Ministry considers closing school

Flag Swamp School. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Flag Swamp School. Photo: Peter McIntosh
One of Otago’s oldest schools is being assessed by the Ministry of Education for possible closure.

Flag Swamp School celebrated its 150th anniversary in October, but its consistently low rolls have captured the ministry’s attention.

The highest the school’s roll reached in the past two decades was 31 pupils in 2001.

Since then, it has declined steadily, and this year just six pupils remain at the school.

The consideration of possible closure was initiated by the ministry, sector enablement and support deputy secretary Katrina Casey said.

She said there were several reasons for this.

‘‘As our towns and cities change, this can have an impact on a network of schools and the viability of schools within a network.

‘‘Flag Swamp School has had a low roll (currently six) for a number of years, and only a small number of families live nearby.

‘‘The school’s principal resigned in July and the school also currently has a limited statutory manager.

‘‘In recent years, Education Review Office reports have identified areas for improvement.

‘‘Schools with low rolls can also find that their ongoing financial viability can be challenging.’’

Ms Casey said consultation over the proposal to close the school had now finished, and the ministry had prepared a report for Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

Flag Swamp School limited statutory manager Cleave Hay said following consultation with staff and the community, a similar report was prepared by the board of trustees, telling the minister the board and community wanted the school to remain open.

‘‘The board is now awaiting an indication from the minister on the future of the school.

‘‘The board must follow a strict process and we now await the next step. The school remains open until the process is complete and a decision has been made.’’

Ms Casey was unable to say when the final decision would be made.

She said there were other schools located close to Flag Swamp School, and if it were to close, the ministry would work with parents to support any existing pupils into new schooling.

‘‘The decision to close a school is never easy, but any decision follows the requirements of the Education Act and is made by the Minister of Education.

‘‘In this case, it would also include a further 28 days for the school’s board to provide any further information in response to any decision made.’’

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