Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Dear Parents/Caregivers

We are really celebrating the Arts at Papakowhai School this term. We are participating in the Artsplash festival and we have our own home grown Art Exhibition at the end of term.

On Wednesday next week we have our drama group performing at the State Opera House. They are doing a parody of High School Musical and it looks really cool.

The following week our choir and wearable arts group will be presenting at the Michael Fowler Centre. This promises to be a wonderful evening. I have had a sneak peek at some of the costumes and they really do look WOW!

The next night we have our dance group performing at the Michael Fowler Centre. This dance has been choreographed and organised by some of our senior students.

We also have a selection of our visual art being exhibited in the Renouf Foyer of the Michael Fowler Centre from September 9 -13. I am very proud of all of the performance groups and wish them well for their participation in the Artsplash festival.

If you are not able to attend the festival you won’t miss out because our own art exhibition is running in our school hall from September 24- 25. Our performance groups will also be presenting some of their work at the exhibition.

So that we can keep the cost of entry to a gold coin donation for our art exhibition, I am looking for a sponsor or sponsors for the event. At the exhibition we will have a colour A5 programme and we are looking to cover the back of it with sponsors’ messages or advertisements. We want to divide the A5 page into 8 sections and sell them for $100 each. If you don’t want to be named you are welcome to make an anonymous donation. The $800 raised will cover the cost of hiring screens (which we are getting from 3 different sources) for the event. If you would like to purchase one or more of these sections please contact me.

Thank you for your on-going support for the school and your children’s learning. It has been great to see over 90% of parents attending interviews.

Kind regards
Mark Smith


Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Dear Parents/Caregivers
Community Consultation Survey
The Board of Trustees is undertaking its annual community consultation. We want to receive feedback and ideas to inform our planning for 2014.
Today each family has been given a booklet that contains:
  • The current strategic plan.
  • The 2013 achievement targets for the school
  • The 2012 National Standards data for Papakowhai School and 2013 progress data.
We would like as many families as possible to complete the survey. You can do this by going to . If you are not able to complete this survey online please contact the Office and we will provide you with a paper copy.
Thank you for taking a small amount of your valuable time to help us plan for your child’s education.
Health Consultation
It is important that we consult with you about the health programmes we run at Papakowhai School. Do you know what is being taught? Are you happy with the content and the age it is delivered to?
We currently run a sexuality education programme in Year 7 and 8. Do you think this should be extended to Year 5 and 6? Have I got your attention yet?
We run a Keeping Ourselves Safe unit that includes preventing child abuse but we currently don’t run the Kia Kaha, prevention of bullying programme. Have we got that right?
The Life Ed programme speaks to our younger students about healthy eating and caring for our bodies. This extends to drug and alcohol education for our Year 7 and 8’s. Are you happy with this?
If these are issues that you would like to have input into, then please come to an evening I am hosting on August 21st. We will have coffee and dessert and look at the content of the programmes we offer, and some of the ones we don’t. Make sure you have your say. RSVP to by Friday 16th August. The evening will start sharp at 7:30pm in the staffroom and finish by 9:30pm.
Kind regards
Mark Smith


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Kapo Kapo Festival

Dear Parents/Caregivers
Papakowhai School participated in the Kapo Kapo festival last week to celebrate Matariki. It was a great night. Here is some of the feedback we received.

The event was amazing and I was so proud of our school for all the hard work that was put in to make our performance one of the best. What a wonderful school that can all join together and put in so much work to achieve such high praise. It is a school that I am proud to be a part of. Finally I would like to say well done to all the children involved that put so much into the performance.  You could see that they were all 100 % committed and were giving it their all.

Just a quick note to say how wonderful it was to be a Papakowhai parent last night! The kids looked so polished and poised and performed so well given their short time together. It's been really cool for my daughter to have something she can connect to culturally and she's thoroughly enjoyed it.

I just wanted to say how fantastic the Kapa Haka group was last night. You would never know that Papakowhai hadn't had a group in 7 years. Well done. Wouldn't it be great if the rest of the school could see it at the end of term assembly? Well done again. I loved watching them. 

My granddaughter was one of the Papakowhai School children who really enjoyed the experience of performing last night. I think that they presented a very polished performance. For all of the children it is another of the memorable experiences of being part of a group, and learning new skills and building self-confidence. It is really appreciated!

