The Government has decided not to change the ballot priority system for students trying to enrol at a school from out of zone.
That decision means kids remain much more likely to get into a school from outside its zone if their parent or sibling went there in the past.
Students must put their names in a ballot if they don't live in zone for their preferred school. But those who belong to one of several priority categories - such as having historic family links to the school - get picked before the general ballot is drawn.
The Ministry of Education consulted this year on whether to change the priority system, including removing the advantage that comes with historic family links. But it has decided against the move after most submitters backed the status quo.
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That move has drawn praise from some popular Auckland schools.
But one education expert warns the survey's results are likely skewed and the decision will allow "bloodline privilege" to continue in the state system.
Education minister Chris Hipkins earlier this year told Parliament he did not think students should be "bumped up the priority list on the basis that their parents might have attended there 20 or 30 years ago."
But he also said he had no formal position on the matter and would make his decision based on the outcome of the consultation process.
The Ministry's consultation documents noted there was not enough data to show if the priority categories were a problem - it didn't know how they were used or the socioeconomic background of students enrolling under each category. It hoped to collect more evidence through the consultation process.
The current priority categories were set by the National government in 2010.
The law change became known as the "Grammar clause", after Auckland Grammar lobbied to get historic family links onto the priority list.
Auckland Grammar was among several schools that encouraged their alumni networks to make submissions on the latest proposal - and they came out in force.
Of a total 2869 submissions, 82 per cent wanted to keep the status quo, Ministry deputy secretary Andy Jackson said.
Most submissions (2362) were from Auckland, followed by Canterbury (209). Pākehā made 2112 submissions followed by 260 from Māori. The analysis did not capture how many submissions were pro-forma.
In August Cabinet made several changes to the Education and Training Act but noted it had kept the current ballot system.
Documents published on the Ministry's website show officials advised Hipkins not to change anything because most submitters liked the current system.
They said family links gave students a sense of pride and helped schools maintain traditions and community.
"They also noted that parents are more likely to donate to a school if they believe their children are likely to be enrolled."
Many said without evidence of a problem, there was no compelling reason to change.
Just 226 submitters said they had seen evidence of inequitable outcomes, while 400 were aware of issues with balloting practices.
Some 24 per cent supported giving staff and board members higher priority than historic family links - including Macleans College, which otherwise supports the status quo.
One unlikely opponent of that change was the Post-Primary Teachers' Association, which said it was difficult to justify a teacher's child having more rights than a parent who worked nearby.
Macleans' principal Steve Hargreaves said the current system worked well but he would have liked to see teachers get higher priority.
In recent years the school has not taken any children from the general ballot as it doesn't have space. As infill housing within its zone keeps growing, it's likely it soon won't be able to take any out-of-zone students, even from priority categories.
"The first group that miss out are children of staff and I think that's a little unfair ... there aren't too many perks in the teaching profession and being able to bring your children to the school where you work would be one small perk."
At most schools only three to four teachers would be affected each year, whereas there could be 30-50 students trying to get in through family links.
"So we could have sneaked that group in without disadvantaging many people at all."
Macleans normally accepts no students from the general ballot pool. However this year it was down 240 international students so was able to accept out-of-zone students in Years 9, 10, 11, and 12 through the general ballot.
AGS' headmaster Tim O'Connor told the Herald the decision was "right and just".
He pointed out the Ministry of Education had never identified the problem with the current system, which he said ensured equitable access for children whose families had been forced out of a school's zone for financial reasons.
Schools could provide a powerful, enduring way for children to connect to their community, and gave students and their families "a way of preserving cultural traditions and whanaungatanga".
In 2021 33 students enrolled through the parent category, and 47 would do so in 2022.
One vocal opponent of the original Grammar clause was education researcher Dr Vicki Carpenter, who warned in 2010 it would perpetuate bloodline privilege in the school system.
She told the Herald she was appalled that privilege was now set to continue.
Carpenter, who's now retired, was disappointed that the Ministry's recommendations appeared to be based solely on responses from a survey.
Those privileged by the current system were able to mobilise to oppose any change, while those disadvantaged or failed by the system weren't likely to respond to surveys, she said.
"Middle and wealthy classes better understand the game of education and know how to work it for their gain - research has shown that this has been the situation for New Zealand's state schooling over many decades."
There was a "wealth of data" showing the inequities in our education system were correlated with zoning policies, Carpenter said. Using this data, and examining the survey findings more critically, would have given the Ministry a solid mandate for change.
BALLOT PRIORITY CATEGORIES
1) Students accepted into a special programme (such as language immersion) at the school.
2) Siblings of current students.
3) Siblings of former students.
4) Children of former students.
5) Children of board employees (eg teachers) and board members.
6) All other students.