From the Principal - 5 July 2017

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou

A very warm welcome to our new students Faron Mobberley and Bella Ferguson.

At the time of writing we are looking towards the end of what has been another exciting, busy and of course memorable term for St Mary’s.  Our big community shared event this term was our Art’s week that culminated in a sharing of Art works completed by children and the celebration of performing groups and individuals.  The focus of our week was on the wider arts and so included, aspects of dance, drama, music in addition to the visual arts focus you witnessed.  My thanks to all who came along to support our school on Thursday evening and to Pip Berquist for her organisation. 

Collaboration (working together)

As you are aware we are currently exploring ways in which teachers can work effectively together in a collaborative learning environment to enhance learning outcomes for our students.  I am not often one to quote research to parents but current views of researchers such as John Hattie are that the number one factor in influencing student achievement is termed, Collective Teacher Efficacy.  This basically means teachers working together with the belief that through the efforts of many (teachers) we can make a greater difference for students.

The ideal physical conditions to create this are aligned to the design of our new learning environment but as you know many of our buildings are not at this time able to meet such ideals.  As a result, you have seen and will continue to see creative ways of collaborating as teachers in the spirit of the above theory.  Connected to this is approach is students working collaboratively together, again in an effort to achieve collective efficacy as students.  This may make you reflect on how you work best in your chosen profession or how interaction with colleagues makes for more effective outcomes in your field. 

Student Led Conferences 

Our term 3 student led conferences will be held on Wednesday 2 August.  This is a further opportunity for parents and caregivers to connect with examples of their child’s learning and achievement.  Information regarding the booking of conference times will accompany your child’s mid year report.  As in previous years school will close at 12.30pm on this day.  All parents will need to make alternative care arrangements for children from this time.  There will be no afterschool care on this day.

Before School Procedures and Punctuality

Thank you to all who have been making an effort with ensuring children are at school on time.  It definitely makes a difference when a child is set up an ready to learn at the start of the day.  Equally in our colder months it is not ideal to have children waiting in the cold for classrooms to open.  All classrooms will be open and supervised from 8.30am which means children who arrive before this will need to wait in an outside area.   Ideally any time from 8.15 - 8.45 is a good time to get to school.

Late students

If your child arrives to school after 8.50am then they are late.  All late students must report to the school office to be marked present on the attendance register.  

From the beginning of Term 3 your child will need to obtain a late pass from the office and take this to the classroom teacher.  This is a procedure we have adopted to keep your child safe at all times.

Absences

A reminder that you must ring the school office if your child is sick or going to be absent from school.  The best form of communication for absentees is by texting our absentee mobile number 021 2969437, alternatively you could ring the school office and leave a message.  This is a tremendous help to our office staff so your help with this would be much appreciated.

75th Jubilee

We look forward to a very exciting Term 3 when we celebrate the 75th birthday of St Mary’s Catholic School.  More information will come home at the beginning of next term to see how you can be involved in this very special occassion.

Happy holidays and keep safe.  

Ben Fuller

From the Principal - 15 June 2017

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou

A very warm welcome to our new students Mollie Gleaves, Rohan Lijo, Adam Alasad, Liam Du Toit, Maddy Wheeler, Josh Binny, Ella Younger, Arielle Duytshoff and Kimberly Dobbie.  Winter is upon us and learning is ramping up at St Mary’s with all of our teams focused on some great learning inquiries.  It is a good time of year to check in on your children as learners with the aim of gaining an understanding of where they are presently at in their learning journey.  It is important that you make contact with your child’s teacher should you have any questions or queries related to their learning.  

Reports will be circulated later this term and as the first stakeholder in their learning students will have a significant role in evaluating their learning.  This is a further step toward enhanced student agency (students in control of their own learning pathway) at our school and though it will mean progress is communicated in a slightly different way it is still related to learning progress.  Again if you have any questions regarding progress please let your child’s teacher know.

PTA Quiz Night

On behalf of our school community my thanks to all who supported our annual Quiz Night again run by our tireless PTA and in particular Michelle Pine who headed the Quiz Committee. It was great to see the number of parents participating in the fun and digging deep to support our PTA and our school.  I am sure you will all join me in congratulating our PTA on running another magnificent event.

