Primary schools are overflowing with students in Northland, with one school forced to teach students in a kitchen, a hallway and an equipment shed.

Ministry of Education figures provided to the Northern Advocate under the Official Information Act reveal 12 primary schools in the region have more students than teaching space provided by the ministry.

Twenty-two schools were running over capacity, including five secondary schools.

John Windleborn, Paparore School principal.
John Windleborn, Paparore School principal.

Paparore School principal John Windleborn said his school has had a class of 25 students taught in the lounge, kitchen and hallway of a schoolhouse for the last three years.

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"It's very frustrating for all concerned - both the teacher and the students. It's not an ideal situation but it's our only option," he said.

Mr Windleborn said the school, 15km north of Kaitaia, was labelled high priority by the ministry three months ago to get new buildings.

He said he hadn't heard anything since that time, despite repeated attempts to contact multiple ministry employees.

"Nothing," he said. "[It's a] very frustrating process. There just hasn't been any dialogue which is the most frustrating part of it."

He said the school had cleared out a 64sq m equipment shed for a temporary teaching space, which the ministry paid to fit out.

The ministry was also providing two modular buildings - space for 50 students - which will be delivered next year.

The Year 1-6 school has funding for 150 students, but had 179 enrolled.

Mr Windleborn said he couldn't accept any out-of-zone students in Year 2 or above - even siblings of current students.

The ministry provides teaching space for in-zone students, who are guaranteed a place at the school.

Some schools privately own buildings and classrooms to accommodate out-of-zone students, which they were not required to take. The ministry does not hold information on privately owned buildings.

In June, the ministry announced a $19 million investment for a new school and 16 new classrooms throughout Northland, in addition to the redevelopment at Northland College.

Mr Windleborn said he was disappointed Paparore wasn't included in the funding announcement, especially considering the school's high-priority label.

In a written response, Ministry of Education infrastructure head Jerome Sheppard said he was "surprised" to hear of Mr Windleborn's frustrations and said the school and the ministry spoke often.

He said the school said last week it was "very happy" with the property developments.

Nationwide, many schools faced the opposite problem - empty classrooms and a falling roll, said the chairman of NZ Secondary Principals' Council.

Allan Vester said some parents sent their children to higher-decile schools because they believed the quality of education was higher, but said this left many low-decile schools operating under-capacity and an inefficiently used network at both ends.

"By and large, high-decile schools tend to be getting larger and very low-decile schools seem to be getting smaller.

That holds true in pretty much any community where there is choice," Mr Vester said.

"From an overall efficiency as a network and use of public money, it would be much better if all schools were seen as great schools and people simply went to the school closest to their house."

Mr Vester, the principal of Edgewater College in Auckland, said the developing stigma around a school's decile was not healthy.

"It's a concern. From my perspective, not just as a principal but as a general educator and what's good for the country, I don't think this divide that's growing is good. To a large extent, it's perception."

Northland schools over Ministry-funded capacity:

• Kaitaia School
• Kamo Intermediate
• Kamo School
• Kerikeri High School
• Mangawhai Beach School
• Matarau School
• Maungatapere School
• Morningside School
• Motatau School
• Ngunguru School
• Northland College
• Oturu School
• Paparore School
• Parua Bay School
• Rodney College
• TKKM o Pukemiro
• TKKM o Taumarere
• TKKM o Te Tonga o Hokianga
• Tomarata School
• Whananaki School
• Whangarei Boys' High School
• Whangarei Girls' High School

- The Ministry of Education could not provide updated school roll figures for this story. The figures included were full-time equivalent (FTE) figures