New school year fully planned

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

Yes­ter­day schools from around the district wel­comed new and re­turn­ing stu­dents back to class, how­ever plan­ning for this day has been un­der way for some months. To get an idea of what goes on prior to the first bell ring­ing, Nicki Davidson sat down with Mata­mata Pri­mary School prin­ci­pal Carolyn Os­borne.

The start of a new school year sig­nals the end of sum­mer hol­i­days and the start of new learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties but for Mrs Os­borne it is also the cul­mi­na­tion of months of plan­ning.

In a process du­pli­cated around the coun­try, Mrs Os­borne and her staff have been care­fully plan­ning since Oc­to­ber to en­sure the school has a pro­gramme that meets all re­quire­ments – cur­ricu­lum, min­istry, stu­dents, teach­ers and par­ents, and she said it all started with choos­ing a theme.

‘‘We start plan­ning in Term 3, look­ing at themes and fo­cus ar­eas, then it’s iden­ti­fy­ing ob­jec­tives, learn­ing out­comes and ac­tiv­i­ties.’’

‘‘This is fol­lowed by col­lat­ing all the events and dates for things like trips and camps and com­mu­nity re­sources needed, plus day-to-day stuff like swim­ming pro­grammes, in­ter­school ac­tiv­i­ties and sports com­pe­ti­tions.’’

Dur­ing this time class lists for the fol­low­ing year were also pre­pared, with in­put from par­ents re­gard­ing health, wel­fare and be­hav­iour, as well as the de­sire to match stu­dents with teach­ers who were best able to pro­vide the skills and guid­ance needed.

‘‘ Teach­ers have a va­ri­ety of skills, dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, dif­fer­ent back­grounds and be­lief sys­tems. By De­cem­ber we have pretty much mapped out classes, go­ing through five or six drafts, to en­sure they are bal­anced and ben­e­fit as many kids as pos­si­ble.’’

Mata­mata Pri­mary School had 495 stu­dents in three syn­di­cates last year and Mrs Os­borne was ex­pect­ing a sim­i­lar num­ber this year.

‘‘Staffing lev­els are set by the min­istry. We don’t au­to­mat­i­cally get the same num­ber of teach­ers each year, then we get an op­er­a­tions grant that is ad­justed once the school year starts,’’ she said. ‘‘ We will have 18 classes to be­gin with but that is likely to reach 21 by the end of the year. About 60 to 70 new en­trants will start dur­ing the year so we are con­stantly fore­cast­ing, ad­just­ing and re­view­ing class num­bers.’’

In the past week it had come down to the finer de­tails, with teach­ers at­tend­ing to their class­rooms, re­design­ing spa­ces and set­ting up re­sources as well as at­tend­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment cour­ses.

‘‘ Half of the staff have been do­ing a Kiwi Swim Safe pro­gramme on swim­ming and sur­viv­ing in the wa­ter, while the other half have been at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence in Palmer­ston North about holis­tic learn­ing,’’ she said.

This all-en­com­pass­ing method of ed­u­ca­tion was seen as cru­cial, not just teach­ing the chil­dren their letters and num­bers but pre­par­ing them for the fu­ture and iden­ti­fy­ing their tal­ents and strengths.

‘‘School is the usual nu­mer­acy and lit­er­acy but it’s also all the fun things like arts, drama, dance, mu­sic, IT, sport, PE and out­door ed­u­ca­tion.’’

‘‘At pri­mary age we want to of­fer as many dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences as pos­si­ble as they can of­fer an in­sight into who the child might be.’’

In this area, Mrs Os­borne said she was con­stantly im­pressed by the cal­i­bre of teach­ers and schools in the district.

‘‘There are very good schools in the area, you can tell from the Ed­u­ca­tion Re­view Of­fice re­ports, and great teach­ers do­ing the best they can but they are also artists and mu­si­cians and ath­letes,’’ Mrs Os­borne said.

‘‘It fas­ci­nates me all the time what we’ve got in this area in terms of tal­ent and how it is shared with chil­dren. But teach­ing is a life­style, you are al­ways think­ing ‘what can I do next to help this child or those chil­dren’ so we have great cit­i­zens of the fu­ture.’’

When asked about what kind of year 2011 would be, Mrs Os­borne said her 37 staff were gear­ing up for a busy one.

‘‘It’s go­ing to be a great year with re­ally ex­cit­ing events and con­tin­u­ing devel­op­ment of the school. It’s all about rich learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and get­ting stuck in.’’

Back to school: Mata­mata Pri­mary School prin­ci­pal Carolyn Os­borne is look­ing for­ward to a great year in a great com­mu­nity.

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