The “New” Rural
Small and Rural Schools’ Influence on Regional Urban Developments
Rapid urban development in small rural communities is occurring at an unprecedented pace in regional Aotearoa New Zealand. Despite this growth, rural schools are positioned at the margins of the planning process and the implications of this urbanisation trend remains unknown. This research challenges the notion of the rural-urban divide by locating rural schools as a key part of regional urban development and thus will be of interest to government officials, developers, educators, and local community interest groups. The study explores the social, economic and political impact of urban development on small and rural primary schools (N=6) in two of the fastest growing regions in the country. Interviews with school principals and focus group interviews with school boards of trustees were conducted. The findings suggest the emergence of new, complex and contested “semi-rural” identity as an outcome of the uncertain and ever-changing demographic landscape. Varying school leadership and governance perspectives of urbanisation are placed on a spectrum, premised upon different experiences of the struggle to balance new, and often competing, parent and community aims and changing school populations. The findings contribute to theorising about the construction of rurality and its influence on the creation of a new urbanised semi-rural community identity. Findings offer the potential for knowledge sharing amongst rural schools currently or for others likely to experience rapid urbanisation in their communities in the future.
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