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High Court ruling over Salisbury School good news for rural students

Wednesday 12 December 2012, 3:12PM

By Rural Women New Zealand

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NELSON

Rural Women New Zealand welcomes the news that Nelson’s Salisbury residential school for girls with special needs looks set to remain open next year, following yesterday’s High Court ruling overturning the Government’s plans to close it at the end of the school term.

Justice Dobson said Minister Hekia Parata’s decision to close the school was unlawful and showed a disregard for the greater risk of abuse the girls might face if they were sent to Halswell special needs school for boys in Christchurch.

Rural Women New Zealand was also concerned that the alternative - to move the children into the mainstream school system - failed to take into account the difficulties in accessing support facilities for high-end special needs children and their families in rural areas.

Spokesperson Pam Thomlinson says, “We felt little consideration had been given to the impacts on any rural families affected.

“In rural communities there is unlikely to be any specialist support, and families may not have the resources to travel to larger centres to access the services they and the child clearly need.

“At best the plan to close Salisbury school seemed to us to lack vision and took no account of the knowledge and experience of parents, teachers and the Board of Trustees.

“The claims by Minister Parata that the best educational outcomes for those with complex behavioural needs would be met by closing Salisbury school did nothing to dispel our concerns for these vulnerable children.

“Some of these girls will have faced complex difficulties when living at home.  This is a specialist area, and it is unrealistic to expect families, rural communities and rural schools to cope without ready access to specialist support.”