New Build Progress - Creating Conditions for Powerful Learning

As a community we are sharing in the excitement of seeing our new learning environment nearing completion, anticipated to occur within the next 4 weeks.  It has been great watching the experts bring our design to life within the heart of our school.  However, it is the potential for educational outcomes from within this design that I would invite parents to explore as our objective as a school is to create conditions for powerful learning.

To further explore this concept it may be helpful to compare our time at school (as students).  You may recall as I do an underlying narrative similar to this; a story that many of us bought into in order to achieve the best we could within our respective schools. It may have gone similar to this.

 “If you wanted to learn something, like quadratic equations or French, then you needed to be in the right spot at the right time (your desk), with this teacher (the expert), with these kids (your class) who you had to learn the same things as at the same time.  And … at the end, when the expert had shared their knowledge, then your success would be measured by their test”.

Are you able to make connections with this? Did it work for you?  Did it work for everyone?  Learning today asks the question “How can we create conditions for powerful learning?” Answers include concepts such as the following:

  • Make environments safe and secure
  • Grow personal connections
  • Make learning fun
  • Make learning real and relevant to life
  • It should be future focused
  • It should be positive and include opportunities for social interaction
  • Adapt learning so it is personalised and so that students can demonstrate their passions
  • There needs to opportunities for autonomy and self agency.
  • Don’t constrain it to a time

If these are indeed conditions for powerful learning and these are the conditions we need to create to support our learners, then it makes sense that the way we design learning and the environment  we design to support learning has to evolve. 

At St Mary’s sitting in desks and waiting to be told what to do is no longer the norm.  Where previously students were told to be quiet while they worked independently is now a collaborative space where learning related dialogue is encouraged.  Where there were worksheets to fill time for those who finished their work early, now there areare open ended learning opportunities where children can continue to build their understanding, and there are teachers continuing to feed rather than determine the journey. 

Before School Procedures and Punctuality

Thank you to all who have been making an effort with ensuring children are at school on time.  It definitely makes a difference when a child is set up and ready to learn at the start of the day.  Equally in our colder months it is not ideal to have children waiting in the cold for classrooms to open.  All classrooms will be open and supervised from 8.30am which means children who arrive before this will need to wait in an outside area.   Ideally any time from 8.15 - 8.45 is a good time to get to school.

Ben Fuller
Principal

From the Principal - 27 March 2017

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou

Greetings to you all and hello autumn!  A special welcome to our new families and new children, Jyron Felix, Rodi Parshikov, Silvia Cha, Ethan Peters, Vienna Vale, Rusila Moqe, Vin Villegas, Sophie Schiphorst and Felix Shin.

Over the last couple of weeks we have had the opportunity to participate in a number of events as a school.  Ones that we should be extremely thankful for.  Of course top of the list is our fantastic PTA who, despite having to wait for the weather, ran another amazing outdoor adventure day.  Our school grounds were buzzing with parents and excitement as all children got the opportunity to test themselves on the well laid out course.

On behalf of our school community I would particularly like to thank Mel Gash for her wonderful organisation of this event.  I would also like to thank the organisation of our PTA on, and leading up to the day.  Thanks also to the  many parent volunteers who assisted in a variety of ways.  

I would like to put a plug in for our PTA, they consistently raise a significant amount of money that goes directly towards the benefit of our students.  The next meeting for this year is on April 11 at 7pm and it would be great to see a few new faces among the mix.

The Launch of The Parish of St Thomas Aquinas

It was great to see such a large number of our community at the Mass launching our new combined Parish earlier this month.  The capacity of the Aquinas College Gymnasium was of course tested but in doing so was a great sign of community.  Many I have spoken to were extremely impressed with the homily given by Bishop Stephen Lowe as a part of celebrations.  It was a great recount of the history of our church in Tauranga spoken through the spiritual domain and with reference to our local area.  Bishop Stephen has therefore indicated that he will provide a copy of it for people in the near future.

Innovative Learning

As we continue our journey towards the development of our learning environments as student centered enablers of learning I would like to continue to present parents with relevant information.  Therefore, I have again included a couple of links that may help widen your knowledge in regard to the rationale behind changes to education both globally and within New Zealand.

