Ao Tawhiti

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Ao Tawhiti
Address
Dovedale Campus, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand
Information
Type State Co-educational Secondary, years 0-13, Designated Special Character school
Established 2014
Ministry of Education Institution no. 683
Director Steven Mustor
School roll 453[1] (March 2015)
Socio-economic decile 7O[2]
Website

Ao Tawhiti or Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery is a state area school in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was established by the merging of two separate Christchurch inner city schools; a primary school known as Discovery (or officially Discovery 1) and a secondary school named Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti (better known as Unlimited or UPT for short).

The school is one of eleven schools running under the "Designated Special Character" criteria of the Education Act 1989.[3]

Students are given the flexibility to pick from a variety of interchangeable classes and subjects to design their own customized learning programme, including working on individual projects as an alternative to total classroom learning. They also have the option to learn subjects which are not traditionally taught in New Zealand secondary schools, such as philosophy, video game design, as well as DJ performance and music production.

History[edit]

Ao Tawhiti was formed in 2014, by the merger of two schools which were each established by the Learning Discovery Trust. Originally they existed as two separate entities, known as Discovery 1 (primary) and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti (secondary).

Early Origins[edit]

Under the direction and leadership of John Clough, the Alpha Learning Programme explored innovative and progressive learning theory in education for two years from 1993 onwards. In late 1998 (following the creation of a trial 'Learning Lab' at Elmwood School) an application to construct a new school based on this education theory was lodged before the then Minister of Education Wyatt Creech. The Ministry acknowledged the special character and granted it a special character designation.[4]

Discovery and Unlimited[edit]

Discovery 1 was established in 2001, followed by Unlimited in 2003. Both had been formed by Christchurch-based Learning Discovery Trust.

Unlimited 2003 - 2011[edit]

Hallenstines Building, September 2008.

Unlimited started with just 40 students (dubbed the "foundation forty") as well as 7 staff. It opened in January 2003 at its site on Cashel Street.[4] Unlimited was originally based on the first floor of the Southern Star House building (which housed shops on the ground floor) and later occupied the second floor as well.

In 2004, the construction of the Hallensteins Building (known as "Northern Tower" by those at the school) was established across from Unlimited's original premises on the corner of Cashel Street and High Street. It was built to help facilitate the growing number of students, which was upwards of 200 at the time.[4] Students and staff moved into the building in 2005. Unlimited also expanded into the basement of The Crossing building that year, next door to the Southern Star Building.[4]

Unlimited's presence in the city center was a main factor in the development of the school's identity, and the Hallenstines Building (despite its later demolition due to earthquake damage) remains an iconic representation of the culture and philosophy the community developed.

Unlimited reached a maximum MOE roll of 400 students by 2008.[4]

Discovery 2001 - 2011[edit]

Unlimited 'Southern Star' building to the mid-left and Northern Tower to the right, a thoroughfare for students, intersecting on High Street and Cashel (2010)

Discovery was first based above a restaurant named 'The Loaded Hog' on Manchester Street. It began its first term with thirty students and eight staff. The following year the school increased by fifty new students.[4]

During the later years of the schools operation, Discovery 1 was based on the upper levels of The Crossing on the corner of Colombo Street and Cashel Street. It was accessible through the bus exchange and an adjacent multi-level car park. Although located on the same streets, students had no contact and were largely separated from Unlimited students due to the location of Discovery within the building, and limited accessibility.

February 2011 Christchurch earthquake[edit]

Students in the Southern Star building during orientation week in 2011, pre-earthquake.

Some students, staff and visitors were present in the Unlimited buildings during the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on 22 February 2011. A number of people, particularly students, were not present that day or had left the school the hour before the quake, due to many staff attending a paid union meeting in the Christchurch Town Hall.

