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State school enrollment schemes in New Zealand

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State school enrollment schemes
Geographically based state school enrolment schemes were abolished in 1991 by the Fourth National Government and the Education Amendment Act 1991. Although this greatly opened up the choice of schools for students, it had undesirable consequences. Popular high-decile schools experienced large roll growths, while less popular low-decile school experienced roll declines. Schools could operate a roll limit if there was a risk of overcrowding, but enrolments under this scheme were on a "first come, first served" basis, potentially excluding local students.

The Education Amendment Act 2000, enacted by the Fifth Labour Government, partially solved this problem by putting in place a new "system for determining enrolment of students in circumstances where a school has reached its roll capacity and needs to avoid overcrowding." Schools which operate enrolment schemes have a geographically defined "home zone". Residence in this zone, or in the school's boarding house (if it has one) gives right of entry to the School. Students who live outside the school's home zone can be admitted, if there are places available, in the following order of priority: special programmes; siblings of currently enrolled students; siblings of past students; children of past students; children of board employees and staff; all other students. If there are more applications than available places then selection must be through a randomly drawn ballot. The system is complicated by some state schools having boarding facilities for students living beyond the school's zone. Typically these students live in isolated farming regions in New Zealand, or their parents may live or work partly overseas. Many secondary schools offer limited scholarships to their boarding establishment to attract talented students in imitation of private school practice.

As of September 2010, 700 of New Zealand's 2550 primary and secondary schools operate an enrolment scheme, while the remaining 1850 schools are "open enrolment", meaning any student can enrol in the school without rejection. Enrolment schemes mostly exist in major towns and cities where school density is high and school choice is active; they rarely exist for primary schools in rural areas and secondary schools outside the major towns and cities, where school density is low and school choice is limited by the distance to the nearest alternative school.

Critics have suggested that the system is fundamentally unfair as it restricts the choice for parents to choose schools and schools to choose their students although it does allow all students living in the community to have entry, as of right, regardless of their academic or social profile. In addition, there is evidence that property values surrounding some more desirable schools become inflated, thus restricting the ability of lower socio-economic groups to purchase a house in the zone, though this is off set by the fact that students are accepted from rental accommodation or from homes where they are boarding with a bona fide relative or friend living in the zone. Some parents have purposely flouted zone boundaries by giving false addresses, such as that of a business they own in the zone, or by renting homes in the zone only through the enrolment process and moving out before the student commences school. Schools are now requesting rates invoices, tenancy agreements, or power and telephone bills from parents to prove their residential address, Some schools have gone as far as requiring parents to make a statutory declaration before a Justice of the Peace or similar that they live in the school zone, which makes it impossible for a parent to cheat the zone without also committing a criminal offence (making a false statutory declaration is punishable by up to three years' imprisonment).


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