A 9-year-old boy’s mum was told her son wouldn’t be enrolled in their in-zone Auckland primary school because they didn’t have at least a one-year fixed-term tenancy agreement before the Ministry of Education intervened after Herald inquires.
The student was enrolled in Te Uho o te Nikau Primary School in Flat Bush yesterday after the mother sought help from the ministry and approached the Herald.
“I just think what the school is doing is illegal because every child has the right to education,” she said.
Isabel Evans, the Ministry of Education’s Hautū (Leader) Te Tai Raro (North), said the ministry had been contacted by both the school and parent.
“We have been working with the school to clarify the legislation and the ministry’s expectations that all children in New Zealand have the right to be enrolled in a state-school for which they are in-zone, regardless of the length of time on the tenancy agreement,” Evans said.
“We understand from speaking to the school that the child has been enrolled following an enrolment interview with the family [on Wednesday], and we will continue to support the school, to ensure its policies and rules meets legislative and regulatory requirements, and the family, to ensure the best educational outcomes for the child.”
The family of the boy had been living in Flat Bush for about a year, and his mother said they did not want to fix their tenancy but preferred to go on periodic tenancy after it expired on April 12.
However, when she tried to enrol her son, they were told by the school in an email that the Ministry of Education regulation stated “when a school has a zone, a family must reside within that zone for one year to be entitled to remain at the school.”
The nine-year-old boy was enrolled in Te Uho o te Nikau Primary School yesterday.
The child, she said the school claimed, could not be enrolled as they did not have a fixed tenancy of at least a year.
The mother went back to the school after speaking with the ministry and clarifying there was no such requirement. But the school then replied arguing the requirement was “not a national requirement but a school board requirement”.
“This is to protect both the families and the child as if your tenancy agreement is not renewed and the child has not been with us for three months, the child would not be able to stay in the school,” the email said.
An email the school sent to the mother said it was also in the parents’ best interest to have at least a 12-month tenancy agreement “so as not to spend money on uniform and stationery if the child had to move out of zone within a few months after starting”.
The mother was told the school was unable to proceed with the enrolment process, and the child could not be enrolled until it received a full copy of the residential tenancy agreement with an expiry date and that the remaining term needs to be at least one year from the date the child commences school.
When approached by the Herald, principal Mel Bland said she “understands starting school is really important for every parent at this time of the year”.
“We do have an enrolment process that clearly follows the Education Act and at the same time supporting the growth in our zone,” Bland said.
“We’re just absolutely 100 per cent committed to enrolling every student in our zone.”
She confirmed the child had now been enrolled with the school.
“He had his whānau korero with his mum, and he’s fully enrolled.”
Auckland school rolls have been under huge pressure as the city’s population has grown in recent years.
Many families try to get children into schools outside their area by entering out-of-zone ballots. There have also been cases of family’s faking addresses in popular areas like the double grammar zone in a bid to enrol their children at top state schools.
Auckland Grammar has a fulltime enrolment registrar and requires parents to hand over documentation to prove residency.
A private investigator has at times been used to door-knock properties to check students were living in zone.
In 2013, headmaster Tim O’Connor said hiring a private investigator was a last resort.
Lincoln Tan specialises in covering stories around diversity and immigration. He’s been a journalist at the Herald since 2006.
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