New school year fully planned
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.