CHANGE AHEAD: Cameron Hill, six, is one of the Clarke Creek students who will attend high school in Year 7.
CHANGE AHEAD: Cameron Hill, six, is one of the Clarke Creek students who will attend high school in Year 7. Kathleen Calderwood

Tough time for parents as pre-teens head to boarding school

YOU straighten their hat, wipe the smudge of strawberry jam off their face and pack their lunch before posing for a photo at the door, your pre-pubescent child rolling their eyes at your excitement.

It's their first day of high school and the moment is mixed with pride and anxiety.

But for families in the small community of Clarke Creek, 200km south-west of Mackay, this experience is totally different, where children are sent to boarding school not yet teenagers and parents miss out on that first day.

The movement of Year 7 to high school in 2015 means these families - along with many in rural Queensland - will send their sons and daughters to boarding school at the tender age of 11 and, for Clarke Creek, the staffing of the local primary school will be in jeopardy.

With 20 students, the Clarke Creek State School only just qualifies for two full-time teachers.

In previous years, when the school has been allocated only one full-time and one part-time teacher, the members of the P&C have taken it upon themselves to fundraise through catering at the local campdraft to pay for the other half of the second teacher's salary so their children have two full-time teachers.

Clarke Creek parent and Isolated Children's Parents' Association (ICPA) member Lynise Conaghan has sent two sons to boarding school and her daughter, Tessa, currently in Year 4, will start boarding school in 2016, aged 11.

Through ICPA, she found out the school would require the same number of students after 2015, despite the fact that only six years will be in operation.

"We will struggle to reach that magic number of 21 students," Mrs Conaghan said.

"There's 20 there now. That's still under 21 but when my own daughter goes to boarding school in 2016, we will lose five kids.

"It doesn't sound like a lot but when it's five out of 20 - that's a huge percentage."

Department of Education Central Region director Wayne Butler said resourcing needs were being reviewed but staffing would still be student enrolment-driven.

"Schools experiencing genuine hardship as a result of the loss or gain of enrolments may apply for access to additional staffing resources from their region," Mr Butler said.



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