From the Principal 22 March 2019

Tena Koutou Katoa - Haere mai Nau mai haere mai
We are continuing through a busy and dynamic term at St Mary’s, with some exciting learning and events continuing to bring reward to students, teachers and parents alike.  Last week was again filled with examples such as these, which made our school such a contrast to the terror, devastation and loss experienced by some of our fellow New Zealanders last Friday afternoon.  I am sure like all, we are shocked, angry and deeply saddened to think such an event could happen in our country.  As a school we gathered on Monday morning in prayer to remember those affected by this tragic event.  The key message was one of love and peace, remembering that this is the message from within our Gospels.
Outdoor Adventure Day
My thanks goes to the PTA and the leadership of Mel Gash for another great day of fun in the form of our Outdoor Adventure Day.  This day is not just about kids, even some of the adults had a fun lap of a creatively designed course.  It is a day of community.  This starts with our connection to our houses through the colourful and creative demonstration of house pride, and continues with the many activities that bring us together on this day.  It is a great part of our Term One calendar and one that I again thank the PTA for.
Early drop offs and Late Pick ups
Lately we have been having to assist a number of children whose parents are often late to pick them up from school.  This is both distressing for children and for staff who are placed in the position of having to ascertain after school arrangements.  The first point I would like to make is that school concludes at 2.55pm and if you intend picking your child up after school, this is the time that parents should be here to do so.  Secondly, it is not safe to suggest that children play in the playground until parents arrive.  Our playgrounds are busy with parents and children immediately after school, meaning those children in need of supervision are hard to identify. 
Should you be running late or have misjudged traffic on the odd occasion, please contact the school so that we can instruct children to wait in the office for you to arrive.  However, if your circumstances mean you are unable to pick up your child at 3pm on a regular basis, we have an after school care service that provides a safe environment for children after school.  Enquire at the school office should you need to access this service.
Board of Trustee Elections 2019
This is a further notification that 2019 is an election year for Board of Trustee parent representatives.  In the coming weeks, information will start to be circulated in regard to becoming a parent trustee and the election process.  I have been lucky as Principal to work with some great parent trustees who have had the genuine best interests of our school community at heart.  I therefore encourage anyone who would like to know more, or is currently interested in standing as a parent representative on our Board of Trustees to look out for upcoming information.
Traffic Safety
The safety of 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.
On another note, our bus bay is a no parking zone from 8am - 9am and 3pm - 3.30pm.  We have been advised by our bus drivers that this is a current concern.
St Mary’s Facebook Page (
We still do the majority of our communication through email and will continue to do so, but will also ensure the same communication is given through our FB Page.  I am aware that the majority of our community is among our 500 followers but for new parents or those still new to the social media game the link is above.
Nga mihi nui
Ben Fuller

From The Principal 2 March 2019

Tena Koutou Katoa - Haere mai Nau mai haere mai

We continue the great start to our school year.  On Tuesday we welcomed 44 new students and their families to our St Mary’s Whanau.  Our welcome liturgy is always a great event as it warmly signals a start to a journey of growth, development and partnership for children and their families.  My thanks to those parents from with our PTA and community who catered an amazing morning tea for all present.  My thanks also to Father Mark for the meaningful blessing he bestowed on our new students.  At the same liturgy we welcomed Mr Anthony Mills and Miss Emma Washer to our leadership and teaching team.

IT in Schools
I am sure many of you watched the recent piece on Sunday regarding the use of digital technology in schools.  I remember the push for schools to reach the desired 1:1 ratio of devices to students.  Many did it in differing ways including BYOD.  We were always cautious of flooding our school with technology and so staged the approach, ensuring we selected devices carefully, towards 1:1 in our senior school and 1:2 across the remainder of the school in 2016.  

Since this time we have also been focused on the growing body of research that highlights the need for developmental learning opportunities aligned with stages of physical and cognitive development.  Nathan Mikaere Wallis who is a world leader in this field is someone whose research we have examined.  It was great to see his perspective also portrayed on Sunday.  Reflecting on and evaluating such views and research has encouraged us to seek a balance in the implementation of digital technology across our school.  

