Labertouche on a roll

Grade 3-6 Students at Labertouche Primary School in the sprawling vegetable garden full of hearty produce.

Grade 3-6 Students at Labertouche Primary School in the sprawling vegetable garden full of hearty produce.

Eighteen months ago, with just 14 students, Labertouche Primary School's future looked dire.

Four grade 6 students were due to leave at the end of 2014, and it seemed likely the school would go the way of many others that have disappeared from the landscape in recent years.

Instead, the school roll has doubled this year to a much more stable 28, with several of the new students coming from Drouin and Longwarry.

Principal Brendan Dawson says the influx of new students, including eight preps, is very exciting for the school and the community.

He only arrived at the school late last year and laughs when asked if he's responsible for the sudden turnaround. He confesses he's not sure of exactly what caused the influx. "If I knew the answer I could sell it to every other school.

"We have dedicated staff and a hard working council. It's also a safe and supportive learning environment."

Labertouche School Council secretary Janelle Harte describes Labertouche as a hidden gem. "It's such a beautiful school - there's everything a student could need.

Once they got below 19 students, however, the government funding dropped substantially. "We were running in arrears last year. One of our full-time assistant teachers took retirement early so the school could keep two teachers.

At the end of 2013, Ms Harte says, the Education Department recommended Labertouche "annex" with another school, which would mean it operated as a campus of another school.

"We did consider it but we didn't like the idea. We would have lost our name. We're proud of it, and we were prepared to fight to keep it."
Parents took to spruiking their great school among their friends and acquaintances in Bunyip, Drouin, and Longwarry.

"Basically we all decided to put the school's name back out there and show what a great school it is. We have things that even large schools don't have."

Foremost among them are four little kitchens in which the students cook using the vegetables they grow in the school gardens and the eggs produced by their own chooks.

But don't mistake this for a rural backwater of education. Students also have access to iPads and tablets (almost one device for every pupil), a dedicated science program, visual arts, phys-ed and Chinese language (through the Tarago education cluster).

There's also a closeness among the pupils, Ms Harte says. "There's no segregation - the grade sixes play with the preps."

She says the Labertouche community worked hard for many years to get their own school in 1882, and the current community isn't going to be the one to lose it. "Once it's gone, we'll never get it back."

Published in the Warragul & Drouin Gazette, February 24, 2015

    Posted in Labertouche Primary School

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