Paul Kennedy, of the Cathedral Grammar School, presents a headmaster's perspective on the provision for education in the Christchurch Central Recovery Unit's central-city blueprint.
It as been good to see discussion in The Press about the role of an education precinct in the new central-city plan. It has also been interesting to note some misunderstanding about "a lack of an educational precinct" in the heart of our city (The Press, August 8).
Our European forebears had a burning desire to create an educational heart of excellence when they set to work more than 150 years ago. The result today is a vibrant education precinct that has long been an integral part of the centre of Christchurch.
In other words, right in the city rebuild blueprint area lies a cultural and education precinct rich in history and culture, including the Canterbury Museum, the Christchurch Botanical Gardens, the Arts Centre, the Christchurch Art Gallery, Christ's College and the Cathedral Grammar School.
In addition, just outside this area but still within the central city is St Michael's Church School.
The strength of the original vision was such that two of the city's top performing schools, at secondary and primary level, are in the core of the city. Occupying a combined total of almost four blocks of the central city, bordering the botanical gardens and the museum (Christ's College), and the Avon River, Hagley Park and Cranmer Square (Cathedral Grammar), the schools are an education community within a community. Their proximity to the museum, Arts Centre and art gallery make culture and education a core part of the city centre.
Looking to the future, what can we learn from our forebears as we again build a city? This starts by thinking not about bricks and mortar, but about flesh and blood.
While we cannot claim to know exactly what sort of world the children of today will inhabit in 25, 50 or 75 years, one thing is for certain: it will be a world that requires the best possible early physical, intellectual, creative, spiritual and social development. Our city planners will, therefore, be well served to take leaves out of our forebears' - and their own - books.
The Ministry of Education's goals in Christchurch include "building on the best of existing practice, while supporting the development of new, more effective approaches to teaching and learning", while the rebuild blueprint says: "[We] will draw on its rich natural and cultural heritage, and the skills and passion of its people, to embrace opportunities for innovation and growth".
"More effective approaches to teaching and learning" and "embracing opportunities for innovation and growth" are both easier when you are freed up to make change.
Among all the terrible ramifications of the earthquakes lies a fabulous opportunity. The canvas is not as blank as that of our forebears, but it does create a wonderful chance to draw something that is ideally suited for the 21st century.
Cathedral Grammar is already rebuilding the school in a way that symbolises the confidence and self-belief of Christchurch as a whole, integrating safety and compliance standards that are best practice, reflecting 21st- century learning, embracing sustainable design principles and using materials and form consistent with the most progressive and innovative educational facilities.
It's important to us that we be in the inner city. The benefits gained by being close to Hagley Park, the botanical gardens, the museum, the art gallery and the public library are huge in terms of educational outcomes for students. The advantages of being able to use these fabulous resources without the need for huge planning around transport and the supervision issues and costs that creates gives central-city schools a wonderful advantage that we take full advantage of.
Being part of a vibrant and forward-looking central city also enables us to be part of many of the city's significant events, a good proportion of which occur just across the river in Hagley Park, or just down the road in Cathedral Square (or they did, and I am confident will do again).
Just as importantly, a central-city school becomes a school for all Christchurch.
Rather than just attracting students from one particular area, we have students from almost every part of Christchurch and the diversity of our school and the strong community that is created within our "education precinct" reflects this.
Making education at the core of the Christchurch rebuild is vital to the future of our city. The most important aspect of this decision-making around education is that the needs of students are at the heart of any development, whether that involves the construction of buildings, strategic directions, education provision or individual student programmes.
There is certainly already a pulsating educational hub in the inner city. Not only is it set to get stronger as the city finds its feet, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate best practice, in the very best location. Any development which enhances this precinct can only be positive in terms of outcomes for our children.
We are excited by the opportunity before us and are working with leaders in school design to create a school founded in the 19th century and built for the 21st century. This is the least the Christchurch planners should do. After all, it's our children's century.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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