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An inter-party working group proposal to partially abolish school zoning has been described as a "thinly veiled and back-handed method" of closing under-performing primary schools.
Act New Zealand deputy leader and Associate Minister of Education Heather Roy said the proposal would allow the top 5% and the bottom 20% of pupils to attend the school of their choice.
Many of the pupils in the top 5% who were gifted and talented were not being challenged in their own school, and school zones meant these pupils were not able to go to another school where their needs might be better catered for, she said.
The situation was the same for the bottom 20% of pupils.
Mrs Roy's proposal was before Education Minister Anne Tolley and it was hoped it would be put into action by the start of term 1 next year.
However, Otago Primary Principals' Association immediate past president Steve Hayward said the proposal, if implemented, would only drive a bigger wedge between neighbouring schools and the siphoning-off of pupils might end up causing some schools to close.
"It's a thinly veiled and back-handed method of closing down poorly performing schools."
Mr Hayward said he would rather see the Ministry of Education support a "one-day school" for gifted and talented children.
"In years gone by, we've tried this in Dunedin with great success.
"But it has only failed because it lacked Government funding, resourcing and staffing."
He believed the inter-party working group's proposal would only work for city schools, not rural schools which were not geographically close enough to make it practical.
"I think the one-day school approach would be a better system for all schools."