The earthquakes that struck Canterbury in September 2010 and in February, June and December 2011 had an immediate and significant impact on the provision of education in the region.

The following diagram illustrates the direct impact of the earthquakes and the aftermath.

the canterbury earthquake diagram shows the direct impact on education in the top box it reads Major Canterbury earthquakes, September 2010 and February 2011. The second box underneath this reads schools and services closed. All schools and early childhood services closed immediatedly after these two quakes. The next section is made up of four boxes which are underneath the top two boxes, reading left to right they are, Student and staff numbers, when the quake struck on 22 February 2011 150,000 students and 10,000 staff were engaged in education. Damage to schools in wider Canterbury 215 schools were damaged by these two quakes.  Within 12 days of the  4 September 2010 quake 99% of early childhood services and 98% of schools had reopened, within three weeks of the February 2011 quake 62% of early childhood services and 84% of schools were operating.  The next two boxes which finish the diagram are underneath these four boxes are By 3 August 2011 where were the students? 11,800 were enrolled in different schools from that in February 2011, 6,700 had returned to their orignial school and 4,700 were still at a different school.  The final box is Ministry of Education provided support for affected schools and services, assessing school property, arranging repairs, relocating students, providing bus services, funding and emergency grants and wellbeing resources for more than 180 schools and 250 early childhood services.

During this time, many boards, managers, leaders and teachers in the affected Canterbury schools and services introduced new practices to help keep children safe and calm in their learning, while still managing significant property and resourcing issues.

Large numbers of families left Christchurch and their children enrolled, either permanently or for a short period, in neighbouring schools and early childhood services. Many of these schools and services also quickly responded with practical solutions to welcome and support newly enrolled children and their families.

In 2013 the number and intensity of earthquakes has continued to decline. Since 4 September 2010, the Geonet website has recorded over 13,000 tremors. Six shakes during 2012 were recorded as magnitude 5 along with many smaller shakes. The nature of the aftershock sequence has delayed rebuilding programmes and decisions about property and land.

During 2012, more early childhood services and school facilities were subsequently closed for varying lengths of time following detailed engineering evaluations. Some schools and services are still facing significant disruptions two years after the February 2011 earthquake.

ERO reviewing in Christchurch

For most of 2011, ERO did not review schools or early childhood services in the earthquake affected areas in and around Christchurch. As ERO reviewers began returning to schools and services, they heard many stories of innovative practices and changes introduced in schools and services, which helped students, parents, teachers and communities to build resilience and enable children to feel safer and continue learning.

While listening to the stories from schools and services in Christchurch and beyond, it became clear that there were responses and solutions to the crisis that could provide useful learning for others in the wider New Zealand education community.

ERO decided to add a focus on resilience and innovation to its evaluation framework in Canterbury schools and early childhood services. The aim was to gather and share some of the learning that had taken place as a result of the natural disaster.

During Canterbury schools’ and services’ education reviews, ERO collected examples of innovative and successful practices that board members, managers, education leaders and teachers had used during the ongoing earthquakes.

Evaluation literature emphasises the importance of evaluating in times of disaster. In schools and services during the crisis, leaders and staff evaluated in real time how well their planned procedures were working and made changes during the events to ensure that everyone was safe. Many have carried out more formal evaluations following the events of 22 February 2011, to find out what worked well and what needed to be adapted or changed for future use. The lessons learned can help other organisations to prepare for and manage potential crises.

Ritchie and MacDonald (2010) 1 reached the following conclusion about evaluating disaster and emergency management.

There is an old adage: ‘to know what you know, and to know what you don’t know, is to know’. Evaluation and monitoring of disaster relief can contribute to both what we know and what we don’t know. Evaluation is a process that discerns what can be known with some certainty, and can help provide a clear vision of targets for the future.