Grammar kids overload
Act leader pitches grammar ‘middle’ school to cope with roll blowouts.
Sought-after schools will turbo-charge housing intensification in parts of Auckland as the school-age population in the “Double Grammar Zone” is expected to boom by at least 5000, according to a new report.
The research by Property Economics has been released to the Herald on Sunday ahead of Epsom MP and Act Party leader David Seymour’s Epsom campaign launch today.
Seymour commissioned it after becoming concerned future growth and the pressure that will put on near-full state schools like Auckland Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar was being underestimated.
Auckland Grammar is spending $86,000 a year to enforce its zone, including on private investigators to check students live where they claim. It estimates 1200 apartments are being built in its zone.
Where the two school areas overlap — the Double Grammar Zone — property commands a premium of hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to homes outside.
“The school zoning actually drives development behaviour, rather than the other way around,” Seymour said.
Property Economics looked at likely housing development in the Epsom electorate under the Unitary Plan. Under the low-development scenario, it calculated a long-term (about 20 years) total population increase of 28,254, with 5114 schoolage children. The medium scenario forecast a 6069 school-age increase, and 8039 extra school students under the high-growth scenario.
There are about 14,000 residents of school age. Auckland Grammar has a roll of about 2525 students and Eggs has about 2200.
Seymour wanted the ministry to face up to such increases, and for the wider community to discuss how to cope with the changes.
In the past he floated the idea of removing the automatic right to attend local schools from residents in yet-to-be-built housing, and still believed that should be considered.
Other options included changing existing zoning, which he believed was unfair, or building a new high school and allowing families to choose where they send their child.
Another option was to develop a co-educational middle school under the joint banner of Auckland and Epsom grammars, with the existing schools taking senior students only.
Seymour stressed he was not advocating for any particular option.
“Auckland Grammar can’t have an assembly with all the kids in one hall. There is more and more concreting over the fields and the things people regard as a New Zealand school become harder to do.”
Auckland Grammar headmaster Tim O’Connor said his school had told the ministry some 1200 apartments were being built in its zone, but there had been no interest in helping the school prepare for long-term roll growth.
“It is time they sought independent advice, such as the type of report David Seymour commissioned . . . one size doesn’t fit all, and enrolment zones in central Auckland require specific attention.
“Our monitoring shows 22 per cent of our roll moved into zone six months or less before they started.”
O’Connor said another problem was house prices and rising rents driving families and teachers to more affordable areas, and that “concerns me greatly”.
Education Minister Nikki Kaye said significant investment had been made in Auckland to ensure schools could cope with a growing population, and Budget 2017 committed $240m to creating more places in the city’s schools.
The ministry is developing a 30-year plan for Auckland, and its forecasting is based on Statistics NZ population growth.
“As Minister I’m very happy to see any reports David as the local MP has commissioned.”