Schools bursting at the seams

By Genevieve Helliwell

Some Western Bay high schools are grappling with an unexpected influx in their school rolls and late enrolments are still flowing in.

Otumoetai College has found itself at maximum capacity for Year 9 students, Aquinas College has had to turn applicants away and Tauranga Boys' College has seen a higher-than-expected number of senior students return to the school.

At the end of last year, the Ministry of Education conservatively predicted student numbers at Western Bay high schools would drop slightly as the roll at Papamoa College increased.

However, high school student numbers have remained consistent or increased, while numbers at some intermediate schools have declined slightly.

At the Western Bay's largest secondary school, Otumoetai College, staff have spent the past few weeks organising timetables for record numbers of students.

The college is at maximum capacity, and has had to employ additional staff to cater for the demand.

Principal Dave Randell said the school's 456 Year 9 students was the highest number in the school's 48-year history.

"We predicted 430 Year 9 students but we enrolled 450.

"Seven other in-zone students turned up at school on the first day [last week] and we had to accept them because they're in-zone," Mr Randell told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"We are struggling to accommodate them all ... We've also got a lot of people who have come from out of town."

Other year levels were also at capacity and the school has had to put all out-of-zone requests for enrolments on hold, Mr Randell said.

At the college yesterday, 2002 students were on site.

At Tauranga Girls' College the Year 9 roll was higher than the same time last year, principal Pauline Cowens said.

Aquinas College has closed its school roll after high numbers of students applied for limited positions. The school received about 150 applications for the 116 Year 7 positions available, principal Ray Scott said.

He said enrolments were also up at Year 9 level and the school was able to take only a handful of those who applied.

"It's difficult because we would love to have these families as part of our school but we can't fit everyone in," Mr Scott said.

At Tauranga Boys' College, this year there were record numbers of students at Year 12 and 13 levels.

Principal Robert Mangan said the school roll of 1840 was comparable with last year but there were more students at the senior level.

"Perhaps [this is] due to students placing greater value on education, especially NCEA Level 2, and the need to grow their educational qualifications to ensure access to tertiary education or employment opportunities," Mr Mangan said.

Another reason could have something to do with youth employment not being as buoyant as it has been and students staying at school, he said.

New families to the rural Western Bay area have seen additional students enrol at Katikati College.

Principal Neil Harray said the school was tracking as expected and he predicted a school roll of slightly more than 910 students.

Meanwhile, the start of a new year has seen the school roll at Papamoa College jump to about 750, after more than 150 Year 7 students joined the school yesterday.

This caused student numbers to drop slightly at Te Puke High School, as Papamoa College students attended the new secondary school.

Te Puke head Alan Liddle said the slight decrease was expected, with the student roll about 970 at the college.

Otumoetai Intermediate school principal Henk Popping said his school roll of about 800 was tracking slightly lower than last year..

Mr Liddle said the population fluctuated and this year was "a bit of a dip".

Tauranga Intermediate principal Brian Diver said the school's preliminary roll was 1201, which was higher than the same time last year.

Mr Diver said there had been "quite a few" late enrolments, including five students who turned up on day one ready to learn.

President of the Principals' Association and principal of Brookfield School, Robert Hyndman, said that across the board it had been "a hectic" few weeks at local schools with late enrolments and other preparations for ahead of the new school year.

Student numbers were higher than expected at his school. Mr Hyndman expected final roll numbers to be confirmed in a couple of weeks.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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