Opening new St Mary’s School facility

Christchurch Central Electorate
Monday, September 19, 2016

I was delighted to attend the official opening of the  new St Mary’s School facility  in Manchester street last week with  F: Andy Doherty (GM ChCh Catholic Diocese), Mike Nolan (Manager of Catholic Education), Representatives from the Sisters of Mercy, Fr Rick Loughnan (Administrator for the ChCh Diocese) as well as  members of the Board of Trustees, and our Parish Priest...

St Mary’s School (Christchurch) is a decile 4, state integrated, co-educational Catholic full primary school (Year 1 - 8), situated in my Christchurch Central electorate, in the heart of the city.

St Mary’s is active within the Central City Cluster. This cluster is a richly diverse mix of education provision from early childhood to adult learners in designated character, state primary, Catholic, Anglican and Independent schools.

In 2016 the cluster focus is on inclusive practice and developing cluster wide professional learning for staff from all schools (including the three independent schools) with a focus on strengthening and improving inclusive and consistent practice, particularly in relation to opportunities arising out of the CSR (Christchurch Schools Rebuild) programme.

The Cluster is currently led by Brent Ingram, former Principal of Hagley Community College, and is in discussion with other designated special character schools as they shift their thinking towards becoming a Community of Learning.

St Mary’s School was established in 1894 by the Sisters of Mercy. The school mission is to provide a Catholic Education which encourages all pupils to realise their full potential in the family, community and society. Although the Sisters no longer teach at the school, they continue to have a very keen interest in the daily life of St Mary's.

The school has a welcoming, family-focused and multicultural environment and includes an increasing number of Pasifika and Filipino students as well as those from other cultures. Students’ identities, languages and cultures are acknowledged and given recognition in learning programmes.

As a result of the Canterbury earthquakes, the school experienced a very challenging time with a significant roll decline and a number of temporary locations while the school buildings were strengthened.

The school was closed for a month following the February 2011 earthquakes as it was located in the red zone. On return to the site, the Board was advised that neighbouring buildings were on the verge of collapse and the school was subsequently moved to the hall at St Teresa’s School (Riccarton) until 13 June 2011.  Teachers and children were bussed between the sites over that time.

In February 2012 engineering reports deemed the school buildings unsafe and children and staff spent two weeks at the start of the year in marquees on the playing fields while the buildings were made safe until a permanent decision about the school could be made by the Bishop.

The Principal and staff have consistently shown exceptional leadership and an adaptable ‘can do’ approach to meeting the learning needs of children under trying circumstances.  They have had a clear focus on continuing individual learning over the last six years.

The Catholic Education Board has rebuilt the school on the front playing fields. The complex includes administration offices, library and four interconnected, adaptable learning spaces that provide great flexibility for staff and children. The buildings are centred around an external sheltered ‘pit’ that provides an additional learning and gathering space. This is in effect an entire new school. The only previously existing structures are the library and some smaller ancillary spaces used for small meetings/groups. The new classrooms will be able to meet all the teaching/learning space requirements for this small school and provide opportunities to enhance learning across all curriculum areas.

In 2010 the school roll was 109, The 2016 July roll of 88 is now at the same level as it was in 2011, and has been increasing since a low of 66 in 2013. With pre-enrolments high for 2017, it is likely an additional teacher and classroom may be required next year.

The Board, staff and children are excited to be moving from the old to the new – a new way of learning in spaces that meet the needs of all children. The school and community now have fresh optimism about the future