Zoning in on old boys
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.