Tena Koutou Katoa - Haere mai Nau mai haere mai

We continue the great start to our school year.  On Tuesday we welcomed 44 new students and their families to our St Mary’s Whanau.  Our welcome liturgy is always a great event as it warmly signals a start to a journey of growth, development and partnership for children and their families.  My thanks to those parents from with our PTA and community who catered an amazing morning tea for all present.  My thanks also to Father Mark for the meaningful blessing he bestowed on our new students.  At the same liturgy we welcomed Mr Anthony Mills and Miss Emma Washer to our leadership and teaching team.

IT in Schools
I am sure many of you watched the recent piece on Sunday regarding the use of digital technology in schools.  I remember the push for schools to reach the desired 1:1 ratio of devices to students.  Many did it in differing ways including BYOD.  We were always cautious of flooding our school with technology and so staged the approach, ensuring we selected devices carefully, towards 1:1 in our senior school and 1:2 across the remainder of the school in 2016.  

Since this time we have also been focused on the growing body of research that highlights the need for developmental learning opportunities aligned with stages of physical and cognitive development.  Nathan Mikaere Wallis who is a world leader in this field is someone whose research we have examined.  It was great to see his perspective also portrayed on Sunday.  Reflecting on and evaluating such views and research has encouraged us to seek a balance in the implementation of digital technology across our school.  

The resulting approach has been to actually redefine the use of digital devices in our junior school.  Now focusing on the use of iPads to capture evidence and examples of learning that can be shared online and through our reporting processes.  This has also meant a reduced number of devices in year 1 and 2.  The balance therefore, an emphasis on developmental growth for learning as per Nathan Wallis’ view of aligning learning experiences to stages as opposed to ages of learning.  Ratios still grow towards that 1:1 ratio we experience in our senior school but with the focus being on the device as a tool of learning.

It would be fair to say that there is still a need for a developmental balance within all areas of our school.  I would be the first to say that we need to look at the amount of screen time our children experience.  We have redesigned our curriculum to address this which will see more ambition apparent, particularly in senior learning experiences.  You will see examples of this through more open ended student inquiry projects and use of our immediate environment.  

Going back to the Sunday exclusive, many of you may have been taken by the Silicon Valley (paperless) Junior High School.  What was not shared in relation to Silicon Valley schools was the highly developmental programmes, often completely device free, that are a signature of their primary schools.  All food for thought!

In my last newsletter I spoke of some teething problems associated with recent changes to our city bus routes and city provider. I would now suggest teething problems is an inaccurate statement particularly given the continuing threats to child safety.  Previously I offered to work with Bay of Plenty Regional Council Transport Operations Officer to ensure current issues are resolved and the efficient service we all hope for is gained in the near future.  Unfortunately this was not accepted and so I am now in the same space as other bus users, a frustrated stakeholder.  I therefore again ask that  if you have any issues with the bus service, especially if student safety is compromised, get in contact with either myself or Theresa in our office.  Alternatively contact the council bus team directly.

Property Developments
The new turf is all but installed.  I am really looking forward to this as it will provide a great surface for all hard court activities.  I would like to thank both our PTA and the Catholic Diocese of Hamilton on behalf of you all for their financial support.  Look out later in the year for new mobile goal posts, tennis nets and basketball backboards to complement the court surface.  Again thanks to the generous support of our PTA.

TECT Grant
Possibly a little ironic given my previous words regarding digital devices but I can celebrate with and inform you all of our success in gaining a TECT grant of $25,000.  This will be spent in the digital device area but to replace aging and broken devices and screens which are currently being rationalised.  We will also add a few specialised items to the IT suit such as a drone and specialist video editing suit.  A big thanks to TECT!

St Mary’s Facebook Page

We still do the majority of our communication through email and will continue to do so but will also ensure the same communication is given through our FB Page.  I am aware that the majority of our community is among our 500 followers for but new parents or those still new to the social media game the link is above.

Fia Fia Fundraiser
St Mary’s School is planning a missionary trip to Samoa in October 2019. Our goal is to raise $10,000 to help with travel costs for the children and to supply the two major Catholic Schools in Apia with much needed sports equipment and uniforms.Enjoy an evening of traditional Samoan fun, food and entertainment!  So please invite your friends and come along to support this worthy cause.  Tickets cover your dinner and live entertainment.

Summer Weather
The great weather continues for us in the Bay of Plenty, however March signals autumn and an expected drop in temperatures.  For this reason I ask that all students now transition back into our school uniform and save the PE gear for when it is needed.  Letting our children wear their PE gear was a great initiative and one that we will look to utilise again should need dictate.

Cluny Foundation
Last year our Cluny Foundation helped a number of children and families within our community in a number of ways, including financial assistance for extra curricula activities both at school and in our community. If you know of anyone who would benefit from assistance please refer them to one of our trustees or call in at our school office.

Ben Fuller