Tauranga's surging population is forcing schools to build new classrooms and repurpose existing buildings as they prepare for a big influx of new students in 2019.

Schools say the "rapid growth" in their rolls is down to growing families and locals returning to Tauranga to settle down, with a smaller proportion migrating from out of town or internationally.

Statistics New Zealand's latest estimates have Tauranga's population at 135,000, growing by about 600 naturally in the last year, while about 2900 people migrated to the city.

Te Akau ki Papamoa School principal Bruce Jepsen said in the past three years the school had needed to use the staffroom and library for classes.

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To offset the growth, they were building a new multi-purpose multicultural space that was due to be brought to the school in March.

"We are still short of five buildings based on our roll growth."

He expected the school's projected roll of 646 would grow to about 700 pupils.

Jepsen said Pāpāmoa's growth meant out-of-zone enrolments were usually turned away.

"If we take someone from out of zone we are taking enrolment away from someone who is in zone . . . School rolls, in general, are increasing in Pāpāmoa.

"But you have to look at growth as a positive thing."

Te Akau Ki Pāpāmoa Principal Bruce Jepsen sitting in the school's former library last year, which was being used a classroom. Photo / John Borren
Te Akau Ki Pāpāmoa Principal Bruce Jepsen sitting in the school's former library last year, which was being used a classroom. Photo / John Borren

Greenpark School principal Gareth Scholes said his school had seen "rapid growth" in its roll over a number of years.

There would be an estimated 846 pupils this term - the biggest cohort of primary school-aged pupils for Tauranga.

Scholes said he expected upward of 90 new enrolments throughout the year.

"Most of these are existing local families with smaller numbers new to the area "

He said it was challenging to forecast how many new students there would be, especially as new housing in the Pyes Pā area saw more families relocating.

The biggest issue schools faced with continued roll growth was property and classroom space, Scholes said.

The school was building new purpose-built classroom spaces to "maximise outdoor play spaces".

Tahatai Coast School principal Matthew Skilton, who is also the president of the Western Bay of Plenty Principal's Association, said there had been a demographic shift in the area as more young families moved to Pāpāmoa.

This year he expected to have seven new entrant classes with a projected roll of 758.

To help cater for the influx of students, the school had invested $250,000 into a refurbishment project to create more teaching spaces.

"We are well-prepared for the injection we are having throughout the junior area."

Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan said roll surges worked differently at colleges, with the senior year fluctuating in Year 12 and 13 as students left school.

Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan. Photo / Andrew Warner
Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan. Photo / Andrew Warner

Year 12 students could earn discretionary entrance into university early if they gained enough NCEA credits, which meant students could choose to either leave school early or return in Year 13 to finish the year.

The college had a projected roll of 1297 but Mangan was expecting about 2000 students again this year.

Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said last year's roll was the "biggest cohort ever". She believed Kiwis returning from Australia and new families moving into the area were contributing to increasing school rolls.

The school's roll projection of 386 was smaller than last year's 405, with 73 pupils leaving to go to intermediate.

The drop in pupils had impacted the school roll and staffing entitlement for 2019, she said.

But with a projected roll of 386, the principal expected to be able to introduce another new entrant class at the beginning of Term 3.

"As we increase in students over the magic number, we will be entitled to additional staffing."

Tauranga Special School principal Barrie Wickens is expecting 91 pupils in the new school year. Photo / George Novak
Tauranga Special School principal Barrie Wickens is expecting 91 pupils in the new school year. Photo / George Novak

Otumoetai Primary School incoming principal Zara McIndoe said their roll increase would be partially from out-of-towners, but many were new entrant growth.

She expected the starting roll of 480 to 500 students would increase by about 90 to 100 pupils.

The school's roll had started with 473 last year and had grown to 580 by the end of the year.

McIndoe said the school would employ new Year 1 teachers as needed throughout the year to cater for an influx of 2019 pupils.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary of enablement and support Katrina Casey said Tauranga had experienced high population growth for years.

The ministry was working on identifying the nature of growth patterns in school-aged children and identifying measures the Government needed to consider to meet the growth up to 2030.

There were three catchments in Tauranga that the ministry was working on - Tauranga, Ōtumoetai and Pāpāmoa.

"As the population increases, so too does the pressure on the schooling network to accommodate this growth."

New Otumoetai Primary School principal Zara McIndoe. Photo / George Novak
New Otumoetai Primary School principal Zara McIndoe. Photo / George Novak

Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said the influx of primary school pupils reflected Tauranga's desirability as a place to live and work.

