High-growth urban centres like Auckland could see "metro schools" introduced in the near future. The metro school model has been proposed as a way of meeting education needs in intensified areas where the large areas of land associated with a traditional school may be hard to acquire.
Education Minister Nikki Kaye says that while the Government is making good progress delivering extra capacity in Auckland, with an extra 17,000 new student places planned for by 2019, it needs to challenge current thinking about procuring infrastructure and delivering education in intensified urban areas.
“We began looking more closely at the metro school model, which is already used in a number of countries, last year," said Kaye.
Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery, a special character school in Christchurch has served as a metro school pilot, as it reflects the key principles of the new model.
“Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery’s vision incorporates family-like relationships between the school, parents, whanau and the wider community, who are all heavily involved in school life and delivering the curriculum. An inner city location is a big part of their vision, because it enables the school to fully utilise all the amenities and experiences that the city offers."
The Government has mapped out a set of principles to guide possible investment in metro schools in New Zealand. Features of a metro school can include:
- it is located on a more compact site, which may be leased rather than purchased
- it uses community amenities such as fields and gym facilities, rather than having its own
- it can draw on its location to enrich the educational experience for students, eg through access to museums and libraries, and connections with local businesses which can lead to work placements
- it provides opportunities at a planning level to better align school and urban design, so that as well as schools having access to community facilities, the community can also benefit from access to school facilities - an arrangement potentially enhanced if schools adopt more flexible hours of operation.
Kaye says she expects there may only be need for "a handful" of metro schools over the next couple of decades.
“We’re committed to ensuring that New Zealand has the school infrastructure it needs to support children to achieve to the best of their potential," says Kaye. “Having the metro school model as another option up our sleeves means we’re even better placed to ensure we keep meeting communities’ needs in the future.”