Crammed Wellington primary school waits for lifeline from education ministry
An overcrowded Wellington school worries its pleas for new classrooms are falling on deaf ears and has accused the Ministry of Education of ignoring the issue.
Kahurangi School principal Kyran Smith said the Strathmore school urgently needed two new classrooms to cope with its rapidly expanding roll, which had created overcrowding at the decile 3 school.
The roll has significantly expanded since the new school was created by the merger of Miramar South School and Strathmore Community School in 2013.
At the time the ministry predicted the roll would grow to 150 and allowed growth for 200 pupils, but there are already 202, and Smith says two new classrooms are needed now and a further two by 2021, when the roll is expected to hit 240.
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Pupils are crammed into rooms with up to 30 using a room designed as a shared learning space, while a hallway utility room and the school hall are also being used.
"The hall shouldn't be a classroom and isn't conducive to a good learning environment. These families have enrolled at this school expecting the best education," Smith said.
The school's roll of 15 nationalities is made up of 33 per cent Māori and 34 per cent Pasifika students, whose learning the school has been asked to prioritise by the ministry.
Ministry deputy secretary of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said it was recognised the school faced roll pressure because of student movement in the area.
"In early July the board implemented an enrolment scheme to help manage this pressure. It takes time for an enrolment scheme to embed and for the effects to be felt on the school roll.
"We will continue to monitor the school's roll. We are not expecting population growth in the Miramar area and there is existing capacity at other local schools," Casey said.
At a recent meeting in August the ministry had explained that roll growth classrooms were prioritised based on growth from within a school's zone - not student movement across schools.
"We also discussed some options for the board to help manage current pressure. This included making the most of their space, balancing cohorts of students across classrooms and not balloting for any out of zone students."
Casey said the ministry would attend a full board meeting at the end of the month to discuss the school's next steps in managing its roll.
Labour's Rongotai candidate Paul Eagle, who is also Wellington's deputy mayor, said having pupils crammed into the school hall was unacceptable and they deserved better.
"You've got children in one of the poorest parts of the city learning in unsuitable, crowded conditions."
Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the ministry was being far too slow in meeting roll growth pressure.
A spokesperson for Associate Education Minister Tim Macindoe said: "The Government's investment in new schools and new classrooms is running at an all-time high, with $5 billion spent on school property across New Zealand since 2008.
"Help will always be provided to schools experiencing sustained roll growth – this can include putting in place an enrolment scheme, amending an existing scheme and building extra classrooms.
"The Ministry of Education regularly measures school capacity to help it plan where help may be needed. Overall, utilisation of school property nationwide is around 85 per cent, compared to 87 per cent in 2008."