Bunnythorpe wants its teacher back
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.’’.
Bunnythorpe School principal Margie Sutherland, working with pupils last year.