ESOL student numbers double in Timaru district
The number of ESOL students enrolling at schools in the Timaru district has more than doubled in the past five years.
Figures released by the Ministry of Education under the Official Information Act show in 2012, there were 42 children, receiving English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) funding, who were enrolled at schools in the Timaru district. In 2016, that number had more than doubled to 96.
South Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president Jane Culhane said a number of children were arriving in Timaru as a result of their parents finding work within the dairy industry.
Culhane said she also knew of a number of Pacific Island students arriving from Auckland whose families had moved south due "because it's more affordable".
Whether the numbers of migrants and families shifting to Timaru continued to increase would be determined by the Government's policy on immigration, she said.
"But there's certainly room for people in Timaru," she said.
"I understand, from talking to local business community, there is a desperate need for skilled workers and labourers."
The Ministry's information showed the number of ESOL students in the Mackenzie district had increased from 12 in 2012, to 22 in 2015 before dropping to 16 in 2016. Numbers in the Waimate district peaked at 34 in 2014 after increasing from 19 in 2012. By 2016 there were 28 pupils receiving the funding in the district.
The Ministry's sector of enablement and support deputy secretary Katrina Casey said ESOL funding was allocated to schools in two funding periods per year.
The amount of funding a school could receive was determined by how many eligible students a school has, the level of English proficiency, whether the students are refuges or migrants, and school level. Secondary school students are funded at a higher rate than primary, and refugees are funded at a higher rate than migrants, Casey said.
"Schools use the funding for providing English language support of which the main component is staffing," Casey said.
Culhane said she imagined relocating to Timaru could be tough on the children.
"These children who didn't speak any English, they've just been immersed in our environment. They've done incredibly well," she said.
"[Waimataitai pupils] like the new children and they're very welcoming and they're very curious about children from other countries."
Waimataitai ESOL pupil Bogdan Stoiljkovic, 8, arrived in New Zealand with his family from Serbia eight months ago. He liked Timaru and that it has beaches but said he missed his old house in Serbia, and his grandpa.
Culhane said Stoiljkovic could not speak any English when he arrived.
The younger the child was, the easier it was for them to pick up the language, and parents were often surprised by how quickly their children picked it up, she said.
"One thing we must remember is they must be strong in their own language first."
Culhane said no one wanted to see the children lose the ability to speak their first language.
"It's wonderful to see the diversity coming in South Canterbury. It's something to celebrate, adds to the richness."
Aoraki Development chief executive Nigel Davenport said there were businesses all over New Zealand which needed more skilled and unskilled workers.
As far as the worker shortage in South Canterbury went, Davenport said there was a real emphasis on retaining young people in Timaru to help address it, but migrant workers definitely played a part in solving the issue as well.