Does my child have to attend preschool full time?

When you enrol in preschool you take a place for thirty hours. You have to use at least twenty of those hours by coming Monday to Friday from 8.45am to 1pm Monday to Friday. You are able to use any of the afternoons as well if you wish. When your child turns five it is expected that they will attend 8.45am to 3pm five days a week.

Does my child have to be toilet trained to attend preschool?

When your child starts in a preschool classroom at Wa Ora, we ask that he/she is out of nappies and toilet trained. Having said that, we understand that your child may still have accidents as he/she becomes familiar with the new community. We expect your child should be well underway with the process of toilet ‘learning’. This means that your child should be familiar with the toilet and bathroom areas as well as routines like flushing the toilet and washing their hands after use. We would also expect that your child is wearing cloth undies (no nappies) all day at home and at school. Your child should have practice with (but not necessarily be expert at) taking off wet clothes themselves and putting dry clothes on themselves.

Do you have extended hours?

Yes, we operate before school care from 8am and after school care that is open until 6pm.

Can my kids get qualifications the same as they will get in normal schools?

The young person leaving Wā Ora’s High School programme has the opportunity to have NCEA and university entrance and be able to attend the university of their choice.

Is Montessori religious based?

Montessori has no religious base but does teach religious tolerance.

How can I be involved in my children's education?

While parent help is not used in the Wā Ora classroom, there are many ways that a parent can be a part of the community. Each class has a parent representative who helps with communication between teacher and parents of that class. Parents also come in and read with children and are welcome to come in to share special interests, skills and cultural festivals. There is also the option to join the PTA or Board of Trustees. Parents are asked to accompany trips on occasion, and to go with primary children on ‘going out’ trips and you can also lead or be a part of a special interest group – gardens, IT, etc

What is a 'going out' trip?

In the primary classes, we want the children to experience life outside the school. We encourage the children to look for opportunities to do this. They may need to go to the supermarket to purchase supplies for making a shared lunch. They may need to go to the zoo to observe cheetahs for their project or to the observatory to talk to the astronomers etc. A small group of children – four or five – will get together to organise the trip, arrange the budget and figure out how they are going to get there. They arrange a parent chaperone who attends for Health and Safety reasons only. There is as much to learn from a trip that goes badly as from a trip that goes well, so not stepping in to help unless there is a safety issue is important. Parents offer to be chaperones on these trips, which can last anything from an hour to a day.

How do the teachers track all the children and make sure the children are doing the right thing?

Teachers observe the children frequently through the day so that they get an idea of what each child is doing. In the preschool, this is so they can plan new lessons and see what captures the child’s interest. In primary, this happens as well, but the teacher is also watching to make sure the child is spending enough time on the different areas – over a period of time, not necessarily daily. For example, the child might work on a new lesson on fractions for three days (yes it does happen!), then spend the next couple of days working in other curriculum areas, having satisfied their desire to explore and master the new concept. The teacher will track the work over the week or more to be sure the child is balancing their work choices. If the child is – great, if not, the teacher will help the child to manage their work. The degree of help given depends on how much is needed.

How do I find out about how my children are doing?

We have parent teacher interviews twice a year for children in the whole school and reports are sent out twice a year for area school children. In addition, teachers email out a fortnightly update to let you know what is happening in the classroom. This is a general update, not specific to your child. Teachers are happy to meet between these times to update you on your child’s progress and welcome this – especially if you have any concerns.

Do you have a dress code?

We have no uniform, but we do have a dress code, which reflects the importance we place on  creating a calm, uncluttered, peaceful and safe atmosphere for everyone at Wā Ora. One area we place importance on is there being no names or images of commercial cartoons, superheroes, media characters and fantasy characters on clothing or belongings.  This is to allow ākonga to develop their own identity without being influenced by commercialisation, trends and fads. Ākonga clothing must cover the whole torso (from shoulder to mid-thigh) when sitting down. Clothing and jewellery is to be safe, practical for all activities at school and suitable to the season. Shoes should allow ākonga to run or jump freely and hair is to be kept clean, tidy and off the face and hair colour must be natural shades. More detailed information is contained in the Dress Code Procedure.

Does my child have to stay for their whole education?

It is expected that children who enrol for preschool will stay to at least the end of the primary years (Year 7). Should you decide you want to leave sooner – for any reason – there are consequences to this decision​, eg, loss of bond, etc.​

What is the ratio of teachers to children?

