Rising rolls challenge for schools

READING SESSION: Tomarata School does not have an enrolment scheme so its pupils come from all over, including Wellsford, Mangawhai and Port Albert.
READING SESSION: Tomarata School does not have an enrolment scheme so its pupils come from all over, including Wellsford, Mangawhai and Port Albert.

School rolls are in for this year, with many schools in Rodney and Hibiscus Coast in high demand.

Silverdale School and Huapai District School have an exciting future with State Housing Areas (SHAs) and various subdivisions bringing in scores of residents.

Nearly 900 new homes are expected to bring about 3000 people to Silverdale. It includes part of the 3000 home Millwater project.

Silverdale School principal Viv Collins says in 2013 there were about 146 new students.

"But of course we're in the Millwater subdivision so we anticipated growth and we've got additional buildings on site."

That includes six new relocatable rooms, which will cater for the massive influx of children until permanent classrooms are built.

With 21 full-time and five part-time teachers, the decile 9 school of more than 400 students is "all in place and ready to rock and roll immediately", Mrs Collins says.

The school has the potential to enrol about 650 pupils.

Another SHA in Huapai could see 2000 new homes being built close to Huapai District School.

The Ministry of Education put an enrolment scheme into the school at the beginning of 2012, limiting its enrolment to families within the home zone boundary.

"Our roll is growing at quite a healthy rate and a lot of children were coming to us from areas outside of Huapai," principal Kevin Cronin says.

Mr Cronin is expecting the enrolment scheme to stabilise the roll for the next year or two until the planned houses go up and the population increases.

In addition to the SHA, as many as 1100 new homes are being built in Huapai north, potentially putting strain on school resources.

"I think any talk of new schools and things like that is way too premature and I think the ministry will want to be sure of the growth before they invest in a new school," Mr Cronin says.

"We're not going to have a say about [the school] getting bigger but it looks as though it's going to happen.

"There's only one approach and that's to be positive and grow with it and try and keep the special things about our school happening."

Pakiri School is the smallest in Rodney and as such faces its own set of goals and challenges.

The single class school of 18, including one pupil each in year 7 and 8, is taught by principal Natasha Greatorex.

She is entitled to three days a fortnight to catch up on paperwork when a release teacher comes in.

The roll drops to 17 at the beginning of 2014, but Ms Greatorex is confident it will increase.

"If we had 25 [pupils], we're entitled to another teacher, so we've got that vision," she says.

"Hopefully our roll will grow and then we're able to split into two small classes."

Ms Greatorex is pleased to see the decile 5 school growing after it dipped to as few as eight children in the past.

The Wellsford School Board of Trustees decided to fund its own teacher this year to cope with its growing roll.

"We've had steady roll growth in recent years - 10 or 12 kids a year - but this past year the roll's grown by 30," principal Dave Bradley says.

"So if that is sustained, we're going to have issues around classroom space and things like that."

The board has opened its own purse to hire a teacher on a fixed-term one-year contract to provide for a new class and reduce the stress on the remaining classes.

That will use up one of the two classrooms normally left vacant at the start of the year to cope with year 0 or new entrants children who start school when they turn five.

Mr Bradley says they may need to refurbish a space to fit them all in.

"Property work is always a frustrating distraction from what my real job is," he says.

"In the long run it's for the benefit of the students."

At Orewa North Primary School it is business as usual this year.

The number of pupils has shown little change for the past couple of years, principal Bruce Laws says - and 2014 will be much the same.

"We're in the process of refurbishing one of our blocks and there's a bit more internal decor to be done next year - nothing big," he says.

The decile 8 school has 284 children which Mr Laws says is a feature working in its favour.

"One of the positives of the school - and quite clearly that came out in the survey - is we aren't a big school."

The survey he refers to was completed by parents and is available by clicking "news" and opening Summary of the School Survey on orewanorth.school.nz, the school's website.

"We do [the survey] every three years. There's a high level of satisfaction about what we're doing and with the school overall," he says.

Rodney Times