The Hallenstines Building (dubbed the "Northern Tower") had already suffered minor damaged in the 2010 Canterbury earthquake but was safe to use through to February 2011. After the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the building was said to be structurally safe, but was demolished in 2012 allegedly at the will of the owners.[5]

The Southern Star Building was severely damaged, losing some of its front facade, as well as having a partially collapsed ceiling on the second floor. The building was demolished by 2013.[5]

The school also occupied a basement area below The Crossing food court building. The building still remains in late 2013, but is not accessible to the public. It is unknown if it will be demolished. Surrounding buildings, which were connected to The Crossing, have already been de-constructed to basement level.

Before demolition work began on the Unlimited buildings, John Mather (then the school director) announced that the school Board of Trustees had decided the school would not return to the site. Mather announced the school would consider rebuilding in the city in the future.

Post-Earthquake[edit]

Unlimited and Discovery 1 were relocated to the Halswell Residential College campus in Aidanfield. Unlimited remained there throughout 2011 and 2012, while Discovery 1 continued to operate from the site.

In January 2013, Unlimited relocated to the premises of the former Christchurch Teachers' College in Parkstone Avenue, Ilam, which is now part of the University of Canterbury.[6] They are located at the Wairarapa Block of the Dovedale Campus.

2014 Ao Tawhiti Merger[edit]

On 26 March 2013, Minister of Education Hekia Parata wrote to Unlimited and Discovery 1 with confirmation of a proposed merger between the schools. The decision was made as an outcome of the Ministry of Education's "Shaping Education" consulation.[7]

By January 2014, both schools would be merged into a single school for years 1 to 13 students. The school was temporarily named Unlimited Discovery Merged School. An elected board governed the school within three months after the process was completed.[7]

In early March 2014 it was announced that the Board of Trustees had settled on a new name for the school, Ao Tawhiti, with the motto "Unlimited discovery".[8] On 15 April 2014, the Ministry of Education confirmed the name of the school as "Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery".[9]

Ao Tawhiti intends to return to the city in 2016, pending the construction of a new building.

Key People[edit]

Discovery 1 Directors[edit]

  • John Clough -- Key figure in the development of Discovery 1, who lead the Alpha Learning Programme which explored "innovative and progressive learning theory".
  • Perry Rush -- Foundation director from 2001 to 2005.
  • Daniel Birch -- Director from 2005 to Nov 2011.
  • Tony Naughton -- Acting director from Nov 2011.
  • Murray Overton -- Took over from Naughton as acting director in 2012.

Unlimited Directors[edit]

  • Richard Belton -- Belton left in 2004, during the schools second year of operation.[7]
  • Gill Heald -- Heald resigned from her position in 2007, but remained for a few years to assist staff development.[7]
  • Vince Dobbs -- Dobbs became the full-time director in 2007. He left the school in 2008.
  • John Mather -- Director of the school from 2009 to end of 2011.
  • Tanja Grzeta -- Co-director from start of 2012 to closure and merge with Discovery1 at start of 2014. Grzeta had been employed since 2007 and had been a member of the leadership team since that time.
  • Alastair Wells -- Co-director from start of 2012 to closure and merge with Discovery1 at start of 2014.

Ao Tawhiti Directors[edit]

  • Steven Mustor -- Director of school post-merge operations from late-January 2014.[10] Mustor was also a learning advisor at the school, prior to 2011.
  • Ian Hayes -- Deputy director for Discovery branch, post-merge from 2014.
  • Duncan Woods -- Deputy director for Unlimited branch, post-merge from 2014.

Distinctive elements[edit]

