Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pounamu Conversation Visualisation

Check out this amazing data visualisation of a national online conversation sparked by our CleverAndCreative team (Leni, Caitlin and Anaiya). Their suggestion was "We could try to get everyone using solar energy instead of nuclear energy." This 'card' (idea) was then played, replayed and commented on for the remainder of the game. The team won a Pounamu award for the micro-forecast that generated the biggest national conversational current. Ka pai team, fantastic work.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Mighty Missive from the Mountain

Kia ora from the Amesbury School skiers, mountaineers and four wheel drivers on Mt Ruapehu

Firstly, we are sorry to the people who call on their cellphones. The magic mountain air up here loves to play tricks on you. You find a successful patch with reception then while you are in the middle of talking, it suddenly cuts you off. Landline for phone calls is best. I didn't deliberately cut you off, Urs. Let's blame the mountain!

This morning our vacuuming was completed by a very small bunch of lovely children who woke us all up at 5.30pm with their excited chattering. In saying that, all children had their heads on their pillows and were conked out by 8.30pm last night and we never heard a peak until morning.

After scrambled eggs and spaghetti, we hit the slopes to get the last chance runs before the weather packed in. On the field today you would have seen Dave and Chris Moore sharing a toboggan in downhill Dad and Son runs - with their angry bird hats on. If it didn't take so long  to take off your gloves, get your camera out of your pocket and point it in the right direction and all without falling over I'd have got a great pic! The kids have all become confident, skilled and graceful skiers. I wish I picked it up as easily as they did, then I'd come home with less bruises. Samuel, Chris, Michael, Luke, Ayrton and Jackson are fast and fearless!

It snowed softly the whole time on the field, but after about 21/2 hours we needed to give it up for the day as the snow got heavier and set in for the day. After three days on the field, every single child has shown determination, perseverance, and success! So proud! AND the snow patrollers say we have great kids!

After lunch, off to the hot pools. Driving down the mountain in convoy, navigating the first 100m of slushy snow, then on the road. Swimming in the thermal pools in the rain was a great treat and left all (parents particularly), feeling very soothed and relaxed. It seems everyone had the same idea and the pool was soon crowded with about four other schools from the other side of the mountain.. As we got back to the mountain, it was apparent the snow had fallen heavily while we were away. A truly beautiful and scenic drive surrounded by a white wonderland. On the way back, stories were created for the most impressive splash through the little creek and medals should be awarded for our impressive four wheel driving skills through the snow tracks.

The mountain patrollers were waiting for us near the bottom of the mountain with the snow plough to clear the way. They have begun to feel like family with their unwavering hospitality and 24 hour care. High Fives to Tukino Ski Club!

Lots of board games and card playing and ipad and ipods are popular, and of course movies.There are kids curled up on cushions and couches with blankets and devices or just hanging out. A SHOUT OUT to our parents - Sarah, Dave, Dean, David, Mike Ana and Niely. You rock!

Last night tonight. Marshmallows hopefully, and another great sleep!

Leaders in National Online Science Conversation

Pounamu National Science Conversation

Our 'Clever and Creative" group of students, Anaiya, Leni and Caitlin, celebrate moving into first place on the leaderboard on Pounamu, a national conversation happening online about Science and the future of New Zealand.

Music Celebration: A Feast

What a feast of music we were treated to on Monday afternoon, 26 August. A BIG thanks to Naomi for all that she does to foster music at Amesbury School. Also, how amazing were all our children??! So much talent! I can't even begin to imagine how incredible that group of little Koru singers will be in the future if they continue to sing together over the next few years while at Amesbury School.

The kids were amazing and ALL had put a lot of work into their performances.  

All the kids performing have only had a maximum of 6 months learning. