Ru­ral schools fight for bet­ter con­di­tions

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Taihape - ALIS­TER BROWNE

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.

PHOTO: BERNIE BEE PHOTOGRAPHY

Man­gaweka School is one of sev­eral ru­ral schools in a bid to get bet­ter con­di­tions for sole charge prin­ci­pals.

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