STILL GOING STRONG: Students of Burra Burri State School with principal Janet Baldock in 2011.
STILL GOING STRONG: Students of Burra Burri State School with principal Janet Baldock in 2011. Graham Osborne

Burra Burri School: 8 pupils, 100 years strong

WITH just eight students, Burra Burri State School is expected to be one of the smallest schools in the Western Downs and one of the last close-knit bush schools where three, sometimes four, generations of the same family have attended.

It’s this which makes the fact the school will this year be celebrating its centenary all the more incredible.

The school has one full-time teaching principal, a full-time teacher’s aid and another three subject teachers who are there three days a week, as well as a cleaner and groundsman.

“There’s nearly as many staff as there are students,” Burra Burri State School staff member Emma Dolbel said.

“There are quite a few little schools but I don’t think any are as small as us.

“We’ve gotten down to six students.

“Six was our lowest number and that was early last year and then we had a bit of an influx of three new students.”

Before Burra Burri State School’s P&C president Leigh Starkey enrolled her son, she was herself pupil and still remembers how fun and interactive teaching methods were there compared to normal schools.

“When I first came down here (from Blackwater), I couldn’t believe this school,” Ms Starkey said.

“We used to play baseball in the school room... we went from sitting in a classroom all day long, staring at a blackboard to coming down here where you play all these games to learn and it just sticks in your head. [Principal Janet Baldock] still does a lot of that type of stuff.

“The bigger schools don’t operate like that.”

Ms Starkey expressed the same disbelief as many others, seeing the school approach its centenary, when only a few years ago it was down to just four students.

Burra Burri State School’s principal since 1989, Mrs Baldock had lived through many Western Downs schools of the same size closing, but expected her school’s survival was a result of the same thing which contributed to student numbers being so low: isolation.

Ms Dolbel agreed.

“The kids would be on the bus for an hour and half one way (to attend school in Chinchilla),” she said.

“That’s why we’re still here.”

The eight children currently enrolled at Burra Burri State School will one day need to follow the path of the school’s many graduates who came before them when they start high school at Chinchilla or Dalby; either travelling three hours a day on the day, boarding in town during the week, or leaving the Western Downs altogether to attend boarding school.

For the time being though, the students get to enjoy the interactive, bush education at their tiny close-knit school, nice and close to home.

The Burra Burri State School centenary celebration will be on September 10 from 10am at the school, located on 3173 Burra Burri Creek Rd, Burra Burri.

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