School Blogs
In our own words

From the Principal's Blog:
Modern Learning Environments?
08 March 2016

I am sure that many parents will have read Jody O’Callaghan’s article in Saturday’s Press about Pegasus School, and her take on modern learning environments and school design. 

The term modern learning environment of MLE has now apparently been superseded with ILS – which stands for Innovative Learning Spaces. Hardly a great leap in clarity, but the Ministry loves to use new jargon. 

Stage One of Pegasus was built with a budget of around $15m, and I have had two tours of its buildings and know Roger Hornblow well. The term only relates to the spaces and the design, and not the teaching practice. It is fair to say that most of our Paparoa Street classes meet none of the key design elements of an MLE, or an ILS. The quality of light, classroom sound treatments, and general air quality in our older rooms are all poor, and the rooms themselves are very small at around 65m2 for what can number up to thirty children in some settings. They usually get too much light during the day, and due to the use of blinds to keep the sun out, the windows become sealed by the curtaining, and rapidly overheat in both summer and winter. If the curtains and windows are opened to improve the air flow, the levels of glare and light affect children’s ability to work on white paper, or to view and use devices and screens, and so forth. So, from a simple design brief, they are no longer fit to purpose.

Our “rebuild” budget currently sits at around $5m, to be accessed in 2021. That figure will be reduced by the cost of the Junior Block repairs which will see around $700,000 deducted from it. That means a frustrating wait with these substandard spaces, and then a limited budget to address the problems discussed above. So in addition to deciding the actual configuration and room size issues, we also have to improve and ensure the quality of light, air, and sound.

Then, there are the teaching practices that occur within those spaces. For us, that has been a shift in some rooms towards more collaborative practice. This simply put, involves teachers working closely with another colleague or colleagues, in delivering the best teaching and learning programme for a group of learners. Last year, this involved several groups of two, a small number of single cells, and two groups of three teachers. This year, there are no threes, as teachers found that the general complexity, noise, and degrees of “knowing” that were required made it hard to meet the other objectives. The emerging consensus from our teachers universally tells me that they like having a colleague to plan with, to share the teaching, to discuss the challenges that individuals bring to the mix, and work closely with a trusted colleague observing and modelling practice.

We were very cautious about using language such as “trial” or “experiment”, as we worried that it would give the impression that we didn’t know what we were doing. In fact teachers have been reflecting on their practice through inquiry and dialogue. The fact that we have no groups of three this year, is evidence that we are determined to evaluate and know what works, and what does not.

We believe that we are actually a lucky school, as we have plenty of time to plan, to innovate, to reflect, and to change, before we make property decisions that might "lock in” practice which is ineffective. As we all know, these changes are affecting more workplaces than just schools, and the pace of change is literally frightening at the moment. This pace of change requires whatever we do to be flexible enough to meet any future challenges and shifts in practice and technology, seamlessly and wisely. Pegasus was built by the community through its Board and Principal, following an exhaustive process of consultation and prototyping on their old Waikuku School site. We have the same opportunity, albeit with a lot less cash to spend at the end of it.

From the Principal's Blog:
25 February 2016
25 February 2016

Thank you to all those who attended our Meet the Teacher evenings last night. The weather was glorious for a change, and is forecast to continue into March in similar fashion.

As part of the process we requested that all parents complete and return a Privacy of Information form, which will give your class teacher permission to share phone numbers and emails addresses with other parents in each room. This is to allow the PTA to communicate directly to each class, as they have appointed a specific liaison person to every room in the school. It will also help you to invite people to playdates and birthdays, or to prevent being included if that is what you prefer. The most important thing from our point of view is that the form is completed and returned, and you can help us with that.

There has been a great response to the suggestion that you join Twitter and our number of followers has now reached 345 – so many thanks to those who joined. If you have not read a “tweet” from the school, then you have more work to do, as I tweeted yesterday about the Fish and Chip Evening. Make sure that after you have installed Twitter, and followed PaparoaSt, that you select the school account, and turn notifications ON. Yesterday’s tweet hit my phone and made a noise in less than one second!

The unfortunate news about hoax bomb scares was precisely the sort of problem that Twitter will help us to solve – namely a random problem at school which needs urgent action from you.

It is that time of the year when the community needs to turn its mind towards Board of Trustees elections. The current Board dissolves in May, and the election is announced for the new Board to commence from 10 June. If you are interested in this role, do contact an existing Board member, or me, and we can tell you what it means. There is a website to visit too at: http://www.trustee- election.co.nz/

We will sadly farewell three Board members this year who have indicated they won’t be re-standing. Chair Mike Allan leaves, as do Mike Medlicott (Treasurer) and Murray Dickson, as their association with the school draws to a close. I will have more to say about these folk later, but it is time to ensure that we have equally able candidates to replace them. Anna Fox and Adela Brown have both indicated their intention to stand again – and we wish them well for the democratic process.

