Kids moving school to school as rent soars

Kids moving school to school as rent soars

The rising cost of housing is forcing thousands of families to move from house to house, and as a result move their children from school to school.

Some principals in south Auckland say up to half the students who start the year will have moved on by the end of it.

An investigation by The Nation has revealed some pupils will have attended seven different schools by the age of six.

For years Joleen Pirini and her four children were a family in flight. In the past three years her children have been to seven schools.

Ms Pirini was a single working mum who was constantly on the move from house to house. Her kids followed where she went.

"They changed schools a lot because I couldn't afford to rent the houses I was in," she says. "We were never in a house any longer than a year because rent prices kept rising. We used to go days without eating because we had no money. I would always be apologising to them: 'Sorry I have to do this to you again.'"

Ms Pirini is not alone. Alan Lyth, the principal of Bairds Mainfreight Primary in Otara, says he sadly sees lots of students come and go, often because their families can't afford local rent prices. In 2011 he had 137 students enrolled, but there are only 43 left.

The turnover is even greater at Manurewa East Primary. This year principal Phil Palfrey had 109 enrolments and now there are only 44 of them left.

"We don't like to think about it, but when you look at it like that it's not good," he says.

It is mostly the plight of the poor students at low decile schools. They are eight times more likely to shift than decile 10 pupils.

Children who have moved schools two or more times between years 9 to 11 are almost half as likely to achieve NCEA level 2 or above.

As for Ms Pirini and her kids, she has finally stopped moving. She'll mark two years in a state home this June.

"This is actually the longest we have been in a home, coming up two years. And I said this to my son the other day: 'Wow two years we've been in this house.'"

It's a reminder of what stability means for a family.