Bloomsbury State School teaching principal Eliza Durnsford. Picture: Heidi Petith
Bloomsbury State School teaching principal Eliza Durnsford. Picture: Heidi Petith

NO WORRIES: How a 31-student rural school is thriving

A rural school about an hour’s drive from Mackay has only 31 enrolled students from Year 1 through to Year 6.

But Bloomsbury State School teaching principal Eliza Durnsford said the smaller numbers worked to their advantage when it came to ensuring their students thrived.

“I absolutely love small schools,” the principal of four years said.

“I love that every staff member in our school knows each student so well and can help and support them in so many ways — whether it’s their wellbeing or their learning.”

Ms Durnsford said the school ran two classes — a Prep to Year 3 class and a Years 4 to 6 class — each with fewer students than the average class sizes at many Mackay region schools.

Year 3 student William Sheaphard, Year 6 student Josh Geisler and Year 2 student Hannah Geisler at Bloomsbury State School, Bloomsbury, Tuesday December 1, 2020. Picture: Heidi Petith
Year 3 student William Sheaphard, Year 6 student Josh Geisler and Year 2 student Hannah Geisler at Bloomsbury State School, Bloomsbury, Tuesday December 1, 2020. Picture: Heidi Petith

“I love multi-age learning because we do a lot of small group work,” Ms Durnsford said.

“For example, we might all do the poetry through the school but each level is assessed at their age group.

“Everyone is still getting all of the correct learning (from the Australian curriculum) but in an environment where they can be stretched either side — whether they need a bit of support or they need to be extended.”

She said both classes also had a full-time teacher aide, a special needs teacher and access to a speech pathologist and guidance officers.

Ms Durnsford said smaller enrolment numbers also made it easier to hold activities such as the Christmas postal service where students take turns delivering letters written to each other and staff. “It brings so much joy,” she said. Picture: Heidi Petith
Ms Durnsford said smaller enrolment numbers also made it easier to hold activities such as the Christmas postal service where students take turns delivering letters written to each other and staff. “It brings so much joy,” she said. Picture: Heidi Petith

She said another advantage of fewer enrolments was running whole-school excursions.

Ms Durnsford said the school travelled to Proserpine State School for four whole days of swimming each year, with other trips including to Brisbane and Parliament House, Seaforth, Airlie Beach and the Great Barrier Reef.

More stories from smaller Mackay region schools:

North Eton State School rejoices for 125th anniversary

Student’s spudtacular find in Homebush garden

Rural students rejoice in rainbow rush adventures

And when it came to sports days, Bloomsbury boosted competitor numbers by teaming up with other rural schools.

“We belong to the Northern Highway cluster of schools,” Ms Durnsford said. The cluster included Bloomsbury, Hampden, Seaforth, Farleigh and Coningsby State Schools.

Bloomsbury State School only had 31 students enrolled by the last week of school, 2020. Picture: Heidi Petith
Bloomsbury State School only had 31 students enrolled by the last week of school, 2020. Picture: Heidi Petith

And in proving distance was no barrier, Ms Durnsford said the school proudly introduced two eKindy pods this year.

“This delivered a significant need in our community for early learning,” she said.

“eKindy pods are a distance ed kindy program.

“One day a week, the kids come to our school in a pod and they get to experience school life with a facilitator at the school.

“Our closest (kindergarten) is at Proserpine or Calen so now our kids can access their start of schooling which is really good.”

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Do you have fond memories of attending a small school in the Mackay region? Let us know at heidi.petith@news.com.au

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This story was thanks to the My Town series – a Daily Mercury and Mackay Regional Council initiative.

My Town is about telling the stories of Mackay and surrounds that matter to you.
My Town is about telling the stories of Mackay and surrounds that matter to you.

Let us tell the stories that matter to you and if you think we should come to your town, send us an email to mackay@news.com.au

In the meantime, why not check out the other My Town stories:

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