31 Aug 2016

Overcrowding turns staff room to classroom

8:07 am on 31 August 2016

Severe overcrowding has forced a school's staff room to become a classroom for a group of new entrants in south Auckland next term.

Clendon Park School in Manurewa has experienced rapid growth over the past four years, gaining 150 new pupils in the last two years alone.

This teachers' lounge at Clendon Park School will become a classroom from next term. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Clendon Park School in Manurewa has experienced rapid growth over the past four years, gaining 150 new pupils in the last two years alone.

It now has a roll of 650 and needs five more classrooms, its principal Sue Dawson said.

Every bit of available space, including the school's library, whare, wharekai, technology room and dedicated ESOL room, has already been converted into permanent classrooms to cope with the growth.

Thirty-five new entrants starting school next term will be housed in the only available space left, the staff room, Mrs Dawson said.

"When you're desperate, you do anything to house your children properly, so the staff room is the next best place. Unfortunately my office and the boardroom are far too small and have no facilities, so the staff room is next," she said.

The loss of shared spaces was the result of the school's decision to keep class sizes small. Each class has a maximum of 26 students. Having more than that affected the quality of teaching and learning, Mrs Dawson said.

And overcrowding at the school was merely a symptom of Auckland's housing crisis, she said.

"The overcrowding in our community is just unbelievable and that's why kids are pouring in.

"We have a number of families who live in a house, two to three families each have a room in a house.

"Then we have, often at the same property, another family living in the garage and at the back of the property there could be a sleepout or a caravan, or several caravans," she said.

Clendon Park School in Manurewa has experienced rapid growth over the past four years, gaining 150 new pupils in the last two years alone.

Mrs Dawson in the school's former library, which has been converted into a classroom. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Students 'missing out' - deputy principal

Associate principal Tasi Lokeni teaches her Year 7 and 8 Samoan bilingual class in what used to be the school's dedicated English as a Second Language (ESOL) room.

The loss of that room meant students who needed extra help with their English missed out.

"They don't get the resources they need, the one-to-one they actually need with our ESOL teacher ... and it's actually a really small room. I've got Year 7 and 8 students, there's 24 of them and a lot of them are nearly taller than me but this is the space that we have to manage with," Mrs Lokeni said.

Not enough space meant the class did not get to do activities such as drama that they really enjoyed, she said.

Clendon Park School in Manurewa has experienced rapid growth over the past four years, gaining 150 new pupils in the last two years alone.

Deputy principal Dudley Adams teaches Māori in the wharekai. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Art classes and science experiments were held outside, the library could only be visited when the class housed there was out, and technology class was no longer part of the curriculum because that room too was now a classroom.

Deputy principal Dudley Adams often taught Māori to a class permanently housed in the school's wharekai (kitchen and dining room) and said this meant children in the rest of the school missed out.

"Unfortunately it impacts on our other programmes because the wharekai's not available for what it was designed for, so they're missing out. But it's better than having overcrowded classrooms. Those were the only two options we really had," he said.


Clendon Park School in Manurewa has experienced rapid growth over the past four years, gaining 150 new pupils in the last two years alone.

Teacher Derek Paora teaches his class in the technology room. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Little action from the ministry - principal

Mrs Dawson said the Ministry of Education was first told about the need for more classrooms four and a half years ago.

At current growth rates, the school would need six new classrooms, not five, but there had been little action by the ministry, she said.

The ministry's acting head of education infrastructure, Rob Giller, said it had previously agreed with the school to bring forward the construction of three temporary classrooms by April, from later in the year.

"We also let the principal know that we are continuing to investigate other options to provide them with more room by the end of the year.

"In the meantime, we have started planning for six new classrooms with construction set to begin in the next couple of years."

Schools decided how to use the space they had and Clendon Park was fortunate to own some of its own property to turn into classrooms, Mr Giller said.

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