Ministry steps in on ballot blunders

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 07:42 08/08/2014

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Manawatu schools have been battling a few balloting blunders, with suspicions some schools may be cheating the system that decides where some pupils get their education.

A Ministry of Education report on regulating enrolment schemes says there have been "anecdotal" accounts of schools skirting the ballot system.

Some schools were either not holding ballots when they should be, or weren't holding them in accordance with ministry's rules, the report said.

But there was little that could be done because a register of complaints about ballot errors was not kept and systems of dealing with wrongdoings were underdeveloped, the report said.

It states there was no provision for monitoring or auditing schools' ballot processes and no penalties available to address issues when schools break ballot rules.

Of the 205 schools listed in the Manawatu-Whanganui area, 41 have enrolment schemes.

Principals say running a ballot is not always required, depending on the number of enrolments that year, but it is usually seamless.

The ministry confirmed there would been two queries about schools' ballot schemes flagged in the wider Manawatu-Whanganui region this year.

It refused to name the schools involved.

One query was from a parent in the Tokomaru-Opiki area who was new to the region and asked for clarity around the timing of the ballot system being run at a nearby school.

After the ministry stepped in, the school in question started a scheduled balloting system.

The second was from a principal who wanted clarity on how another school was interpreting the rules.

The principal at the school running the ballot had "misunderstood" the rules and the ministry stepped in while they sorted out the issue, which also meant setting up a scheduled balloting system.

Ministry head of sector enablement Katrina Casey said most inquiries about ballot schemes related to closing dates or rule interpretation.

In the Manawatu cases, the schools were being kept secret because: "Neither of them breached the rules, their mistakes were genuine misunderstandings and neither case resulted in children missing out on places."

The ministry works with schools to advise them of procedures, with the focus on making the process "fair and transparent", Casey said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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