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Fun to learn...Mataura Primary School pupils Bella Bartlett (left) and Zoe Heaps both 5, are among burgeoning numbers attending the school. PHOTO: MARGARET PHILLIPS

The Mataura Primary School is experiencing a surge in its roll.

It has grown from between 102 and 105 for the past four years to 124 as at July 1.

As numbers swell, there are plans for extra classrooms.

The school was attracting a lot of new entrants, principal Susan Dennison said.

It was hard to quantify how many new entrants were expected as it was a “moving feast,” she said.

New families were moving into the town and surrounding area, and houses were selling well, Mrs Dennison said.

Some of the new families were moving on to farms in the area.

“This is a nice place to live.”

Families were arriving from Invercargill through to Auckland, and there were also migrant families from countries such as Singapore, India, Fiji and Malaysia sending their children to the school, Mrs Dennison said.

“It’s very positive.”

Another influencing factor was the plentiful work for seasonal workers who, along with their families, might have moved out of the area during the off-season, but this year that was not happening as much.

The diversity of the school, which has a flourishing bilingual class, also appealed to parents and pupils, she said.

One of the goals listed in the school’s strategic plan was to have a junior and a senior bilingual class. It was hoped the two-class system would be implemented in 2020.

“A percentage of our new entrants come from a kohanga setting and are looking to start into a bilingual [class].”

The present class, which took years 1 to 6, was capped at 20 pupils and was full, she said.

New entrants all went into the same class where they were taught basic numeracy and literacy skills, before stepping into the bilingual class.

The school has 6.5 fulltime-equivalent teachers at present, and the possibility of starting a seventh class was under discussion.

“It’s really exciting.”

The school was keen to involve the community so was holding many events and inviting the community to attend. A recent example was the Matariki celebrations.

There was an emphasis on being caring and kind to one another and Mrs Dennison believed that also contributed to the burgeoning roll.

Mataura community development co-ordinator Eleanor Ranstead said she had noticed more people coming into the town.

The influx of people from the North Island enticed south by the reasonable cost of housing was noticeable, as was the number of migrant workers from other countries coming into the area, Mrs Ranstead said.

A forestry company based in the area also brought workers from Fiji into the area, she said.

“There seems to be a lot of new faces in the community these days.”

Mataura Community Board chairman Alan Taylor said the board had noticed more people coming to live in the area.

“There was a move of younger families coming in to affordable housing, buying their own homes, which has been a welcome move for the community which bodes really well for the future,” Mr Taylor said.

It was not only young families moving into the area but also retired people moving from larger centres, he said.

He described the school as being a great asset for the town.