Just wanted to say that I was so proud of the school tonight at the Kapo Kapo, what a great performance by our young ones. You would never have known that they hadn't performed together before, it was just fantastic. Thanks for all the work you put into making this happen, and please pass on my thanks to our tutors.

You can the photos of the evening at:

The videos of the show are going up gradually – they take ages and have been loading since Saturday!
Ours will be uploaded soon to:

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


In any organisation communication is very important. I know that in my role as the principal of a school even when I think I have done a good job of communicating, often more is still needed.
One of the areas that communication sometimes breaks down is about homework.  I wanted to clarify some points that have caused some misunderstandings.

Every child in the school has homework every week. If your child says they have none, or you don’t know what is expected, or the homework is not set at the correct level  (particularly in the case of Mathletics) please contact your child’s teacher. The best way to do this is by email. All of our teachers’ emails can be found on our website. Just click on the “Our People” tab. If you don’t get a reply within 24 hours feel free to copy me in and I will follow it up.

If your child does not return their completed homework, or does not complete all of their homework, or does not get the required signatures he or she will receive a letter from the teacher.

When your child receives a letter they are not kept in, they do not have to copy out any lines or part of the letter and they are not punished in any way. They are just given the letter to take home. The purpose of the letter is to communicate with you that the homework was not done, not handed in or not completed as per the class guidelines.

We want you to sign and return the letter to us so we know that you received it.  If your child did do their homework but they forgot to hand it in then just initial the letter to say it was received and send the book in the next day. If it comes as a surprise that your child didn't do their homework then this is an opportunity for you to talk with them and make them do it. If part of the homework was not done or signed you are welcome to give a reason for this. Your child will not be challenged about the reason given. If the level of homework is too hard or too easy for your child this is also an opportunity for you to communicate that back to your child’s teacher.

I wrote these letters because we found that there was a wide range of consequences across the school for not completing homework. We also wanted to clearly communicate with parents when homework wasn't being done so people stopped asking, “So why doesn't my child have any homework?” We also wanted to clearly communicate that we believe that setting and monitoring homework is the responsibility of the teacher and making sure that the completion of the homework is the responsibility of the child with an appropriate level of parental support and guidance.

These letters have upset some people. That is not my intention and if you would like to give me feedback on these letters you are more than welcome to.   

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Cyber Safety

Dear Parents/Caregivers

Cyber safety is a big concern for parents. At school we use Watchdog to filter our ultra-fast broadband. This blocks inappropriate sites and social media from digital devices children use at school.  No system is 100% effective so we talk to the children about what to do in the unlikely event that something inappropriate might appear on screen.

Computers at school should only be used:
  • ·         For teaching and learning in the classroom.
  • ·         On-line if there is a teacher supervising. Some approved sites such as Mathletics may be used independently.

Children are not allowed to:
  • ·         Upload material or programmes from home. Any school work should be emailed to the teacher.
  • ·         Give anyone on the Internet information about themselves or anyone else’s ID.  This includes address, phone number or named photograph.

In the news this week the issue of cyber bullying has again been raised. Occasionally I am informed by a child or a parent that hurtful comments have been made on Facebook or other social media. Please remember that it is illegal to have a Facebook account if you are under 13. Sometimes I have had to ring parents who have been surprised to find that their child has an account. Sometimes parents know they have an account but they are completely unaware what is being posted on Facebook. While no one can access Facebook at Papakowhai School I will follow up children who are using it maliciously at home if it is brought to my attention.

Digital tools for learning are wonderful and when healthy boundaries are put in place they certainly augment and enhance the learning experience of our children. Before the end of term I encourage you to read the internet safety agreement that has been sent home today and talk about cyber safety at school and at home with your child. Please return the signed form to the Office before the end of term. If you have questions or concerns please email me or make a time to talk.

Kind regards
Mark Smith

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Reading with your children really makes a difference.

Dear Parents/Caregivers

In recent PISA findings (Programme for International Student Assessment) researchers found that parents who read regularly with children in their first year of school make the equivalent of 18 months progress above the levels of their peers who did not have regular reading at home. The children were tested at age 15, so what you are doing now has long term effects.

The first year at school is very important. Did you know that the highest level of truancy in New Zealand is amongst 5 year olds? Our unjustified absence rate is also highest amongst our 5 year olds. On average our New Entrants miss nearly 10 % of school in their first year.  If children are sick please keep them home but otherwise make sure they come to school every day.

