Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Schools: can we get a plan up in here?

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  • Paul Brislen,

    Good post, Russell, and can I just urge everyone with kids to get involved in their local schools. I'm on two boards and let me tell you, every board needs people who can support their schools (and by extension their communities) and all of them are always after people who can help govern effectively.

    It's not onerous - half a dozen meetings a year - and it's a chance to help put something back. That's doubly important if you're in the sort of position Pt Chev Primary (and my two) are in with rapidly changing environments, lack of support from government levels and teachers stretched to breaking point.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 174 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Ross,

    We have similar problems down here in Papakura with Addison taking off at a great rate of knots. There is land put aside for new schools and to upgrade schools but the Ministry of Education wont budge for most likely a decade. Well too late as an extra 5,000 people come in over the next 5 years and even more once the Unitary Plan goes operative.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2014 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    NB: I made a couple of corrections and an update shortly after the post was published. It appears that, at the least, the problem is now being acknowledged.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18827 posts Report Reply

  • Allan Moyle,

    Would be good if the Herald advised the specfic origin of those roll numbers used, I suspect they are they based on March Roll Returns to MoE, not end of year Roll. My wife's school shows a small decrease 2003 >2012, but the 2012 end of year roll number was higher that than value shown in infographic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 91 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Allan Moyle,

    Would be good if the Herald advised the specfic origin of those roll numbers used, I suspect they are they based on March Roll Returns to MoE, not end of year Roll. My wife’s school shows a small decrease 2003 >2012, but the 2012 end of year roll number was higher that than value shown in infographic.

    They're July rolls, which is what the ministry funds on.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18827 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The Herald's data dude Kamal Hothi has helpfully given me a link to the underlying dataset for his infographic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18827 posts Report Reply

  • kris_b,

    The school I work at is sitting down with the Ministry tomorrow to discuss exactly this problem. They've done a Roll Growth Analyisis Report, which ultimately comes to a different conclusion than the data within suggests, but even worse - it only projects out to 2016. It's taken us 2 years of struggle to get a new 4-class permanent block built (which we just opened), and now we're basing future work on projections for only the next 2 years? Even though the report mentions the future intensification planned for our neighbourhood?

    The Ministry has dug this hole for themselves - almost all growth in the last 20 years+ had been dealt with by simply slapping prefab rooms on site - building out instead of up, and now they are facing a massively expensive and massively disruptive building programme around the country, involving shifting prefabs around the site so permanent blocks can be built in their place then removing prefabs afterwards.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2012 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Julie Fairey,

    My understanding is that MOE have repeatedly said they will not buy land on the isthmus. To my mind that means only two options there; build up or charter schools.

    Many school classroom buildings could do with upgrades, to make them suit modern teaching techniques and the varying uses of school buildings. School admin blocks have largely been upgraded over the last 20 years, but not so much with classrooms. New schools such as Hingaia are doing quite exciting innovative things with classroom design, and there is an opportunity to also get children involved in the design. I spoke at Albany Senior last year and was astonished at how changed the learning environment was from my recollection of secondary - like a modern building that a really on to it organisation would use. And it seemed to work, from my conversation with a teacher there.

    So there's a huge opportunity here to reinvent school classrooms, but that requires huge investment - either in land or in building - which I don't see happening anytime soon, sadly.

    The other big tension that I've observed is between Council and MOE over sports fields. Council wants to be able to use school fields during the times they are not in use (which is a lot of time for most schools), and MOE seems to want to build out their fields and then rely on Council-provided ones instead. One old example of this is Owairoa School in Howick, where they put in a whole lot of extra classrooms and all but obliterated their fields (to take international students in the 1990s), and then used the Howick Domain across the road. I'm not sure how well this worked (I was living just up the road so am only aware of it by observation as a neighbour, rather than talking to people involved).

    ETA: I can also confirm the MOE approach to delay building for demand until as close to the demand as they can (meaning after the demand) - I had some involvement with two newish schools built in the 2000s, one on the North Shore and another in the South East both in growth areas, and neither could get the MOE to bring forward building for the planned additional classrooms when demand was clearer growing faster than anticipated. The approach appeared to be that MOE would build when there was demand, not before it, which is ridiculous when it comes to any form of infrastructure, not least important social infrastructure like the school system.

    Orcland • Since Dec 2007 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • Allan Moyle, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Nice!, both for the confirmation and the dataset.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 91 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Julie Fairey,

    To my mind that means only two options there; build up or charter schools.

    And, yet, ironically, the ministry refused to fund a two-storey block at Point Chevalier.

    I should note the the school is under additional pressure at the moment because it lost its admin block to a fire last August. The ministry promised to do the rebuild as quickly as possible, but not a thing has happened yet -- meaning the school is down to classrooms that have had to be given over to admin.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18827 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The government (who ultimately own schools) could just snag a few dozen hectares of rugby fields from the high decile central Auckland schools, sell the land for development and use the money to build/extend schools in growing neighbourhoods.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4444 posts Report Reply

  • Julie Fairey,

    People may find the case of Wesley Primary, in my own area, instructive (in a sad way). Their long awaited rebuild ended up being prefabs, and also got caught up in the Mainzeal collapse :(

    Orcland • Since Dec 2007 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • Julie Fairey, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Was there possibly an issue there about not thinking they would be able to get a consent because of other infrastructure (water, roading in particular)?

