As the first term of the new school year got underway for thousands of excited students across the country, a group of primary students in Hamilton had the additional thrill of becoming the foundation students of a brand-new primary school in the city – Endeavour School, located in the suburb of Flaxmere.
“The need for the new school was driven by the “huge growth” in the north-eastern suburbs of Hamilton,” principal Marcus Freke says.
“The two existing schools were well over their capacity and that meant there was a demand for an additional school to meet the needs of the growing residential community.”
In fact, the Ministry of Education had purchased land on which to build a school 18 years ago, but due to a range of economic and political reasons, nothing happened. Then, at the end of 2012, with the community raising their concerns and local MP David Bennett throwing his weight behind the cause, the Ministry recognised that a new school had to be built. It approved an establishment board, which included two ex-principals and the lead consultant from the Education Leadership Centre at Waikato University, Jeremy Kedian.
“We were very fortunate to have these people with an understanding of education on the foundation board,” Mr Freke says.
Applications for the position of principal opened in March 2013, and Mr Freke, with 23 years’ experience in the teaching sector, began the process of applying. One year later, he was appointed to the role, and took up the reins on May 5, 2014, with the aim of introducing a different approach to primary education.
“I saw this as a unique opportunity to be a foundation principal in a school which will lead the way in teaching and learning for 21st-century learners. I have a firm belief we need to transform how teaching and learning is carried out if we are to meet the needs of our children. This is an opportunity to build a school from scratch to achieve this.
“As the founding principal my job was to create a ‘blueprint’ for teaching, and to organise the physical spaces that would lend themselves to the MLE approach.”
Mr Freke says Endeavour is “not dissimilar” to the new Pegasus School in Canterbury, which opened in 2014.
(Pegasus School was featured in Issue 26 of School News.)
“We have a similar philosophy for teaching and learning, the flexible spaces, the whole learning style and approach to education. We believe there has to be a lot more space for learning in the 21st century.”
Formerly the principal at Vardon School in Hamilton, where ICT is particularly strong, Mr Freke says he learnt a lot about the use of technology in teaching over the six years he was there.
“Technology has driven a lot of the change in philosophy. There isn’t a lot of research available, but I believe the social constructivist and highly collaborative approach is the key element that underpins this way of teaching and learning.”
Mr Freke says he was given guidance from the Ministry about what their expectations were, and worked with Jeremy Kedian from the Educational Leadership Centre to develop the teaching methods for Endeavour School. An Emerging Document comprising the Vision Statement and the Value Statement was also created.
“Endeavour School is the first new school in Hamilton to be built with large, flexible learning spaces, which aim to support highly collaborative teaching and learning approaches,” Mr Freke says. “The learning communities will each cater for up to 100 students and four to five teachers, who will share the responsibility for the learning of all students.”
The recruitment process to find the right teachers for Endeavour School saw 220 packs being sent out to potential candidates, which resulted in 70 responses.
“We explained to the candidates that the students at Endeavour would be learning a lot differently from the traditional method, and it would be the teachers’ responsibility to find out what excited and interested the kids. We used that as the criteria for the applicants and asked them how they would make it work.
“Our two deputy principals and myself appraised the applications and from there we interviewed 10 and selected five to be appointed. We are very happy with the teachers we’ve selected. They are a mixture of ages and experience, and range from having one year in the MLE environment to teachers with 15 or 16 years’ experience.”
An induction programme held in December, gave Mr Freke and the new teachers an opportunity to test their thinking.
“Endeavour School’s motto is ‘Learning without limits’, and this underpins our approach. Our signature practices are collaboration, ubiquity, thinking and our environment, which all support ‘Learning without limits’.
The school’s curriculum covers a full range of subjects, with a particular emphasis on music and languages, Mr Freke says.
“The students will not be limited by anything, and they will receive personalised learning, not a standard, one size fits all approach. It’s a child-centred approach designed to be holistic and develop the whole child.”
As at the start of term one 2015, the school roll stood at 140. When the roll reaches 400, additional buildings will be constructed giving Endeavour School the capacity to accommodate a total of 650 students.