relocatable buildings.

She said Mr English's claims that such buildings were modern learning environments provoked an instant reaction from her colleagues.

"My phone was going red hot from not only from a couple of principals but also a lot of staff, a lot of teachers around that I know saying "hang on a minute, we've got a lot of relocatables and they are definitely not modern learning environments," she said.

"Out of a lot of things in the debate it really did stand out because it's not true," she said.

Ms Alderson said she did not agree with Mr English's claim that schools were in the best shape ever.

"There's many schools around that are in dire need of modernisation and that costs a lot more than what can go into your property grant, and then there are schools like mine that are twenty first century schools that unfortunately have got leaky building syndrome," she said.

Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick said despite the government's spending on property, a lot of schools were not in great condition.

"We've got schools that are struggling where they are over-crowded and we hear of schools having to use staffrooms, libraries, old dental clinics for young people, and in some cases prefabs are being delivered to schools.

"These are not modern learning environments, they are merely spaces to fill the gap where the school is overcrowded."

Secondary Principals' Association president Mike Williams said the government had spent a lot on property, especially in Christchurch and on leaky buildings at some schools.

But he said there were still a lot of problems.

"An awful lot of our infrastructure dates back to the '50s and there's no sign of that being replaced in the near future," he said.

Mr Williams said very few of the prefabricated classrooms were new buildings and many were 30 years old.

"They are certainly not modern learning environments. They're not big enough for the flexibility we would want for a modern learning environment."

"It is challenging, we've had Christchurch, we've had leaky buildings so a huge amount of money has been invested so that is a positive," he said.

"But I think it is misleading to say that everything is looking wonderful - there are still big challenges ahead for whoever is in government to deal with the aging infrastructure."

The National Party leader said in a statement many prefab or relocatable classrooms had been modified to incorporate features of modern learning environments.

"Modern learning environments include mobile furniture, digital infrastructure such as wireless technology, and better acoustics and ventilation.

"Schools vary in the extent to which some or all of these features are delivered," it statement said.

This article was originally published by RNZ.


Green MP Eugenie Sage accused of ministerial interference
88686 2018-03-23 07:28:31Z Politics

Green MP Eugenie Sage accused of ministerial inter…

by Benedict Collins

A Green Party MP has been accused of ministerial interference and sticking her nose into staff matters at an independent authority.

Read more
The summer the power went out in Auckland
88683 2018-03-23 06:31:22Z History

The summer the power went out in Auckland

by Justin Gregory

Friday, February 20th. 5.30pm. The last remaining major cable blows up in Mercury Energy's faces. The 1998 Auckland power crisis has begun.

Read more
Air New Zealand stoush highlights pitfalls for coalition government
88681 2018-03-23 06:11:39Z Politics

Air New Zealand stoush highlights pitfalls for coa…

by Jane Patterson

The face-off between the Minister Shane Jones and Air NZ has given voters a peek into the pitfalls that may lie ahead for the coalition government.

Read more
Johann Hari's search to uncover the real causes of depression
88186 2018-03-23 00:00:00Z Social issues

Johann Hari's search to uncover the real causes of…

by Louise Chunn

Stalked by depression for 20 years, Johann Hari couldn’t find the pharmaceutical relief doctors promised. He began asking why.

Read more
Are antidepressant pills really effective?
88211 2018-03-23 00:00:00Z Psychology

Are antidepressant pills really effective?

by Marc Wilson

Johann Hari is right about some things, but effective depression treatment means casting a wide net.

Read more
Win a double pass to Dancing with Mozart thanks to the Royal New Zealand Ballet!
88313 2018-03-23 00:00:00Z Win

Win a double pass to Dancing with Mozart thanks to…

by The Listener

Great music inspires great dance, as the Royal New Zealand Ballet brings works by choreographic titans Jiří Kylián and George Balanchine to NZ.

Read more
What to see, eat and do at Pasifika Festival 2018
88671 2018-03-22 15:44:53Z Where to go in Auckland

What to see, eat and do at Pasifika Festival 2018

by Vomle Springford

The largest Pacific Island cultural festival in the world takes place this weekend at Western Springs Park.

Read more
On the misguided crusade to make bike helmets optional
88652 2018-03-22 11:18:12Z Social issues

On the misguided crusade to make bike helmets opti…

by The Listener

At a time when other sports, notably rugby, are prioritising head-injury prevention, easing up on bicycle helmets is perverse.

Read more