Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Road Safety

Dear Parents/Caregivers

It was with much sadness that I read of a small child being run over outside Cannons Creek School on Friday. It felt all the  more poignant having just taken all of our beautiful 350 children around the corner from that very spot last term for the Production.

I am really concerned about the behaviour of some of our parents and caregivers at our school gate. I cannot bear to imagine what it would be like for our children and parents to witness the death of a pupil at Papakowhai School. I really need your help.

Road safety was the number one issue that people in our recent consultation wanted the Board of Trustees to focus on. This is not just a School Board, or council or staff issue, this is an issue we can all help with.

There will be a staff member on patrol Mondays  – Fridays, 8:30 - 9am and 3:00 - 3:15. You will see them wearing a high visibility vest.

This is what I need your help with:

  • Be patient with other drivers, staff members and council workers
  • Encourage walking to school
  • Be a Walking School Bus driver ( See over for details)
  • If you are dropping off children aged 7 years and older - avoid Spey Place altogether
  • If you do come into Spey Place respect the Council’s orange lines and no stopping areas
  • Turn in the turning circle of Spey Place rather than backing into driveways
  • Respect that the staff carpark is for staff vehicles and deliveries only between 8:30am and 3:15pm.
  • Walk your child across the road rather than calling to them while seated in your vehicle
  • Encourage your children to walk around the cul-de-sac rather than crossing Spey Place
  • If your children are crossing Tweed Road encourage them to do so at the bus stop by the dairy
  • Make use of all entry points to the school (Cromarty Place and Yarrow Place)
  • Try coming to school a little earlier, rather than being in the 8:50am rush
  • Try picking up older children at 3:10 rather than sitting and waiting in vehicles from 2:30pm.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Digital Citizens

Dear Parents/Caregivers
Yesterday we had a great staff meeting presented by four of our teachers who went to the ULEARN conference in Auckland over the holidays. The theme of our meeting was digital citizenship. You may be someone with all the gadgets who is very much operating as a digital citizen already or you may be someone who can’t be bothered with all “the toys” and looks on nervously at the digital landscape. Like it or loathe it, whether it is right or wrong, our children are digital citizens already and we need to find ways that engage them and also keep them safe.

Yesterday we looked at expanding our digital capability by looking at apps for ipad that are useful and meaningful in the classroom. We also talked about how digital learning is not an “extra” that you do at the end of a topic but something that is embedded right through the teaching and learning process.
We talked about not getting in the way of what the children can already do and as teachers we can’t withhold digital opportunities just because we are a little nervous or slow to work out how to do something. We need to be empowering children to teach us and others while still increasing our digital literacy so that we know what questions to ask.

There was also a focus on cyber safety. Most of the danger on the internet comes from what children post themselves. Children need protocols for what is and isn’t appropriate to “like” or comment on when they are on the internet. We talked together again about Facebook only being legal for children aged 13 years and over. We will look at ways for including cyber safety to be included in our upcoming Keeping Ourselves unit but we also agreed that cyber safety is something that needs to be talked about in a planned and ongoing way.
Stephen Heppell says teaching digitally is like teaching skateboarding. You don’t have to be able to all the tricks yourself but you do need to provide a safe environment to do it in, know what questions to ask and have played a bit on the skateboard yourself so you know what to look for and talk about.

I’m always interested in your feedback.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Dear Parents/Caregivers

One of the things that I really enjoy about working at Papakowhai School is the neat level of parent support. This was clearly evident in the last week of the production with parents contributing hugely to the success of the show. I really value the help that we received with props, costuming, choreography, transport and refreshments. It was great to see the Papakowhai community working so well together.

If you don’t feel connected to the school community and would like to be, there are several opportunities opening up for 2013.

The Home and School Committee is a great place to start. The cool thing about this group is you just “do what you can when you can”. This group is about community building with the added bonus of raising funds at the same time. They run events that bring people together, like the quiz night in a couple of weeks, or the school BBQ’s. Meeting times will be published in the newsletter or you can contact Tanya Macdonald on 027-2222-986, or if you would like join up. They really need new members, as many of the parents currently involved have children that will be leaving Papakowhai School shortly for college.

The Board of Trustees is another opportunity. There are BOT elections in April and we will need new members. You are welcome to come to our next meeting on November 12th if you would like to see what is involved or you could contact me or Steve Messenger, our chairperson, ( ) for more information. The BOT plays a key role in legislative requirements, school achievement and curriculum, school property, finances, policy and future planning, health and safety, and of course ensuring that your children are receiving the highest level of care and education.

