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Frustration over school zones

JARRED WILLIAMSON
Last updated 05:00 27/08/2014
Norman Sutton
Jarred Williamson

ZONE BATTLE: Ormiston Community Vision chairman Norman Sutton is representing the families that may miss out of sending their children to Mission Heights Primary.

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A group of families is frustrated by a proposal that would see its children excluded from a popular school.

The Toplands area in Mission Heights will be left out of the Mission Heights Primary zone from next year if the Ministry of Education plan goes ahead.

Children in the area would instead be in zone for Baverstock Oaks Primary.

Toplands parents currently have a choice about which school they want their children to go to.

Ormiston Community Vision chairman Norman Sutton is representing the Toplands families who approached the Eastern Courier after seeing a previous story on the issue (August 13).

He says they came to him armed with more than 150 signatures from residents against the move.

"The main thing here is that the community is heard."

He says some parents have moved into the area to be in zone for Mission Heights or have older children already enrolled.

One parent, who does not want to be named, arrived in the suburb six months ago. He spent about $970,000 on a four bedroom house so he could send his children to Mission Heights Primary next year - but that is now in doubt. "Other families who aren't at the school didn't know about the changes either . . . and they're angry about it."

He says the school is used as a selling point for houses nearby.

Families were not told about changes until June.

Parents are also concerned about having young siblings at separate schools.

"I have two boys one year apart and they would go to different schools . . . with two ways of doing things. It's just unworkable," another parent says.

The parents like Mission Heights' focus on modern learning and its ethnic diversity.

They are also concerned their children will miss out on being in zone for Mission Heights Junior College in the future.

The idea of having their children going to school on the same site from years 1 to 10 is attractive, they say.

Mission Heights Primary School principal Veena Vohra says the junior college zone will remain the same for now.

But it is up to the board whether it changes in the near future with a new junior college scheduled to open in 2017.

"The board has to consider these issues . . . for the future of the school. We're in one of the fastest growing areas," Vohra says.

Baverstock Oaks principal Mary Wilson says students have the chance to move up to Mission Heights Junior College after year six.

"I don't know what all the fuss is about . . . there seems to be some misinformation spreading among residents.

"We offer high quality education and work in a very high tech environment."

A number of families from the Toplands area have children at the school already.

And the school has a number of out-of-zone families trying to enrol, Wilson says.

Another meeting has been arranged by Sutton between the group of parents and the board.

They will present their case at a monthly meeting tomorrow night.

ZONING CHANGES EXPECTED FOR 2015

School zoning in Flat Bush will change as the area grows.

That's the view of Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey.

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The opening of Ormiston Primary next year means the zoning boundaries for other schools in the area have to be redrawn.

Ormiston Primary will be the fourth school to open under the Flat Bush Area Strategy plan, with another junior college set to open in 2017.

She said the Mission Heights Primary board will listen to the community's concerns before it submits its proposal to the ministry.

"We understand parents have concerns and questions ... it is in nobody's interests to separate families across different schools and we try to avoid this wherever possible," Casey said.

Mission Heights Primary has a roll in excess of 680 students and it is expected that number could pass the maximum capacity of 700 next year.

Casey said the ministry is working with the school to see whether younger children can join their siblings.

The school would be legally required to give priority to children with siblings already enrolled if it were to offer an out-of-zone ballot. Schools can set the number of spaces in the ballot but don't have to accept out-of-zone students.

- Eastern Courier

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