The resulting approach has been to actually redefine the use of digital devices in our junior school.  Now focusing on the use of iPads to capture evidence and examples of learning that can be shared online and through our reporting processes.  This has also meant a reduced number of devices in year 1 and 2.  The balance therefore, an emphasis on developmental growth for learning as per Nathan Wallis’ view of aligning learning experiences to stages as opposed to ages of learning.  Ratios still grow towards that 1:1 ratio we experience in our senior school but with the focus being on the device as a tool of learning.

It would be fair to say that there is still a need for a developmental balance within all areas of our school.  I would be the first to say that we need to look at the amount of screen time our children experience.  We have redesigned our curriculum to address this which will see more ambition apparent, particularly in senior learning experiences.  You will see examples of this through more open ended student inquiry projects and use of our immediate environment.  

Going back to the Sunday exclusive, many of you may have been taken by the Silicon Valley (paperless) Junior High School.  What was not shared in relation to Silicon Valley schools was the highly developmental programmes, often completely device free, that are a signature of their primary schools.  All food for thought!

In my last newsletter I spoke of some teething problems associated with recent changes to our city bus routes and city provider. I would now suggest teething problems is an inaccurate statement particularly given the continuing threats to child safety.  Previously I offered to work with Bay of Plenty Regional Council Transport Operations Officer to ensure current issues are resolved and the efficient service we all hope for is gained in the near future.  Unfortunately this was not accepted and so I am now in the same space as other bus users, a frustrated stakeholder.  I therefore again ask that  if you have any issues with the bus service, especially if student safety is compromised, get in contact with either myself or Theresa in our office.  Alternatively contact the council bus team directly.

Property Developments
The new turf is all but installed.  I am really looking forward to this as it will provide a great surface for all hard court activities.  I would like to thank both our PTA and the Catholic Diocese of Hamilton on behalf of you all for their financial support.  Look out later in the year for new mobile goal posts, tennis nets and basketball backboards to complement the court surface.  Again thanks to the generous support of our PTA.

TECT Grant
Possibly a little ironic given my previous words regarding digital devices but I can celebrate with and inform you all of our success in gaining a TECT grant of $25,000.  This will be spent in the digital device area but to replace aging and broken devices and screens which are currently being rationalised.  We will also add a few specialised items to the IT suit such as a drone and specialist video editing suit.  A big thanks to TECT!

St Mary’s Facebook Page

We still do the majority of our communication through email and will continue to do so but will also ensure the same communication is given through our FB Page.  I am aware that the majority of our community is among our 500 followers for but new parents or those still new to the social media game the link is above.

Fia Fia Fundraiser
St Mary’s School is planning a missionary trip to Samoa in October 2019. Our goal is to raise $10,000 to help with travel costs for the children and to supply the two major Catholic Schools in Apia with much needed sports equipment and uniforms.Enjoy an evening of traditional Samoan fun, food and entertainment!  So please invite your friends and come along to support this worthy cause.  Tickets cover your dinner and live entertainment.

Summer Weather
The great weather continues for us in the Bay of Plenty, however March signals autumn and an expected drop in temperatures.  For this reason I ask that all students now transition back into our school uniform and save the PE gear for when it is needed.  Letting our children wear their PE gear was a great initiative and one that we will look to utilise again should need dictate.

Cluny Foundation
Last year our Cluny Foundation helped a number of children and families within our community in a number of ways, including financial assistance for extra curricula activities both at school and in our community. If you know of anyone who would benefit from assistance please refer them to one of our trustees or call in at our school office.

Ben Fuller 

From The Principal 15 November 2018

Tena koutou katoa, Talofa Lava and a very warm welcome to everyone in our school community. 

A special welcome to Alexander Carter. 

I am very excited to announce that Ben Fuller is now back from study leave.  Welcome back Ben, it is great to have you back with us!  

