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The Westbrook Primary School zone may be one of the most sought after areas for parents to move into but the principal says his school is no better than any other in Rotorua.
According to Rotorua real estate agents, Rotorua homebuyers and tenants motivated by choosing a primary school for their children are mostly seeking properties in the Lynmore, Westbrook, Otonga and Glenholme primary zones.
They say the schools in these areas are all known to have good reputations.
While principals appreciate the recognition of the efforts put in to ensure pupils had access to quality education, Westbrook Primary School principal Colin Watkins said his school was no better than any other in Rotorua and public perceptions that it was, needed to change.
Watkins said there were many public misconceptions about what made a school good, with many parents driving straight past a quality school in their own community to send their children to another on the other side of town for no reason.
He pleaded for parents to visit their local schools before deciding to send them away from their own doorsteps because supporting the neighbourhood they grow up in created strong communities.
"Parents by and large don't check their local schools well enough," Watkins said.
He admitted some students were better suited to certain schools based on the needs of the student but believed "every principal in this town and every teacher work their tail off to make their school the best that they can be".
"One of the biggest challenges we have is public perception of what a good school is," Watkins said.
He said it was unfortunate "some parents don't see past a decile rating", which had nothing to do with the level of education or care students received at school.
As a former principal of decile 1a schools in other parts of New Zealand, he knows how demoralising it can be to be constantly working hard, making massive progress with children in those schools only to be labelled unsuccessful.
For Rotorua father Fender Leathers, there is no school he would send his children to over Sunset Primary School.
The low-decile school is in a low-socio economic area of Rotorua, known for its strong gang presence.
What it wasn't known for was the positive impact the school was having on the community, he said.
So far, three of the seven children he and his wife have combined have gone through Sunset Primary School, including a 12-year-old daughter now at intermediate in accelerated learning. He has two sons at the school now - Grant Poi, 9, in Year 5 and Boyboy Patangata, 6, in Year 2.
Leathers was born and raised in Fordlands and despite moving away for work for a few years, the 29-year-old returned home and loves being part of the school community.
He said the programmes the school offered, including a junior rumaki class, the tight-knit whānau feel of the school, the high quality of teaching and the long-serving teachers were all part of the reason he ranked Sunset Primary School as his first choice for his children's education.
"Our kids have hugely benefited from the school."
Grant agreed, and was proud to be a Sunset Primary pupil.
The school's principal, Eden Chapman, said the quality of teachers at his school was outstanding, all working hard to "lift the education that our kids receive".
The school provided students with two meals a day, had a sports co-ordinator who transported children to and from sports events and had invested $400,000 into the school last year on building improvements, playground upgrades, resources and more.
He said the public perception that the quality of a school was a reflection of the suburb they were in was incorrect but as long as his school community knew the work the school was doing with their children he was happy.
First National Real Estate Rotorua principal and Rotorua Real Estate Institute of New Zealand spokeswoman Ann Crossley said buyers who were motivated by the school they wanted to send their children identified Otonga, Lynmore, Westbrook and Glenholme primary schools most. But the need to be in specific school zones was not as important in Rotorua as it was in Auckland, she said.
Although Crossley did not think other schools had blemished records, those were the schools most requested to live near because of their perceived good reputations.
Generally, she said it was a suburb's appeal that attracted buyers but if given an option of two properties, people might choose one over another based on their preferred school.
"But right now there isn't a lot of choice. It's more about the affordability of an area."
Professionals McDowell Real Estate Rotorua principal Steve Lovegrove said if buyers could choose, the Lynmore Primary School zone had always been the most popular.
"Westbrook is another," he said.
However, due to supply and demand, buyers needing to move urgently didn't always have the option of choosing which school zone to send their children.
"It used to be that people were pretty particular about school zones," he said.
For tenants looking for rentals, Lynmore, Westbrook and Otonga school zones were the most sought after, in that order, he said.
But again, because of a lack of properties available, tenants snapped up houses offered to them, often without the flexibility of choice.
Otonga Primary School principal Linda Woon said when she asked parents why they wanted their children to attend her school, the answer was usually because they knew people part of the school community and had heard good things.
"We do have a good reputation. I think people know that there are very good teachers here and I think that's probably a big selling point," Woon said.
She said being recognised by the Education Review Office (ERO) as a highly functioning school, their second language learning programme, not having a uniform and perceptions that a higher decile ranking meant could also be appealing.
"People choose things for all sorts of reasons."