Aurora's model ideal, say teachers

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 30/09/2013
Sally Orlowski
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
Links@Aurora administrator Sally Orlowski outside the school’s one-stop social services centre, which was highlighted as a fantastic example of a community hub by the PPTA.

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A social services scheme running at an Invercargill high school is being held up as an example for schools nationwide.

A paper prepared by the Post Primary Teachers' Association national executive commends Aurora College, along with two other schools, for its approach to community services.

Links@Aurora, the social services centre at the college, was assembled from remodelled classrooms in 2008, and houses a health nurse, physiotherapist, careers adviser and a social worker, with an administrator employed fulltime. The centre also has rooms set aside for agencies, such as the police and Child, Youth and Family, to use at the school.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the organisation wanted facilities like those at Aurora available to all schools in New Zealand. When pupils were healthy and cared for, they were more engaged in the classroom and community, she said.

Aurora College deputy principal Graeme Hood said it was great for Links@Aurora to be recognised on a national scale, as it had worked "extremely well" for the school.

"It's not just a learning environment at the school. It caters for all the students' needs."

Staff had identified the need for the under-one-roof facility and had set aside the funding to make it happen, he said.

Although most schools offered health and counselling services, collecting agencies in one building allowed for easy communication between services to ensure pupils received all appropriate care, Mr Hood said.

Links@Aurora administrator Sally Orlowski knew most pupils at the school and was able to "triage" them into the right service if they were unsure what they needed, he said.

Ms Orlowski said the centre, which could also be used as a voluntary time-out zone so upset pupils did not disturb other learners, was always busy.

Offering the services at school ensured young people sought the help they needed, she said.

"The students wouldn't get the problem seen to if the facility wasn't here for them. They'd probably just leave it."

The PPTA paper, titled Equipping schools to fight poverty: a community hub approach, calls for the Government to implement service hubs like Links@Aurora in schools to minimise learning inequity.

It will be presented at the PPTA annual conference in Wellington tomorrow.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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