Taxpayer money set aside for education has been used to drive enrolments at controversial charter schools through radio and newspaper advertisements.
A handful of places remain at some of New Zealand's first charter or "partnership" schools with just a few weeks left until the schools open.
But the decision by some to use Government start-up money to buy adverts has been questioned, and comes as the Government confirms extra money will be needed for the state-funded, privately run schools.
Vanguard Military School in Albany has spent around $16,000 of its Government establishment fund to run radio and newspaper adverts. Radio adverts promise students daily physical education lessons.
Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa, sponsored by He Puna Marama Charitable Trust, and Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, sponsored by Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust, have also used local newspaper adverts.
Vanguard chief executive Nick Hyde told the Herald the school had only about 16 positions left to fill, with a target roll of 108. He expected those to fill shortly.
The school is sponsored by Advance Training Centres (ATC), the military prep school Mr Hyde manages in Rosedale, and he said many families and children were seeking discipline.
"It's something they don't have presently, and they're looking forward to having that."
Students were enrolled from Waiuku in the south to Riverhead in the north, and Mr Hyde said the adverts were a reason for that diversity. About 1 per cent of the school's $1.6 million establishment payment, or about $16,000, had been spent on the adverts, he said.
"I think you'd be naive to think that any new school would not have to advertise, and we budgeted a certain amount and said, 'Look, people need to know what we're doing'."
However, Angela Roberts, president of the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA), queried whether such spending was appropriate.
She said steps such as working with truancy officers were likely to be more effective at reaching the most vulnerable students.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said it was up to schools to determine how best to spend their establishment payment. Ms Parata said the $18.95 million set aside over four years for the first round of partnership schools would not be enough.
"The original estimate that was made was done on the basis of the types and number of schools that might finally be approved without knowing in advance."
South Auckland Middle School, a school for years 7-10 in South Auckland which will emphasise Christian values in its teaching, has enrolled 110 out of a target roll of 120.
The remaining places are at Year 10, and Alwyn Poole of sponsor Villa Education Trust said they may be filled in time for opening.
Natasha Sadler, curriculum director for Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, said her school's concern was that it might have too many students. Newspaper adverts were used, but recruitment was mostly through word of mouth.
Charter school enrolments
Vanguard Military School
• 92 of 108 places filled
• Sponsor: Advance Training Centres
• Establishment Payment (EP): $1,611,534
Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa
• 46 of 50 places filled
• Sponsor: He Puna Marama Charitable Trust
• EP: $1,880,693
South Auckland Middle School
• 110 of 120 places filled
• Sponsor: Villa Education Trust
• EP: $1,019,533
Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru
• 53 of 71 places filled
• Sponsor: Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust
• EP: $1,379,150.
The Rise Up Academy
(Did not respond)
• Sponsor: Rise Up Trust
• EP: $391,945
*Note: Estimates of complete enrolments as of Tuesday.