Tony Grey: www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6xrTxx8hek

Ken Robinsons:  https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms

Mark Osbourne: http://edtalks.org/#/video/considering-modern-learning-environments

Traffic Safety

Of concern has been the number of children put at risk as a result of driver behaviour around our school grounds.  While our building project is continuing there is a restriction of access between room 10 and room 9.  This has meant an increase in foot traffic down our driveway.  This in turn means that we must all respect that no parent cars are to enter or exit our school driveway at all times.

The safety or our students is paramount. We therefore request that all parents take due care and diligence in respect to driving and parking around our school.  The best place during summer months to drop off and collect children is our Harvey Street boundary.  If this is not possible please remember that no child should be left to cross roads by themselves after being dropped at school.  

Before School Procedures and Punctuality

There has been a growing number of children arriving late to school recently which is not ideal for learning.  Hopefully with some more light in the mornings post an end to daylight savings routines will be easier to manage.  On the other end of the spectrum there are often children who are dropped off before 8am or sometimes earlier.  Our before school procedures state that all classrooms will be open and supervised from 8.30am which means children who arrive before this will need to wait in an outside area.  During summer months this is not so much of an issue but as the winter months arrive it is not ideal.  Ideally any time from 8.15 - 8.45 is a good time to get to school.

New Build

Work continues on our current building project and I am sure you will, like me, be following progress.  The new block will house our year 2 students and will in the future provide a continued pathway of innovation through our junior school teams.  

Present predictions for the completion of this project are for late June, early July, which will mean open for business at the beginning of term 3. 

A reminder of some health and safety practices that we have been required to implement.  These include controlled entry of all construction related vehicles and specific site access requirements.  Please ensure when you are here out of hours with your children you are aware of any work that is in progress.

Last week, I accompanied a group of leaders from within our school to the most recent ‘newly built’ school in our wider area. Endeavour school in Hamilton.  Of great interest was how teachers focused on providing deeper learning experiences enabled by the environment. 

Contact with our Community

In order to remain in contact with our school community it is vital that we have up to date contact details for all parents and caregivers.  If your details have changed, paticularly phone numbers and email addresses, or you think you are not receiving information either from our office or your child’s teacher please let our office know.

Nga mihi nui

Ben Fuller

Principal

From the Principal - 14 May 2017

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou

A special welcome to our new families and new children; Elia Szulakowski, Sara Szulakowski, Jooyeon Kim, Hugo Kolless, Bryley Raass, Manaia Brazendale, Regan Dobbs, Mali Lawrence, George McKinnon, Oriel Olvina, Oliver Reid, Delilah Smith and Solomin Smith. 

It is great to be into Term 2 and with you look forward to the many opportunities and events within our school community as winter approaches.  It has been great to see some of our winter sports codes starting to prepare for the season.  I wish all players, coaches, managers and parents all the best for your first games and congratulations to Mr Finlayson for the work he has done in getting approximately 300 children involved in sport.

As with any term there are many events and activities on our busy calendar so please take time to look either online or on our website for what’s coming up.  I was in Korea at the same time as our PTA Quiz night last year but looking forward to joining in with you this time.  Make sure you have a table together as it is always a fun night.

Innovative Learning Environments

As you may be aware we have a new Minister of Education, The Honorable Nikki Kaye.  Nikki Kaye comes from and academic background that covers both the sciences and law and is therefore a big supporter of Innovative Learning Environments.  It is important to note that the word innovative refers to what happens within the learning environment, not what the environment looks like.  It is very much learner centred with the learner in control as opposed to the teacher.  The teacher obviously has a role different to that which has been more traditional in nature.

Father Santi gave a great homily on Sunday with a focus on leadership.  He looked at the words efficient vs effective.  Efficient being related to managing and effective being related to leadership.  My view is that the New Zealand Education system and teaching practice developed high levels of efficiency since the time of tomorrow’s schools but is now realising the need to be effective in leading learning.

