Some Auckland principals are reportedly expecting hostility when enrolment zones are introduced for the first time next month.
Their schools are part of an unprecedented Education Ministry push to create or redraw enrolment schemes at 135 Auckland schools.
The ministry worked with the first 60 schools last year and principals said six of those schools in Manurewa will be introducing zones at the start of term two on May 3.
The principals have been told all 35 primary and intermediate schools in the area will have to adhere to the given zones, a change applying to new enrolments. Children in-zone will have guaranteed access to their school, but out-of-zone children will be accepted via a ballot, only if there is room for them.
The anticipated angst indicates fairness may be a casualty in attempts to control tides of enrolments which deluge in-favour schools while leaving neighbouring schools unable to sustain rolls.
In a ideal world, unfettered by school zoning, children showing particular scholastic abilities could be enrolled with similar others, giving their potential the best chance of being fully realised. And parents who wanted to enrol their children at a school emphasising the creative arts or cultural activities would be able to do so.
Zoning, although the product of misguided egalitarianism, is a fact of life and, therein, has schools caught between boundary changes and frustrated families.
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Zoning insists that a school serve its community. It is not there to supply a niche education holding a minority appeal and to be sustainable only because its roll is drawn from an Auckland-wide net. Zoning is meant to ensure the full range of students within a school's vicinity is retained and makes any one school as good as any other.
Auckland Primary Principals Association president Stephen Lethbridge said the association agrees more enrolment schemes are necessary and the ministry's intervention should help ensure they were as fair as can be.
"There's no doubt that there is a challenge involved. We've had a system where schools in the past would co-construct a zone with the ministry and there would be overlaps and all sorts of grey areas, so having the ministry take control of this and draw up these zones can only be a positive thing for the region," he said.
This is, as is so often the case, more than just a matter of offering the fairest chance of an education to as many students as possible. An earlier review of the zone proposals pointed out the plan could save tens of millions of dollars by avoiding or deferring construction of new classrooms, which cost about $650,000 each.
On the other side of the equation are families who have paid market rates for a house in a certain school zone only to find the goalposts have been moved - to another playing field.
Ultimately, Auckland's rapid growth has put immense pressure on classrooms across the city and the ministry wants more enrolment zones so it can manage the numbers.
As a result, choice may have to take a back seat. Some schools, and families, however are unlikely to go quietly.