Gram­mar kids over­load

Act leader pitches gram­mar ‘mid­dle’ school to cope with roll blowouts.

Herald on Sunday - - THIS WEEK - By Nicholas Jones

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.”

David Sey­mour

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