Those parents who attended the Aroha open afternoons last week and those who regularly help or are in attendance in Room 13 will no doubt make some connections with how we are working towards being effective as a school.  We have some further times to share scheduled with other learning teams this term.  Maramatanga parents are invited to share in the focus on their new learning environment at either 2.20pm or 6pm next Tuesday.

The OECD has published many reports that are guiding educational practice globally a recent one, “Schooling redesigned towards innovative learning systems focuses on 7 ILE learning principles.  The first being ‘Make learning central, encourage engagement and be where learners come to discover themselves as learners’.  This statement indicating that children need the scope to explore and connect with what successful learning looks like for them.  We are examining all 7 ILE principles as a staff and will continue to share them with our community.

Before School Procedures and Punctuality

Thank you to all who have been making an effort with ensuring children are at school on time.  It definitely makes a difference when a child is set up and ready to learn at the start of the day.  Equally, in moving forward to our colder months it is not ideal to have children waiting in the cold for classrooms to open.  All classrooms will be open and supervised from 8.30am which means children who arrive before this will need to wait in an outside area.   Ideally any time from 8.15 - 8.45 is a good time to get to school.

New Build Progress

With a run of recent good weather we have seen some great progress with the construction of our new learning environment.  Early next week we should start to see a roof go on which will of course signal the end of potential weather delays.  The time frame for completion is therefore still the end of the term meaning we will be in a position to welcome our Year 2 students into their new learning space at the beginning of Term 3.

Nga mihi nui

Ben Fuller

Principal

From the Principal - 22 February 2017

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou

Greetings to you all!  A special welcome to our new families and new children, Brian Liu, Natasha Couchman-Erickson and Briar O’Connor. 

It is great to see the start we have had to our school year and the enthusiasm shown by all across our wonderful school community.  There is certainly an element of excitement with what the year will bring which has been fueled by the ambitious approach to teaching and learning within our student environments.

Parent Meeting
I was impressed with the number of  parents who came to our first information meeting in week 2.  While it is always good to see a large number of enthusiastic parents within our centre, the real benefit for myself was the ability to help inform you in regard to how we at St Mary’s will be approaching the implementation of collaborative practice.

Following on from this meeting I have had a number of positive comments regarding the approach and aspects of practice that we are all now witnessing.  I would encourage any parents who have questions to first talk to their classroom teacher specifically about how they are approaching working together more actively with their teaching colleagues.

Others have asked for more information in regard to current changes within education.  Below are a couple of links that may help widen your knowledge in regard to the rationale behind changes to education both globally and within New Zealand.

Tony Grey 

Ken Robinsons

Mark Osbourne

Meet the Teacher
On the same note, it is great to see almost a full attendance at our learning conversations held this week.  It definitely shows that you as a parent body are focused on being the best enabler of learning you can be.

New Build
Work has restarted on our current building project which is great to see.  Steve Page has had his machinery in operation over the last few days which has been of great interest to the kids.  Also of interest to you as parents are some health and safety practices that we have been required to implement.  These include controlled entry of all construction related vehicles and specific site access requirements.  Please ensure when you are here out of hours with your children you are aware of any work that is in progress.

Present predictions for the completion of this project are for late June, early July which will mean open for business at the beginning of term 3.

Parking Harvey Street
We have had a number of complaints from our Harvey Street neighbours in regard to current parking practices.  In particular parents parking at the end of the culdesac and restricting the ability for cars to turn around at the end of the street and parking in residence driveways and on grass verges.  As a result, as a school, we are now part of the council traffic monitoring programme which means traffic wardens and police will routinely patrol issuing infringement notices where appropriate.

We would all agree that it shouldn’t come to this and the best way to ensure good traffic behaviour and maintain respect for our neighbours is to make sure you have plenty of time to park, park appropriately and then walk to meet your children.  There are very few places around our school site where children can walk directly to cars in sight of parents.

We have some great events coming up including trips to Waimarino and our PTA Outdoor Adventure Day so please make sure you keep connected to what is happening.

Don’t forget to pop down to school tomorrow afternoon from 2.30pm and visit the Coffee Cart for a free coffee or hot chocolate, kindly sponsored by our wonderful PTA.

 

Nga mihi nui

Ben Fuller
Principal