Monday, April 22, 2024

School at ‘breaking point’ due to growing roll

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Bucklands Beach Intermediate School principal Diane Parkinson says her school is facing issues relating to the size of roll. Times photo Wayne Martin

An east Auckland school’s roll is growing so rapidly that its board of trustees has been forced to spend $1.5 million building two extra classrooms and it needs three more.

“We’re a bit at breaking point,” Bucklands Beach Intermediate School (BBI) principal Diane Parkinson told the Times.

“We’ll have to spend more if the Ministry of Education doesn’t provide the funding.”

It’s a problem confronting schools across the country and stems largely from New Zealand’s population growing without successive Governments investing in the necessary infrastructure such as medical facilities, roads and public transport, schools and housing.

Increasing housing intensification in certain areas, including east Auckland, has also led to more people living in the local community.

Parkinson has been in contact with the ministry as well as Education Minister Erica Stanford and her predecessor Jan Tinetti, to plead for the funding her school needs to acquire more classrooms.

She says ministry officials have visited her school to discuss the issue several times.

A roll in the high 700s is comfortable for her school to manage but it’s grown from about 800 pupils in early 2022 to almost 900 in early 2023 and then just over 900 at the start of term one this year, she says.

“We had about early 500s in-zone and we took a couple of hundred out of zone, which are like brothers and sisters of ex-parents who went to the school and children of the board and the staff.

“Then out of the pool of all of the others you took maybe about 10 per cent, so we might have applications from 300 students and we take about 30 of them.”

As well as building two extra classrooms, the school is operating two classrooms in its library due to a lack of space.

“Now we’re building another three rooms,” Parkinson says.

“I’m crying out to say to the ministry we’re fundraising and rather than spend it on things the ministry doesn’t pay for, which tends to be playgrounds and gymnasiums or the curriculum, we have to spend it on classrooms.”

She says she emailed and met with Tinetti when the previous Labour Government was in office but that wasn’t helpful.

“I’ve been emailing Education Minister Erica Stanford and our local MP, Simeon Brown, but I’m still not getting any traction.

“However, the ministry is looking at our issues because they can now see it’s been happening for two years.”

Parkinson says the situation is putting a lot of pressure on the school’s “incredibly skilled” staff.

“They’ve been here for a long time. The numbers in the classroom are increasing but we don’t want it to be at the detriment of the other students.

“We’re trying to navigate that in some way and whilst it’s a lot of spending for the board we have to make sure everyone is getting the best deal they can and the best education possible.”

The ministry’s head of property Sam Fowler says it’s working closely with BBI to address its property provision for roll growth.

Fowler says the school has had a “significant number of out-of-zone students in recent years and the ministry has worked closely with them to reduce this”.

The ministry only provides property funding for in-zone students, Fowler says.

“Demand in Auckland for additional roll-growth classrooms is high and we need to prioritise based on most urgent need.

“The school has experienced significant in-zone growth by an additional 104 students due to families moving into the area.

“On the current in-zone roll of 749, the school would be entitled to an additional two teaching spaces.

“In response to this roll growth, the ministry is considering options, including temporary classrooms.

“The school have approached the ministry about reimbursement and transfer of ownership of the two classrooms the board is currently delivering.”

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