Sports and the Arts is another area that you can become involved in 2013. We are lucky to have wonderful parents who coach netball and basketball. We are looking for a new netball co-ordinator for 2013 and we are always pleased to hear from people who would like to be coaches or managers of teams. We are able to offer more sports with parent support. We also have great parents who help with dance groups and choir, and if you have a passion for the Arts I would be keen to hear from you. Please email .

We also benefit hugely from parents and grandparents who are parent helpers in our school. If this is something you would like to try please contact Shane Robinson our Deputy Principal who can match you with the class or activity you would like to help with. Email .

Thank you for your continued support for our school.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Community Consultation

Dear Parents/Caregivers

The Board of Trustees is reviewing the Papakowhai School Strategic Plan. We want to receive feedback on our current plan and receive ideas to inform the planning for the next 3-5 years. Yesterday each family was been given a booklet that contained:

  • A survey form
  • The current strategic plan.
  • The 2012 achievement targets for the school
  • The 2011 National Standards data for Papakowhai School.
If you didn’t receive a booklet check with your child or his/her teacher. If you need a new booklet you can email me and I will send you one. We would like as many families as possible to complete the survey found on page 3 and 4. There are two ways to complete the survey:

We also want parents and caregivers to attend one of three focus groups to be held in the school staffroom. Bring a friend and meet some other parents from Papakowhai School. Supper or morning tea will be provided.

  • Wednesday 29th August 7pm – 9:30 pm
  • Thursday 30th August  9am – 12pm
  • Wednesday 5th of September 7pm – 9:30pm (Māori and Pasifika families)
All parents/caregivers are welcome to attend one or more of these groups. Please contact the Office by phone (233-8321) or email ( if you are able to attend.

 What would you talk about at a focus group? There are 6 questions we want to talk about.

1.       Does the vision statement still accurately reflect the aspirations of our community for our children?

2.       Are the values expressed in our plan a complete list and to what extent are they explored and modelled?

3.       Is the current set of goals clear and meaningful for our community and do they fully embody the principles of the New Zealand Curriculum?

4.       Is the current set of key targets within each goal promoting high standards for school governance, management, teaching and learning?

5.       Is the current strategic direction forward thinking and helping us to become the school that we want to be in 3 years’ time?

6.       Are the achievement goals for students at Papakowhai School promoting high standards and expectations for all students? Do the actions of our teachers reflect these goals for all students?

 I would really value people making time to be part of this process. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards
Mark Smith

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Maths Week

Dear Parents/Caregivers

It is Maths Week this week. I have to confess that Maths is my favourite subject; I know some people will think that is a bit strange but I firmly believe that Maths is not a hard subject that only a few people are good at. I believe that when Maths is well taught it is a subject that everyone can enjoy success at.

If Maths is a subject that your child finds easy and enjoys then great! Children who are good at Maths need to be extended so that they don’t become bored. Have a look at what they are doing on Mathletics; if they have completed the activities or they are finding them too easy, talk to your child’s teacher about adjusting the level or contact Shane Robinson ( Challenge them with “hard” Maths questions around the dinner table or when you in the car. Remember to ask them, “How did you work that out?” and get them to explain their thinking. My own three kids loved answering challenging questions and it also kept them quiet for 2 mins in the car while they were working it out! Now my daughter Hannah is solving linear equations for NCEA level 1. I don’t have to think up questions like 40 x 13 anymore.

If Maths is a subject that your child finds hard and they are not particularly enjoying, then I believe the most important thing you can do is to affirm that they can do it and continue to have high expectations for them in Maths. This is true especially for our girls. Comments like, “I was never any good at maths ask your father” are not helpful. Try practising basic facts regularly and focus on successes. Focus on how many questions they can do and keep a record. It is great to be able to look back and say, “I used to be able to do 13 questions in 2 minutes and now I can do 20”. Focus on reading, writing and saying numbers. For Year 1 and 2’s this might be numbers to 100, Year 3 and 4’s numbers to 1000, and Year 5 and above numbers to 1,000,000 and beyond.  Looking at place value is also really important. It is important to know that in the number 90 there are nine tens and 90 ones. In the number 430 there are 43 tens altogether. I would also encourage you to put Maths questions in a context like cooking, woodwork, sewing or shopping. Using the language of Maths is really important.

A fun place to start is the Maths week website . There are daily challenges and games. You can sign up as a student, and parents can sign up too. You don’t need to sign up to play the games.

If you have any comments about the way we teach Maths at school that you would like to pass on, you can write them on my blog or email me, .

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Dear Parents/Caregivers

Things are hotting up for the ‘Amazing Race’ in September. It is time to pre-order your tickets for this show-stopping spectacular!

