School numbers defy gloom
The mining boom may have waned, but school enrolments in the City of Karratha tell a different story.
Though official figures are not out yet, most schools in the area have so far reported increased or steady student numbers this year, indicating that for all the people leaving town, many are staying on.
Karratha Senior High School reported the biggest increase. Last month, enrolments were up from 950 in 2015 to 1100 this year, a rise of more than 15 per cent.
If the figures stay steady, they will make it one of the largest high schools in regional WA.
Baynton West Primary School also reported a big jump in numbers, gaining about 60 new enrolments this year.
Principal Lisa Ledger said although it was not unusual for numbers to rise every year in a new school in a new suburb, this was a particularly steep increase.
“We’re the biggest we’ve ever been,” she said.
“I think that there’s a transition from FIFO to residential living, and that’s really great.
“People sometimes come up and get a feel for the place, and then just decide they really love it.”
Karratha, St Paul’s, Millars Well, Dampier and Wickham primary schools and Roebourne District High School all reported slight increases or steady enrolment figures.
Private high school St Luke’s College had a slight decrease, which principal Alanna Otway said was a response to the town’s economic situation.
Pilbara MLA Brendon Grylls said he was pleased the initial figures showed the Pilbara’s popula- tion was becoming more residential, especially for young families.
“I think it shows the vision we had for Pilbara Cities, to make the cities liveable, which had never been done before,” he said.
“I always say that school figures are one of the best ways to measure population growth, because it’s real. It’s real time when kids go back to school at the start of a new year.
“I hope it’s sending a good message to small businesses that there is some hope out there.”
Official Department of Education enrolment figures come out later this month.