Schools bring new energy

by Mike Isle

Last year saw the opening of two schools in Rolleston, Rolleston College and Lemonwood Grove Te Uru Tarata. One year on, The Record revisits the schools and finds two principals bringing new energy to education.

A group of Rolleston College students weren’t happy and their principal, Steve Saville, was delighted.

Four Year Nine students, 13-year-olds, had come to him unhappy at a values poster the new school had designed in its first year.

They felt it didn’t fully or fairly reflect the values of ‘their’ new school.

They felt they could design a better one. So, with the help of a Christchurch graphic design consultancy, that is exactly what they did.

Steve Saville said that simple matter represented the type of authentic learning a principal hopes for.

Only a year old and with a new intake of Year Nines boosting the school roll to 447, the student body had already taken ownership of their school, which is what Steve Saville and his staff of 47 intended.

“A lot of it has to do with the hard work of the staff, who are extremely self-motivated. But even more so it has been a student-centered culture that gave the learners power in their school.

“They run their own assemblies, for example. And some have opened and maintained a sustainable garden.”

Lemonwood Grove School’s first year students get used to their new 
surroundings under the watchful eye of principal Sean Bailey

As thrilled as he is with his first year, Steve Saville is even more positive for the year ahead.

Down the road, Rolleston’s second school into its second year, Lemonwood Grove School Te Uru Tarata, seems to be the perfect match for Rolleston College.

Its principal, Sean Bailey, has much the same educational philosophy and attitude to learning — that of engaging with the whole child.

Sean considers Lemonwood Grove Te Uru Tarata to be a ‘learning centre’, which is not an unusual descriptive of a school. However, in his terms, that means giving his students the opportunities to learn secular subjects outside the normal school curriculum. 

In fact, the school devotes an hour a day to teaching such diverse subjects as photography, urban farming, kapa haka, and engineering.

Diversity is a word Sean Bailey uses a lot to shape the cultural narrative, that in turn shapes his curriculum. Lemonwood Grove Te Uru Tarata is a full Year One to Year Eight primary with a school roll of 159, up 100 on its opening 2017 roll.

However, Sean Bailey doesn’t think in terms of total numbers. “We prefer to think of our learners as individuals with individual and diverse needs,” he said.

“That’s why we want to personalise the learning as best we can. To enable each learner to grow and be the best they can.

“We tend to think of our school’s curriculum more as learning landscapes that are ever-changing and, like the land use and community that surrounds us, are quite diverse. In fact, we like to think of our school as an extension of the community.”

Building effective relationships with the local community is Sean’s 2017 highlight.