Lonely Student at Small NZ School Gets a Classmate!

A tiny Manawatu primary school's roll has doubled – to two.

As the new school year approached, Cruiz Strickett, 6, was the only child enrolled at Linton Country School, but with the long-awaited first day, came a friend.

Strickett's cousin Indica Taylor-Collis, 8, was excited about starting a new school on Wednesday, because it would be a chance for her to learn more.

Indica used to share a class with 25 children, but partial deafness meant she could not always hear what was happening.

"It was a bit too loud for me, because I'm half deaf."

Ideally, Indica wanted seven more pupils to enrol at the school so she has company and it's still quiet enough to learn, she said.

In 2016, there were 12 pupils at Linton Country, but this year Cruiz was set to enter the school grounds alone.

After about 40 people rallied to keep the school open, its board made the decision to stick it out.

Cruiz was thrilled to have Indica join in his two favourite activities at school – learning and playing.

It was fun having a friend at the school, he said.

His last school in Upper Hutt was too big and Cruiz was getting lost in a classroom of 30.

"It was noisy. Everyone was yelling in my ears," he said.

Linton Country School, which Cruiz joined midway though 2016, was a place where he enjoyed learning in a smaller class.

Ideally, he would like 100 "quiet" pupils on the school roll.

Since Monday, the school's relief teaching principal Gail Dobbin had received about five phone calls from interested parents.

"The roll's doubled. I hope that continues," she said.

When Stuff was at the school, Dobbin received another phone call about a prospective pupil.

Having more children at the school would be beneficial to learning and allow social-interaction skills to develop, she said.

"But with reading, for instance, they will be at a different level and would learn on their own."

It was good to have both options, she said.

Dobbin started working at the school at the end of 2016 and said in her 30 years of teaching across the country, this had been the most well-resourced school.

Ukuleles, six uni-cyles, gear for dozens of sports, laptops and tablets were just some of the resources available, she said.

Massey University associate professor of learning and assessment Roseanna Bourke said a sole child in a rural school would still learn, but it would be more beneficial if more pupils were around.

"We cannot underestimate the power of play in learning and children need other children to fully participate and to be challenged.

"Research with young children shows that peers are incredibly important to their own development and learning," Bourke said.

"It's not about numbers but how those interactions for learning are encouraged."