New en­vi­ron­ment good for learn­ing

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By CLAIRE GI­B­LIN

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.

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