There may be a few more classrooms and the roll may have grown over the years but at Ardgowan School, there is one constant – the Fox family.
When 5-year-old Jaxon Fox started at the school recently, he became the fifth generation of the Fox family to attend the school, following in the footsteps of father Jared, who was there from 1995 to 2002, grandfather Tony (1971-1978), great grandfather Ray (1946-1953) and late great great grandfather Robin (1914-1920).
Ray (77) said the school had only a handful of pupils when he first started there, and all were born and raised on the several farming properties that dotted the area around the school.
One of his vivid memories was not of the school itself, but how he got to class.
“When I came to school, the old school bus was a [Ford] Model A Tourer with a couple of seats in the back,” he said.
“When I started here, there was only one teacher.”
He said he did “reasonably” at school, but always enjoyed being in the classroom.
Later in life, he served on the school’s committee.
Tony (51) also enjoyed school and had noticed the changes the school had undergone over the years, not only in terms of infrastructure but also the size of the grounds.
“There were two classrooms and probably 30-odd pupils. We used to have a big rugby field out the back and now it’s all trees and there’s five times as many kids.
“The big changes have obviously been the expansion to having extra classrooms. That was a big thing that happened when I was on the board.”
Tony was on the school board of trustees for six years in the early 2000s, a role he thoroughly enjoyed as it gave him the opportunity to help the school that had given him a good start in life.
Jared (27) liked Ardgowan when he was there because there was “always something to do”.
Like his father, he was impressed with how the school had progressed.
“Looking back now, it’s been amazing watching it grow. There might have been 70 kids when I started and, when I left, there would have been over 100, and now it’s growing more.”
These days, the school’s roll is made up of pupils from the rural area inland from Oamaru and the town itself.
Jared said that was not a bad thing, as it meant the school had become more diverse.
Much like each of the Fox men before him, Jaxon has settled in well at the school.
His favourite subject is maths and one of the things he enjoys most is running around the school grounds with his mates at lunchtime.
Ardgowan has about 150 pupils and seven classrooms.