Luxon slams 'shambolic' communication over school closure

Wed, Feb 1

Christopher Luxon is attacking the Government for ordering Auckland schools to close for seven days whilst the city is under a state of emergency.

The National leader also slammed "shambolic communication," which saw some principals learning of the closures via the media. He called a press conference to criticise the handling of the situation yesterday.

Auckland is currently under a seven-day state of emergency, with residents told to avoid non-essential travel if possible.

Speaking to Breakfast, Luxon said "many schools" could have opened on Tuesday.

"Yesterday was a great day for kids to be at school in Auckland," he said.

"The reality is that there are large parts of Auckland that have been unaffected, and there were many, many schools that could have been opened yesterday."

The Ministry of Education decided to close all educational facilities, including schools and tertiary institutions, after National Civil Defence requested help to reduce Auckland's traffic with more stormy weather forecast.

"We've gone through an Auckland lockdown. Our kids are well behind educationally - we've got a big amount of catch-up to do this year to get our kids in the right place."

"We have really got major challenges around academic achievement with our kids. They're falling really far behind and slipping.

"2023 is the year we've really got to go to work on education."

Luxon said he understood if many schools were closed today but that the decision should be a daily one that involved principals.

"I'd make a daily call. And I'd make it increasingly anchored around the local principals to be the leaders to make that assessment - whether their school was good enough to open or not, and then they can communicate with their community really well," he said.

"Ultimately, local decisions for local people, local communities is a good thing."

Yesterday, Education Secretary Iona Holsted apologised for a "technical fault", which meant many schools didn't receive any notice of the closure.

"I certainly apologise for the lateness and the lack of clarity around the message. I'm really sorry to have done that, and I really want to thank the principals who prepared to open schools so well."

The Ministry of Education's Secretary for Education, Iona Holsted.

"We got word in the morning from NEMA that they were really looking for help to minimise traffic flows in Auckland.

"Aucklanders will know that when schools aren't open, traffic flows are quite different."

Holsted said the ministry would be reviewing the directive "in light of NEMA's advice" on a daily basis.

"If the weather improves dramatically if the clean-up around infrastructure happens more quickly, and we get that advice, then that directive can be lifted.

"We will be informing schools on a daily basis about the advice we're getting and what that means for them."


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