"While we have always been recognised for our great lifestyle, the strong job growth over the last five years has made us a very attractive destination for those living elsewhere in New Zealand, returning Kiwi expats and skilled migrants," she said.

"We often hear about people who have grown up in Tauranga and left to live overseas or elsewhere in New Zealand deciding to return when they have young families of their own because they want them to be able to experience the same lifestyle as they did when growing up."

Hill said it was not difficult to attract high calibre teachers, which impacted on the quality of local primary schools.

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless said more young families moving to the area from out of town, including Auckland, and existing families growing had contributed to rising rolls.

"As more young families live here, the birth rate goes up."

Tauranga move best for family

Jayne Settle has recently moved to Tauranga with her son Connor Settle-Smith, 13. Photo / George Novak
Jayne Settle has recently moved to Tauranga with her son Connor Settle-Smith, 13. Photo / George Novak

Jayne Settle moved to Tauranga from Auckland with her parents this week in search of good schooling options for her 13-year-old son who starts college this year.

The 43-year-old said she moved from the Super City to her family home in Mount Maunganui so her son Connor Settle-Smith, 13, could attend high school in Tauranga.

Settle said she had to weigh up her options of spending the last five years of his education in Auckland or Tauranga.

The mother decided to move to Tauranga, where her parents had owned their own home in Mount Maunganui for about five years.

Settle and her parents were renting in Auckland and all three had to work to be able to sustain the cost of living in the big smoke. Settle had been teaching at an Auckland school for about six years.

If they had stayed in Auckland, Settle said there was a risk of their rent increasing during the next five years.

"We also had to bank on them not selling in the next five years too," she said.

Moving to Mount Maunganui meant her parents could retire, while she looked for a new teaching job.

"I will probably spend the first term relieving," she said.

Meanwhile, her son Connor will this start his first day at Bethlehem College where he was now enrolled as a Year 9 student.

What is the Ministry doing?

Investments made in the area include:

- Taumata School, a new primary school in Pyes Pā due to open next month, with capacity for 400 students
- Expanding Golden Sands School to accommodate 150 more students, with six new teaching spaces
- Five extra teaching spaces at Pillans Point School
- Increasing the capacity of Papamoa College to 1500 students, with 14 new teaching spaces
- In the process of delivering 12 new teaching spaces at Tauranga Boys' College

Source: Ministry of Education

Provisional roll stats 2019:

Primary:

Taumata School: 180

Tauranga Waldorf School: 200

St Thomas More Catholic School: 195

Arataki School: 520

Bellevue School: 447

Bethlehem School: 516

Brookfield School: 256

Fairhaven School: 467

Greenpark School: 846

Greerton Village School: 386

Kaimai School: 110

Tauranga Special School: 91

Katikati Primary School: 571

Maketu School: 51

Te Kura o Te Moutere O Matakana: 34

Te Kura o Matapihi: 152

Matua School: 497

Maungatapu School: 585

Merivale School: 141

Mount Maunganui Primary School: 442

Omanu School: 567

Omokoroa Point School: 290

Omokoroa School: 301

Oropi School: 354

Otamarakau School: 85

TKKM o Otepou: 75

Otumoetai Primary School: 558

Paengaroa School: 212

Pahoia School: 197

Papamoa Primary School: 628

Pillans Point School: 562

Pongakawa School: 337

Pukehina School: 16

Pyes Pa Road School: 250

Rangiuru School: 43

St Mary's Catholic School: 451

Tauranga Primary School: 453

Gate Pa School: 332

Tauriko School: 336

TKKM o Te Matai: 62

Te Puke Primary School: 376

Te Puna School: 275

Te Ranga School: 158

Welcome Bay School: 334

Whakamarama School: 68

Tauranga Adventist School: 105

Golden Sands School: 653

Tahatai Coast School: 758

Te Akau ki Papamoa Primary School: 646

Selwyn Ridge School: 502

Intermediate:
Mt Maunganui Intermediate: 678
Otumoetai Intermediate: 820
Tauranga Intermediate: 1250
Te Puke Intermediate: 356

College:
Bethlehem College 1752
Katikati College: 865
Mount Maunganui College: 1501
Otumoetai College: 1918
Tauranga Boys' College: 1998
Tauranga Girls' College: 1297
Te Puke High School: 871
Aquinas College: 750
TKKM o Te Kura Kokiri: 151
Te Wharekura o Mauao: 246
Papamoa College: 1399

Source: Ministry of Education