A solution to zone fixing – abolish them!

The Herald reports:

Principals and the Green Party are calling for a review of the Tomorrow’s Schools model which they say has caused secondary schools to adjust school zones and cherry-pick students.

Concern has mounted after a report by a visiting United States scholar found most Auckland secondary schools were zone-fixing – intentionally skewing their enrolment zones to improve their decile rating.

Principals say zone-fixing is nothing new and competition between schools has grown since the Tomorrow’s Schools model was introduced under David Lange in 1989.

There should be competition between schools. Parents should get a choice.

One has to understand that zoning does not operate in isolation. Say you have two schools in town. School A has 800 pupils and is at capacity and hence has a home zone. School B has 500 pupils with capacity for 600, and 200 of them would like to go to School A, but can not.

The problem is the Ministry will not allow the popular School A to grow, because the nearby School B is under capacity. So School A has a zone, excluding those outside it.

The actual solution is to allow schools to grow, when they are popular – even if there is surplus capacity at other schools.

Now people say pupils should be allowed to enrol at their closest school. I agree.  If a school is physically unable to grow any larger, then priority must go to locals. But schools should be allowed to grow to their maximum capacity if they are competent and popular, and this may even involved multi-campuses.

So I’d have two policies, to replace zoning.

  1. Every pupil has the right to attend the school they are geographically closest to (by travel on road)
  2. Every school is allowed to expand to as large as its board of trustees wants, with funding being per pupil

This would provide much better choice.

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