The Courier-Mail

Drought dries up flow of board­ers


THE mass ex­o­dus of fam­i­lies from the state’s drought­stricken re­gions is be­ing blamed for fall­ing en­rol­ments at board­ing schools.

The num­ber of stu­dents at Queens­land board­ing schools hit a five-year low last year, the to­tal only in­creas­ing slightly this year thanks to the move of Year 7 into high school.

Even with that in­crease, board­ing school num­bers in the pri­vate and Catholic sec­tors have dropped 5 per cent since 2011.

Iso­lated Chil­dren’s Par­ents’ As­so­ci­a­tion vice pres­i­dent Kim Hughes said many were mov­ing out of re­gional ar­eas and there­fore no longer re­quired board­ing schools.

“Fam­i­lies will stay un­til it’s time to send their child to high school and then they’ll move and once they go, they gen­er­ally don’t come back,” she said. “Ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties are re­ally de­clin­ing. Some­times the only so­lu­tion for a ru­ral fam­ily is send­ing the child to board­ing school and some just can’t af­ford it.”

The in­tro­duc­tion of Year 7 into high school was another con­sid­er­a­tion for fam­i­lies, who were now faced with six years of board­ing school fees in­stead of five, she said.

Queens­land Catholic Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Lee-Anne Perry said board­ing en­rol­ments for the 15 Catholic board­ing schools had de­creased by al­most 5 per cent.

“While the de­cline is rel­a­tively small and not con­sis­tent across the state, it ap­pears that a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors has con­trib­uted. I’m aware that many ru­ral fam­i­lies are fac­ing eco­nomic stresses, in­clud­ing those caused by drought,” she said.

“Some schools have re­ported a shift to the older Years 10, 11 and 12, with par­ents keep­ing chil­dren at home and in lo­cal schools for longer.”

In a re­cent In­de­pen­dent Schools Queens­land re­port, it was re­vealed 11 board­ing schools ex­pe­ri­enced growth of at least five stu­dents while eight schools had seen a de­cline of at least five stu­dents.

“The drought cer­tainly has played a part but it’s also about the de­cline in ru­ral pop­u­la­tion,” In­de­pen­dent Schools Queens­land ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor David Robert­son said. “There will al­ways be a need for board­ing schools as there will al­ways be a ru­ral com­mu­nity.”

Univer­sity of Queens­land school of psy­chol­ogy re­searcher Julie Hodges said board­ing was chang­ing with the times.

“We might start to see more of the weekly board­ing rather than those at­tend­ing due to ge­o­graph­i­cal iso­la­tion,” she said. “Tech­nol­ogy is al­low­ing stu­dents to do more school­ing re­motely or do­ing a bet­ter job of tak­ing them up to at least Year 10.”

St Mar­garet’s Angli­can Girls School prin­ci­pal Ros Curtis said some fam­i­lies had to make sac­ri­fices for their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

“Life on the land can be very dif­fi­cult and un­cer­tain and we un­der­stand the strug- gles that re­sult from this for many of our board­ing fam­i­lies,” she said.

The Magof­fin fam­ily, on a cat­tle prop­erty about 120km north of Lon­greach, have three chil­dren at Bris­bane board­ing schools.

“(Fi­nan­cial pres­sure) is some­thing we will have to take into ac­count and man­age and de­cide whether we con­tinue down the path we are go­ing,” she said.

 ??  ?? AWAY FROM HOME: St Mar­garet's Angli­can Girls School stu­dents Kate and An­nie Magof­fin are from drought­stricken Mut­taburra and are board­ing. Pic­ture: Mark Calleja
AWAY FROM HOME: St Mar­garet's Angli­can Girls School stu­dents Kate and An­nie Magof­fin are from drought­stricken Mut­taburra and are board­ing. Pic­ture: Mark Calleja

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