First light ceremony opens door to big changes at Mangere school, Auckland

When a karakia rang out to greet the rising sun during a dawn blessing at Koru School in Auckland earlier this month, it signalled the start of a fresh direction for students and staff.

The Mangere primary is being completely rebuilt, and all the previous buildings replaced. But that is just part of a wider transformation.

Before the 2 stage project began, the school had significant property issues including old and leaky buildings, structural weaknesses and ageing temporary classrooms.

Stage 1 of the $20 million project is complete and the new two-storey classroom block will be in operation from March 21 after the one-year build.

The dawn blessing on March 6 marked that milestone.

The school has a brand new 2 storey building with 31 new teaching spaces and modern, quality learning environments that are open-plan, flexible and will encourage student achievement.

At the end of stage 2, next year, there will also be a new library, hall, administration building and two new netball courts, and all the temporary classrooms and other buildings will be gone.

The school’s roll is growing and expected to continue expanding. The new facilities will allow it to provide for a roll of 670, and up to 726 students in future.

The traditional self-contained classrooms of the past will be gone, and teachers won’t have individual classrooms or classes for which they alone are responsible. These are innovative learning environments.

There will be no rows of individual desks, furniture is movable, and students of different age groups will be studying together in shared spaces.

Rows of coats hung on fixed coat racks will be a thing of the past too, as the innovations include movable options for storing coats and bags.

The flexible design approach also includes using some play areas on both floors of the building as breakout learning areas.

Principal Stan Whata says the new teaching block and facilities will have a huge impact, and moving out of the old buildings is a big step forward: “The difference is chalk and cheese.”

“We aim for accelerated learning and these new learning spaces are going to help us achieve that.”

Maori or Pasifika make up 84 per cent of the roll, and Mr Whata says the new approach reflects their cultural perspective and supports their preferred learning style.

“Maori and Pasifika students like to learn communally and help each other to achieve, rather than to learn individually, and the new design allows for that through collaborative teaching and shared responsibility.”

He says the changes are a move away from hierarchy and from cell classrooms, which is an improvement. “Each cell was like its own kingdom - blocked off.”

He says the change in approach means a new mindset for teachers and parents, and requires a huge shift in thinking, but promises big gains.

“It will open up new opportunities for students in a way that will bring better results.”

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