Tuturumuri School, which only has eight Students, was earmarked for closure in June.

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
and ELISA VORSTER

Tuturumuri School pupils cheered yesterday at news their tiny country school was, against all odds, safe from closure.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the government had ditched plans to shut the South Wairarapa school, following strong community support to see it saved.

Principal and teacher Pat Ross, who was employed under an “emergency staffing” contract, said the announcement was somewhat unexpected.

“It’s good news for the community and for the kids — it’s great no longer having that hanging over their heads.”
Last year, the school’s roll of nine students started declined to zero after the school bus route was cut, and Hipkins announced in June his interim decision was to close it.

The school now has eight students, ranging in ages, with another due to start shortly.

Ross said Education Ministry representatives personally gave the news to pupils and their parents yesterday afternoon, resulting in “a big cheer from the kids”.

South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier was also pleased.

“It’s great for the community to have a school because it’s a long way to go for families who live further out [towards the coast].”

She said the Tuturumuri community had worked hard to achieve the desired outcome.

“They’ve done a lot of work and a lot of lobbying to see the school secure.”

During the consultation process, community members sent lengthy submissions arguing their case and went as far as a monetary incentive to attract new pupils.

Labour List MP Kieran McAnulty met with minister Hipkins on several occasions on the matter, and said there was “a clear case” to keep the school open.

“I was so impressed by [the community’s] strong motivation, and the work they did to make their case, and that gives me confidence that they will give equal energy to the challenge of finding a school principal in 2019.”

McAnulty said rural schools had unique characteristics which would be difficult to understand if “looking through an urban lens”.

Hipkins said through consultation, it quickly became clear that closing the school would have significant impacts, with schools in rural areas providing an important community hub.

“Attracting a suitable teaching principal in 2019 will be crucial to the long-term sustainability of the school.
“The Ministry of Education will provide me with an update on the school in late 2019.”

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said “the right outcome” had been achieved.
“Schools are often the hub of our rural communities and maintaining connections and services is vital.”