In the preschool, the ratio is mandated by the Ministry of Education. It is 1:10. Given a choice, we would be more likely to have 2:27 or 28. This is because children will take more responsibility and more chances if there is not an adult to step in too soon and ‘help’. In the primary classes, we are able to have larger class sizes. We have a teacher and teacher aide in the 6-9 (Year 2-4) classes with more than 25 students, and just one teacher with classes under 25. The 9-12 (Year 5-7/8) classes do not have teacher aides, and have one teacher to approx 25 children. In the High school the needs of the student change so the ratios are lower. In the Adolescent programme in particular, we aim for smaller class sizes, as at this age students need a closer relationship with their teachers. Some classes may have 16 or 17, while others might have 10 or 11 depending on the subject.

What's your take on technology?

There are no computers or other forms of technology available to the children in the preschool. This is because they need to involve their whole bodies in their activities in order to take on new concepts or explore ideas and interests. In the 6-9 classes, while there is a computer available, we encourage children to use books to gain the information they need for research. This is because books have been through an editing process and don’t need to be vetted, while the vast amount of information available on the internet hasn’t. At this age, they need to learn how to research and incorporate other’s work into their own. When the child goes into the 9-12 class, there is more technology available and children learn how to distinguish between the sites that are reliable and have valid material and those that are opinion. At the high school, we have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy operating and most children use technology for their work throughout the day.

Will my children learn the same thing they would in a state school?

In the same way as a state school, we have to cover the NZ Curriculum. We do this and in addition, we cover the Montessori curriculum which includes a wide variety of subjects that are not necessarily a part of the NZ curriculum. While children have to cover the state curriculum and work in those areas, in the additional areas, they can choose to follow interests and take those areas that capture their imaginations deeper. It is exciting to see where children take this kind of learning.

Do you have tests?

We are a state integrated school and as such have to report to parents and the ministry of education on how our children are doing against national standards. Part of this process is testing, however we do limit this to as little as possible. For the most part assessment is so the child and the teacher knows where they are and where they will go next and does not involve formal testing.

What languages do you offer?

All children from Year 2 – Year 9 take Te Reo Māori and Mandarin. In Years 10 and 11 they choose to follow one.

What are Sensitive Periods?

Sensitive Periods are universal and exist only in the first plane of development (the child 0 – 6 years). They are transitory in their own period of time – they come and go. The child has a special attraction for certain things at a specific time and it is during this transitory place of time the child is passionately involved with one aspect of his environment to the exception of others – drawn to what they need to construct themselves. Children can go through several Sensitive Periods at the same time. Each period has a gradual beginning, a period of growth, a climax and finally a gradual finish. Knowing when Sensitive Periods begin and end is why we really like children to start at a Montessori House at 3 years.

Is Montessori suitable for all children?

Yes. Montessori suits all children but it ​may not suit all families.​ ​​It is a very different way of schooling than most of today’s parents experienced and this is why we require each family ​to attend our Pre-enrolment evening and observe in the classes​, before making their decision if a Montessori ​education is what they want for their child.

Do children need to attend playgroup to get a position in the preschool?

No. ​We do find however that children who move into our preschool from our playgroup transition very easily​​ as the environment and way of doing things is familiar to them.​ They also do have a preference with regard to placement over a child who has not been in playgroup.

What are your guidelines around food at school?

We promote healthy food and nutrition for all ākonga (students) and where we sell or provide food on school premises, healthy options will be available.  In the Area School, we encourage all parents to provide low-processed, low-packaged, sugar-free lunch and snack options for their children. Our rules state no soft drinks, no energy drinks, no confectionery and no chocolate bars. On birthdays, we ask parents/whānau to bring a healthy snack if they want to send something to share – this means, fruit, popcorn, vegetable sticks etc – not cake or similar foods. In the preschool we provide lunch for all tamariki as part of our programme.  Our vegetarian menu is nut-free and egg-free and we follow the Heart Foundation Healthy Heart guidelines in creating a well balanced menu.  We provide fruit and vegetables with every meal and morning snack and tamariki have access to water to drink. There is continuity and routine in the lunch menu each week.  Identified allergies are taken into account when preparing lunches and snacks and, where possible, alternatives are provided. More detailed information is contained in the Food Procedure.