One of the most important things in an election year is to get people out to vote.

Merivale School in Tauranga took up the challenge and turned around a poor turnout at the school’s polling station in 2011 to a huge turnout in 2014.

Jan Tinetti (pictured) – principal of the decile 1 school – says it was about changing perceptions. She says that the parents and caregivers of students at her school were not convinced that voting would make a difference.

“In 2011 we identified that there were parents who weren’t voting and thought that their vote would not make a difference.”

They had been studying elections with the children and decided to take it a step further, encouraging the children to turn up at the polling booth with and adult.

“Some of the kids came back two or three times with the nan and then their koro. The kids were really proud of their parents,” says Tinetti.

“We also identified that people wanted someone at the polling booth they knew and my husband who is the SENCO at the school was that person in 2011.”

While the turnout was better than previously, in 2014 the school decided to work with the community centre on early voting and gave them the use of the school van to transport people to vote.

“We also asked parents about what they wanted for their kids’ future and then invited party candidates to come to the school.

She said representatives from Labour, Greens and NZ First came to the school and talked to the families and worked alongside them.

“Just having that presence in the school made people excited.”

As a result of the early voting, the education of the children and involving parents, 100 percent of the school families voted in the 2014 election.