Nelson schools losing students

00:58, Apr 14 2014

Most of the schools in the Nelson region have declining rolls, figures from the Ministry of Education show.

According to roll data taken in July last year and March this year, only 15 of the 58 primary, intermediate and secondary schools in the region had a roll increase, while four had the same number of children.

There were some significant differences, including at Salisbury School, whose roll had dropped from 22 to 17. From 2003 until 2011, Salisbury had between 72 and 79 students each year.

Board chair Julia O'Connor said the reduction was a consequence of the Ministry of Education's new intensive wraparound service, which had resulted in a different enrolment process for students. The service aimed to keep students with learning and behaviour issues in their own communities rather than moving them to residential schools like Salisbury.

She said the school was "very quiet" at the moment.

Despite this, Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said there were no plans to close Salisbury School.


"Its roll is fluctuating because parents of children with special education needs that may be considered eligible to use such a service are taking advantage of the intensive wraparound services that are increasingly available in their home communities."

As at February this year, 221 students were supported through the intensive wraparound service. Only 38 were girls, and on average only one in three students sought a residential placement, so at any given time the pool of girls who might attend Salisbury was relatively small, Casey said.

"The school is part of the network of schooling available, and there has been no discussion about the point at which the school will be considered untenable."

Tasman Bay Christian School had a similar decrease, from 71 pupils to 55, a 23 per cent drop.

Principal Lynn Hough said the state-integrated Christian school was legislated to accept only six pupils who were outside its Christian criteria.

She said 12 per cent of its 2013 roll had moved on to high school, 9 per cent had switched to home schooling, and 5 per cent had moved overseas, including missionary families returning to the mission field. "As a Christian school, we often have families in this situation join us for short periods of time."

However, most of the roll variations at the region's schools were minimal.

Nelson Central School, Hampden Street School, Clifton Terrace School and Victory Primary School - which the ministry said it would impose enrolment zones for this year, before backing down - all had slightly decreased rolls this year.

The ministry also looked at projected roll growth by reviewing a range of information, including census data, to determine where school-age populations may be increasing.

Nelson College for Girls, Waimea College and Nelson College had roll growth this year.

The ministry's head of education infrastructure services, Kim Shannon, said rolls were used to calculate entitlements to classrooms and non-teaching space. If a school's roll was projected to grow so that its space entitlement exceeded its actual capacity, the ministry would consider enrolment zones, converting existing space and building new space. If a school's roll was projected to decline by more than four surplus classrooms, it would plan to reduce the amount of unused space.

Nelson College and Hampden Street School had both received funding for roll growth this year.

Nelson College headmaster Gary O'Shea said his school would be building four new classrooms this year.

The $1.2 million Ministry of Education-funded project would see the commerce department move, while one classroom would be used as a multipurpose space for year 13 students.

The college had grown from 1101 students last year to 1148 this year, O'Shea said. This included 246 year 9s - the most the school had seen. He expected similar numbers next year.

There were also more than 200 year 13 students this year.

"It means if we have about 240 year 9s next year, we will grow again by about 40 students. We are anticipating continuing growth. It's steady - not dramatic."

He said the growth was due to students attending the school from all over the region. About 200 students travelled from outside Nelson.