By: Ilona Hanne

It may have a small roll, but the youngsters at Ratapiko School are thriving.

“Country kids are different from town kids and they thrive in a school which can understand and support their rural lifestyle.”

Lisa Hill, the teaching principal at Ratapiko School in central Taranaki, says children growing up in rural communities have different life experiences from those growing up in towns and cities.

“One isn’t better than the other, but they are different, and it is important the classroom reflects that, and that the teaching uses examples from the children’s own lives when creating learning experiences. A child living in rural Taranaki is not going to have the same terms of reference as a child in Manukau, for example.”

Lisa says there are many advantages to a small rural school.

“Obviously one advantage is that of small class sizes, but there are many more advantages or benefits too. Being small means we are a tight-knit community who support each other.

“Children are able to be individuals and as teachers, we can be flexible and change plans quickly to reflect what is happening around us if we need.”

Lisa says the pupils have just as many opportunities as their peers in larger, more urban schools.

“While we might not have the numbers to get our own rugby team, for example, we work collaboratively with other schools around us to give our children those opportunities. We have pupils who play sports for teams in Stratford, Inglewood or other areas so they don’t miss out at all.”

Jia Muggeridge-Meyer, 12, and William Young, 10, enjoy the family environment at the school.

With all the advantages, Lisa says she isn’t surprised the school roll is growing rapidly.
“In May last year, we had nine children on the roll here, now just under 18 months later we have 23 pupils, with another child set to join us in November.”

With just one child in Year 8, and therefore leaving at the end of this school year, and another new entrant set to start at the start of the new school year, the school roll will be 24, just two pupils short of the magic number of 26.

“If we have 26 pupils on the roll, the Ministry of Education will fund a second teacher for the school, which would be brilliant.”

Thanks to what Lisa describes as being a “very supportive” board of trustees, the school doesn’t have to hope and pray for two more pupils to enroll.

“The board has agreed to fund a graduate teacher for next term for the school by redirecting some of the operational grant to cover the salary. We are hoping that soon after next term, we will hit that magic number of 26 and then be able to carry on with two teachers in the future.”

Lisa says she is delighted to have the graduand teacher join them, “especially as it is someone from Taranaki, who understands the district and the community here”.

The new teacher, Michael Packman, will join Lisa and the other staff at Ratapiko next term.

“As well as myself and Michael, we also have an office administrator, a teacher aide and a teacher who works as principal release, meaning she covers the class while I am doing other things related to my role as principal.”

Next term, a second teacher aide is also set to join the team at the school.

“So our staff list is growing, as well as our roll.”

The school is not zoned and is open for enrolments, says Lisa.

“So hopefully we will have even more new faces in our playground soon.”

Source: Stratford Press


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