Pupil numbers decline at Blenheim's only Catholic school

St Mary's School in Blenheim.

St Mary's School in Blenheim.

Dwindling numbers at Blenheim's only Catholic school is the result of parents having more high-quality schools to choose from, its principal says.  

Numbers at St Mary's School have dropped by more than half in the past 11 years, from nearly 400 to 175 pupils.

But another faith-based school in Blenheim, state-integrated Richmond View School, has seen an increase in pupil numbers in that time.

Richmond View, an Elim-integrated Christian school, has increased its roll from 98 in 2005 to 123 last year.

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St Mary's School principal Alister Bridgman said parents sent their students to St Mary's if they wanted to give them a high-quality Catholic education.  

Pupil numbers had been less than 300 since 2011, and the roll was 216 last year.

St Mary's was focusing on providing excellent education to the pupils it had, Bridgman said. 

There were no empty classes and all the spaces in the school were being used as learning spaces, he said.

"They are all used, and used in a variety of ways." 

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The school had only 23 spaces for pupils who did not meet the Catholic preference criteria, and there was a waiting list for those places, Bridgman said.

Last year, Blenheim School and Mayfield School both said they were far under capacity, with Mayfield principal David Nott saying there was a huge amount of space for new students. 

However, Springlands School was 20 pupils over its agreed limit last year, with 486 pupils, while Witherlea School was almost at capacity. 

Witherlea School told parents last week it was expecting an influx of pupils from the Taylor Pass subdivision, and would be holding a public meeting about reducing the size of its enrolment zone. 

The Ministry of Education said last year it had been working with schools to help them manage their roll increases. 

Richmond View School principal Dave Pauling said the region's growing population was impacting roll numbers.

The school's new capacity of 145 pupils was put in place last year and would be reached by the end of 2017, he said. 

The roll for Picton Catholic primary school St Joseph's had decreased from 32 in 2005 to 16 in 2015. 

Acting principal Jennie Williams said she thought the decline in numbers was down to the transient population in Picton.

Families did not stay for long periods of time as it was difficult for them to find housing in the town, she said. 

 - The Marlborough Express


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