Parents in Nelson are demanding all New Zealanders be given the right to attend a mixed gender school.
The Ministry of Education plans to zone the city's only co-ed school, Nayland College, meaning some families will have to send their children to nearby single sex schools instead.
Nelson parent Emma Bruce says “life is co-ed” which is why she wants the choice to send her children to a mixed gender college.
She’s one of 360 members of Facebook group Whanau for co-educational choice in Nelson, who are voicing their concerns over the new enrolment scheme.
Nayland College has a growing roll and principal Daniel Wilson says it can cater to 1330 students.
“We're sitting below that at the moment, but next year we will be reaching that cap and going beyond that,” he says.
He met with the ministry last week to discuss options to manage growth until an enrolment zone is in place in 2022. It’s planning to provide the school with six temporary classrooms next year to manage the expected roll growth.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins says building a new school would significantly disadvantage other schools in the area.
“Over recent years the number of enrolments at Nelson College for Girls' and Nelson College has seen a decline, so they can take on more students."
He says its “not uncommon for some parents in New Zealand to only have the option of sending their child to their local single sex school”.
A petition has now been put to parliament arguing that young people should have choice.
Nelson parent Jaynie Thomas explains that “it's the modern world. People want progressive change. Tradition is great and that suits a lot of people too, but there's a lot of people that want diversity”.
Principal Daniel Wilson says even though some families won’t be able to attend his school it “doesn't mean that there isn't a fabulous education for them in Nelson. But I do understand that for some parents, whether they attend a single sex or co educational school is really important to them”.
Meanwhile National says if in government, it would stop the zoning plans. Education spokesperson Nicola Willis describes the situation as “really disappointing”.
“Parents in Nelson deserve access to Nayland College. Actually what's happened here is Labour has failed to deliver the additional classrooms that would mean a zone wasn't required”.
She says National would fast-track the building of additional classrooms “so that parents can continue to have a choice that they have had for many years previously”.
Public consultation on the zone’s exact boundaries is expected soon.
Response from Nelson’s single-sex schools
According to the Ministry of Education, 2413 of the country's schools are co-ed.
As of July 2019, there were 64 single-sex girls schools and 54 single-sex boys schools in the country.
Nelson College for Girls’ principal Cathy Ewing provided a statement to 1 NEWS, describing Nayland College's zoning as “a matter between them and the Ministry of Education so is not something we would have a comment on. The Board of Nelson College for Girls has never considered the school becoming co-educational”.
“The Board of NCG, and our school community, strongly believe in what girls can achieve in our single-sex educational environment”.
She says they value their relationship with Nelson College and “through that provide shared academic, sporting and social experiences for our students”.
She says she and Nelson College headmaster Richard Dykes will “continue to look for opportunities to collaborate between the two schools”.