Do Wellington's eastern suburbs need a co-educational addition?

Amy Christie with her sons Abel, 7, Jove, 5 and daughter Scout, 2. SHe wants her daughter to be able to attend Rongotai ...
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Amy Christie with her sons Abel, 7, Jove, 5 and daughter Scout, 2. SHe wants her daughter to be able to attend Rongotai College like her brothers.

A Wellington mum-of-three is on a mission to get a co-educational school in Wellington's eastern suburbs.

Amy Christie's daughter Scout is only 2, and her sons Abel, 7, and Jove, 5, but the Lyall Bay resident is already planning for a future where they can all go to Rongotai College. 

"The biggest problem for me is there is a local government school but you can't go because you're a girl," Christie said.

Rongotai College principal Kevin Carter.
MAARTEN HOLL/ FAIRFAX MEDIA

Rongotai College principal Kevin Carter.

She thinks that single-sex schools are out of date, and has started a petition to show support for the change. 

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If you are a 14 year-old boy living near the beach in Lyall Bay it is walking distance, or just over a kilometre to the local public school, Rongotai College.

But for girls living in the same place, they have to travel about five kilometres or at least 20 minutes by bus each day, to reach Wellington East Girls' College in Mt Victoria or the co-ed Wellington High School in Mt Cook.

For female students living further east the commute is even longer.

"[It] seems really odd to me that OK, there is a high school across the road but because I'm a girl I have to get on this bus and travel," Christie said.

Converting an existing eastern suburbs school to co-education would keep families and friendship groups together, Christie said.

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She also believes co-education is a better reflection of the way the world is.

Converting Rongotai College is just one option, but Christie is open to any solution that might lead to more co-educational options for students in the eastern suburbs.

The catalyst to starting a petition at the beginning of this year was when she realised her son Abel, 7, had all female friends.

"You're going to completely rip that apart and split everyone down the line by gender." 

Sarah Bulman, also from Lyall Bay, supports the petition - she feels she missed an opportunity to send her eldest daughter, now in year 13 at Wellington East Girls' College, to a co-ed school nearby.

"We weren't use to a culture where people trave l a long distance [to school]," Bullman said. 

Both Bulman and her partner went to co-ed schools in Hawke's Bay and assumed their kids could do the same at their local school. 

So far Christie's petition has received 167 signatures and she is aiming for 200.

"While the board haven't discussed this at length, at the moment there is no intention to convert Rongotai College to  co-ed school," principal Kevin Carter said, speaking on behalf of the school board chair Bruce Simpson.

Carter also said there would need to be a "huge groundswell" of support for the board to consider approaching the Ministry of Education about converting the school and "160 people signing an online petition isn't a huge groundswell".

He added that many boys prospered in an all-boys environment, and many families had chosen the school specifically because it was an all-boys school.

"Rongotai College has a proud history in educating young men and there aren't any plans for it to become co-educational," Katrina Casey, head of sector enablement and support for the Ministry of Education said.

Generally it would be the school that would initiate a major change to co-education, and then approach the Ministry, Casey said.

The ministry would then consider the wider impact of any change, in terms of other schools and parental choice.

 - Stuff

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