Schools play zone game to boost rolls

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 26/04/2014

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Big Christchurch secondary schools continue to swallow up pupils to the detriment of others and principals are urging the Education Ministry to address zoning issues before it is too late.

Primary schools also filling their rolls with out of zone pupils - including some using "shonky behaviour" - could come to blows once the city's population returns to pre-quake levels, an education leader says.

Thirty-five Canterbury primary and secondary schools take more than 10 per cent of their students from outside their communities, and both the Ministry of Education and education leaders are aware of the tension brewing over competition for students.

Some schools take up to 80 per cent of their roll from out of zone but Canterbury-Westland Secondary Principals' Association chairman Neil Wilkinson said many enrolment zones were unrealistic post-quake.

Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey was "aware of the tensions" within Christchurch around "the number of spare spaces across the network".

"A number of schools have capacity for out of zone students and this can result in student movement across the city, which in turn may impact neighbouring schools."

The ministry was in discussions with Christchurch's secondary schools, particularly its four single-sex schools, to discuss future roll projections and enrolment scheme practices.

There were no restrictions on out-of-zone students and schools decided whether they had the capacity or were able to fund any extra buildings.

Wilkinson said there were concerns among principals that several secondary schools in Christchurch were taking "relatively high numbers of out of zoners".

"Some schools have had numbers boosted for a variety of reasons."

While the earthquakes had exacerbated the disparities, perceived performance, specialist provision and real estate marketing all helped or hindered certain schools.

Some schools attracted students through offering scholarships and top sports teams, which in turn led to the "big getting bigger, and the small getting smaller".

He wanted everyone to be assured their local school was the best school, and did not want "one school becoming a super school at the expense of others".

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president Rob Callaghan said there was even some "shonky behaviour" among primary schools taking too many out of zoners to make up for shifting post-quake populations.

There was tension when some schools were "actively encouraging students from out of zone". Schools needed to think ahead and save spaces for their returning community.

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"This is a hot issue and it's become hotter in Christchurch because of the implications for the building programmes in front of us [the schools renewal]. There is a storm ahead if we don't get this sorted.

"There is a perception even in primary that there are some good schools and bad schools linked to decile ranking.

"But that's not necessarily the case."

The ministry policy had "no teeth" in zoning policies, despite schools calling for it, Callaghan said.

Shirley Boys' principal John Laurenson, whose school takes 78 per cent of its students from out of zone, wanted the ministry to step in and not let individual schools decide on zoning.

The Shirley zone did not even exist any more - "it's mostly red zone"- but he decided to cap the roll at 1250 and to use only "fair" balloting.

"There are anomalies and the ministry needs to sort them."

The school came under fire for "touting" for Kaiapoi and Rangiora high schools' students last month when it advertised in the Northern Outlook.

But Laurenson defended the advertisement, saying the school offered the only state single-sex education for boys east of Colombo St.

Casey said the ministry would consider a wider review of zoning once population movement was more stable.

ZONING

Schools are required by law to enrol every child who lives within their zone and applies to attend.

Extra space at the school can be filled by out-of-zone children.

Priority is given to:

Pupils accepted for enrolment in a special programme run by the school.

Siblings of current pupils.

Siblings of former pupils.

Children of board employees.

All other out-of-zone pupils go into a ballot for remaining spaces.

OUT OF ZONERS

Hagley Community College - 89 per cent

Shirley Boys' - 78 per cent

Avonside Girls' - 71 per cent

Chisnallwood Intermediate - 69 per cent

From 2013 Ministry figures.

- The Press

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