School rolls at peak capacity and still growing

school rolls

Secondary school rolls all over the country are bursting. Catholic schools and state schools alike.

There’s been a steady increase in roll numbers, according to the Ministry of Education.

Immigrants boost school rolls

An immigration-driven surge in enrolments is adding to the pressure. The national school roll is now topping 831,038 children.

In Invercargill, Catholic co-ed Verdon College has reached its maximum enrolment number.

The school must hold spots for preference pupils, says principal Jarlath Kelly (pictured).

“It’s been a bit tricky for us and we’ve had to turn people away – and we’re just trying to hold on to places for our preference students, being a Catholic school.”

Verdon College has many pupils from immigrant families which has been positive for the school, Kelly says.

“A lot of our new-to-New Zealand families are from the Philippines and we have a very vibrant and thriving Filipino community. We have done for some years so that’s another positive for us.”

The school welcomes new New Zealanders. Communication is eased by employing staff who can speak various languages.

Other Southland secondary principals are also reporting increasing school rolls.

This is borne out by the Ministry of Education’s provisional rolls for Otago and Southland in 2024, which show a one percent increase. That’s the equivalent of 486 children, according to provisional rolls for 2023.

Southland Secondary Principals Association chairman, school principal Peter Wilkinson says he thinks some schools in Southland are at capacity for infrastructure and teaching staff.

Primary school rolls decline

Interestingly, Southland primary schools are seeing a slight decline in enrolment numbers.

One principal says his school saw a peak in enrolments about five years ago.

“In the last two to three years those big increases have been going off to high school … so there is a slight decline of enrolments.”

His roll is sitting at about 400 pupils at the moment and is expected to go down to 350 at the start of next year. This is likely to climb to about 430 by the end of next year.

The fluctuation may be driven by rental accommodation which often leads to transient enrolments as people live in the area for a while and then move on.

Additional ESOL funding needed

One primary principal says he has many international pupils from Columbia and, although they managed English as a Second Language (ESOL), they could always use more funding.

“We’re doing all right but that’s just through sheer chance and because we’ve got experienced staff,” he says.


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