January 31, 2023

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Schools prepare to turn away students out of enrolment zones

[Source: RNZ]

Some schools are coming to terms with the effects of a push to introduce more school enrolment zones and amend existing ones.

The number of schools with enrolment schemes now totals 1137 and there are more to come as the Ministry of Education tries to avoid overcrowding and reduce the need for more classrooms in fast-growing areas.

The schemes guarantee places for children who live in a school’s neighbourhood and allow other children to enrol only if there is enough room for them.

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Last year the ministry consulted on schemes covering about 85 schools, including 11 in Mount Maunganui and Papamoa.

That project massively cut Papamoa Primary School’s zone. Its principal Matt Simeon said the school now had just over 600 students, down from about 745 at the end of last year.

He said that was partly due to the new enrolment scheme but also to the opening of a new school in the area and the departure of a particularly large cohort of Year 6 pupils.

“Our roll has decreased which is a bit of a blessing in that we don’t have an over-crowded school. But the downside of that is now I’m overstaffed,” Simeon said.

“I think the community are initially going ‘wow this is great, our class numbers are small, our kids have got space in the playground and on the fields, we’re not over-crowded’ so I’d say public perception is awesome,” he said.

However, he said staff at the school were not so happy because they knew some roles would have to be cut and they would have preferred a longer transition time from the Education Ministry.

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“They’re trying to make sure all schools’ facilities and assets are used to the best of their ability, you haven’t got one school that’s screaming out for classrooms and another school that’s got empty classrooms. So we understand at that system level why they’re doing what they’re doing but at the practical ground level sometimes those system-level devices are quite blunt instruments when it comes to people’s lives and livelihoods,” he said.

In Auckland, the ministry was in the third-year of a push to introduce or amend zones in 135 schools, including Rowandale School in Manurewa which started the year with an enrolment scheme for the first time.

Rowandale School principal Karl Vasau said it was coming to terms with turning families away, including some who had long-standing relationships with the school.

“From a school that traditionally had no zone and we couldn’t turn them away in the past, now because they dont’ fit into the zone there’s the ballot process … all of these different processes we’re working through,” he said.

Vasau said he agreed the school needed to avoid overcrowding but estimating how many places to allocate to out-of-zone students and managing the ballot process was not straightforward.

He said the school’s roll was lower than expected this year but it had still turned some out-of-zone families away because the ballot for accepting them had closed.

Several West Auckland schools were included in the Auckland project this year, including Henderson School where principal Tony Biddick said he expected it would change the way people regarded schools in the area.

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“We have been surrounded by schools that have had enrolment schemes under the previous regimes and that was more a competition-based thing whereas the intent of this is that all schools are zoned and you have a clear idea as a parent which school is your local school and you can send your child to that local school,” he said.

He said he was not yet sure how the scheme would affect his school’s enrolments.

“Quite a number of our pupils come from all over the wider west Auckland area. Some of them are third generation because the parents and grandparents want their children to come here which is a very nice thing but also in our particular situation about 40-45 percent of our enrolment zone that is going to be in place is actually zoned as commercial,” he said.

Principals Federation president Cherie Taylor-Patel said the growth of enrolment schemes made parents’ choices tighter.

“There are still ways they can enrol their children in a school out-of-zone but it’s more difficult than it used to be,” she said.

She said rapid population growth was having a bigger impact on Auckland’s schools than introduction of enrolment schemes.

“The greater impact is the rate of building that’s going on and completed houses and then as people start moving in schools can suddenly get huge numbers of students that come from nowhere overnight and they have to find space for them so it’s the changes, the rapid change and the rapid roll growth that’s coming that’s causing the most pressure in Auckland schools,” Taylor-Patel said.

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