NCEA at Wā Ora

By Jan Gaffney –Principal

At the last Board meeting the Deputy Principal in charge of the high school, Ava, presented her report on the NCEA achievement of students from Wā Ora. Our thanks to Ava for a well prepared report, the gist of which follows.

The graphs and percentages don’t really mean a lot because of the low numbers of students we have in our high school but the great news was that all of our students passed the level they were sitting and those that needed to, gained university entrance as well. This can be seen in the following table (Wā Ora is a decile 8 school).

  Yr 11 NCEA L1 Yr 12 NCEA L2 Yr 13 NCEA L3 Yr 13 UE
National results 2015 85 88.1 82.5 63.0
Decile 8—10 schools, 2015 91.7 92.5 88.1 75.7
Wa Ora results 2015 100 100 100 100

To get into University, students need NCEA level 3 and university entrance. All of our Year 13 students who stayed until the end of the year gained both. One student left school half way through the year to attend a course at Open Polytech. This student left with NCEA level 2, the qualification the government has as its goal for all school leavers to attain.

It is wonderful to know that our students are achieving at the desired level and leaving school to follow the career path of their choice. That is, after all, what we want for them. Even better, is that our past students report that they are well prepared for life as a tertiary student, knowing how to manage their time, plan assignments, get work in, ask questions and seek help if needed.

These are the things they are learning from a very young age here which are consolidated through the college programme and, along with the ability to adapt to new situations and expectations and solve the problems that come their way, are the skills that are more likely to lead to a life well lived than academic results on their own.

Our school is always looking to see how we can do better and while, overall, results are looking great, there are areas to focus on in order to do even better. One of the areas we want to continue improving this year is external exam preparation. The Board of Trustees has also asked us to answer the question: are students meeting their potential? We will let you know our findings.

Odyssey Overview

By Tanya Laybourn –Sports and EOTC Coordinator – Primary and High School

What do you get when you combine 11 days of sun, lots of ocean, plenty of adventures, 55 amazing, respectful and resourceful adolescents and 6 tireless teachers? Well, you get Kawakawa Odyssey 2016 in the Marlborough Sounds! As always, the Adolescent Programme started the year with some intense community building and a power collection of learning experiences.

The learning focus for 2016 was the ocean – marine conservation, historic whaling, paua farming, endangered birds, salmon farms, marine rescue programmes, history in the Sounds, tangata whenua history and a bit of fishing. And the challenges of sea kayaking, mountain biking, day hikes up big hills and cooking meals for the class.

We loved our long stay at Mistletoe Bay, a beautiful, eco-friendly spot with a fabulous jetty for jumping off, excellent kitchen and comfy cabins. We also relished a couple of days cruising around on the cosy Tutanekai (a 75 year old Kauri-planked, classic launch) viewing the Sounds through stories from a couple who have campaigned for years to protect this area. Our last few nights were hosted by Waikawa Marae in an ornately carved wharenui and treated to catered dinners!

The Odyssey meets several of the learning the needs of the adolescent. Firstly, the adolescent is wired to learn in a very social and interactive way; living alongside your peers for 11 days certainly involves a lot of social interaction. Secondly, the adolescent learns in a very experiential and hands-on way and the Odyssey provides lots of opportunities to learn from actually being there at the place of action/history and by doing things. For example, we visited the site of the historic whaling station to learn about the whaling of yester-year and were guided through a fascinating paua farm for a first-hand look at how they are grown. The students’ encounter with the very endangered Hector’s dolphins made a lasting impression and many personal challenges were overcome during mountain biking and sea kayaking. And let’s not forget cooking in a team to feed 60 has its challenges too!

Knowledge Beyond the Classroom

By Carol Palmer –Tawhai Teacher – Primary

Spend any time hanging around with Montessori types and you will hear us use phrases like ‘sow all the seeds’ or ‘give the children the keys to the universe’.  These are grand ideas which imply that we intend to make huge amounts of knowledge and information available to the children so they can feed their every fascination.  It may seem strange then, that when you look in a Montessori classroom you will only find a few (excellent) books on each topic, just enough to whet the children’s appetites for more, but not actually fulfil them.

This limitation is quite deliberate as a major part of the Montessori Primary programme should take place outside the classroom.    Once children find a subject that interests them and have exhausted the materials immediately available, they will be compelled to ‘go out’ to find more.  This may involve visiting a museum, a geological feature, a local expert, factory, business – anyone or anything that can help them with their research.  And whilst on the surface it may appear that the children (and adults) are going to a lot of effort just to get an answer that could have been provided by Google – the benefits of ‘going out’ are huge.

As adults we take for granted the process we have to go through in order to take a trip somewhere.  For children however, each step in this process is a challenge that requires specific skills: they need to gather their group, locate a source of information, contact the source and arrange a visit, plan questions to ask/information to gather, arrange transportation, budget, draw maps, take notes, conduct themselves with dignity whilst out, overcome unforeseen challenges, return to school and organise their findings to present to the rest of the class.

The learning which occurs from these experiences is huge.  It allows the children to take part in the wider community in a protected way at exactly the time in their life when they need to start pressing geographic and social boundaries and finding their place in society. Each ‘going out’ is an entire course of study on independence, responsibility and good citizenship — to say nothing of the intellectual rewards that children get from such experience.  ‘Going out’ also teaches children that the answers to their questions are not just in one specific place – they are everywhere and they have the power to find them.  This is an essential understanding for moving into the wider world when they no longer have a classroom.

For this reason, the adults who volunteer to accompany children on ‘going out’ expeditions are an enormously valuable part of the school community, as well as being in short supply.  If you feel you could make yourself available to support the Going Out Programme, please contact Tania Gaffney ( who can provide you training and add you to the contact list. You don’t have to be available all the time, the children are very flexible!