Open plan classrooms for 300 children, self-directed learning, and Bob Marley in lieu of the school bell. On the site of the old Aranui High, stands Haeata - heralding the dawn of a new era in education, but not without teething problems.
As Haeata neared the end of its very first term, Christchurch Dilemmas met passionate teachers and engaged pupils, but also older children struggling to adapt, and parents questioning the benefits to their children of an education system vastly different to the school days they remember.
In February this year, Haeata Community Campus became the first new school in New Zealand
to simultaneously roll out an innovative learning environment, across years 1-13.
Haeata is an urban area school - its starting roll of 955 drawn predominantly from four schools which closed last year - Aranui High & Primary, Wainoni Primary and Avondale Primary.
The campus is massive, modern and imposing. Four open-plan buildings cater for up to 300 ‘learners’ each; pen and paper replaced with laptops, and teachers on a first-name basis.
Director of learning, Rebecca Wilson, says “with pupils attending the one school for their entire education, we’re going to know what makes them tick, we’re going to know their whanau, we’re going to know their hopes and dreams.”
Children are encouraged to manage their own learning, to do what interests and excites them, to follow their passion and find their ‘pathway’ in life.
While some parents lament the loss of structure, Founding principal Andy Kai Fong, who moved his daughter to the school, says it’s “a mistake to think that, we’re with a structure that guides kids into self-discovery.”
For many of Christchurch’s most vulnerable children, from suburbs hardest hit by the earthquakes, is this the time, and the place, for Haeata?