    Orcland • Since Dec 2007 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • barnaclebarnes,

    The other interesting thing about Western Springs is that it is the only mainstream school that boys can go to if they live in the CBD/Ponsonby/Freemans bay/St Marys Bay. It isn't just Pt Chev that is feeding Western Springs. With greater density and more people living in the city it is going to get a lot worse. I'm wondering if there are any plans for a new unisex high school to cater for the CBD?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Croft,

    And yet the Minister and the Ministry seems to have no problem painting with such a broad brush in Christchurch.

    Tuscaloosa • Since May 2008 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis,

    The Pt Chev Primary website gives a bit of historical context

    In 1927 its roll was 680 and in 1945 it was 900. Even after Pasadena Intermediate opened in 1941 and took the Form 1 & 2 students.

    So what is the problem again ? Your roll is over 600 ??. So what.

    It seems that the decline at Pasadena is because local primaries are keeping the Form 1 & 2 students. Well if they went back to Pasadena that would take 50 or 60 students.

    Just as the roll peaked in the years after the suburb was built in the 1920s to 1940s the current peak will drop off again

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 219 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    Without wanting to defend the ministry's poor planning too much, it is a complex problem.

    Roll growth does tend to go in cycles as demographics change. I believe the Primary age children in Western Bays area is predicted to peak in 2015. And it wasn't that long ago those primary schools in question had very, very low rolls.

    Would it be wise for the ministry make capital investment to increase the capacities of those schools to say 900 when in a few short years the roll may start declining again?. The community needs to consider that it may end up with a giant primary school in the area but few primary age children.

    Pt Chev is a special case with the planned intensification of course, no-one really knows what that effect will be and over how long.

    This is not a new problem, everyone will remember Pre-fabs at their schools at various times.

    There is of course another mechanism to manage the growth and that is the zone. But that would be political suicide to suggest changing the zones of the schools in question.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Ianmac,

    Be interesting to see what happens when League Tables (based on shonky data) cause a flight from one school to another beyond community housing growth. Even more imbalances I imagine.

    Bleneim • Since Aug 2008 • 66 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Steve Curtis,

    In 1927 its roll was 680 and in 1945 it was 900. Even after Pasadena Intermediate opened in 1941 and took the Form 1 & 2 students.

    So what is the problem again ? Your roll is over 600 ??. So what.

    So it's all okay because we can provision a 21st Century school like it was in the midst of a capacity crisis in 1945? Seriously?

    The school site is 1500m smaller than it was in 1988, before the kindergarten was added. It has added 16 classrooms in the past five years, eight of them to cover roll growth. The only school with as many pupils per square metre of site is Mt Cook in Wellington, which has only 100 pupils. And it's going to get worse as a result of council planning decisions aimed at catering for Auckland population growth.

    It seems that the decline at Pasadena is because local primaries are keeping the Form 1 & 2 students. Well if they went back to Pasadena that would take 50 or 60 students.

    Pasadena has issues. About half the pupils who left Pt Chevalier last year went to Ponsonby Intermediate. And no, it's not a full primary.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18827 posts Report Reply

  • BG,

    A significant section of our local school in Wellington was found to be not earthquake safe (3 classrooms and the Hall). We were assured it should be fixed by next term, then the school decided they should build up due to significant roll growth, and of course that required ministry involvement...

    As of now, those classrooms and hall have been closed for two years (although the school did manage to buy an adjoining property to turn into a library, and got two port-a-cabin classrooms). Building has not yet started, and when(if) it does, it is unlikely to be completed before the end of the year. The whole thing is farcical.

    Since Dec 2009 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to barnaclebarnes,

    They tried that at Alexander Park? All the locals quashed it because it meant they'd then be out of the Grammar Zone

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Finlay Macdonald,

    Of course the context is Auckland's overall and unrelenting growth in general. If you are (roughly) increasing by the size of a mid-sized provincial town each year, there will be inevitable pressures, localised demographic trends notwithstanding. A lot of the rest of NZ doesn't like it, but basically Auckland needs a fairer slice of the national infrastructure and social spend. Not holding my breath.

    Since Apr 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    100917 MERA Western Bays Report Final.pdf

    If anyone want's a bit of light reading, here's the 2010 report commissioned that concluded everything is fine and dandy in the Western Bays

    Tui Billboard

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    Without wanting to defend the ministry’s poor planning too much, it is a complex problem.

    Sure – but it always has been since people tend not to plan their lives around government demographic projections. Pardon the cliché, but if a business was run this badly the shareholders would trigger a run on pitchforks and burning brands.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11911 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Oh, and to give the Herald (long over-)due credit, this is what happens when you're focused on something other than the Mayor's penis. Do hope this is a precedent for more actual journalism.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11911 posts Report Reply

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