Schools feel the squeeze


Pri­mary schools in Master­ton are re­sort­ing to us­ing their li­braries and meet­ing rooms as class­rooms as rolls con­tinue to rise.

In 2003 the Ministry of Ed­u­ca­tion be­gan the process of clos­ing hun­dreds of schools across New Zealand, in­clud­ing four in Master­ton, af­ter pre­dict­ing there would be 70,000 fewer pupils in pri­mary schools by 2018.

The pre­dic­tions were way off the mark. Na­tion­ally, the num­ber in­creased by 503, from 456,736 in 2003 to 457,239 in 2016.

This has left schools such as Master­ton Pri­mary School (known as MPS) strug­gling to find space, with no quick so­lu­tions in sight.

En­rol­ment has in­creased year on year for the past eight years as MPS joins sev­eral lo­cal schools feel­ing the squeeze.

Prin­ci­pal Sue Wal­ters said the ministry had told her there was no way the school would get a new class­room un­less it was zoned, and that this process ‘‘would take some time to or­gan­ise’’.

In the mean­time, it has looked at turn­ing the staffroom or li­brary into class­rooms, but has de­cided to com­bine two classes into one room.

‘‘The de­lay is frus­trat­ing con- sider­ing, when I was work­ing in schools 30 years ago, you could phone the old Ed­u­ca­tion Board and typ­i­cally they would take ac­tion the next day, or at least within a week.’’

Other schools in Master­ton have had to turn away new en­trants or house them in tem­po­rary class­rooms.

Fern­ridge School prin­ci­pal Ja­nine Deven­port said it was at ca­pac­ity and was cur­rently teach­ing some pupils in a meet­ing room off the li­brary at cer­tain times of the day.

‘‘We have had a lot of new res­i­dents move into our school zone, from all over New Zealand and even Aus­tralia. We had to close en­rol­ments in Fe­bru­ary this year be­cause we didn’t have the space for new en­trants.’’

Sol­way Pri­mary of­fice man­ager Viv Ni­col said Sol­way had had an in­creas­ing roll for years, and had built two new class­rooms, but was still strug­gling to house pupils.

‘‘We are full up, and the new en­trants classes are bulging. We are us­ing the li­brary as a class in the morn­ings.’’

Dou­glas Park School prin­ci­pal Dick Brown said his school had been be­com­ing over­whelmed by en­rol­ments be­fore re­in­stat­ing a zone in 2013.

‘‘If the Master­ton pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to grow like it has been, the ministry will need to take ac­tion.’’

Ministry spokes­woman Ka­t­rina Casey said it recog­nised MPS was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing roll growth, and the school’s board had agreed in May to im­ple­ment an en­rol­ment scheme.

‘‘We are sup­port­ing the school through this process, which usu­ally takes three school terms for it to be de­vel­oped, con­sulted on and im­ple­mented.

‘‘Fern­ridge and Sol­way schools both have en­rol­ment schemes, but also have a num­ber of out-of-zone stu­dents. We work with both schools reg­u­larly, and nei­ther of them have raised con­cerns with us.

‘‘Sta­tis­tics New Zealand pop­u­la­tion pro­jec­tions for Master­ton in­di­cate the pri­mary school-aged pop­u­la­tion is at a peak now, and will then [start] to re­duce ...

‘‘We’re con­tin­u­ally analysing the Master­ton school net­work to make sure there’s enough ca­pac­ity for the fu­ture.’’


Master­ton Pri­mary School prin­ci­pal Sue Wal­ters said her school needs a new class­room to cope with a roll in­crease.

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