A seaside community north of Auckland gets its own primary school
Cows graze just over the fence from Snells Beach School but the rural scene ends there – houses fill nearby streets in this seaside town north of Auckland.
Principal Jill Corkin says unlike other new schools in new suburbs, Snells Beach caters to an existing township on the Mahurangi peninsula. It is believed to be one of the biggest populations to go without its own state primary school, with students previously bussing to Warkworth or Matakana.
“So the community is here and it’s fair to say they have been looking forward to a school for some time,” says Jill.
That level of interest meant daily visitors to the school’s temporary office last year.
Jill and her staff worked there in a “cosy and collegial atmosphere” among new music equipment and stacks of library books awaiting cataloguing.
Visitors were not just prospective parents but also retired folk and business people interested in progress on the school, which opens this term.
Their visits resulted in offers of help with fundraising and volunteer work. Last year, for example, parents started a series of Wednesday evening walks to raise funds for a playground, says Jill.
“For me as principal, there’s a lovely sense of ownership developing in the community which we wanted to have.”
And the opportunity to tap into an established area will enhance student learning.
The rich local history is encapsulated further down the peninsula at Scandrett Regional Park, established in 1998 after a farmstead and headland were donated by the family of that name following 130 years of possession. The youngest child in the family will be a foundation pupil at the new school.
The school has adopted a piece of the park and students will work with rangers to collect seeds and plant trees. It also created a formal partnership with Ngati Manuhiri, the tangata whenua, who can share knowledge of early human settlement of the peninsula.
Locals can see also a local flavour to the architecture – the board did not want a city-style school transposed to Snells Beach. Instead the buildings are finished in wooden boards and battens, cut into the slope to achieve a low profile and thus resemble the district’s bach-influenced architecture.
“The contractors and the project manager have done us proud, because they have been incredibly responsive in terms of the brief and for what we wanted in terms of a teaching and learning environment,” says Jill.
Classroom blocks allow for varied teaching styles, with sliding walls that change the internal configuration and withdrawal rooms for small group learning or one-on-one sessions.
It’s all new and exciting and Jill says everything will be special during Snells Beach School’s first year of operation. The overall theme for integrated learning will be about where students have come from and where they are heading. For those lessons, they could do no better than look around at the people and places now within reach.