Taylor Bros Transport Fireworks & Gala
A huge thank you to everyone who supported our fireworks gala this year.  We definitely wouldn’t have had the success that we have had without the input from so many.  In particular I would like to thank Taryn Joseph (parent and owner of  Thyme Management), Lee-Ann Taylor, Ana McFarlane, the whole of the PTA and St Mary’s staff for your hard work and dedication.  The gala is a huge undertaking and I have a whole new appreciation of the organisation involved.  

We had approximately 5000 people through the gate and it was a busy night.  The fireworks finale was incredible.  I will keep you informed of the money raised once that has been finalised.  

Jump Jam
Congratulations must go to all of our Jump Jam Teams and their coaches.  

1st year 1-4 open Team called Enchanters doing “Magic 2.0”. 

1st in year 4-8 all boys Team called the Misfits, doing “Captain jack”.

1st in  year 4-6 advanced open (the toughest division) Team called Senior Swifts doing song “Shake it off”.

3rd in year 4-6 open, Team called Crazy Circus doing song “Afro Circus”.

4th year 1-4 open Team called Muchachas doing Borriquito.

Learning Through Play
In Week 3, I was very lucky to attend a two day seminar run by Nathan Mikaere Wallis. This was an indepth look at the developing brain!  I walked away with a much deeper understanding of neuroscience research and it’s practical implications. 

Nathan is passionate about the importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life and the development of the brain from conception to 32 years, with an emphasis on the early years of childhood and schooling.  He emphasises the importance for children to develop positive dispositions towards their learning and their culture, and to develop their creative and thinking skills.  

I highly recommend that you spend 40 minutes of your time listening to the following interviews, with Nathan, on Radio New Zealand:

What 3 - 7 Year olds Need to Learn - 26 mins

Kids With Interpersonal Skills Come From Homes Where There Are Rich Conversations - 17 mins.

I will be running two information sessions on Play based learning in the BAMJC on Tuesday 20th during our Open Morning, 9 - 10:30am.  

Thank you for your support.

That’s me signing off for the last time as Acting Principal.  Thank you for being such a supportive community during my time in this position, I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and gained a great insight into the very diverse nature of the role of the principal.  

Nga mihi nui

Anna MacKinnon
Acting Principal

From The Principal 8 February 2019

Tena Koutou Katoa - Haere mai Nau mai haere mai

Greetings and welcome to our new school year.

To all returning families it is great to see you and your children back at St Mary’s in 2019.  To those new to our community you and your children are now on a journey with us and I therefore give my absolute best wishes and commitment to ensuring your time at St Mary’s is beneficial and prosperous for you and your children.  To ensure this happens I encourage you to be active within our community, support where able and get involved in as many of our community and school based activities as possible or able.  

I have been impressed with the start our teachers and students have made to our new school year.  It is great to see the enthusiasm of teachers transpire into engagement of learning within the classroom environment.  Please keep in touch with your child’s teacher with any questions and please connect with your children regularly in regard to the learning experiences they are benefitting from.

Ra Whanau Mai
Starting the year coming together, meeting your child’s teacher, being able to talk about strengths and ambitions of and for your child has helped make for the positive start we have all experienced.  The objectives of the day were to give your child the best possible start as a learner and to provide opportunity to come together as a community.  The weather definitely played its part meaning the pool was well utilised; Mr Veitch, Mrs Harris and I dished up about 300 sausages and the coffee cart had plenty of customers.  It definitely made for a calm start to our formal instruction on Tuesday, especially for new students who had already met their teacher and knew where their classroom was.  

As always we are interested to see know if we met the above objectives in our communities eyes so invite you to provide comments through this link  

Also check out pictures from the day on our FB page.

Summer Weather
As I communicated early heat is a factor in Tauranga this time of year and will therefore implement the following during February.

Children who have one can wear their physical education uniform. This is black shorts and the green St Mary’s PE T Shirt. Both items are available from NZ Uniforms.  

Year 1 students (rooms 1-5) unfortunately occupy older classrooms that are not well equipped when it comes to ventilation. Those year 1 parents who may be concerned that the afternoons will get to hot for their children are welcome to collect them at lunch time on extremely hot days. This will be an individual parent decision with those children remaining cared for within their classrooms.

