Private school prepares to triple its roll

By James Ihaka

An exclusive Auckland school will more than double in size to cater for a growing roll, expected to almost triple from 380 students to 1000 next year.

The $27.9 million construction at ACG Parnell College includes a gymnasium, library, cafeteria, laboratories, art rooms and fully wired computer rooms and classrooms.

The associate principal of the Academic Colleges Group, Kim Harase, said parents were not deterred by the fees, which range between $10,000 and $13,000 annually.

The ACG, which also has schools in Karaka and central Auckland, has a waiting list at its Parnell College and has had to turn away up to 100 students a year in recent times.

Classes are held for Year 7 to 10 students, but the school will open its doors to primary-school-aged children and Years 11 and 12 next year.

Mrs Lynette Maan, whose eldest son goes to the school, said it "mimicked the real world and was based on respect".

"It's not so much about the payment, but the ethos and culture at the school. I think children there grow up with a sense of responsibility," said Mrs Maan.

Ms Harase said the perception the school housed mainly wealthy international students was not correct and foreign students attending all of the ACG schools made up less than 10 per cent of the total roll.

Joy Quigley, executive director of Independent Schools of New Zealand, said despite the high costs associated with private schools, some people viewed their children's education as an investment and were prepared to pay the substantial costs.

At King's College in South Auckland, fees including boarding and tuition for Years 9 to 13 students are in excess of $25,000 a year.

"People recognise school - after family - has the most profound influence life-long," said Ms Quigley.

"Children at these schools get a high degree of personal attention, work in an atmosphere which motivates them and get all-round development," she said.

A Herald survey last year showed that private school rolls were rising by about 0.3 per cent each year, compared to a 0.1 per cent increase in state schools.

But the Government has put a cap on funding for private schools, despite the growing number of students, with the amount remaining static at about $40 million since 2000.

Ms Quigley said there was anecdotal information that parents were selling their homes or taking out higher mortgages in zoned areas to put their children through elite schools.

Other parents were resorting to any means necessary to get their children the best education their money could buy.

Last week Auckland Grammar School announced it had told 45 of its students to leave after it was revealed their parents had provided false details about where they lived.

According to Ministry of Education statistics, the number of children attending private schools in July 2005 was 29,358 or 3.8 per cent of 762,790 enrolments, which includes state and state-integrated schools.

Although this was a marginal increase on the 24,092 students in private schools or 3.3 per cent of all enrolments in 2000, Ms Quigley said the figure was significant.

"Parents are seeing that you only get one shot at your child's education and they are being quite deliberate about where to make that investment," she said.

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