Indepth: Black Tuesday, Christchurch schools mergers and closures


It was the news that sent school communities reeling.

Less than two years after the devastating February 22, 2011, earthquake, school communities were plunged back into a period of uncertainty and anxiety.

Black Tuesday, as it was dubbed by principals and schools, happened on September 13, 2012. Principals, with the board of trustees chairs, were summoned to the Lincoln Event Centre by the then Minister of Education Hekia Parata.

Thinking they were about to learn about “cluster planning”, instead affected schools were handed a coloured named tag and herded into a different room and told they were going to be closed or merged.

We talked to three principals about what really went on that day and the impact it had on their schools and themselves.

Their interviews are raw and revealing.

Toni Burnside’s Central New Brighton School was to be merged and closed, while Tony Simpson’s Phillipstown School was facing the same. Shirley Boys’ High School headmaster John Laurenson describes the “knife to the soul” of learning the school was proposed to be closed and merged with Christchurch Boys’ High.

Two fought the Ministry of Education and still closed. While one fought and won.

However, seven years later, Canterbury has had a $1.137b investment of new schools and state of the art facilities, with sites and rebuilds still happening until 2022. So, was it worth it?