Wednesday                       26 September 2012         6.30 p.m.
Thursday                             27 September 2012         Matinee      12.30 p.m.
Thursday                             27 September 2012         6.30 p.m.


$15.00   for Evening Performances – All ages

$10.00   for the Matinee – Children under 5 free

To guarantee seats - you need to pre-order your tickets by August 31st. We cannot guarantee seats will be available after this date. There are 400 seats available for each performance and we have over 220 families at the school, so we need to set a limit of four tickets per family for the evening performances.  i.e. four tickets in total over the two nights. There is no limit for the matinee. Children under 5 free for the matinee only

After August 31st you can purchase unlimited numbers of tickets for the evening performances from the Office. Admission on the night will be by ticket only. There will be no door sales.

Please find the order form on the back of the weekly newsletter and send money in a clearly marked envelope to the Office. Please keep other school payments separate.

The ticket price covers the cost of bussing children to the venue during practice week, (more information coming soon about how this works if this is your first time), venue hire, costumes, props, sound and lighting, extra staffing costs incurred writing and staging the production and performance licencing. These costs are in excess of $10,000.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

BOT Official Information Request

Dear Parents/Caregivers

Papakowhai School recently received a request from a reporter at the Dominion Post. He asked for all National Standards data the school provided to the Ministry of Education. The Board of Trustees sent him a copy of the relevant parts of the annual report. This information does not identify individual children.

This is what we told him about the data:
You have only requested data relating to performance as measured against National Standards. There are a number of matters you should be aware of, as in our view publication of this data in isolation could be misleading.
This data has not been moderated or audited, and as such inclusion of any data provided by primary schools may not be accurate or reliable when compared in a league table.

National Standards are only one of a number of ‘standards’ used by teachers to assess the progress of children. Publication of National Standards data alone may therefore be misleading.

There remains debate about whether the National Standards are appropriately set for all age levels. Publication of the raw data may therefore be unreliable.

National Standards are a measure for only part of the school curriculum. Any publication of the data should be seen in the context of the wide-ranging education provided in primary schools, and the additional information available to the community to assess how well children and schools are achieving in all areas.

Papakowhai School fully supports accountability and transparency. For us, reporting on how well children are progressing in terms of National Standards is a small part of what we do. If you want to use National Standards data, you should be aware that publication of the data alone may be inaccurate and/or misleading.

To assist you to present an accurate picture of how well schools are preparing children for the next step in their education, we suggest you look at the most recent ERO report (here is a link to ours  ).

Better still, come and visit.

If you have any questions about National Standards or the request for information, please feel free to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Steve Messenger


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Student Achievement

Dear Parents/Caregivers

In April all children in Years 3-8 at Papakowhai School sat standardised tests in Reading and Mathematics. Papakowhai children did really well.

In these tests children are given a stanine ranking. Children at stanine 9 are in the top 4% of children in New Zealand for their year group. Children at stanine 1 are in the bottom 4% nationally.

23% of children nationally score stanine 7, 8 or 9

54% of children nationally score stanine 4, 5 or 6

23% of children nationally score stanine 1, 2 or3

The average national stanine ranking is 5. Children at Papakowhai School averaged stanine 6.1 in both Reading and Maths. This is an excellent result.

The table below shows the percentage of children in the above average band as well as the stanine average for their year group.

% of children at stanine 7 or higher for Maths
Stanine Average for Maths
% of children at stanine 7 or higher for Reading
Stanine Average for Reading
Year 3
Year 4
Year 5
Year 6
Year 7
Year 8

The data shows that our Maori and Pasifika students scored equally as well as all children on these tests. The data did show that girls performed equally as well as boys in Reading but slightly lower in Mathematics, particularly in Year 7 and 8. I am keen to talk with our senior girls about how we can boost their confidence, enjoyment and achievement in this area. One of the ways we know makes a difference is when Mums affirm that their daughters are capable mathematicians and engage in doing Maths, like Mathletics, with their daughters.

If you would like to know more about how you can support your child with Maths at home, Shane Robinson is running Maths sessions during parent interviews next week. Please read on in the newsletter for more details.

I hope that you can make time to read over your child's learning portfolio on Friday and make a time to discuss your child's progress at interviews next week.

Kind regards

Mark Smith


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

National Support Staff Day

Dear Parents/Caregivers

Today is a national day for celebrating support staff. We are very lucky to have a fantastic team supporting the teachers and students at Papakowhai School. If you have a message of support you could leave a comment and I will pass it on.

Valerie Cook has worked in our office for many years. She tends to cuts and bumps, answers hundreds of phone calls, answers every question that could possibly be asked, and makes sure all the staff have all the supplies they need. Thank you Valerie.

