Whangarei’s first charter school has chosen the name of the star compass that Maori sailors used to navigate the seas to represent their school.

The kura hourua has been named Te Kapehu Whetu. Pouwhakahaere, or principal, Nathan Matthews said the students are settling in to their new school.

“They all seem to be enjoying it. It is challenging for some who have been in mainstream school for three years and this is a bit different,” Mr Matthews said.

The large open-plan learning area can at times have four different lessons going on at once. Yesterday, senior students were in the “lounge” area in the classroom on beanbags and couches for their English class. The teacher stands in front of them with a white board and a smart board while the students brainstorm elements of a story.

Junior students sit in small clusters going over different maths problems while maths teacher Chris McKay, who has 36 years’ experience teaching students in Northland, keeps them focused on the task at hand.

Meanwhile, one student is having some one-on-one tutoring with a teacher going over a lesson at a slower pace in a breakout room off the main learning centre.

“It’s been a good start. There has been a big build up to this and a lot of pressures on us. But it’s paying off when you see the kids,” Mr Matthews said.

He said the parents of students were courageous to trust the new type of school to provide the best education for their kids.

“But they’re also very excited. They see a whole lot of potential.”

Contracts with NorthTec and Te Wananga o Aotearoa will allow students to leave the kura to attend the tertiary providers for specialist subjects after no Whangarei schools would do so.

Eight senior students will take lessons in carpentry, pre-trade engineering, and sport and recreational studies at NorthTec for two days each week. All the junior students will go to Te Wananga o Aotearoa for half a day each week for art lessons and four senior students will do the same for one day each week.


Originally published in the Northern Advocate, Thursday February 20, 2014
Photo: Maths teacher Chris McKay, gives a lesson to junior students from left, Caleb Rawson, Caleb Matthews, Kane Rapana and Tahu Keretene. Photo/John Stone