  • Students can follow their own pathways of learning. The school uses the term "independent, collaborative learning" to distinguish between learning taking place in a class and learning driven or directed by the student outside of a classroom setting. Often called inquiry learning, this means that students can opt to work outside of classes and courses on their own passions and interests. In practice the amount of time given over to this individual, and often independent, style of learning varies according to the interests and maturity of each student. An example of a long-term group ICL is the Audiodreams project—an event management company being run by students during school hours.
  • Teachers at the school are known as "learning advisors". They are responsible for running classes as well as running individual homebases, where they support each student. Each year, students are allowed to select their preferred homebase, which is distinguished largely by the learning advisor who runs it.
  • The school year at Ao Tawhiti is divided into seven or eight half-term blocks of four to six weeks. Students take courses in subjects for the duration of these half-term blocks, or can enroll for longer periods up to a full academic year.
  • Students are vertically grouped in homebases (similar to form classes). The homebases have up to 15 students in them.
  • Up until 2011 students were allocated 30 minutes each per week to meet with their Learning Advisor to discuss and progress their learning. In 2011 the school board reassessed the value of this level of individualized support and reallocated staff hours back towards classroom teaching, thus effecting a significant change in the school's model. Students were allocated 15 minutes each per week to meet with their Learning Advisor until 2012, when they reverted to a longer allocation. In 2013 the time allocated to these individualized meetings was reassigned to a full homebase day. This day, held on Wednesdays, allows students to spend time outside of the classroom working, with support from their Learning Advisor, on individual projects or study. During the homebase day students can meet individually with their Learning Advisor if they wish, however they can also meet in small groups. Learning Advisors often run full homebase activities on this day. The homebase day also gives students the opportunity to meet with subject specialist teaching staff.
  • The school is resourced with high-end information and communications technology (ICT), all students have the opportunity to gain qualifications in the New Zealand National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). There are a range of secondary school subjects on offer including English, Mathematics, Science, Social Sciences, Computing, Drama, Dance, and Physical and Outdoor education. In addition to these subjects, UPT offers a range of courses that are not normally provided at secondary schools. These include DJ performance and music production, Entrepreneurship, Holistic programmes, Philosophy, Psychology and Videogame design.
  • Courses provided by outside providers are also offered, for example Unlimited offers students the ability to participate in courses taught by Natcoll Design Technology, the Christchurch Polytechnic and The University of Canterbury. They also offer a Cisco networking course with the ability to gain a Cisco Certified Network Associate qualification taught by Aranui High School

Controversy[edit]

Unlimited Magazine Challenge[edit]

In 2003, a New Zealand business magazine named 'Unlimited' allegedly challenged the school for identifying itself with the same name. Although few details were released, the school revealed it was the reason behind extending the name from 'Unlimited' to 'Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti'.

2007 Stewart Fountain Protests[edit]

On 13 August 2007, thirteen students from the Unlimited were arrested for trespassing, after staging multiple protests on the 'Stewart Fountain', a public water feature dedicated to Sir Robertson Stewart situated near the school. The students criticized the council for moving in to demolish the fountain after Stewart had died earlier that day.[11]

Police reportedly decided to forcibly remove protesters, who attempted to stay the night staging a "noisy" protest and refusing to leave. Throughout the day, as many as thirty students at any one time had occupied the area.[11]

Of the thirteen who were arrested, nine were released for being under seventeen and were dealt with by Youth Aid.[11]

Vince Dobbs, who was the Unlimited director at the time, said the protest during school hours was safe and sensible, and that the students who were arrested during the later protests were "outside of school hours, and there as individuals."[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Directory of Schools - as at 7 April 2015". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 2015-04-08. 
  2. ^ "Decile Change 2014 to 2015 for State & State Integrated Schools". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Ministry of Education. "Becoming a section 156 designated character school". 
  4. ^ a b c d e f http://aotawhiti.school.nz/specialcharacter/history/
  5. ^ a b "Another one bites the dust". The Press. 22 June 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  6. ^ Mann, Charley (14 November 2012). "Unlimited to move to uni campus". The Press. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d "D1 & UPT Merger Information". D1UPT Merger. 
  8. ^ "Naming the Merged School", Ao Tawhiti Board Meeting Minutes, 13 December 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  9. ^ "School Mergers, Closures and New Schools - 2014 publisher= Ministry of Education". Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  10. ^ O'CALLAGHAN, JODY. "Principal appointed to school with no name". Stuff.co.nz. 
  11. ^ a b c d http://www.stuff.co.nz/35290/13-teenagers-arrested-in-Christchurch-protest

External links[edit]