Sunblock, all classrooms are equipped with sun block and children are encouraged to self manage the application of this. If your child is more susceptible to the effects of the sun please ensure you apply sunscreen before you drop them to school.

Hydration, most important and can be easily achieved with access to a water bottle during the day.

School Buses
I am as aware as many are of some of the teething problems currently being experienced as a result of our recent change of bus routes and city provider.  I take child safety seriously and so have offered to work with Bay of Plenty Regional Council Transport Operations Officer to ensure current issues are resolved and the efficient service we all hope for is gained in the near future.  Please if you have any issues with the bus service, especially if student safety is compromised, get in contact with either myself or Theresa in our office.

We still do the majority of our communication through email and will continue to do so but will also ensure the same communication is given through our FB page.  I am aware that the majority of our community is among our 500 followers, but for new parents or those still new to the social media game the link is below.

St Mary’s Facebook Page

St Mary’s Website

School App
Download our app for free on iPhone or Android.  Search ‘St Mary’s Catholic School’ in the app store or use this link  The app is used to send reminder alerts, it has the complete school calendar, notices, the school newsletter and all staff email addresses. You can also use it to text in school absentee messages.

Nga mihi nui

Ben Fuller


From The Principal 26 October 2018

Afio mai tua i vaitaimi fa, welcome back to Term 4!  

As I write this post, we have just returned from a beautiful long weekend of sunshine.  Our pool is 24 degrees, so swimming is just around the corner and just a reminder that we have now changed to our summer uniform with hats (named) now compulsory everyday.  Unfortunately no hat, no play!

A special welcome to our new students Maleyah Abalajon, Conor Amaru, Luke Chang, Tyler Coballes, Joseph Minkhorst, Hannah Minkhorst, Carl Palad, Annabelle Talbot and Ratu Veitaladrua.

Learning Term 4
This term our learning is all based around curiosity and inquiry.  Inquiry learning is driven by the curiosity of students about their world.  Inquiry encourages ‘connection, cooperation and collaboration’ with others in real contexts.  It is purposeful and authentic learning.   

Taylor Bros Transport Fireworks & Gala
It is now only 2 weeks until our extremely popular annual fireworks gala. We are still looking to our community to support this event through volunteers, sponsors and / or donations for our winning wheel.  

Tickets are being sold online only this year through eventbrite: or

Aroha Camp
Thank you to Aroha teachers, students and parents for making our Senior camp an amazing experience.  The teachers spent many hours preparing for our three day camp, and we certainly couldn’t have had such a wonderful experience without the input from our parents and the positive behaviour from our students.  It was great to see that the students rose to the challenge of some of the harder activities and gave everything a go.  The range of activities made camp an experience of a lifetime and I know that our students will remember it for many years to come. 

It is great to see our Whakapono students utilising and exploring our amazing asset right on our doorstep - the estuary.  Emma from Tidal discoveries came to take some of our students, parents and teachers into the estuary to spend time observing, monitoring and discovering.  Tidal Discoveries is a school led estuary, stream and dune monitoring program focusing in and around Tauranga Harbour. 

Learning Through Play
Next week, I am very lucky to be attending a two day seminar run by Nathan Mikaere Wallis. Nathan is a well known, gifted educator.  He has been a lecturer at Canterbury University, a neuroscience presenter for Brainwave and a child protection trainer.  He is a dynamic and inspiring presenter.  

It will be great to affirm the implementation of our ‘Learning Through Play’ philosophy that we have been developing over the last couple of years at St Mary’s, based on research and practice.  I’m sure that it will also verify the importance of the ‘Key Competencies’ that are the basis of the New Zealand Curriculum.   

I look forward to sharing my learning with you in the next newsletter.

Jump Jam North Island Championships
This weekend our Jump Jammers will be competing in the North Island Championships.  After many months of practising they look awesome with their new haircuts and costumes and the final routines are polished.

We wish Kim, Gabby, Camella, and the Jump Jam students all the best

We have a very busy term ahead of us so please take note of the important dates within this newsletter and also on our school calendar. 

Nga mihi nui
Anna MacKinnon
Acting Principal