Rural schools fight for better conditions
Country schools in the Rangitıkei are backing a teachers’ union campaign for better conditions for principals of rural schools.
Seven of them are in the Taihape primary cluster, where three have fewer than 25 pupils, meaning they are sole charge schools – Pukeokahu School, Papanui Junction School, and Mangaweka School.
Primary school union leader Lynda Stuart said they were in talks with the Education Ministry in a bid to get improved conditions for the heads of such schools.
The pitch is that it is a health and safety issue, that sole charge principals are uniquely faced with potential dangers and issues that no-one else in the job is likely to encounter.
Paoanui Junction School head Nicky Evans said working at a school on a long and winding road 40 minutes out of Taihape deepened the sense of isolation.
On the upside, her school had only 10 pupils this year - so she was better off than someone running a school of 25, with children ranging in age from 5 up to 13, a ‘‘crazy’’ situation to be in, she said.
‘‘But you get to do everything, teach all the subjects, and there is no-one to delegate to. We have a proactive community here though where everyone is right behind the school.’’
Her school was well-embedded in its surrounding farming community and was ‘‘very generational’’ as well, she said.
The rural ‘‘do it yourself’’ theme was echoed by another member of the cluster, Mangaweka School, which has 12 on the roll this year. Principal Maree Rossiter said ‘‘challenging’’ was the word for it.
No two schools were alike in terms of needs or student abilities but sole charge teachers were faced with ‘‘a raft of things’’ to do and that didn’t include trying to focus on teaching and learning.
There were management matters and there was the paperwork that kept her going until all hours.
Stuart said health and safety was inevitably a key issue because of the ever-present possibility of an incident which meant senior pupils could be left temporarily in charge while the only adult on the premises sought help and support.
But also vital was the provision of support so sole charge principals could devote enough time to teaching and leading the learning at their school.
Mangaweka School is one of several rural schools in a bid to get better conditions for sole charge principals.