The report also says that students are also likely to be much better readers if their parents read books and talk to them regularly about what they are reading. This applies to all age levels. As your children get older you may read to them or with them less, but it is still very important to talk with them about what they are reading and what you are reading. Being a reading role model is very important.

At our place we have no TV or digital entertainment on a Monday and Tuesday night to encourage homework and reading to be done. This is also a good opportunity for me to take an interest in their Maths, music practice and what they are reading.

The main component of homework at Papakowhai School is to read regularly. If your child says, “I have no homework” then let them know that Rata and Rimu children should be reading for 10 -15 minutes every night, Totara for 20 minutes and Kauri for up to 30 minutes.

We have the world’s best school librarian at Papakowhai School. If your child is not reading at home or you find it really hard to motivate them to read, maybe they just haven’t found the right book or author. You could talk to or email Judy ( if you need some suggestions.  If your child says they have nothing to read and don’t bring any books home contact your child’s teacher. Fluent readers should be choosing their own reading material or library books. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Road Safety 2

Two children were seriously injured in Auckland yesterday. One before school and one at 5pm. The 13 year old girl was struck on a pedestrian crossing at 8am the 9 year old boy was hit by a car at 5pm. We don’t want this for our children at Papakowhai School. What can we do?

Here is what the staff at school are doing:
  • Talking to children about road safety
  • Celebrating road safety with our annual walk/bike to the lagoon
  • Being on duty before and after school in Spey Place and at the dairy
  • Creating blog posts about road safety

Here is what most of our parents are doing:
  • Respecting the no stopping signs in Spey Place so that vehicles can easily enter and exit the street
  • Respecting that the carpark and driveway are for staff cars and deliveries only
  • Walking with children to school
  • Showing good manners to other drivers

Thank you!

Here is how you can help even more:
  •          Never open the school gate to let unaccompanied small children out into the street
  •          Travel slowly in Spey Place and Tweed Road
  •          You can set down passengers in the “no stopping area” but the driver must not leave the vehicle to let passengers out
  •          Park on Tweed Road, Yarrow Place or Cromarty Place and walk the rest of the journey
  •          Get your children to use a walking school bus. There is currently hardly anyone using the Tweed Road bus.
  •          Offer to “drive” a walking school bus
  •          Never sit in your vehicle and tell your children to cross the road.

This week I have been writing to councillors and regional councillors about a pedestrian crossing on Tweed Road and a bus service from Aotea to Papakowhai.

Do you have any other ideas about how we can keep our children safe arriving at Papakowhai School in the mornings and leaving in the afternoons? I would be pleased to hear from you.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

I Love Maths

Dear Parents/Caregivers

The subject that I liked best at school was Maths. I know! It is still the subject I like best. My daughter is currently doing NCEA Level 2 and I feel quite excited about trigonometry again. I firmly believe that Maths is not a hard subject that only a few people can do, in fact I believe that everyone should be able to enjoy success in Maths.

Many of you have children have who are going well with their Maths learning. I know that from our National Standards data which shows that 82% of students at or above the standard. Children who find Maths easy need to be extended and challenged. Children at Papakowhai School are grouped according to what they have already achieved in Maths.

If your child seems to need extension beyond what has been planned for their group talk to your child’s teacher or to our DP Shane Robinson about moving them up a level in Mathletics, challenge them with problems to solve around the dinner table or while you are out driving in the car or look at our cool new Maths blog and look at the year levels above the year your child is currently in. Keep communication about Maths open with your child’s teacher. Remember all our teachers have email addresses: .

Some of you will have children that find Maths more challenging. It is really important that you talk positively about Maths with your child. Comments like, “Don’t worry I was never any good at Maths”, may spring from good intentions, but research shows that comments like this from mums to their daughters are especially unhelpful. Focus on what your child can do and build on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

At home focus on building up your child’s Maths knowledge. To find out what that should look like go to our new Maths blog and look at the year level your child is currently in or the one below to look for any gaps in their knowledge. Using Mathletics as a tool to work on basic facts may also prove useful for 5- 10 minutes per day. Keep Maths sessions at home brief and fun, if your child becomes frustrated or upset take a break. On the Maths blog there are lots of fun and simple ideas that you can do with your child to build up their confidence in Maths. Keep talking to your child’s teacher. You are your child’s best advocate and if you feel they are not making expected progress then raise this issue early with your child’s teacher.

