Sofia, Jarrah, Maya, Angus, Tulley, Arabella, Leo and Lara of Blackall Range Independent School. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Sofia, Jarrah, Maya, Angus, Tulley, Arabella, Leo and Lara of Blackall Range Independent School. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

Tiny school's big success story after major comeback

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A SMALL hinterland school with big dreams has achieved the region's highest student growth rate after it faced a potential closure for being too small.

A special analysis of Australia Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority data revealed Blackall Range Independent School at Kureelpa increased its student numbers by a whopping 204.3 per cent from 2013-2018.

In those five years, the "small by design" school's population grew from 23 students to 70.

Principal Louise Cameron said that number had increased this year to 80.

She said after the school went through a "difficult period" in 2012 and 2013, she was determined to keep the doors open.

She took on the principal role in 2013, when the school had just 18 students, and has worked tirelessly since to grow the school to what it is today.

"We just decided we'd get in our classrooms and do the most engaging and positive programs we could do," Ms Cameron said.

"It just grew from there."

Ms Cameron said when the school was in trouble, a closure would have devastated the small community.

"Why I was so passionate about keeping the school open was for some students … it was the only school they felt was right for them," she said.

"For me, it was important to keep the school going because it did mean so much for some families."

Ms Cameron said despite the growth it was important to keep numbers down so students could have more focused learning.

"We purposefully stay small so we can really get to know the students and their families," she said.

"We keep our classrooms quite small. The largest classroom has 16 in it."

With about a quarter of the school's population having an identified disability, Ms Cameron said she was passionate about maintaining a supportive environment.

"It's really a very inclusive school," she said.

"Every child that walks in, you just accept them for who they are and they all seem to do very well."

As Blackall Range Independent School steers clear of major advertising, it relies on strong word-of-mouth to let parents know what it offers.

"The feedback I get from families all the time is how much their students feel welcomed and known at the school," Ms Cameron said.

"We really know the students and care about them.

"(And) it's more than just the students, it's their family."

Ms Cameron said the school had a "big focus" on environmental skills and sustainability, and implemented hands-on learning.

"We try to do lots of hands-on learning, purposeful learning, but we still follow the Australian Curriculum," she said.

With a long background in education, the hard work has paid off for the tiny school's principal. She said she had always wanted to create a small and positive community that helped kids thrive.

"I'm passionate about kids really knowing what they have to offer the world," she said. "Knowing that they can make a difference."