Bishop applies to close St Patrick's School

St Patrick's School. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
St Patrick's School. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
St Patrick's School in South Dunedin will be the sixth primary school in two and a-half years to close in the city, but an education specialist believes closures may become less frequent.

Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, the Most Rev Colin Campbell, said he had given "careful consideration" to Catholic schooling in the Dunedin South pastoral area, after the school's board raised concerns about its declining roll, and the consequential strains on governance and management.

"St Patrick's School has served its parish well over many years, but demographic shifts and other changes in South Dunedin have created the need for reviewing the way we provide Catholic education," he said. He had advised the Ministry of Education of his wish to restructure schooling in the area as soon as possible by consolidating on St Bernadette's (Forbury) and St Brigid's (Tainui).

Catholic Education Office director Tony Hanning said St Patrick's roll of about 30 pupils was expected to be about 20 at the start of next year.

The school, on the site of the former St Edmund's, had a roll of more than 200 in the 1980s.

Mr Hanning said it was hoped the school could be closed before the start of term one next year, but Education Minister Anne Tolley would make the official decision.

It was still too early to say what would happen to the land and buildings, owned by the church.

Otago Primary Principals' Association president Jenny Clarke believed Dunedin's changing demographic was partly to blame for the closure.

"A lot of family homes are being bought and developed into retirement flats, which means there are fewer families living in South Dunedin.

"Another factor is people are much more mobile these days, and they will often choose a school that's nearer their work than their home."

Education specialist and University of Otago Educational Assessment Research Unit emeritus director Lester Flockton said the main reason for Dunedin's primary school closures was that while many were built post-World War 2 to educate the baby boom, the child-age population had decreased again.

There were not enough children to fill all the classrooms.

With the recent closures, the number of primary schools was beginning to match the demand.

"If I had to predict the future, I would say I think we are past the hump of it.

"School closures will become an occasional event - but it's all just crystal ball gazing."

School closures

• July 2008: Ocean View School amalgamates with Brighton School.

• April 2010: Waldronville School and Tomahawk School close.

• July 2010: Corstorphine School closes.

• October 2010: High Street School applies for closure.

• November 2010: St Patrick's School applies to consolidate with St Bernadette's School (Forbury) and St Brigid's School (Tainui).


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