New environment good for learning
Porirua College is half-way through its radical $18.5 million rebuild and the physical changes are already having an impact on how the school’s teachers and students work together.
The construction project has been funded by the Ministry of Education, which will evaluate the success of the rebuild once it is complete.
The old concrete block, box-style class rooms are on the way out.
Porirua College students now learn together in colourful, open plan learning centres.
They sit at tables in glass-walled classrooms set around a spacious, central learning space.
Deputy principal John Topp said the rebuild is having a hugely positive impact on students and staff.
‘‘The culture of the school has shifted; students are becoming more engaged in their learning. I know that’s a trendy thing to say, but it’s true.’’
The school is also embracing the new curriculum and introduced a more student- driven model of learning.
‘‘It’s not just the buildings; it’s a new way of learning. Everything is more visible, and staff and students have had to lift their game. There’s a lot more pride and respect.’’
Word is spreading about the changes at the school, which has been forced to impose a zone to restrict student numbers.
The roll has grown to more than the 600 students initially budgeted for in the rebuild.
Staff regularly host visits from other schools and education officials keen to see what is being done and how it is working.
Porirua College is a decile 1a school. It opened in 1968 and was long overdue for a revamp, said Mr Topp.
The rebuild is expected to be complete by 2012.
The three new learning centres have been developed on what was vacant land in front of the school. They were formally opened by the Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand in February.
The next phase of the project will involve the demolition of some old school buildings.
North Block will come down to make way for a centre to house the school’s adminis- tration area, staff room and offices. A performing arts centre is also being built.
The new centre is due to be completed by term three next year, after which the art, technology and library buildings will be demolished and rebuilt.
The final stage is the remodelling of the very first learning centre, which was built in 2008 as a short-term pilot for the rest of the school.
Ministry of Education group manager Kim Shannon said the rebuild is a part of a general trend to modernise and upgrade New Zealand schools to make them suitable for 21st century learning.
Porirua College qualified for complete replacement under the Ministry’s replacement buildings programme and the Ministry will undertake a post occupancy evaluation of the new buildings once the project is complete to identify what lessons can be taken from it.
‘‘The significant difference with Porirua College compared to a new school is that this approach is being tried with an existing school and teachers who have been used to teaching in a school designed for 1960-70s teaching.
‘‘It is they themselves who are leading the change process,’’ Ms Shannon said.
New age of learning: Porirua College deputy principal John Topp in front of one of the new learning centres.