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Ministry Of Education Must Address Rural Education

5 September 2001

The Ministry of Education needs to act now on rural education problems according to Federated Farmers education spokesperson Colin Bull.

An Education Review Office report on rural education claims to describe the educational goals and experiences of families living in rural areas, but was only based on eleven families in total, covering three separate areas.

"Eleven families cannot provide a true indication of the status of rural education, but this report has highlighted some fundamental problems relating to education in rural New Zealand" Mr Bull said.

"If the Government is truly committed to keeping its promise of better support for rural schools then they will act now in response to problems highlighted in the report" Mr Bull said.

Most of the families interviewed for the report identified their children's transition to secondary school as an area of concern, in terms of providing quality education. Federated Farmers has expressed concerns relating to this area for some time.

Federated Farmers has lobbied past and current Governments to increase the level of support. In particular, the Federation have called for changes to the isolation index measurement and the updating of the boarding bursary.

The level of funding for boarding bursaries is a classic example of declining support for rural education. The current level of boarding bursaries immediately excludes many families from having the ability to make a choice on the level of their children's education.

The report outlined Internet and emerging technologies as a key area in overcoming some of the problems associated with isolation in rural schools.

"This will only be a realistic option if the rural community is able to be guaranteed fast and reliable Internet access" Mr Bull cautioned.

The report also identifies the attraction and retention of quality teaching staff, particularly principals as a key area in rural education. It gives examples of a spiral of decline where it is difficult to attract good teachers, so the schools funding declines and the roll decreases as parents seek alternatives outside of the immediate community.

"A school is often the focus point of a rural community and teaching staff have a huge influence on the way that particular school and community operate" Mr Bull said.

The report's conclusion echoes Mr Bull's sentiments "Parents commonly felt their local schools were integral to the ongoing vitality of their communities and if there was no school there would be no community."


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