Zon­ing in on old boys

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Carly Tawhiao

AS THE start of the school year nears one of Auck­land’s most pres­ti­gious pub­lic schools is hop­ing its fight to main­tain ties with its old boys will soon be re­solved.

Auck­land Gram­mar School, New Zealand’s big­gest sin­gle cam­pus boys’ school with more than 2400 pupils, wants to open its doors to for­mer fam­i­lies of the school, re­gard­less of where they live.

But leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced 10 years ago has stopped many out-of-zone boys from fol­low­ing in their fathers’ foot­steps.

In­stead a bal­lot process is used to ac­cept up to 50 boys who do not live in the ap­proved area.

The school’s zone in­cludes more than 500 streets be­tween Mt Eden and Me­chan­ics Bay.

Prin­ci­pal John Mor­ris says the state school has been lob­by­ing the gov­ern­ment for a decade to achieve “some lib­er­al­is­ing” of the con­trols, and he hopes the is­sue will be re­solved this year.

“We don’t want the zone to dis­ap­pear, that’s not the is­sue. It’s about main­tain­ing fam­ily con­nec­tions and con­tin­u­ing fam­ily ties.”

Pre­vent­ing the on­go­ing de­cline of Pa­cific Is­lan­ders and Maori within the school com­mu­nity is also a pri­or­ity, he says.

Less than 4 per­cent of the Ep­som school’s roll is made up of Maori and Pa­cific stu­dents, the low­est recorded fig­ure for the decile-10 school.

Mr Mor­ris says there is a strong drive to au­then­ti­cally re­flect Auck­land’s de­mo­graph­ics, which show Maori and Pa­cific Is­lan­ders mak­ing up 8 and 14 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion re­spec­tively.

“Par­ents do move into the zone. Maybe the sense of com­mu­nity that Pa­cific Is­lan­ders al­ready have means they don’t want to move or maybe they sim­ply can’t af­ford to.”

Ngati Whatua Trust board mem­bers have met with Auck­land Gram­mar man­age­ment to look at op­por­tu­ni­ties for stronger re­la­tion­ships.

Trust worker Clay Hawke says the cost of real es­tate in the “gram­mar zone” makes it im­pos­si­ble for many Ngati Whatua and other Maori fam­i­lies to re­ceive “the best ed­u­ca­tion avail­able”.

“We hope that in the near fu­ture this will change. We are not ask­ing to study there for free, we just want an op­por­tu­nity to al­low our tal­ented boys liv­ing out­side the school zone a chance to study at one of the best schools in the coun­try.”

Mr Mor­ris says Ed­uca- tion Min­is­ter Anne Tolley is aware of the sit­u­a­tion, which is af­fect­ing sin­gle-sex schools na­tion­wide.

“It’s a com­mon re­quest from ev­ery boys’ school in the coun­try.

“We want to see flex­i­bil­ity in those reg­u­la­tions be­cause it’s im­por­tant that fam­ily con­nec­tions are kept. At the mo­ment we can’t ser­vice that.”

Min­istry deputy sec­re­tary Rawiri Brell says it has not had any re­cent con­tact with the school in re­gard to its en­rol­ment scheme.

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