Amesbury School

Kia ora koutou

A BIG and IMPORTANT (particularly the latter part) editorial this week. Please read.

Kua pai ōu hararei. I hope you managed to have a wonderful and relaxing holiday as well as an opportunity to spend quality time with your children.

John and I moved house over the holidays, so it has been a pretty busy time. As many of you will have been aware, we sold our house in Churton Park a few weeks ago and we moved up the coast. For the next twelve months we are staying in a little house (tiny house!) at Waikanae Beach, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the river, lagoon and beach. We’ve got our eye on some large sections at Te Horo Beach and our plan is to purchase one and then build a house. John and I are thinking ahead to retirement and thought we might as well get started now. John and I will be commuting. Demelza and Clinton will soon begin building again in Churton Park.

I meant to write this editorial at the end of last term, but the term finished in a bit of a blur. Last term was a particularly difficult term in many ways. As many of you will be aware, Kieron had to go back to the UK because of a family tragedy. Our heartfelt condolences to Kieron’s family for their loss. Towards the end of the term, Sonali and Regina also lost Regina’s mother and Sonali’s grandmother. Again, our heartfelt condolences to the family. Kieron will continue to be away until the beginning of week 2 of this term. We are really looking forward to his return. A huge thanks, particularly to Urs and Demelza, but also to all our staff, for pulling together and ensuring that there was as little disruption for our students as possible.

We are very pleased to welcome Zelda (finally!) who will be working with the year 3/4 students in Harakeke Hub. Her year 6 daughter, Amberley, will also join the school. Stephanie who was a teacher here a couple of years’ ago, will be returning from the UK and will begin teaching at Amesbury School again at the beginning of week 2. Sadly, we will be losing Hazel then as she goes off on maternity leave. We farewelled Hazel formally at the end of last term, but, once again, I want to wish her well as she begins the exciting adventure of parenthood. Hazel will be greatly missed by students and teachers. She started here as a student teacher and will leave for maternity leave as a highly capable teacher.

Parents have been asking some question about the roll growth of the school, particularly since Urs mentioned that there is a possibility that we may have to begin using the hall as a learning environment next year for year 5/6 students. Parents have asked whether there is a health and safety limit for the size the current school can grow to. Some have wondered at what roll size we will have to close the roll. The health and safety questions have been sent off to the ministry and we are waiting for an answer to them. However, in the meantime, I can say that I don’t think there are any legal options to simply close off the roll; rather, we would need to get the Minister’s agreement to change our enrolment zone (reduce it). However, this is not a realistic option, at the moment, because students in our current zone would then have nowhere to go to school and it would mean that some siblings of children already attending would not be able to attend our school. As a school committed to serving its community, this is not a tenable option. I can confirm that the Board of Trustees is not considering this as an option.

The design of our new build is well underway. We have already been looking at a range of design options for the new build, so I can confirm that it is a “happening thing”. But it will take a minimum of two years. In the meantime, reducing our zone is not an option, and so we have to develop plans to cope with our continually growing roll, while also ensuring a safe, nurturing environment for all students.

As you can imagine, this continual growth has put huge pressure on our staff and considerable space pressure on Harakeke Hub. According to the Ministry, the school is built for 228 students and we will start this term with about 300 students, with a further 14 students coming in. Hence, we have come to the conclusion that using the hall for 2020 – 2021 will significantly reduce this pressure and enable an acceptable space-to-student ratio throughout the school. Of course we know that there are some aspects of the hall that are not ideal – in particular, the fact that it is a community hall and will need to be available for community use outside of school time. We have a plan for this. A second concern is the fact that it is a hall and more “barn-like” than we think is ideal for learning. Once, again our plan is to bring in easily movable furniture and fittings which will break it up and make it more comfortable. Fortunately, it already has underfloor heating. Also, other areas of the school, such as the library, parent area, meeting room will be available to the “hall” group of students, so that there are break out spaces, spaces for workshops and quiet spaces available to them. We will make sure that the students working in the hall are not disadvantaged, but actually have a great learning environment to work in.

The other thing some parents have expressed concern about is the continual transitioning of students that has been necessary this year. The number of students enrolling this year has been unprecedented and taken us by surprise and so it has been necessary, but we agree, not ideal. However, assuming similar numbers of enrolments over 2020, we have developed a plan for next year which we hope will reduce/eliminate transitions except between Te Rito and Koru; and even for these students, we are hoping to develop an organisational structure that will ensure it is a small transition rather than a big one.

Thanks to those parents who raised their questions with me. I hope my response helps to alleviate some concerns.

Nga mihi mahana


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