Rural education

Busting some myths

Thinking of moving more rurally, but not sure about your kids? How is the local education scene across rural Canterbury? For parents moving from a city to a smaller town or a rural setting, there’s a few topics that play out slightly differently regarding schooling – and likely a few myths and stereotypes to be laid to rest as well.

Myth 1: Just one school??

City parents are all too used to planning their choice of residence against the smorgasbord of the school zoning map. So it may initially seem alarming that there are fewer schools to choose from in rural towns. But fear not, the Ministry of Education is closely monitoring patterns of population growth and has plans in place through to at least 2030.

Take Selwyn as an example.

Over the past 10 years, Selwyn has been New Zealand’s second-fastest growing district. Post-quake relocation had a huge role, as has the subsequent focus on private development and both regional and central government investment in infrastructure.

With housing construction, business and employment booming in the region, the growth is expected to continue. Selwyn’s population increased from 42,900 in 2011 to around 71,500 in 2021. By 2031, its population is forecast to reach around 90,000.

The Ministry of Education is taking full note of this situation, and planning ahead to meet demand. Its National Education Growth Plan 2030 is a deliberate new approach to thinking about and co-ordinating the Ministry’s response to school-aged population growth. It identifies what is known about the anticipated location and patterns of growth in school-aged children between now and 2030, and puts in place short, medium and longer-term plans for not only what government can do, but also for what supporting work will be necessary from local government, infrastructure and service providers.

New schools have already opened across the district, in impressive new buildings with cutting edge facilities and excellent broadband. Demand is so high that Rolleston is holding public engagement to work through the various options of a new Rolleston high school campus.

Myth 2: Rural life is conservative

City parents may have fears about the conservatism of rural areas. However, it is the schools in particular that are smashing this myth apart. Based in the same curriculum as the whole of New Zealand, motivated and passionate teachers teach for inclusivity, including cultural, sexual and gender diversity.

The stigma of rural schools not being able to attract “good” teachers is long gone – rural and semi-rural living is a strongly attractive prospect for young professionals across the board, including teachers.

The Ministry is aware that provision for kōhanga reo is not yet sufficient in rural Canterbury, and the pathway for education in te reo is limited. But this is actively being addressed, through collaborative efforts with iwi, local rūnaka (rūnanga) and Communities of Learning/Kāhui Ako. For example, Te Rōhutu Whio is a primary school currently being built for up to 750 pupils in Rolleston east – it will be one of the only schools in Aotearoa with a bilingual hub.

Although the overall curriculum is the same, for those wanting to focus on agricultural studies, rural location brings much opportunity to students and adults alike. Darfield High School has over 200 students from Years 9 to 13 studying general farm skills and preparing for study at Lincoln University. The school is also part of the Lincoln University Regional Diploma Scheme, where adult students study with Year 13s towards the Lincoln Diploma in Agriculture.

Myth 3: “New folk not welcome around here”

It’s also a stereotypical fear that "outsiders" take longer to be accepted in rural settings, whether that’s you or your kids. Again, schools are at the forefront of breaking down this barrier.

The sense of community that is created when families are more likely to live near each other and see each other outside school creates whole-family relationships of longevity.

Rural schools also maximise the amazing post-curricula opportunities available through the network of past and present families, with their range of experiences and locations.

Myths busted!

So if you’re thinking of moving your family rurally, don’t worry about your kids. Their schooling will be in great hands, and it will probably be them forging the new community connections that you and your whole family can then deepen and enjoy.

Back to Rural Living
Learn about selling your rural property