Judy Munro is our lovely librarian. Judy’s love for books and reading is infectious. We are very fortunate to have someone so knowledgeable and passionate about reading working in our school.

Heather Turner is our Executive Officer. Heather looks after the school’s finances, payroll and administration. Heather is a real asset to our school and to a new principal!

Chris Crowe is our caretaker. Chris works tirelessly getting balls off roofs, looking after our pool and keeping our buildings and grounds in good condition. Contractors in our school say that this is the tidiest school they have ever worked in.

Diana Parker works as a teacher aide supporting students in Rata and supports staff with assessment. Diana is a teacher’s best friend when it comes to learning portfolio time.

Alison Flint works supporting students in Kauri block and with English language learners. Alison has also supported children participating in the mastermind challenge. Alison is always ready to take on new challenges.

Ann Apperley works with children who need a boost with their reading. Ann has worked for many years listening to reading and encouraging children.
Rachel Parker works supporting children in Rata. Rachel is a very patient and kind person who takes lots of extra care with children who need it most.

Judy Caradus works with students in Rata and Kauri and supports students at Technology. Judy is new to our teaching team and we enjoy the kindness and care she shows.

Molly Goh works with students in Rimu. Molly is speaks several languages and is a real asset to our school. Molly is great maker of resources and a champion laminator.

Susan Dixon is our After School Care supervisor. This is not strictly a support role but we acknowledge the great job she does supporting our families who are at work after 3pm.

Gary Ward is our new cleaner. He is fantastic. The children’s toilets at Papakowhai School have never smelt so good. That is no easy task!

Kind regards

Mark Smith

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Road Safety

Road safety at the school gate is of paramount importance. We really want our children to be safe when they are arriving at and leaving school. There are some unsafe behaviours that parents and caregivers currently exhibit, that are putting our children at risk. These need to stop.

Driving up and down the school driveway, often at speed. The school carpark only has capacity for staff vehicles; there are no spare carparks for parents. When parents come up the driveway they park illegally which makes turning for other vehicles difficult. Children cross the driveway as they walk around the cul-de-sac and may not see a car coming up or down the driveway. There have also been two cases in recent years where staff vehicles have been hit by parent cars trying to turn in narrow spaces. I know, mine was one of the cars.

Letting children stand or walk around the carpark when they are being collected from After School Care. Staff members reversing out of the carpark are not expecting there to be children walking through it to their vehicle. Staff members are concerned that they might hit a child that is not visible to them. Please make sure children are accompanied to their vehicle and board it promptly.

  Parking in the no stopping zones or on the orange lines.
The left hand side of Spey Place (as you are leaving the cul-de-sac) is a no stopping zone. When cars park on both sides of the street it makes it difficult for cars to drive through and turn. Please respect these signs.
Reversing into driveways to turn your vehicle. I get weekly reports from upset parents who say they have observed large vehicles reversing into driveways, while children are walking along the footpath. Please turn in the turning circle, that’s why the council have put orange lines and no stopping signs there.

Parking on the far side of the street and calling your child to cross the road. It is much safer if you accompany your child across the road. Can you really see if the road is clear when you are seated inside your vehicle?

Getting angry at other drivers.  I know that it can be very frustrating at times in busy traffic, but getting angry only puts our children at risk. Try parking 50 m further away and walking up to school. You might find it a lot less stressful.

Your feedback is always welcome. Email

Kind regards

Mark Smith


Samoan Language Week

Talofa Lava

It is Samoan language week this week, so I thought I would bring you some warm Pacific on a sunny but cool wintry day. There is a website called . It has numbers and days of the week and other phrases in Samoan. A good feature is that some of the phrases have button so you can hear how to say the phrase.

We have a number of Pasifika families in our school who are keen to form a cultural performance group.

If you have an interest or a skill in this area we would be keen to hear from you.  One of our class dances in our Production this year will have a Pacific theme so we would be keen for some help with this too. 

This morning I attended a principal’s meeting looking at the Ministry’s Pasifika Education plan. The focus of this plan is to have the Pasifika learner at the centre, and focus on their identity, language and culture.

The plan encourages parent involvement and a school focus on raising achievement.

Last year we co-opted Petelo Alosio on to our Board of Trustees. Together, Petelo and I hosted a Hui for Maori and Pasifika families in Term 1. We are keen to repeat this again next term. Two of our identified targets are to establish a cultural performance group and to introduce some Pacific languages into our classrooms.

Why not try and learn one new word or phrase in Samoan this week. Mine is: Fa'afetai = thank you.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Tofa Soifua

Mark Smith