Small school, big heart: ex-student

AFTER being a student at nearly 20 Queensland schools there is one that stands out for all the right reasons for Warwick's Melissa Looker.

The 36-year-old mother of four finished her primary education at her “favourite” small school 70km from Goondiwindi.

Today that same school, Kioma State School, faces closure after the State Government announced a review of its viability.

An Education Queensland spokesman said the single- teacher school - one of the few remaining in our region - was experiencing “declining and low enrolments” and had poor “forward growth estimates”.

But it is a clinical approach to a school that has historically been the hub of a local community and renown for its spirit.

“I went to 20 different schools, but Kioma was the best, I have the fondest memories of my four years there,” Ms Looker said.

“We were a very proud school; we excelled at sports day; everyone played together and knew each other.

“There was a strong sense of belonging and community.”

For Ms Looker there was also the added educational benefit of smaller student-to- teacher ratio.

When she started there were 30 students but when she graduated in 1985 numbers had slipped to just 12.

“My parents worked on a station and we travelled about an hour by bus to Kioma,” Ms Looker said.

“Now I don't think many people want to do hard physical work anymore so there aren't as many families in the bush.”

Closer to home, Wheatvale State School P&C's Leonie McMahon warned the long-term future of smaller schools was endangered.

“Small schools need to be supported because they offer an invaluable learning environment,” she said.

“Smaller student teacher rations mean more one-on-one teacher time and greater attention to individual student needs.

“Smaller enrolments also inevitably mean greater parental involvement in school communities, which creates a very personal environment.”

Mrs McMahon questioned the rationale of Federal Government funding, which poured $850,000 into buildings at schools like Wheatvale, but left teachers with inadequate pay.

“I know it is a State Government issue, but they need to know we need quality teachers, especially in small schools, and they need an incentive to stay in their profession,” she said.

Do you feel strongly about the value of small schools? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

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