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While Otago school rolls have declined by another nine classrooms of pupils during the past year, Ministry of Education statistics have revealed a lack of employment opportunities has prompted more senior secondary pupils to stay at school.
The 2009 July roll return showed primary, intermediate and secondary school rolls in Otago have dropped another 206 pupils this year.
Of the 17 regions in New Zealand, eight showed declines in their rolls and Otago had the third-largest roll decline behind Manawatu-Whanganui (-483) and Northland (-286).
While the number of pupils in year 11 had continued to fall during the past 12 months, the number of year 12 and 13 pupils had increased by 99 pupils.
Nationwide, the number of pupils staying at school beyond the legal leaving age hit a record high this year, with 104,000 16 to 19-year-olds enrolled in secondary schools.
Senior pupils now make up almost 40% of the national secondary school roll - the largest proportion on record.
Otago Secondary Principals Association chairman and Kaikorai Valley College principal Philip Craigie said the increase in senior pupil rolls was because employment opportunities were slightly less in the present job market, so pupils decided to stay on at school and continue their qualifications.
"Anecdotally, I think it's harder for pupils who only have NCEA level 1 to leave school and get a job.
The Government has touted that [NCEA] level 2 is the recognised level that people have to get to get a job."
Mr Craigie believed the number of senior pupils staying on at school would continue to increase for the foreseeable future.
However, that did not mean school rolls in Otago secondary schools would rise again, because junior rolls were still declining, and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future, he said.
Otago school rolls:
Number of senior pupils:
Year 11: 2602 2586
Year 12: 2294 2346
Year 13: 1845 1892