Teachers are being forced to play detective to catch out parents who are going to extreme lengths to get around tough zoning rules.

Schools say more and more parents are making false declarations about where they live in a bid to get their children into the school of their choice.

Parents have given addresses of industrial properties, half-built houses and, in one case, a massage parlour. Others have claimed their child was living with relatives.

The practice had become so widespread that teachers were now checking addresses and door-knocking parents in an effort to verify they lived in the area they said they did.

And some schools say this is happening at the expense of preparing for the school year, which begins this week.

"It's ridiculous," said Allan Peachey, principal of North Shore's Rangitoto College, who claimed 10 per cent of enrolments were bogus.

"We've had over 100 inquiries for enrolment just over a few days and these all have to be checked out. So my senior staff, including the deputy principal, are out right now having to act like private detectives checking them all."

Mr Peachey said this involved time-consuming phone and map checks, interviews and visits to addresses to see if they actuallyexisted. Schools even checked property purchase and rental agreements.

It's a similar story at Auckland Grammar, where the roll has grown from 1920 to 2500 students since zoning was introduced. Headmaster John Morris said a lot of time was spent checking dodgy addresses. "My deputy principal is out right now checking an address for one student where the purpose of the building is a massage parlour," he said.

"We spend a lot of time ... acting like detectives. It's irritating."

At Auckland's Macleans College - where the roll has swelled from 700 to 2370 pupils since zoning began - there is more evidence of parents lying about where they live.

Principal Byron Bentley said as one of the country's most popular schools it had spent a lot of money checking student enrolment details.

The Ministry of Education said it was disappointed that some parents made false claims and used false addresses to gain enrolment at a particular school.

The Privacy Commission is also warning schools they have to be careful in how they collect and check student enrolment information. If people have signed a statutory declaration stating certain items are a fact, it was reasonable that these details be checked, the commission said. But schools had to make this very clear when declarations were signed.

AT A GLANCE

School zoning was introduced in 2001 by the Government to give all pupils an automatic right to attend their local school.

Schools had to establish a geographic zone and accept pupils who lived in that zone.

Limited places were available to those who lived outside the zone, usually decided by ballot.

Brothers and sisters of current and former students and children of board employees have a higher priority for the out-of-zone places.


- HERALD ON SUNDAY