InterCity education

When the new term started this week, hundreds of Waipā secondary school students left the district by bus to go to school rather than attend their local one.

But there is some debate around the numbers.

The education ministry says as of March this year nearly a third – 520 students – of the 1634 eligible to attend Te Awamutu College left town to attend mostly Hamilton schools.

Te Awamutu College deputy principal Wayne Carter disputes the figures saying there is a 300-student discrepancy between the ministry’s numbers and his.

Hamilton Girls’ High School students line up for the regional bus from Te Awamutu to Hamilton, behind a school bus. Photo: Mary Anne Gill

On the other side of the district, nearly a third – 782 students – of the 2387 eligible to attend Cambridge High School didn’t. A total of 285 of them headed to the private fee-paying St Peter’s School, west of the town, and most of the others headed to Hamilton.

The News sought the figures after it was revealed 250 students at Te Awamutu College come from outside the school’s bus route, prompting calls to introduce an enrolment zone to prevent overcrowding and cap an ever-growing roll.

The figures showing how many students leave Cambridge and Te Awamutu for their schooling at out of town state, private or state integrated schools were provided by Ministry of Education Hautū (Leader) Te Tai Whenua (Central), Jocelyn Mikaere.

Before the school holidays, The News went to Gorst Avenue in Te Awamutu where the buses leave for Hamilton and saw teenagers boarding several buses – school buses for eligible students and the fare-paying regional bus service for the others.

The education ministry provides assistance with school buses where distance and/or accessibility may be a barrier for students attending the closest school they can enrol at or for those attending state-integrated schools.

Waipā students who attend Hamilton schools spend close to two hours a day travelling.

Early morning in Te Awamutu and the buses line up to take students into Hamilton.

The bus journey from Te Awamutu to Hamilton central takes 50 minutes and from Cambridge to Hamilton it’s an hour.

Students who opt to attend state integrated or special character schools in Hamilton, such as St John’s and Sacred Heart, are entitled to enrol at the schools if they are preferential students who identify with the Catholic faith.

Both Cambridge and Te Awamutu have Catholic primary schools whose students are eligible to attend St John’s and Sacred Heart.

State schools like Hillcrest College, Hamilton Boys and Girls High have a ballot system for students outside their enrolment zone.

Carter said Te Awamutu College enrolled 86 per cent of the potential year nine students from feeder schools this year – and that means there is close to a 300-student difference between the college figures and those provided by the ministry.

“I don’t know where those kids would be, whether they’ve moved into the area after they’ve enrolled elsewhere. I don’t know, those numbers just don’t seem to stack up,” he said.

In Waipā, 153 students are home-schooled, but Carter said that wouldn’t account for the large discrepancy.

“You’re talking about close to 300 kids that can’t be accounted for.”

Carter said he could not speculate on whether the college’s proposed enrolment scheme would affect the number of students leaving town.

Buses in Te Awamutu

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