Thursday, May 19, 2011

Maketu School Goes to the Top of the Class

Tucked away at the base of Pukemaire lies the hidden gem that blossoms with goodness. It's a place of culture and heart and is cherished by the Maketu community. Why? Because this is where learning takes place. It's a place where children's imaginations can soar and a place where they can develop into courageous, bright young people. This place is Te Kura O Maketu or Maketu Primary.

Outside the wind is furious and the rain is pelting down. But inside the administration building, the mood is positive and inviting. The radio is on and the receptionist is singing loudly. The ceiling heaters shed a wave of warmth.

In the next office acting principal Sandra Hemopo is on the phone. She waves me into her office as she completes her conversation.

Her desk is tidy and the shelves are lined with neatly organised folders.
For a lady that's been at the helm of the school for two weeks, she's calm and collected. But inside Ms Hemopo admits she is a can of worms.

"This is only week two and I was DP before this but it has been a huge jump," she says. "You don't really get any training to being a principal, you've just got to jump straight in there. "I've been very lucky though, staff have been extremely supportive, and the community and the board."

Ms Hemopo took up the role after principal Bill Reid retired at the end of last term. While she is is at the helm, leadership at Maketu Primary is no way a dictatorship. Ms Hemopo consults the staff at Maketu Primary before launching any campaign or reciting any initiative to the community. "We're a team and I think that's a big part of who we are."

About a dozen pieces of student artwork are on display behind her desk. Ms Hemopo tells me they're pieces from the new entrant students who went to visit the Hairy McLary exhibition at Tauranga Art Gallery. She said even though Maketu Primary was a rural school that celebrated its environment, the school still made the effort to venture into town and give students the opportunities more available at bigger, central schools.

Maketu Primary is unique and it celebrates its differences. The school maximises the use of its beautiful surroundings and classes often venture outdoors. Ms Hemopo looks out her office window and casts her eyes towards the rough sea. "I was hoping to take some kids down to go surfing but I think we'll wait until tomorrow." It's opportunities like this that make Maketu Primary stand out from the rest.

maketu_school_article The school curriculum is flexible but the students do not suffer. In the morning the students work on literacy and numeracy and in the afternoon they work on "topic studies" and ICT work, which year 6 student Anahera Nolan, said was the fun part of the day. "I do like learning about maths strategies and te reo and I like doing literacy exercises but topics are the most fun," she said.

Ten-year-old Pomare Butler, also Year 6, said Maketu Primary was special because of the small number of students and the close-knit community. "It's not crowded and we know everyone."

Jayda Walters, 10, added: "It's a nice little school and it's pretty special because we have culture."

This culture stems from the fact the school is bilingual - one of the school's points of difference. Classes are taught in te reo and English and students are encouraged to cherish and maintain their cultural history. Ms Hemopo is not fluent in te reo and takes evening classes because "there's always something to learn".

The school's motto is Kia tu rangatira ai ki nga ao e rua - Stand tall in both worlds and the students of Maketu Primary are well-known in the community, Ms Hemopo says. "We're not hard to miss, the community see us all over the place. "We have a stall at the Kaimoana Festival and we've been down to Newdick's Beach and planted on the dunes".

Students come from Te Puke and Little Waihi, however, the majority live in Maketu. Maketu is a small community and the majority of students are Maori, most of whom are related to each other in some way, Ms Hemopo says. This meant the school was well supported by parents. "They're always there for us if we need them, most parents pay the donation but we're a low-decile school so we can't expect to be paid much from our parents. "But it's not a big issue but it can be hard because there are so many groups here in Maketu that are all vying for funding, like the fire brigade and the everything else so we don't have a big fundraiser each year but we're well supported."

Parent, teacher-aide and van driver Patricia Paterson said her decision to send her daughter to Maketu Primary was one of the best choices she had made. For her, the school boasted excellence, in and out of the classroom, and was a place that encouraged her daughter to learn.

Maketu Primary is a small school - it consists of four classrooms, admin block, and the old dental clinic which is now used as a music room and meeting space. With a roll of about 80 students, Ms Hemopo says she knows every child personally. Because of the intimate nature of the school community, the school boasts a "family-type atmosphere" and students are confident and willing to learn, she says. "This is a comfortable learning environment and we want each student to reach their full potential so they can go out and do well in this world."

Maketu Primary is a small school but it has the heart of a giant. It's been operating for more than 100 years and is a place where students love to learn.

  • Maketu Primary / Te Kura o Maketu
  • Where: School Rd, Maketu.
  • Pupils: 78.
  • Staff: About 12.
  • Decile: 2
  • Acting principal: Sandra Hemopo.
  • School mission statement: Stand tall in both worlds.

Article by Genevieve Helliwell | Bay of Plenty Times | 16th May 2011

1 comment:

  1. Wow my children started their schooling at Maketu Kura back in 2002 and left 2007 to go onto middle and high school. We have fond memories of the kura and it is great to read reviews like this.

    All the best Bill in your retirement and to Sandra and staff keep up the efforts and go for it. 2011 is a great year to celebrate.