School’s final bell

Today’s front page story about the Mt Torrens Primary School having only seven students is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue next year.

It is less than ideal for students and a poor use of resources to have seven pupils educated for the cost of keeping an entire school staffed and maintained.

Either more enrolments must be found or the school should be either closed or mothballed.

Schools with similar student numbers exist in very isolated communities but it is impossible to justify such a facility in Mt Torrens only a few kilometres from two existing State schools at Birdwood and Lobethal.

Small schools in small communities are always at a risk of disengaging with their communities but there is no suggestion that the current staff are anything but dedicated and respected by the parents.

The current principal was only appointed at the start of this year.

However, sometimes it can only take a clash of personalities – in some cases from years before – for a small school’s population to be decimated if there are a handful of parents willing to relocate their children.

That initial drop can set in train a domino affect resulting in more students leaving a school placing increased pressure on those remaining.

Such declines can also be influenced by factors outside the district such as dynamic educators from nearby schools who attract the interest of parents.

There is clearly a reason why the student population at Mt Torrens has dropped from 80 students six years ago to seven today.

What that is appears to be a mystery.

Sometimes demographics of small communities can change dramatically in a short time but the school’s governing council may find it difficult to attract a significant number of new students in the coming months.

With the recent approval of a 43-lot housing development in the town there may be a number of school-aged children in the community in the next decade.

It may be worth considering mothballing the present site to ascertain the need for the facility in the near future but no doubt the cash-strapped State Government will be eager to see some better value for its educational investment.

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