Another private secondary school for Chch

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 21/09/2013
Seven Oaks School
DEAN KOZANIC

BIG CHANGE: Seven Oaks School founding pupil Jenny Lewis, front, rounds up the school ducks. She will start 2014 in year 9 when the school extends into secondary education.

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Christchurch is gaining another private secondary school, but it will be the first to settle in the south of the city.

Seven Oaks School will first open to Year 9 pupils at its leased Opawa site next year, before it opens a new Year 9-13 school on a 20-acre section in Halswell from 2016.

The independent school - founded by The Holistic Education Trust in 2009 and chaired by Macpac founder Bruce McIntyre - is the 11th private school for Christchurch and the fifth to offer a secondary education.

The independent schools collective said the city had a "very high" percentage of children educated in private schooling, but Seven Oaks principal Owen Arnst said his would be the first to open to secondary students outside of Merivale and the central city.

Arnst said Halswell was a good location for the expanded school, with its "huge amount" of building and population growth.

It 39 pupils from Year 1 to 8, and the Opawa site had space for 90.

There would be room for 360 students once a full school, including a pre-school, was built at Halswell.

Its five founding pupils, now in Year 8, "will be the nucleus of our Year 9 class for next year" and would be the founders of each year level as they progressed, Arnst said.

There would be another 10 spots available to new pupils in Year 9 next year.

"It has always been our trust's vision to offer a complete model of education from three-year-olds through to 18-year-olds," he said.

Its holistic model focused on hands-on learning, nurturing emotional and social development, personalising the approach to literacy and numeracy, and developing a "deep relationship" with the environment.

Class sizes were kept to about 12 pupils and the trust was determined to keep fees at an "affordable level", starting with $7400 a year for primary pupils. The secondary school's fees were to be discussed this week.

Independent Schools of New Zealand (ISNZ) executive director Deborah James said Christchurch was saturated with very good schooling, both in the state and private sector.

Eight of the organisation's 44 member schools were in Christchurch, plus another three who were not. ISNZ members made up 80 per cent of the nation's private school pupils. There were more than 4000 private school students in Christchurch alone.

The earthquakes and economic downturn had decreased private school rolls over the last five years, but numbers were finally increasing in both Christchurch and nationwide, James said.

They were important to offer choice alongside a robust state sector, she said. "We believe that a monopolistic education system would be unhealthy."

An Education Ministry spokeswoman said Seven Oaks had applied for provisional registration of a secondary school.

EXCLUSIVE CLUB

Christchurch private schools

Christ's College, St Margaret's College, St Andrew's College, Cathedral Grammar School, Jean Seabrook Memorial School, Medbury School, Nova Montessori School, Selwyn House School, Seven Oaks School, St Michael's Church School, Rangi Ruru Girls' School.

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What is a private school?

Governed by their own independent boards, but must meet certain standards to be registered with the Ministry of Education. They can charge fees, and fully registered private schools also receive some funding from the Government.

- The Press

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