Bun­nythorpe wants its teacher back

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Your Local News - KAROLINE TUCKEY

A ru­ral school that re­ceived ratepayer sup­port to boost its mar­ket­ing is con­fi­dent it will at­tract enough pupils to get one of its teach­ers back.

Bun­nythorpe School is about 6 kilo­me­tres north of the ex­pand­ing Palmer­ston North sub­urb of Kelvin Grove, but its roll dropped to 15 last year, which would make it a sole-charge school, with some sup­port.

That prompted Palmer­ston North mayor Grant Smith to join a pub­lic­ity cam­paign to bring more chil­dren to the school. He pro­moted it as a re­source for the city, with a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion and hous­ing de­vel­op­ment in the nearby city sub­urb, and paid for back-of-the-bus ad­ver­tis­ing from the dis­cre­tionary may­oral fund.

It may be too soon to know whether the move has paid off, but there are pos­i­tive signs.

Prin­ci­pal Margie Suther­land said 18 chil­dren were en­rolled to start on Tuesday, in­clud­ing two new chil­dren from Christchurch and a 5-year-old new en­trant who made school vis­its through­out De­cem­ber. An­other five new en­trants are also likely to start dur­ing the year.

The roll has dropped from about 200 chil­dren in the 1990s. So when Suther­land took over in 2016, she set out to turn this around.

In Septem­ber last year, the roll was down to 15 chil­dren, and the school lost a teacher when the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion cut fund­ing. The cut came be­cause the school had fallen be­low the 26-pupil count that qual­i­fies it for an­other teacher.

Suther­land be­lieves the growth in the roll that be­gan at the end of last year will con­tinue in 2018, and the school is on track to reach 26 chil­dren mid­way through the year, at which point it can seek an­other teacher.

The school was very much alive and kick­ing, she said, with a sup­port­ive board of trus­tees, and par­ents who ap­pre­ci­ated the small school size.

The school’s strength was still the in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion the chil­dren got com­pared with larger schools. She brings other adults into the class­room to add to the chil­dren’s learn­ing with vis­it­ing swim­ming in­struc­tors, demon­stra­tions from par­ents, and out­side pro­grammes such as Gar­den to Ta­ble.

There is a large bush area next to the school, which makes it eas­ier for the chil­dren to learn about con­ser­va­tion.

‘‘I like kids to have that holis­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.’’.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/STUFF

Bun­nythorpe School prin­ci­pal Margie Suther­land, work­ing with pupils last year.

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