Families go extra distance to beat school zoning

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 06/08/2014

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Families are taking extreme measures to make sure their children are being considered for certain Manawatu schools.

The growing popularity or overcrowding of some Manawatu schools means zoning requirements and enrolment measures have become more meticulous, with families considering other ways to get into sought-after schools.

Manawatu principals have confirmed contentious enrolments methods have been used before and schools were becoming more vigilant in catching them.

There have been examples of families falsifying form details, listing grandparents, extended family members or parents they no longer live with as a student's home address because it was within a school's zone.

Parents have also changed living arrangements, with some purchasing properties or renting houses to meet zoning requirements - a step some Whakarongo School families had taken, principal Jaco Broodryk said.

"Schools are all different and I believe parents should have the right to find the school that best fits their child," he said.

"I do, however, understand that there has to be a way of managing growth and making entry to a school fair, and in the absence of a better system, zoning is probably something we have to live with."

Schools were checking students' enrolment information by asking for proof of guardianship and addresses, requesting phone and power bills or mortgage and tenancy agreements.

"We do carry out rigorous checks to ensure that information is accurate," Palmerston North Boys' High School rector David Bovey said.

The law allows for enrolments to be annulled if it is discovered parents used a false or a temporary address to enrol a student, but only a handful of Manawatu schools have taken that action.

Instead, schools were taking more proactive approaches to ensure enrolment procedures were easily accessible, including posting them online, and families knew the rules, West End School principal Gary Punler said. Schools also worked with the Ministry of Education annually to agree upon suitable zones.

"While it is reviewed every year, it is not an easy process to effect a change," Palmerston North Girls' High School principal Melba Scott said.

Two falsified applications at Girls' High have been picked up in the past eight years, both before an enrolment was confirmed.

"We have experienced an increase in the number of late in-zone applications and a number of applicants who have been offered a place but don't let us know they have changed their mind and will not be taking up that offer; [it means] others on the waiting list are disadvantaged."

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Visit nzschools.tki.org.nz for more information on your school's zoning boundaries.

- Manawatu Standard

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