In the meantime, enjoy the endless summer! Kind regards,

Phil Harding – Principal principal@paparoastreet.school.nz 

From the Principal's Blog:
Communications!
19 February 2016

There’s nothing like an earthquake to expose any weaknesses in a system. Sunday’s unwelcome jolt has affected us all, and exposed a few weaknesses as well. One was the water main on the corner of Tomes Rd and Rutland St which erupted at around 11.00 a.m. on Monday and then left us with the water turned off until 4.30 p.m. when it was finally fixed. That issue then exposed more than a few problems with our communications, which had been so well honed during the earthquakes, but have lost some of their sharpness.

In recent months we have tended to become reliant on the email tree to parents as a prime source of informing parents of important events, but Monday certainly highlighted its inadequacies. Firstly, email is only read when a recipient decides to check their mailbox. That is never going to reach the majority of parents when something happens at school, and matters were made worse when a subset of parents simply didn’t receive the message anyway. It appears that Vodafone customers were the ones affected, but there may be others. Our goal was not to close the school, but to reduce pressure on toilets and drinking water by sending home as many children as possible.

Yesterday we completed a review of all of our channels of communication, and we have some tweaks that we can explore to improve things down the track, but there are other steps that have already been taken. Ironically, if a really major event such as a violent earthquake occurs, then all parents are as aware of it as we are, and they tend to come straight to school anyway. Also, electronic communications tend to get a bit unreliable at such times, and often power is lost to add to the mix.

It is the medium sized problems that we must prepare for, and so here is a summary of what we can do, and what you need to do to be connected, and informed. Our main channels include:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Email
  • The website: www.paparoastreet.school.nz
  • The Phone Bulletin (Ph 352 8160 – then option 2 at the greeting)

If you have a smartphone, the best of these is now Twitter. I know many people don’t use Twitter, but this is an area of strength for it. I started using it in 2007 and quickly got fed up with it. I also don’t like Tweeting much – it feels presumptuous that anyone would ever wish to read my Tweets! A constant stream of messages from multiple sources can become meaningless. However, if you follow a very select group of tweeters, you can further refine things by turning on or off the notification for each account. I follow RNZ’s education reporter, John Gerritsen, for example. I get his Tweets telling me what educational stories will be on the radio in the next few hours.

Yesterday the school sent a test Tweet at around 10.30 and it woke up my phone within two seconds. To do this, I follow PaparoaSt, and I have turned the PaparoaSt account’s notification ON. This means that any tweet from PaparoaSt hits my home screen, even if the phone is asleep. As the app is free, and receiving tweets just uses some data, this is the quickest way to PUSH a message to you.

If you don’t have a smartphone, just use your text messaging to text this - “Follow PaparoaSt”,  to 8987. This will result in any tweet arriving as a text message onto your phone. 

Once you have seen the tweet, there are all those other channels to visit and check to get more information. Our mistake on Monday was to use some channels, whilst ignoring others. Our safety lies in using multiple channels, and our review has put our eye back on the ball. We will be ensuring that ALL channels carry consistent messages, at the same time.

So – to all those who have contacted me with feedback  - thank you. Please download the app, and follow the school on Twitter! It costs nothing, and we can communicate with you for nothing too. When you don’t need it any more, simply Unfollow PaparoaSt. We already have 210 followers – I will hope to see that number soar by the weekend!

From the Principal's Blog:
Week 1 2016
18 February 2016

Given the work that was completed at school over the break, we have had a wonderful start, thanks to the joint efforts of builders, staff, parents, and children. My first note to you all was to warn that we would be operating under difficulty for the first week or so as the junior toilets would be out of bounds, and the corridor and shared spaces of the junior school would be closed to us. You can imagine the excitement to be told on Tuesday that the cleaners were in and we would have the whole south side operating from 8.30 on Wednesday! Then more bad news as it had been determined by camera scans that both the storm water and the sewer drains were blocked and not operating properly. On Wednesday a huge team arrived from Maxwell Plumbing, and they had the south side drains dug up within hours – and today, Friday, the south side drains are all sorted, and the asphalt is being laid! Pretty impressive. The re-levelling of the junior block has been far more successful than your pessimistic principal expected. They have done a remarkable job really given all the circumstances, and the new paint and carpet has really given the spaces a lift. I have to thank and acknowledge Paul Macnee from City Care and his terrific team of tradesmen – they have under-promised, and well and truly over-delivered! So, turning our focus back into the school, we warmly welcome two new teachers to the team this year. Dean Isherwood returns, and has joined the middle school, and Grace Hopcroft will start her career working in the junior team alongside Janelle Kesha. 

 
Enjoy the summer! Kind regards, Phil Harding – Principal principal@paparoastreet.school.nz
 
 

From the Junior School:
Classroom Blog Rm 15/16
18 February 2016

Timatanga Kaha  Year1/2