More migrant families are choosing Rotorua to call their home, according to the city's Multicultural Council, which has been both rewarding and challenging for local schools.

Ministry of Education figures released to the Rotorua Daily Post reveal there are 249 Rotorua students funded as English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) at 18 local schools.

Students qualify for ESOL funding if they are new migrants or from a refugee background and don't meet listening, speaking, reading and writing requirements.

New Zealand-born students are eligible if at least one parent is a migrant and a language other than English is spoken at home.

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Glenholme Primary School has the most ESOL-funded pupils with 44.

Principal Nancy Macfarlane said the pupils added a range of things to the classroom, including diversity.

The school has a full-time teacher aide who works with small groups.

"Student culture, family background, student interest and high expectations for all learners regardless of the kinds of differences and issues they bring to school, are critical components for success," she said.

However, teachers may need to develop new resources or alter existing ones for English language learners which proved a challenge, Macfarlane said.

"The needs of staff working with English language learners are considered when decisions are made about the school's professional development or placement in a specific class."

Macfarlane said teachers at the school didn't have difficulties with ESOL pupils in particular as all pupils were at different levels, whether they were English language learners or not.

At the other end of the scale, Owhata School has just two ESOL-funded pupils.

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Principal Bob Stiles said the school had one teacher aide who worked with the pupils for 30 minutes a day but that teacher also had other responsibilities.

Stiles said with a high percentage of Māori at the school, other cultures added a worldview for pupils.

"It's great for our kids, we've got families from Arizona, South Africa, Nepal. It's something different and they really celebrate other cultures."

The two children, Benuaki Teboko, 9, from Kiribati and Matthew Andrews, 7, from South Africa have immersed themselves in the school community, Stiles said.

Benuaki has been at the school for two years and loves playing rugby and riding his bike in the Redwoods.

Benuaki said it was difficult to learn and speak English at school when he spoke Kiribati at home.

Matthew had been in Rotorua for seven months and said he loved kapa haka at the school and liked the lakes close to town. He spoke Afrikaans at home.

While John Paul College was only funded for three ESOL students, its international director Mike Dwight said there were about 50 international fee-paying students learning English there.

"People are operating on a global scale. Making direct contact, not just through the internet, is far more meaningful and equips the students far better. It's important they understand different cultures."

The college has one main and two supporting ESOL teachers and the students all receive one hour of ESOL per day.

Dwight said international students often raised the bar for achievement.

"Students come with lots of talents and skills."

Rotorua's Multicultural Council president Dr Margriet Theron said there had been a large increase in the number of migrants coming to Rotorua.

"We have a vibrant forest and tourism industry and both these need skilled staff."

She said Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology was drawing in international students and Rotorua was attractive to migrants.

"We are already so international and it's always easier to settle into a place where there are other people from your home country."

Toi Ohomai community wellbeing and development faculty leader Gill Brocas said while the institute had seen a decrease in the number of students on English language courses, those that did study were encouraged to practice by interacting with the community.

"We especially encourage those with children to practice their skills and share them at home which often helps accelerate the learning of those in primary and secondary education," Brocas said.

ESOL students may not qualify for funding if their language skills are proficient, or they have exceeded the maximum amount of time for funding.

ESOL funding for primary school pupils starts at $850 a year and decreases to $650 after a year.

At intermediate it's $1150 to start, decreasing to $650 after a year, and at secondary it's $1500 for the first year, decreasing to $850.

Students from refugee backgrounds qualify for more; $1250 in the first two years at primary or intermediate and $1900 at secondary.

The funding can be used for a specialist ESOL teacher, teacher aide, and resources.

ESOL-Funded students in the Rotorua District, Term 1 and 2
- St Mary's Catholic School - 44
- Glenholme School - 44
- Malfroy School - 30
- Otonga Rd School - 28
- Lynmore Primary School - 24
- Westbrook School - 17
- Kawaha Point School - 17
- Rotorua Intermediate School - 12
- Mokoia Intermediate School - 7
- Western Heights Primary School - 5
- Selwyn School - 4
- Sunset Primary School - 3
- St Michael's Catholic School - 3
- Rotorua Girls' High School - 3
- John Paul College - 3
- Rotorua Seventh Day Adventist School - 2
- Owhata School - 2
- Kaharoa School - 1
Ministry of Education