Tiny Bullarto Primary School year begins after facing closure last year

(ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky) ABC Central Victoria


Larissa Romensky


February 01, 2017 17:29:23

Acting principal and teacher Jo Pegg out on a morning walk with her students.
(ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
Not only are they part of its curriculum, with the students learning how to milk them, but they also form an important part of the fundraising. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
Calming place amongst the bushSurrounded by the Wombat State Forest, Ms Pegg describes the 143-year-old school as a calming place for students to learn with a location that uses its environment to teach the children.Along with an Indigenous garden and interactive website, the school has an environmental science program run in coordination with Wombat Forest Care.”So we go down to the creek and test the water levels,” Ms Clifford said.”We embed it across all areas of the school.”

Jo Pegg begins the day with reading a book about a wombat as the school is surrounded by Wombat State Forest. Photo:
A quick goodbye to the family pet before class starts. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
A so-called Goat Masterclass is held as a separate fundraising event, which raised $3,000 last year.”Our numbers were down so we didn’t have the same amount of enrolment grant money from the Government,” parent and school council secretary Michelle Clifford said.She said the extra money allowed them to hire a new teacher for three hours per week to take art, drama and music classes. The school is well known around the district for its Goat Festival that it runs with the community.The one-day event invites the public to come along and learn to make products such as cheese and ice cream. Photo:
Lily, 7, meets the three goats she shares the school with. Photo:
Tully, George and Eden, 11, have bushland as the back drop to their school. Bullarto Primary School faced the prospect of closure last year when the number of its fundraising goats equalled the number of its kids, but this year enrolments have more than doubled.There are seven students enrolled in Bullarto, an increase of four from last year.”That is the lowest number the school has recorded over time,” said its new acting principal, Jo Pegg.Located about 115 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, Ms Pegg said it was still “on the cards” for the school to close last year.”A school that gets to this size is always on the radar for closure,” she said.After much discussion with the community and a successful Open Day held last year, the extra students and the extra representation of parents on its student council have ensured the school’s survival.Goats helped raise fundsAlong with the students, the school’s three goats are an important part of the school for many reasons. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky) Photo:
George, 9, and Tully, 11, herd the school’s goats into the feeding shed. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
Ms Clifford’s 11-year-old son Eden is one of the seven students from prep to grade 6 in the one classroom.He enrolled last year after being forced to leave his previous school because of “bullying issues”.”His learning had come down a little bit because he was suffering from anxiety so we came to this school because of the small numbers, and the fact that the teachers had great empathy and could fit in with his learning needs,” Ms Clifford said.She said that within the year, her son had thrived and his confidence had increased with him heading in to grade 6.”It was the best move I’ve made and I actually wish I’d made the move a lot earlier,” she said.Principal Jo Pegg said each curriculum is tailored to the individual child so no one “slips through the gaps”.”And the fact that the school is small allows the teachers to work with children one-to-one,” she said.Ms Pegg said the school hopes to work with local kindergartens to create a bush school as it works with the local council to further its growth.
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