When Tomorrow's Schools was introduced in 1989 the philosophy behind it was for schools to become self-managing.

Since the start of the new millennium the education system has suffered from creeping bureaucracy. Since the Hekia Parata watch commenced there has been a more significant change. Educationalists no longer feature in the Ministry of Education head office leadership.

The current leaders come from Social Welfare, Treasury, Justice and Corrections. Only one of the top 10 is an educationalist.

During Parata's watch, the Ministry has also been identified as the second-worst performing government department.


If it weren't for the skills of the principals, boards and the talented teaching force, the education system would be in crisis.

Recently we have all heard the Ministry use the number of children who are out of zone as one of the major reasons why Havelock North does not need a new primary school.

Were the numbers used by the Ministry March 1, 2016 figures, as this is just one month into the school year? I understand that there are about 130 5-year-olds still to start school in Havelock North this year.

Havelock North primary schools currently have about 120 out-of-zone pupils.

The enrolment zone is a crude mechanism the Ministry uses to prevent overcrowding in schools.

Zones were introduced back in the early 1990s when the rolls in some of the popular Auckland secondary schools like Auckland Grammar School were getting of control. They were designed with secondary school students in mind. The regulations have only changed slightly since.

As far as primary school children are concerned, the Ministry has no social conscience. Their needs were not considered when enrolment zones were introduced. In their eyes bureaucracy rules, and the human element and personal circumstances don't exist.

- Many families rely on grandparent support for before-school and after-school care.


- Where one parent works is often an important consideration, because the child can go there after school.

- Families with youngsters often change addresses as they improve their housing or rental situation. They want to keep their child's education stable so they stay at the same school and they expect younger siblings to be able to enrol at that school.

- Parents like to drop all children in their family off in the same spot, and when a primary school is close to a secondary school it makes a lot of sense.

During my 20 years-plus experience at Frimley, where we had an enrolment zone in place from 1995, I enrolled children from Napier, Havelock North and many rural locations because their parents either worked at the hospital, one of the nearby schools or in Stortford Lodge.

Primary school-aged children cannot be left home alone and I always considered the needs of the children first.

Many of my former colleagues still do the same.

The Ministry continually changes and manipulates zones on schools, and over the past five years parts of Russell Robertson Drive through to Arataki Rd have been in and out of the Te Mata School zone. Children in St Hill's Lane have been zoned out of Te Mata when in fact that is their closest school.

Zoning as far as primary schools are concerned is an absolute nonsense.

It is also worth noting that schools that haven't got a zone must enrol any child of the correct age who presents themself unless they are under exclusion, and in that case the Ministry can actually force a school to enrol them.

About 15 years ago I challenged the Ministry when it tried to stop me enrolling an out-of-zone sibling after the family had moved. The Human Rights Commission ruled that siblings cannot be discriminated against and are entitled to go to the same school. The rules may have changed but is it once again Ministry bluff tactics?

The Ministry is currently using out-of-zone pupils as the reason why Havelock North does not need a new primary school. The question that I would ask the Ministry is, why then did it count all pupils attending the local primary schools back in 2009/10 when it wanted the Arataki site designated for a new primary school to meet local needs?

The Ministry does what suits it, not what suits a community - always remember that.

It manipulates the facts to suit its needs, not the child's or the school's.

The Ministry needs to comply with the Education Review Office motto: "The child is at the heart of the matter."

- Malcolm Dixon is a Hastings district councillor and retired principal of Frimley School in Hastings.

- Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: editor@hbtoday.co.nz