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. 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 Wā 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.

How do you communicate with whānau about what their preschool children are learning?

Learning stories are a narrative of a particular lesson or series of lessons that the child has been given and provide photos of how they are engaging with the activity that are shared with whānau using an online website called Educa. They are linked to the Montessori lessons and Te Whāriki the New Zealand early childhood curriculum. These links share some of the purposes of the activities as well as the possible outcomes of the learning your child has done.

How will I access the learning stories?

You will get a username and password to access a website called Educa who store all the learning stories that are written about your child for the duration of their time in preschool.  Whilst they are online, you are able to print them as a PDF if you wish to keep a permanent record to refer back to.  They are a great memento to have of this time in your child’s life and something that your child will like to look at in years to come.

Who else can see them?

Learning stories about your child are private to you.  However, you can provide whānau with the link which allows them to receive them as well.  It is not uncommon for whānau in other parts of the world to have access to learning stories so they can see what a child is up to as well.

How often will I get one?

Your child will have two learning stories per term written by their class teachers.  You may also get one from an outdoor teacher if they capture some learning in the outdoors that lends itself to a story.  Sometimes group stories involving more than one child will be posted as well.

Can I respond to what is written in the learning story?

It is common for a question to be posed at the end of a story, so you are welcome to write a response.  As a parent you are able to share your own learning stories.  Sharing a story of a celebration or tradition at home or an interest you see in your child for example is a great way to connect us with what you have been doing.  Then we can have conversations with your child about their experiences and further strengthen the link between home and school.

What happens to these stories when my child leaves preschool?

You are able to access all your child’s learning stories for a period of time after they have moved to primary.  You will be contacted prior to them being archived by one of the site administrators.

Should I share these with my child?

You will notice that learning stories are written to the child and celebrate their learning.  Being able to share them with your child is a great way to engage them in a conversation about what they are learning at preschool and share the journey about how far they have come.

There are Te Reo words used in the stories, how do I know what the words mean?

This site is a wonderful resource or finding out the translation of words that are used as well as for extending your Te Reo vocabulary or understanding.

Do you have extended hours and school holiday programmes?

Yes, we operate before school care from 8 am and after school care that is open until 6 pm. Our school holiday programme is for our preschool only and runs in the holidays between terms one and four, but not over the long summer break.

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.

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

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. Long hair must be tied when playing sport, or participating in any form of technology. More detailed information is contained in the Dress Code Procedure.

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, we also have a number of chromebooks for use in the classes 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.

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 do you do with my child's information?

We will use and disclose your child’s information only in accordance with the Privacy Act 2020. Under the act, you may request access to, and correction of, the information, at any time. Details about your child’s identity will be shared with the Ministry of Education so that it can allocate a national student number for your child which will be used for research, statistics, funding and the measurement of educational outcomes.  Your contact information will also be used to compile Caregiver Class Lists and distributed to caregivers of your child’s class only.  The information is held at Wā Ora Montessori School, 278 Waddington Drive, Naenae, Lower Hutt.

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.

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.

Is Montessori religious based?

Montessori has no religious base but does teach religious tolerance.