Winners and losers: School closures in post-earthquake Canterbury and the dissolution of community

Carol Mutch


In this article the author discusses the implementation of the Education Renewal in Greater Christchurch policy which affected nearly 40 schools in the aftermath of the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes. It describes the accumulated social, psychological and emotional toll that closures and mergers took on the schools and their communities. It draws, in particular, on the experiences of one school, using data from qualitative interviews as part of a study that followed the school through its journey to closure. The case study school’s experience is complemented by data from other post-earthquake research and reviews of the school closure process to highlight the Ministry’s flawed process. Claims about the process are examined, including the lack of appropriate consultation, use of inaccurate data, inappropriate handling of communication and disregard for the rights of schools and their communities. The author argues that the government’s adoption of neo-liberal and neo-conservative ideologies over the past three decades has negatively influenced education by disregarding the role of schools in sustaining community cohesion and resilience. School closures in post-earthquake Canterbury were an inevitable consequence of the commodification of education and resulted in further dissolution of community as a consequence.


School closures; school mergers; post-disaster; New Zealand; Canterbury earthquakes

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DOI: 10.15663/wje.v22i1.543


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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015