Country school keeps special character while roll rockets

Issue: Volume 97, Number 6

Posted: 5 April 2018
Reference #: 1H9iD_

A new, modular building has provided a speedy solution to space shortages at Eskdale School, which is known for its ‘give it a go’ attitude.

Mental health advocate Mike King speaks to Y7–8 students and parents at Eskdale School, Napier, during his recent visit. He is on a nationwide tour of schools and community groups promoting positive mental health and resilience.

The high energy game of bullrush is keenly enjoyed at Eskdale School, a country school five kilometres outside Napier, where the kids are also actively encouraged to climb trees in the grounds.

The number of students has almost doubled at the school over the past four years, but it still retains its traditional country feel, with huge open spaces to play in, and beautiful views over surrounding countryside including neighbouring vineyards.

Principal Tristan Cheer says activities such as being tackled in bullrush teach children the importance of getting back up, bouncing back and being resilient.

“We encourage the ‘give it a go’ attitude which is very long-established amongst country kids.”

The roll has grown from 170 to 308 in three years but, he says, “I know all the children’s names, and greet them all individually as they get out of the bus each day.” Around 140 students arrive for classes by bus.

A near-doubling of numbers in such a short time might have some principals tearing their hair out, but it’s not a problem for Tristan.

The school recently had a new two-space learning block built because of the leap in enrolments. It went up in just two days, as it was a modular building and came in six separate parts delivered on the back of a truck.

“The kids were really excited by seeing the classrooms going up so fast,” Tristan says.

The school is the oldest in Hawke’s Bay, and some families have been sending their children there for four generations.

“It’s pretty unique for a school of our size to keep a country feel. We have no trouble finding teachers,” he says.

“We emphasise resilience, communication and goal setting and it’s a great learning environment, so we produce well-rounded learners ready to take on the challenges of high school.

“We put great importance on reflecting the values of our community, and valuing their involvement and input. The four key values of the school are CARE – community, aspiration, respect, excellence.”

As a motivational tool for students, the school has a guest speaker programme every week called Skills For Success, featuring high achievers whom the students can learn from, including sports stars, authors and community leaders.

“Listening to the guest speakers, the kids always take away a nugget of gold,” Tristan says. “It’s changed the way they approach things, take on new challenges.”

Conservation is big at Eskdale, which is the only Gold Enviroschool in Hawke’s Bay, and the students do a lot of tree planting.

“We have a bush area with paths through it, which is used for learning as well as fun. The children do maths there, such as measuring the circumference of trees, and last year they did statistics-gathering on bird numbers in the trees.”

There is strong backing from the community, and multiple benefits from volunteers pitching in to help. Recently, the swimming pool was repainted for free by a local painter, which was a great saving, and $420,000 was raised by the community to fund a new school hall.

There are no out-of-zone students but Tristan says some parents move into the area to rent so that their children can enrol.

The new modular block was built by the Ministry of Education. “It’s made of high grade materials built to last. Our caretaker loves it because it’s robust and less maintenance is needed compared to other buildings,” Tristan says. The decking, for example, doesn’t have nails, as nails can rise up and cause issues with the timber such as warping.

“Our new classrooms are also flexible learning spaces, and that’s giving students the chance to drive and manage their own learning.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:06 am, 5 April 2018

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