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CensusAtSchool: 33,000 Children Have Their Say

CensusAtSchool: 33,000 Children Have Their Say

Meet Jessica, Jessica is fictional, but according to the most frequent responses from the 2005 CensusAtSchool survey Jessica starts the day with toast and a glass of milk for breakfast. She lives in Auckland and shares the house with three other people. Surprisingly, it takes Jessica less than 10 minutes to get to school by car. Jessica knows what she wants for Christmas, even more than money or an Ipod, she wants to upgrade her cell phone. She is 13 years old and currently in Year 9 at school. She brings her lunch from home and plays netball. There is much more of interest about Jessica, but telling you now would spoil all the surprises.

About CensusAtSchool:

CensusAtSchool is an online survey for Year 5 to Year 10 students that provides real, relevant data to enhance statistical enquiry across the curriculum. CensusAtSchool NZ is hosted by the Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland in association with Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry of Education. It is a non-profit, educationally motivated project.

Schools take part voluntarily, with students completing the survey during lesson time, and then submitting their data to contribute to an international database, which includes information on children from Australia, England, Canada and South Africa. Some questions are in common with the other countries, to provide comparisons between countries, while the remainder of the questions are tailored to reflect the interests of New Zealand children. Data and classroom resources are now available for schools. More resources are currently being developed by a team of maths teachers.

A selection of CensusAtSchool survey results:

33,000 students took the opportunity to stand up and be counted in this years online survey, an increase of more than 15,000 from CensusAtSchool 2003. Over 2,000 teachers registered their classes nationwide.

Tables summarising participation follow:

Age No. of Respondents
6 11
7 17
8 98
9 2379
10 4525
11 4928
12 5511
13 6744
14 6675
15 2201
16 81
17 35

Region No. of Respondents
Northland Region 828
Auckland Region 13889
Waikato Region 3463
Bay of Plenty Region 1326
Manawatu-Wanganui Region 1682
Taranaki Region 501
Gisborne Region 294
Hawkes Bay Region 719
Wellington Region 4018
Nelson-Marlborough Region 734
West Coast Region 215
Canterbury Region 3027
Otago Region 1917
Southland Region 592


In the last two years cell phone ownership has increased dramatically more than doubling for 9 -10 year-olds. By age 14, a massive 84% of the children surveyed have their own cell phones

Phone ownership by age

Age 2003 2005 Percent Increase
9 10% 22% 120%
10 13% 29% 123%
11 23% 44% 91%
12 33% 59% 79%
13 51% 76% 49%
14 59% 84% 42%

RSI by 15?

70% of respondents who owned a cell phone sent text messages the previous day, with almost a quarter of them sending over 50. The median monthly expenditure was $20 with 1 in 5 spending over $50. Almost half the children have their own TV and just over a quarter have their own MP3 player. Levels of access to the internet however do not appear to have changed over the past 2 years.


Students were asked about many aspects of their daily life, and many interesting facts came to light.

There are big changes in lunch time activity levels as children advance through the school system. At Year 5, 80% report their main lunchtime activity as running around and playing. This drops to around 60% at intermediate school age and plunges to a little over 20% in high school. By Year 10 the main “activity” is either sitting or standing around. Overall, 40% of students are driven to school by car while only 1 in 4 walked. A further quarter took public transport.

Despite widespread worries about dietary changes feeding an obesity epidemic some traditional patterns still seem to be maintained. For example, the vast majority of the children still bring their lunches from home 88% at Year 5 dropping to 69% by Year 10. Bought lunches increase from 9% at Year 5 to 20% by Year 10. Whereas only 1% of the Year 5 children have no lunch, by the second year of high school 7% did not have a lunch.

Parents wondering when to send their children to bed will not get much guidance from the practices of their peers. There is a wide range of bedtimes which change only slowly with age.

The most common bedtimes are:

8pm - 9pm for 9 and 10 year olds
9pm - 10pm for 11 and 12 year olds
10pm - 11pm for 13 -15 year olds

The 10 most popular Christmas present requests were:

1. Cell phone
2. Ipod
3. Money
4. Clothes
5. Dog
6. Car
7. Laptop
8. Horse
9. MP3 player
10. Book

1. Money
2. Cell phone
3. Motorbike or quad-bike
4. Car
5. Playstation portable
6. Computer
7. Ipod
8. Bike
9. Playstation 2 console
10. Computer game for PS2

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