The impacts of the Canterbury earthquakes on educational inequalities and achievement in Christchurch secondary schools

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Theses / Dissertations
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Degree name
Master of Science
University of Canterbury. Geography
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Volume Title
Connolly, Maria Josephine

During 2010 and 2011, major earthquakes caused widespread damage and the deaths of 185 people in the city of Christchurch. Damaged school buildings resulted in state intervention which required amendment of the Education Act of 1989, and the development of ‘site sharing agreements’ in undamaged schools to cater for the needs of students whose schools had closed. An effective plan was also developed for student assessment through establishing an earthquake impaired derived grade process.

Previous research into traditional explanations of educational inequalities in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and New Zealand were reviewed through various processes within three educational inputs: the student, the school and the state. Research into the impacts of urban natural disasters on education and education inequalities found literature on post disaster education systems but nothing could be found that included performance data.

The impacts of the Canterbury earthquakes on educational inequalities and achievement were analysed over 2009-2012. The baseline year was 2009, the year before the first earthquake, while 2012 is seen as the recovery year as no schools closed due to seismic events and there was no state intervention into the education of the region. National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) results levels 1-3 from thirty-four secondary schools in the greater Christchurch region were graphed and analysed. Regression analysis indicates; in 2009, educational inequalities existed with a strong positive relationship between a school’s decile rating and NCEA achievement. When schools were grouped into decile rankings (1-10) and their 2010 NCEA levels 1-3 results were compared with the previous year, the percentage of change indicates an overall lower NCEA achievement in 2010 across all deciles, but particularly in lower decile schools. By contrast, when 2011 NCEA results were compared with those of 2009, as a percentage of change, lower decile schools fared better. Non site sharing schools also achieved higher results than site sharing schools. State interventions, had however contributed towards student’s achieving national examinations and entry to university in 2011. When NCEA results for 2012 were compared to 2009 educational inequalities still exist, however in 2012 the positive relationship between decile rating and achievement is marginally weaker than in 2009.

Human ethics approval was required to survey one Christchurch secondary school community of students (aged between 12 and 18), teachers and staff, parents and caregivers during October 2011. Participation was voluntary and without incentives, 154 completed questionnaires were received. The Canterbury earthquakes and aftershocks changed the lives of the research participants. This school community was displaced to another school due to the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011. Research results are grouped under four geographical perspectives; spatial impacts, socio-economic impacts, displacement, and health and wellbeing. Further research possibilities include researching the lag effects from the Canterbury earthquakes on school age children.

New Zealand, Christchurch, Canterbury, earthquake, aftershocks, 4 September 2010, 22 February 2011, 13 June 2011, Canterbury earthquakes, Canterbury earthquake, Christchurch earthquake, Christchurch secondary schools, educational inequalities, social inequalities, disproportionate effects, National Certificate of Educational Achievement, NCEA, school performance, school achievement, government intervention, state intervention, Education Acts, school site sharing agreements, decile ratings, ERO, Ministry of Education, NZQA, geography
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ANZSRC fields of research
Copyright Maria Josephine Connolly