Around the Schools: Nanneella Estate Primary School

By James Arbuthnott

Big Changes for a Small School

In 2020, Nanneella Estate Primary School will undergo some staffing changes not seen since the early 1990s. Next year the school staff will reduce from three full-time teachers down to two, due to a dip in student numbers over the past 18 months.

School principal Ian Denson provided some context around the drop in numbers.

“When the school opened in 1911 the school had 35 students enrolled, and at the centenary in 2011 the school also had 35 students. Student numbers have gone up and down over the years. In 1992 there were 18 students, and this year we once again have 18 students enrolled.”

The implications of the changes to the school were discussed at a recent School Council meeting, attended by Paul Hon from the Education Department. Mr Hon reassured the school councillors that the Education Department does not close small schools, and that the department will provide support to ensure that a school remains open for as long as the school community wants it to, as any decision regarding the school’s future is the responsibility of the School Council.

Staff, students and parents of NEPS are committed to the future of the school. Small class sizes enable teaching staff to ensure the best outcomes for all students, and the school is also supported with weekly visits from an Art teacher, Library teacher and Indonesian teacher.
The school has fabulous facilities including shaded areas, a school oval, playground equipment, a tennis/netball/basketball court, grassed areas for quiet play, a vegetable patch and a ‘school forest’ that is a natural play area. The forest is a favourite for the students, as they have the opportunity to stay away from digital devices and take part in some imaginative play. Here they create forts, cubbies, bike tracks, houses, cafés and whatever they can imagine, simply using branches, sticks, old tables or whatever they can find that sparks their imagination and engages their problem-solving skills. Recently one of the undercover asphalt areas was transformed by the students, working with local Yorta Yorta artists, into a vibrant and special Meeting Place for school assemblies and gatherings.

In both the classroom and playground the children mix freely and are encouraged to work and play together regardless of age or gender. The older children take on real leadership roles, which helps them to feel important as their confidence grows. They manage daily assemblies before students go inside for each session, and also lead a whole school assembly each Friday.

Parent Tay Mark said she loves NEPS for many reasons. “The teachers are amazing throughout all grade levels and the quality of learning is outstanding. I find the students themselves to be respectful, friendly, encouraging and welcoming every time they speak with me, which is frequently during any drop-off or pick-up! For my family and I, we find it to be the best school in the area and perfect for our kids.”

Parents Club president Lisa Gledhill also commented. “Sometimes we get over-looked before people come and see what the school has to offer. But if parents came and checked it out, and talked to the teachers and students, they might find it would be a great fit for their children and family.”

School Council president Gerard Foley has had all six of his children attend Nanneella Estate over the past 15 years. “The school is a centre point for the community. We’ve seen lots over the years and we’ve found it a great way to meet new families around the community. New people are always welcome. The school works hand in hand with the local community, and it’s always been a centre point for special events that everyone values.”

While there will be some changes to classroom timetables in 2020, the values and uniqueness of the school will remain constant as the school moves into the next decade. The school looks forward to an exciting year in 2020 and in the years to come.