Crowdy school closure pending

Crowdy School - the "enrol now" sign was prepared by the students.
Crowdy School - the "enrol now" sign was prepared by the students.

CROWDY Head Public School will close at the end of term four.

That is the advice delivered to attendees of a meeting with Director Public Schools NSW, Mark Youngblutt in February, according to parents and citizens association representative, Stephen Klump.

The pending loss of five students to high school in 2015 will be the catalyst for closure and relocation of resources to other schools in the Manning Valley, claims Mr Klump. Eight students currently attend the school with the prospect of just three students in 2015 if new enrolments are not received.

Mr Klump describes the pending closure of the small school "as a very sad thing" and says "everyone expressed strong objections to the decision."

"We asked for the school to go into a two-year recess and that it not be closed," Mr Klump said.

"We think there is a real possibility of new enrolments, given time. There isn't much new land in Crowdy Head but families are buying old houses and rebuilding."

Questions about the viability of the school began to emerge in community conversation late last year in the wake of declining enrolments and students leaving to attend larger local schools. It was a hot topic of conversation at a public meeting in Harrington in December with numerous questions about the school directed to the State member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams.

"The department now wants to break it up and move resources, like the new classroom and kitchen garden to other schools," Mr Klump said.

"This school is small but has a great history of working with kids with behaviour problems. We have the skills and resources to keep bums on seats, instead of having kids at home on suspension," he explained.

"This is an advantage, we've got an amazing amount of resources that come from our community, that creates a whole different atmosphere of learning. This should be valued."

He is not alone in the fight to keep the school functioning for the small community of Crowdy Head and surrounding areas.

Harrington Community Action Group (HCAG) contends the department's application of policy to non-local enrolments, is a contributing factor to the low student numbers and secretary, Joan Hall says "whilst they've (the department) not officially said the school will close, the way in which it is handling non-local enrolments will force its closure."

In August 1997, the NSW government introduced the "Enrolment of Students in Government Schools: A Summary and Consolidation of Policy". It replaced the Dezoning of Primary Schools for 1989, Extension of Dezoning of Schools for 1990, Choice of Schools 1992 and the Enrolment of Children with Disabilities.

Late last month HCAG flagged the age of the policy and its application in the modern education environment with the minister for education and communities, Adrian Piccoli.

According Mrs Hall, the group is concerned that "decisions are made based on a policy which is just on 17 years old and which appears not to have been reviewed during that time.

"On reading the current policy it appears to have little flexibility as far as a student is concerned in applying for enrolment at a non-local school, especially in a country area, and even more so if the education department is considering closing a school," Ms Hall explained.

"We believe there should be variation to the policy for country areas to that of large city areas. The policy to allow high school students to be more selective in which high school they choose to attend should also be applied to primary school students.

"Currently it appears the decision on a non-local student to attend Crowdy Head Public School is being taken out of the hands of the principal."

Ms Hall described the school as a "great asset to the community" and for many years staff have "assisted many students to overcome problems they have had and enabled them to move forward into their future with more confidence, self esteem and respect."

"A great deal of money has been spent on this school, including private donations, which enabled a kitchen to be constructed on the school grounds so the students could cook the vegetables that they grow on the grounds," she explained.

The NSW Department of Communities yesterday advised that "no decision has been made yet regarding the closure of Crowdy Head Public School" and that "discussions with the community are still ongoing."

"The department continually reviews the status of schools across the State to best utilise resources for the benefit of all students and is talking with the local community about the implications of decreasing enrolments at Crowdy Head Public School," a department spokesman said.

"The demographics of that area are changing and there are currently few families with young children in that area."

Meanwhile, Port Macquarie MP, Leslie Williams says she is continuing to liaise with Mr Youngblutt, Director Public Schools NSW, regarding the future of Crowdy Head Public School.