Stuart, K.; Patterson, L.; Peace, R.; Johnston, D.M. 2010 Social cohesion or social strain? : temporary school closures in two New Zealand communities Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2010/08 47 p.
Abstract: A range of natural disasters have affected New Zealand schools necessitating closures of varying duration. The research project that is the basis of this report involved a preliminary exploration into the experiences of schools affected by closure during two hazard events: the 2009 Auckland H1N1 influenza outbreak and the 2006 Canterbury snow storm. In-depth interviews with representatives from 11 schools were conducted using a semi-structured interview schedule. Topics of inquiry included how closure was managed, levels of satisfaction with that process, changes made as a result of the experience and community consequences of the event. The Auckland schools whose representatives were interviewed in relation to the H1N1 virus outbreak all experienced temporary closure of a minimum of four days on advice from the Ministry of Education and Regional Health authorities during the winter of 2009. The Canterbury schools whose representatives were interviewed in relation to the 2006 snow storm closures were closed from between one and five days. School representatives from both these regions were by and large satisfied with the policies that were in place for the management of temporary school closure. They said that the unknown nature of the course of such events meant that policies could only ever be guides to action and that a degree of flexibility would always be required from management staff when considering what action to take. In reporting on their experiences, respondents constructed understandings of their communities and of the event that suggested differences between the experiences of school closure due to an adverse weather event and school closure due to a public health threat. While school representatives from the Canterbury region reported feeling supported by the wider community through what was a ‘difficult time’, representatives from the Auckland region reported experiences of social exclusion. This research project identifies a number of possible directions for future research. Respondents suggest that they know little about how temporary school closure affects others in their community, with particular concern shown for non-English speaking new immigrant families. This is one avenue that further research could explore. Others avenues could include understanding the importance of socio-economic and cultural differences to experiences of school closure as well as investigating whether experiences of inclusion and exclusion are different depending on the reason for closure. (auth)