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Scarecrows’ ‘huge’ day out

Carterton Mayor Greg Lang judged this year’s winning scarecrow, the Klue family’s “pukeko in a punga tree”. PHOTO/GREG LANG

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Gladstone School’s “Scarecrows Big Day Out” raised more than $30,000 on Saturday to help fund the school’s teacher aides.

“We’ve never had a turnout like it,” principal Belinda Bunny said.

Car parks in the paddock across the road filled up by 10am.

In a “mad dash”, parent helpers started baling up hay in a neighbouring paddock to create more parking spaces.

Bunny estimated the crowds at more than 5000 people throughout the day.

More than 100 businesses and individuals contributed to the event by donating goods and prizes to auction.

Some of the money raised from the Big Day Out would fund a new ladder and grab rail for the school pool.

But the vast majority went to the school’s teacher aides.

Gladstone’s teacher aides help to design programmes for pupils who require support, working with them one-on-one and in small groups.

Gladstone School has four teacher aides across its 163 pupils, with at least 20 pupils requiring learning support.

Yet these pupils do not qualify for Ministry of Education [MOE] funding for teacher aide hours.

The Ongoing Resourcing Scheme [ORS] funds pupils who need specialist support at school, according to the MOE website. However, to qualify for ORS funding, schools must be able to show that pupils have significant learning difficulties.

Bunny said her school had been unable to access this funding.

“We’re desperately trying to hold on to the four that we’ve got.”

The MOE channels its funding towards lower-decile schools.

As a Decile 9 school, Gladstone School receives no funding for teacher aides, and relies on fundraisers to keep them on the payroll.

The school’s “Scarecrows Big Day Out” fundraiser was part of the larger Scarecrow Fair, a spring fixture for the area since 1999.

Carterton Mayor Greg Lang was in the original committee that set up the Scarecrow Fair.

Not long after Lang moved to Gladstone, he helped to form the Gladstone Promotion Group, which aimed to promote Gladstone as a destination.

“How can we get people to come to Gladstone?” Lang and wife Ali asked themselves.

The natural answer was to build a big scarecrow in front of their house.

Lang put a sign on the scarecrow which read: “Gladstone Scarecrow Festival”.

He also put a notice in the Gladstone newsletter encouraging other residents to get involved.

In the festival’s first year, more than 250 scarecrows popped up around the district.

“Everyone became an artisan without realising,” Lang said.

Originally the festival ran for six weeks, with different events on each weekend – scarecrow golf, the scarecrow fun run, the “scareable wearable” awards, and the scarecrow hoedown.

In the late 2000s, the Gladstone Promotion Group disbanded. Gladstone School kept the festival going, with the central focus on their fair.

The fair is used to fundraise for the school’s essential services, such as teacher aides. But there is hope that in future years the school will not have to rely on fundraisers.

“The current decile system for schools and early learning services is blunt and outdated,” the Labour Party said on its website in September.

This term, the government planned to roll out an Equity Index to replace the decile system.

That could mean Gladstone School gets to spend more of its hard-earned money on pool ladders in the future.

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