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Pupils go on school roundabout

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COMING AND GOING: Western Heights Primary School principal Brent Griffin is concerned about the number of children who flit from school to school. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
COMING AND GOING: Western Heights Primary School principal Brent Griffin is concerned about the number of children who flit from school to school. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

Some of Rotorua's low-decile primary schools are seeing almost half their enrolled pupils come and go within the school year.

A local principal says some transient children are attending a school for an average of six weeks and some are clocking up 16 schools by the time they are 10.

Principals have voiced their concern the housing situation in Rotorua is exacerbating the problem, particularly in areas where there is a high number of rental properties.

Western Heights Primary School principal Brent Griffin said schools in the Western Heights area saw some of the worst cases of transient students in the country.

He said there had been 135 children come and go already at his school since the beginning of the year.

"Last year we had about 40 per cent of our pupils come and go but with already 135 children changing hands this year, I think our statistics at the end of this year will be closer to 50 per cent.

"It is a major issue because the children never get settled and form those strong social bonds or sense of belonging. It is very hard for a child to learn and develop when they move too often."

Mr Griffin said his school structure had changed to fit in with the knowledge that many of the pupils would not be at the school longer than a year.

"We have short-term goals set up and accelerated learning programmes that last six weeks to give pupils a boost in their achievement. These programmes are great because often a child is not with us longer than six weeks.

"We actually have a trophy for a Year 6 pupil who has been with us since new entrants and has made the most progress. Every year we have about 75 Year 6 pupils leaving us and of that, between six and 10 are eligible for the award."

Mr Griffin said transience was "one of the greatest barriers a child faces".

Aorangi School principal Debra Harrod said she was extremely concerned and agreed with Mr Griffin.

"Each year the percentage of transient pupils range from 30 to 50 per cent. Last year it was extremely high and I think that has a lot to do with rent prices increasing and housing becoming harder to secure."

Ms Harrod said she found many transient pupils had gaps in their achievement. "We have even had cases where they are only with us for two or three weeks. I don't know what the solution is to make housing more secure in low socio-economic areas but something needs to be done."

Selwyn School principal Peter Barker said his school had similar cases of transient pupils as Western Heights but said it did not "have a detrimental effect on what we are trying to achieve ".

"We have had to adapt our programmes to stay in touch with the needs of our pupils and the community.

"This year we started offering accelerated learning programmes and the results from our first cohort has been outstanding.

"The situation is what it is so we just gear ourselves to do everything we can to remove any potential socio-economic barriers and give those [transient] children short, sharp boosts in their learning before they move on."

Ministry of Education head of early learning and student achievement Lisa Rodgers said moving schools should not be a barrier to learning as teachers were trained to assess a student's learning needs and tailor teaching to those needs. "While transience can set some pupils back, it doesn't need to be the key determinant of how well a child does."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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