New schools to meet growth
In the year 2000, Rolleston was served by its single, century-old school, which had about 240 students. If you are looking for an indicator of the extraordinary growth of the township, and the Selwyn district generally, the explosion in its school-age population since then is as good as any.
Rolleston School now caters for 650 students. Clearview Primary School in the town, which opened four years ago with about 180 pupils, now has more than 570. Last week, the Ministry of Education announced that a third primary school would be built there, along with a long-awaited secondary school, which will open in 2017 and expand progressively to accommodate an expected roll of 1500. In addition, the Christian Schools' Trust has applied to the ministry to establish a state-integrated Christian primary school in Rolleston.
The growth of the schools, the plans and announcements, are a bright spot in the educational landscape of Canterbury, which has been much battered by the upheaval of the earthquakes, the damage they caused to school facilities and the Government's subsequent scything education review. Rolleston will welcome particularly the opening of its own high school. At present, Rolleston children are mainly bused to Lincoln High School when they reach year 9. Since the new school looks as though it will be opened in age-group stages, some will still have to make that journey after 2017, but children in year 6 or below will be able to complete their schooling where they live.
The Rolleston secondary school was at one stage to be a satellite campus of Lincoln High but will now be built as a stand-alone entity. It will be situated next to an extensive planned parkland and sports development, and the already-opened Selwyn Aquatic Centre, giving the school easy access to these community facilities. The ministry has clearly considered the likely adverse effect on Lincoln High School when the Rolleston buses are no longer delivering students to its gate, but population growth in Lincoln and its wider catchment will go some way to offset that.
One note of caution to be sounded is that the Rolleston secondary school, along with the new clustered Aranui Community School and schools in Queenstown and Auckland, are to be built under a private-public partnership (PPP), according to the Government's plan. PPPs seek private-sector investment, reducing the need for State capital investment, but the schools will effectively have to rent their facilities - in this case for 25 years - from those investors. The overseas experience of PPPs has not always been a happy one. The ministry will need to get the contract absolutely right to avoid lumbering Rolleston and Aranui with a burdensome and continuing financial deficit.