South Auckland school reverses trend on attendance, gets nominated for awards

Ella Diaz, Principal Iain Taylor and Kalepo Solomona.
KYMBERLEE FERNANDES/FAIRFAX NZ

Ella Diaz, Principal Iain Taylor and Kalepo Solomona.

Manurewa Intermediate is proving you can keep south Auckland students at school and engaged thanks to a raft of new teaching techniques.

And their methods, which has seen average attendance rates rise from under 80 per cent to over 95 per cent, have resulted in nominations to the upcoming Prime Minister's Education Excellence Awards 

Art, music, drama, cooking and technology are among a host of other modules that are keeping students interested.

The south Auckland school is aiming for awards in two categories - Excellence in Engaging - Atahapara Award and Excellence in Leading - Atakura Award.

Student Kalepo Solomona, 13, wouldn't change anything about the school and says he's "grateful for what we have".

He enjoys cooking because he likes to eat, he laughs.

Students during their expo class at Manurewa Intermediate.
KYMBERLEE FERNANDES/FAIRFAX NZ

Students during their expo class at Manurewa Intermediate.

He sees himself becoming a chef someday, but only for "the family, not to be famous".

READ MORE:
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*Teachers awarded for bringing technology to classrooms
*Technology, open spaces define learning at south Auckland school

Ella Diaz, 12, says she "loves drama, because everyone gets a chance to express themselves".

"We're all different and Manurewa Intermediate accepts everyone's differences."

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She hopes the school would look into the issue of potential self-harm among students.

"We should have more ways to stop self-harm. I believe if we bring that to school, we would be able to do that," Ella says.

Anne-Marie Rowney has been with the school for 32 years and currently teaches cooking.

She recalls it being a "very hard place to teach with very challenging students".

"We struggled to get quality teachers."

"Since Iain's come he's made it more attractive to quality teachers," she says.

Explaining how the school is encouraging engagement, she says the staff are "always prepared".

"The resources we have are succinctly levelled so that there's always something for the lower end and the gifted end."

"Students are responsible for their own learning. They come up with a topic. This term the inquiry is into changes in language."

Students are encouraged to voice their opinions and the most common request has been "to get a swimming pool," she points.

Principal Iain Taylor says the school has been transformed into a "welcoming, safe and inclusive environment".

"The kids were involved in the decision making of the curriculum. it's making sure that the learning is about them, not the adults."

"We have a philosophy about the environment being the third teacher. We also developed our cultural intelligence, and that's for staff as well.

He notes that attendance numbers have risen since the changes have been put in place.

"Attendance is really high because kids want to be in school. It's exciting and relevant for them.

"We have an average of 94 to 95 per cent attendance which is incredibly high."

"For a decile one school, that's unbelievable."

 - Stuff

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