Rural school strengthens place at heart of community

Issue: Volume 102, Number 5

Posted: 20 April 2023
Reference #: 1HA_TY

At the heart of its community, Burnham School Te Kura o Tiori in one of Aotearoa’s fastest-growing populations, is experiencing the benefits of a major property development project and refreshed cultural narrative.

Ākonga are proud of their new learning spaces.

Ākonga are proud of their new learning spaces.

Burnham School Te Kura o Tiori in Selwyn, Canterbury, is a cornerstone in the community, not only to the many local families in the area but also for those families who work for the New Zealand Defence Force.

The school is experiencing a transformative makeover with the first stage of development now complete, and the remaining works to be complete by August. Refurbished buildings have transformed old classrooms into open and flexible learning environments for students, and the cultural narrative has also been strengthened.

With a current roll of 133, the school caters for students in Years 1–8. As one big family, where everyone knows your name, the school is aiming to strengthen its place at the heart of its community.

Principal Pauline Jansen says the new learning spaces reflect the cultural narrative of the school. The first block including new signage has given the school a physical lift as well as a new presence in the community.

“You can now see our school from the roadside – shining!”

Post Covid, the school is experiencing a roll increase, with new families choosing the school because of its links to the rural environment and the easy access from nearby Rolleston which has seen rapid population growth and urban development.

Burnham School once solely served some of the families of the New Zealand Defence Force with Burnham Military Camp next door.

Over the last few years, the school demographics have begun to evolve with the growth of Selwyn District and Rolleston.

“Our school has always been at heart of our community; and we are seeing our students immensely proud of where they learn.”

Community connections

Involvement with the wider community is important to Burnham School. Over the past 18 months, the school has been improving connections with local early learning services.

It’s also been engaging the wider school community when planning its future.

“This was a particular focus when the community was involved in our re-visioning of the school and the introduction of our ‘Learner Actions – Respect, Effort and Pride’,” says Pauline.

“These learner actions form part of our everyday expectations for ourselves, our learners and the whānau community who come into our school each and every day.”

The children and whānau enjoy the small learning community, the structured approach to teaching, and the sense of belonging.

“Our whānau feel connected and engaged in their children’s learning and our staff work hard to ensure that our learners receive the best possible learning experiences.”

New ways of working

With the new buildings now occupied by eager-to-learn students, Pauline says there has been an obvious change in the way students are learning.

They are more engaged and excited to learn, with the classrooms absorbing sound, making learning more focused with less distraction.

“Our Year 1–4 learners and staff are proud of their new learning spaces and speak of how cool they are into the summer and warm in winter, how roomy they feel and that they love the breakout spaces for extra learning,” she says.

The buildings also feature new decking and overhanging roofs, keeping students dry and sheltered from wintry storms.

New air conditioning in the rooms is proving to be a great asset for the hot nor-wester days the school experiences.

“With our modern learning facilities, we have noticed the quality of learning has improved and that our sense of belonging, as a kura, has significantly improved,” says Pauline.

A key goal for the school this year is putting in place a three-year strategic plan that reflects its learners’ future aspirations and those of the wider community.

“We want to ensure that our local curriculum comes fully alive not only for teaching and learning but also physically in our school,” says Pauline.

“We are delighted that our new facilities and the facilities to come will truly reflect the cultural narrative that we have worked so hard, as a school and community, to develop.”

Strengthening culture

Another important aspect of Burnham’s new developments is the new school values; manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, tiakitanga, kohtahitanga, and rangatiratanga.

Burnham School Te Kura o Tiori has had a relationship with Te Taumutu rūnanga for many years. Te Taumutu gifted the name Te Kura o Tiori and the school’s new values as part of the refreshed cultural narrative, which is woven into the local curriculum and used in everyday learning.

With Pauline’s leadership, the relationship between the kura and mana whenua has further strengthened through multiple hui to build whanaungatanga.

The kura also provides a bilingual level 2 provision, and many families from around the district travel to the school to take part in this programme. There are currently 40 students enrolled in the bilingual provision, almost half of the school role.

Pauline says bilingual learning is personalised to the age and learning stage of each student.

The older learners meet in small groups throughout the week, and the younger students learn during day-to-day lessons in their classroom.

“Bilingual provision will continue to be an important part and an aspect of our school that is celebrated,”
she says.

A significant cultural taonga has also been unearthed from safe-keeping in storage and will be proudly on display.

The carving, made several years ago by students, local artists and Kaumātua Denise Sheat, depicts the local story of their area.

This is the story of Tū Te Rakiwhaānoa and the Rākaia River, written by Cath Brown for the children of Taumutu.

Pauline says the carving is planned to be centred in the heart of the school as it’s directly linked to the school’s local curriculum.

“As this piece of work is key to our school’s cultural narrative, it’s important that it’s given its rightful place for all to see and enjoy.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:28 am, 20 April 2023

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