Roadblocks to expansion for Partnership schools where demand exceeds supply

A little over two years into its existence, Middle School West Auckland’s roll has already increased to 200. Capacity for 2017 is 210 and they are now working on a strategy to facilitate the full roll of 240 in 2018.

South Auckland Middle School which opened first is already full and currently, has 70 students on its waiting list. Despite the waiting list people are still enquiring?about places on a daily basis.

The challenge of funding expansion is a stumbling block for these successful and popular partnership schools. Middle School West Auckland and South Auckland Middle School both lease their buildings. In order for these two Partnership schools to expand they need funding to lease, refurbish and equip additional buildings.

The Villa Education Trust and He Puna Marama Trust say the schools’ property funding does not stretch to building or fitting out new classrooms to keep up with enrolment increases.

Both trusts own growing charter schools and the Villa Education Trust wants extra funding for growth while He Puna Marama Trust is seeking access to a government loan.


The funding model for Partnership schools has changed from what it was three years ago. David Seymour says that “The adjustments to the funding model provide Partnership Schools with greater incentives to grow, and will ensure that the schools are efficient while they are small. It will also share a greater proportion of the risks with the sponsors of Partnership Schools, and incentivise sponsors to partner with external parties for resourcing, thus enriching the linkages between school and community, and allowing more Partnership Schools to be opened for a given budget.”

Before the changes were made there was an expectation from South Auckland Middle school that the government would provide financial assistance when they expanded from 120 to 180 but that has not happened. The Trust was forced to find the funds for expansion for the 60 new students itself. For one year they were only able to host 30 of the new students in facilities that were less than perfect. SAMS is yet to find an external partner to provide the funds they need.

The reasons why demand exceeds supply are clear. Families are asked when they enrol why they are choosing the two schools and common responses are:

  • Class size, one teacher to fifteen students
  • The strong emphasis on Academics.
  • Parents and students like that the work is both difficult and interesting and that they can express their own choices and ideas through structured projects.
  • Caring staff and Community Liaison Managers.
  • Teacher quality. Some teachers have even moved to Auckland in order to be able to teach at the schools.
  • The removal of barriers to education because of the free uniform and stationery and the fact that IT is provided and no donations are asked for.
  • The high expectations in terms of behaviour.

Alwyn Poole says, “Our families have high aspirations for their children and are partnering with us to see those hopes realised.” He recognises that there is still a lot of work to do as 90% of the children the schools are working with fit the Minister’s category of “priority learners” ?but he is confident that the Trust and the staff are up to the challenge.

The challenge of funding expansion, on the other hand, means that the waiting lists will continue to grow. SAMS have no future thoughts of growth and expansion as the Trust as a relatively small charitable organisation does not have the capital funds. Alwyn Poole says, “In October last year we had to do a police ballot and aspects of the next two to four years of a child’s life depended on the right ping pong ball coming out of a basket. It is a very tough situation for everyone when a desperate family arrives and wishes to enroll their child and you have to tell them that they can go on our waiting list but will be number twenty-five in that year group.” Alwyn also says that Middle School West Auckland looks to be heading for the same situation.