Being at super-school 'feels like family'

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 25/05/2013
Southern Cross Campus school pupils
PHIL DOYLE/Fairfax NZ

FRIENDLY: Southern Cross Campus school pupils, Tyrese Ropati, 7, head girl Maria Timote, 17, Clinton Thai, 11, Anna Ah Sing, 17, and Billy Hennah, 11, at the year 1-13 school in Mangere, South Auckland, work at their studies.

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Ask Maria Timote what she gets from her super-school and she says "a sense of belonging".

The 17-year-old is head girl at Southern Cross Campus, a year 1-13 school in Auckland's Mangere East that is to be the model for the radical shake-up planned for east Christchurch.

Maria enrolled at Southern Cross as a 5-year-old and said her long association with the school makes it feel "like family".

"From my experience, growing up with students that I know, you're comfortable and that makes you learn better."

She has two younger sisters and a brother at the school and said her parents get peace of mind knowing the siblings can travel to school together and help each other out if need be.

There are also support systems between the year groups, including a peer mentoring programme between year 13 and year 9 students. At Easter, the senior classes dress in rabbit costumes and deliver eggs to the 5- and 6-year-olds. "We all work together - it's pretty cool," Maria said.

Southern Cross principal Robin Staples said cross-campus communication between staff and pupils was an important factor in the school's success.

Pupils' progress is carefully monitored so they don't "fall through the cracks" like they might if they went to a separate high school. "We can track student achievement right from the start of their schooling."

Primary and secondary school-level teachers also keep in close contact so they know exactly what their students need to achieve.

And students say that makes their studies easier.

"There are the same expectations from teachers," Maria said.

Luke Martin, 17, said knowing exactly what was in store for him made transitioning to high school less daunting.

"We've always been able to just go around and look - and it's a massive campus so you can kind of just talk to anyone."

Education consultant and former campus director Alan Burton was a driving force behind the school's creation in the late 1990s when Southern Cross Primary School, Mangere Intermediate School and Nga Tapuwae College amalgamated.

Plans for a similar school in Aranui are a "wonderful opportunity for change", he said. But he warned care must be taken when selecting teachers and managers and setting governance rules.

Fears about mixing the age groups are unfounded, he said.

"There is a risk that little kids might get lost in the big campus but the reality is that they'll have their own entrances because they've got different start and finish times, their own classes, their own teachers, their own playgrounds.

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- The Press

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