A little-known private school in the Auckland suburb of Blockhouse Bay has topped a national ranking of New Zealand schools produced by the tutoring company Crimson Education.
Auckland International College, which has just over 200 students mainly from Asia, has beaten last year's winner, St Cuthbert's College.
The rankings are based on academic achievements in Cambridge, International Baccalaureate, University Entrance and Scholarship exams, and on schools' cultural diversity, arts and sporting options and proportions of students accepted into top world universities.
They are not adjusted for students' socio-economic backgrounds, so nine out of the top 10 are either private or state-integrated schools. The only state school in the top 10, Macleans College, has more international students than any other state school.
Instead, the main aim of the rankings is to "measure a school in New Zealand based on its ability to prepare students to seize these opportunities on offer from top-ranked universities in the US and UK, and to go on to make an impact on the global stage throughout their professional lives".
Crimson, founder by Auckland-born Oxford University student Jamie Beaton, provides tutoring for students aimed at getting into top overseas universities.
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Last year's rankings, its first attempt to rate NZ schools based on 2017 data, came up with a top 10 dominated by five private girls' schools: St Cuthbert's and Diocesan in Auckland, Queen Margaret and Samuel Marsden in Wellington and St Margaret's in Christchurch.
In its new list, based on 2018 data, St Cuthbert's has dropped to third, Diocesan to 11th, Samuel Marsden to 19th, St Margaret's to 22nd and Queen Margaret to 26th.
In their place, Auckland International College is now first, and ACG Parnell has stayed in second place.
Two co-educational private schools on Auckland's North Shore, Kristin and Pinehurst, have jumped into the top 10 at fourth and fifth places.
Auckland International College says on its website that "the specific focus of the school is to prepare students for entry to top universities worldwide".
"AIC is the only NZ school where all students study the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and it has the largest number of IB Diploma students in New Zealand," it says.
On April 1 it had 219 students - 141 international students, 75 local students of Asian ethnicity and three of European ethnicity, with no Māori or Pasifika students.
ACG Parnell has a more mixed student group with only 267 international students out of a total roll of 1345. Its local students include 746 Asian, 273 European, 11 Māori, 12 Pasifika and 36 others.
Beaton said St Cuthbert's and Diocesan both slipped down the rankings this year because of lower University Entrance achievement rates in 2018.
On the other hand, Kristin and Pinehurst jumped up the list partly because of a 2015 decision by Westlake Boys' High School to stop offering Cambridge exams and concentrate on the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).
"As a result many students, particularly in the Chinese community who are very keen on Cambridge, moved to Pinehurst," Beaton said.
"Pinehurst has seen quite a rapid growth in roll and in academic performance, and their demographic has changed significantly in the last two years. According to ERO [Education Review Office], 44 per cent of students were Chinese and 7 per cent were other Asians, that would make 51 per cent of Asians. In the previous ranking there was a total of 44 per cent of Asians."
The rankings give most weight (35 per cent) to the proportion of a school's final-year students who win NZ scholarships or Cambridge or IB awards.
• Proportion of Years 12 and 13 students achieving University Entrance via NCEA, Cambridge or IB (31.5 per cent).
• Education Review Office evaluations containing key words for cultural diversity (11.25 per cent).
• Number of sporting options available (5 per cent).
• Number of arts and co-curricular options available (5 per cent).
• Proportion of final-year students accepted into QS Top 20 universities or eight other "Ivy League" US universities (5 per cent),
• Ethnic diversity (3.75 per cent).
• Proportion of "excellence" awards in NCEA, Cambridge and IB (3.5 per cent).
The items on cultural and ethnic diversity reflect the value placed by top-ranked world universities on students' understanding and empathy for different cultures.
Crimson's Top 10 NZ Schools
Last year's ranking in brackets
1 (6) Auckland International College (Auckland)
2 (2) ACG Parnell College (Auckland)
3 (1) St Cuthbert's College (Auckland)
4 (11) Kristin School (Auckland)
5 (16) Pinehurst School (Auckland)
6 (3) Macleans College (Auckland)
7 (27) St Kentigern College (Auckland)
8 (26) St Andrew's College (Christchurch)
9 (20) Baradene College of the Sacred Heart (Auckland)
10 (5) Scots College (Wellington)