If you're happy and you know it clap your hands and come back

By Stuart Dye

First-day tears were plentiful but didn't last too long as 19 of the country's newest students began their scholastic careers yesterday.

Their first day was also the first for their classroom, as Reremoana School opened its doors for the first time.

The Manukau City school is not quite finished, but that did not stop its 120 students enrolling. It is one of two new primary schools that opened yesterday; the other is in Albany.

Among those with trembling lower lips and the odd tear or two was Korbin Bryan, but the youngster cheered up considerably as he sat with his new classmates for morning register.

Korbin was one of about 10,000 children nationwide who went to school for the first time yesterday.

His teacher, Jackie Marriner, said the first day was all about making sure the youngsters were comfortable and happy.

"We want them to have fun, enjoy the day and want to come back tomorrow," said Ms Marriner.

"Learning is automatic. If they are happy they will do that."

Reremoana School, named after the wife of Maori chief Wirihana Takanini and meaning "waters flowing to the sea", has been established to cater for the increasing population growth on the Mahia Peninsula in Manurewa.

The second new primary school in Auckland - Upper Harbour - will cope with the population boom in the Albany area.

Reremoana principal Viki Lawrence said 10 classrooms had been completed to cater for the initial influx of children. The site was designed for another 10, taking the final capacity to about 520 pupils.

"The community has seen the school grow from the ground up and the children are fascinated by it," Ms Lawrence said. "I think we'll get there [to capacity] pretty quickly."

The national school roll of about 760,000 is the highest New Zealand has seen and is expected to be the peak, before the number begins dropping.

But in Auckland, a combination of high immigration and natural growth means the region will buck that national trend. The next 15 years will see an extra 55,000 children trying to find a place in increasingly crowded schools.

The Ministry of Education has already bought about 20 sites as it looks to cater for the growth with up to 40 new schools. Plans are already under way in Flat Bush and Takanini.