Education

Invergordon Primary School reaching end of an era

By Laura Briggs

Invergordon Primary School approaches the end of an era at the completion of the school year.

After 57 years of providing education to the children of Invergordon and surrounds, the school faces an uncertain future due to a gradual decrease in student enrolments.

A Department of Education and Training spokesperson said the school would be de-staffed at the start of next year following the request of closure, voted by the school council.

‘‘Invergordon Primary School’s enrolment numbers have been in decline for several years and, in October, the school council voted to request closure of the school,’’ the spokesperson said.

‘‘The Department is currently considering the school council’s request.

‘‘As there are no student enrolments for 2019, the school will not operate and be de-staffed in 2019.’’

Although only four students are enrolled as the year comes to an end, the memories of the primary school’s decades of popularity and achievements remain on the minds of generations of locals.

It is a fantastic school

Former school parents club member Leanne Rovers said the news came as a disappointment to her and her family.

She said the school had played a major role in the lives of the Rover family — from her husband Eddy, who attended the school as a child, to the couple’s four children, who also completed their primary years at the school.

She said the uncertain future of the school was not a reflection of the school itself but the struggling town of Invergordon.

She said with farmers and orchardists decreasing during the years due to water prices, production costs and general industry decline, along with the closing of significant town clubs and organisations, and other contributing factors, the town has been stripped more bare, leaving the primary school with little to work with.

‘‘It’s really disappointing because it’s a fantastic school that can cater for a couple of hundred kids with great facilities, but unfortunately they will all go to waste.’’

Ms Rovers said besides the impressive facilities, the school had always held a positive atmosphere where students were able to receive more one-on-one teaching due to smaller numbers.

‘‘Being a smaller school all the kids would always look out for one another and got along really well.’’

Former school principal Paul Cairns with Invergordon Primary School students.

Fond memories

Former school principal Treena Stephens said her time at the school was filled with pleasant memories she would treasure for many years to come.

Ms Stephens was the school principal from 2013 to last year.

‘‘In a small, rural school you develop close relationships with both students and the school community and I treasure these.’’

She felt the end of the era for the school was sad but inevitable with the changing face of Invergordon.

Ms Stephens said although it was disappointing to hear the school’s news, she was thankful for her time spent at the community-focused school.

‘‘I am grateful to have been a teaching principal at Invergordon Primary School for the past five years and I have very happy memories of my time there.’’

Community numbers dwindling

Two locals who were not shocked by the news were Invergordon General Store owners and former students Greg and Carol Wilson.

Mr Wilson said the pair was concerned for the school when lunch order numbers they received at the store started decreasing.

‘‘We used to supply the school lunches for the kids but the numbers just dwindled away and we stopped doing it.’’

He said the lunch order numbers were not the only numbers that had dwindled in recent decades.

‘‘Numbers are just dwindling in the community and things have all changed now — the glory days are gone,’’ Mr Wilson said.

Mrs Wilson said with little left on offer for children in the area, she was not surprised children were attending schools closer to Shepparton.

‘‘Although I think it will put a bit of a hole in the community that is left out here,’’ she said.

Invergordon General Store is one of the few community buildings still operating.

Final celebrations

From next year, the department will continue to monitor demand and should demand rise in the future, the school has the possibility to be re-staffed.

A night will be held next week as a way of celebrating the school’s decades of achievements and success.

The ‘End of an Era’ celebration will be held at Invergordon Primary School on Friday, December 14, from 6pm to 8pm.

The event will include food and entertainment. All are welcome to attend. To RSVP, phone 58655287 by Monday.

Invergordon Primary School.

Invergordon Primary School history

1961: Dunbulbalane Primary School opened. The original school consisted of one classroom, a storeroom and porch-way.

1962: Two classrooms, an office and a staff room were added to the school.

1963: Electricity was connected and a telephone was installed.

1965: A second shelter shed, indoor staff toilet and two more classrooms were erected.

1966: The school name was changed to Invergordon Primary School No.4896 after it was being referred to as ‘Dunbumbalane’.

1966: The sealed assembly area was extended to include a basketball court and the ladder bars were installed.

1967: The school won the ANA prize for the most improved school grounds.

1968: A seventh classroom was completed.

1974: A spare classroom was converted to a library in and a part-time librarian was appointed.

1975: Playground development started.

1976: A school council was developed.

1983: School won the State Garden Award.

1985: A monthly school newsletter was introduced. A computer, new reading materials and educational board games were purchased.

1991: A commemorative garden was established in honour of Tara Nilsen and Brad Little. The school community remembered another past student Jennifer Ash later that year.

School enrolment history

1961: 28 students

1962: 59 students

1963: 109 students

1965: 154 students

1968: 202 students

1978: 94 students

1983: 68 students

1987: 73 students

1992: 77 students

1998: 68 students

2001: 70 students

2006: 48 students

2011: 28 students

2017: Eight students

2018: Four students