I am always pleased to discuss Maths with people. If you would like to discuss your child’s Maths learning with me or our DP Shane Robinson please email us or make a time to visit. Shane has also prepared Reading and Writing blogs if these are areas of focus for your child. You can access all blogs from the school website.

Kind regards
Mark Smith

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A strong sense of community

Dear Parents/Caregivers

One of the things that I really like about Papakowhai School is the sense of community that we enjoy together. This is evident in the way that our older pupils look after our younger pupils. There was a real buzz at 10:30 yesterday as children got into whanau groups in preparation for the picnic on Thursday.
It was great to see our new Year 8 leaders stepping up to explain how the day will work and organising children so that everyone has a buddy for the day. This is a very special feature of a full primary school.
The weather is looking great for our picnic tomorrow and I hope that you can join us even if it is just for 30 minutes down at the lagoon.

Classes for 2013 are working well and I have been around rooms looking at children’s work and seeing classes in action. Teachers have spent the last several weeks establishing class norms and ways of working together and these are being well established. I look forward to you being able to meet this year’s teacher at our interviews next week.  Why don’t you also check out our new classrooms while you are here? I will also be in my office both evenings and parents are welcome to pop in and talk with me or make an appointment if you would like to.

Another way that shows that our community is working together for the best of our children is with the wonderful volunteer help we receive. In the past week we have had people put their hand up for netball, Maths support, special needs support, spelling testing, camp helpers and parent helping in classrooms.
We really value this support. If you would like to help but don’t know what the needs are I would love to talk with you.

We are also building community in an online environment because we know that the majority of our parents cannot come to school between 9 and 3pm. All classes have a class blog and we have been appreciating the comments that you have been posting. You may have noticed that there are also 3 new blogs called, Reading, Writing and Maths. These blogs have been posted to give you ideas about how you can support your child at home. Teachers will explain this further at the interviews next week.

Swimming has been a good example of community and school working together. The participation level has been brilliant. Todd Morton and his team from Easy Swim have done a great job with the children and we have seen many Totara children improve from being able to swim less than 40 metres to more than 200! Currently we have our new entrant children swimming for 2 weeks. Working in a concentrated 2 week block seems to be working well for children’s confidence and progress. In the week starting 11th of March it will be Mrs Trlin, Mrs Dacre and Miss Simpkins classes’ turn in the pool. The week starting the 25th of March it will be Miss Koorey and Mrs Smith/Mrs Lewis’ class turn.

I hope you are enjoying this golden weather.

Kind regards
Mark Smith

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Working Together Opportunities

Dear Parents/Caregivers
Working Together Opportunities
Thank you to our amazing Home and School Committee for hosting our family BBQ last night. The weather was perfect and it was really nice to catch up with families. The hamburgers were awesome!
A number of faithful committee members are finishing shortly as their children are leaving at the end of the year. We would love new parents to step up and join the Home and School Committee. Remember their motto is, “Do what you can when you can” so you won’t be forced to do things that are too much or that you don’t want to do. The Home and School Committee run community events in our school like the BBQ, the disco and the quiz night, which have the benefit of raising funds for special projects in our school. There is an AGM on March 18th in the staffroom. You would be very welcome to attend. If you would like to join the committee but cannot attend the meeting please contact the Office. You can also check them out on Facebook.
Another opportunity is netball. Our wonderful co-ordinator Tui stepped down at the end of the year and, by March 5th, we need a new co-ordinator. This role involves attending a meeting at Tawa School on March 5th and liaising with coaches and team managers. If this is something that you could support the school in I would be glad to hear from you.
Being a walking school bus driver is another opportunity. We have started our Aotea to Papakowhai School route already. This walking school bus leaves the Marae carpark, opposite the entrance to the Aotea subdivision. Children are asked to not ride scooters or bikes, but Kindergarten or other siblings are welcome to come with parent supervision. The route is pram friendly although there are approximately three steps down to the school. If you would like to help or you would like your children to go on this bus please contact Lisa Avery (  ).
Last year we had an awesome team of volunteers who helped children walk to school along Tweed Road and we are keen to start this again. If you would like to help as a driver or you would like your children to walk in a group to school please contact me. I am very grateful to Lisa for co-ordinating the Aotea route and would love a co-ordinator for Papakowhai walking school buses.
Lastly we are meeting together for parent/teacher interviews on March 4th and 5th. School will finish at 2pm on these days, and interviews will start at 2.10pm. Appointments to see the teachers will be done via a website. It is a simple, accurate system.
The log-in code is 5UCNA
·         We would like to know how your child is settling into school this year
·         We would like to know about how your child learns best and what their strengths and weaknesses are
·         We would like to know about your child’s personality and how we can work best with them at school.
Meetings will be scheduled for 15 minutes and will be spread over 2 nights. Parents of children in Miss August’s class will have interviews on March 5th and the afternoon of March 6th.
We are offering supervision in the Hall from 2pm to 3pm on March 4th and 5th; however we would appreciate you making other arrangements for care for this period if you can.
Any children we haven’t been notified about will be supervised in the Hall until 3pm.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Learning Together

