26 Jun 2012

Minister seeks advice over skewed school zones

2:00 pm on 26 June 2012

Education Minister Hekia Parata has asked officials to advise her on research that shows schools are manipulating their enrolment zones to exclude children from poor families.

Ms Parata says she has also asked for a copy of the study by University of Illinois associate professor Chris Lubienski.

Professor Lubienski conducted his research while on a Fulbright Scholarship to New Zealand.

He studied 49 schools in the Auckland area last year and found 36 secondary school zones did not match their immediate area. Of those, 29 are skewed to exclude poor areas and include rich neighbourhoods.

He says some principals admitted to doing this deliberately and one said she removed names from her school's ballot for out-of-zone enrolments.

Labour Party education spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says the Government should encourage schools to review their zones in light of evidence that some are deliberately excluding poor families.

Zoning manipulation 'may be wider problem'

The head of the Secondary Principals' Association says more schools than first identified might be deliberately changing school zones to exclude poorer areas.

Association president Patrick Walsh says two principals in Wellington and one in Christchurch have told him schools in those areas are skewing enrolment zones.

Mr Walsh says if their allegations are true the Ministry of Education would need to explain why it allowed zone changes to go ahead.

Wellington College principal Roger Moses says he would be astonished if Wellington schools manipulate their zones, because it could put a huge stain on their reputation.

Papatoetoe High School principal Peter Gall says the allegations are unsurprising and the government should revise the decile rating system to remove the incentive to manipulate school zones.