Dear Parents/Caregivers

Our new vision statement is Learning Together. Children and staff have been learning well together over the last week. There is a really positive tone in the school and it is really pleasing to see children already engaged in their learning.

The vision of Learning Together is not just for children and teachers; we want it to be a three-way partnership that includes parents and caregivers. Here are some of the ways that we can learn together this year:

Attending Parent/Teacher conferences is really important. On Monday March 4th and Tuesday March 5th we will have two opportunities for you to meet with your child’s teacher.  An online booking system will be available shortly for you to choose a time that suits you. This is an opportunity for you to share about your child and to discuss expectations for the year.

We want your child to enjoy and engage in learning at Papakowhai School. If there is a problem we want to know about it early on so we can do something about it. You don’t need to wait for set interview times. Please email or talk to your child’s teacher about any questions or concerns you may have. You are also welcome to talk with me or email me anytime.

We have an open door policy so you are welcome to pop into your child’s class and look at their work anytime.

Please sign up for our weekly newsletter emails by contact me at . We also have our website and class blogs which are already up and running. Go to our website and click on the Our Learning tab. We would really love you to leave comments.

Often as children get older they tell you less and less about school. This is perfectly normal. I have a 14 year old son who tells me nothing about school. I have found that rather than asking, “How was school?” it is better to say, “Tell me about what happened at school today.” This often elicits more information.

Being at school on time and regularly attending school contributes significantly to children’s achievement levels. Making sure that children get to bed on time (especially on Sunday nights), limiting the amount of term time sleepovers and term time holidays are also positive contributions you can make to your child’s learning this year. Children who regularly arrive late to school miss important interactions with their peers and key instructions at the start of the day.

Please ensure that your child is at school by 8:50 at the latest. If your child is not attending school it is very important that you phone the Office before 9:00 and leave your child’s name, their teacher’s name and the reason for their absence.

When children read regularly and practise appropriate number knowledge skills, it makes a difference to their learning. You should assume that there is homework every week unless you receive a newsletter telling you otherwise.  Homework will contain a reading log to be signed by parents/caregivers. There may also be an optional reading response. There will also be a Maths component for Rimu, Totara and Kauri syndicates.  This will be Mathletics but could also include downloading workbooks from the Mathletics site, practising basic facts or parents setting their own Maths tasks. In Rata, Mathletics is desirable but not compulsory. There will also be a spelling component for Rimu, Totara and Kauri.

It is expected that teachers will monitor homework on a weekly basis. A record will be kept of who has or hasn’t completed their homework. It is expected that teachers will set activities in Mathletics at all levels and monitor what children have done on a weekly basis. If for some reason this is not happening please contact your child’s teacher or myself.

If your child doesn’t complete their homework a letter will be sent home. The child is to return it to their teacher signed by their parent/caregiver. We will incentivise completion of homework by giving whanau points for students who have done their homework. This will contribute to a bigger focus on whanau group pride. Whanau leaders will collect the points each week and points will be posted on the website.

Getting involved with class trips, being a parent helper in the classroom, driving a Walking School Bus, contributing to the Home and School Committee, or standing for the upcoming Board of Trustee elections in April are all ways that you can be involved in the school community. Getting involved is a great way to get a feel for what is going on at school. If you feel disconnected from what your child is doing at school, find a way to get involved. If you are unsure how to be a parent helper or who to talk to about the Home and school Committee or School Board I would be happy to refer you on.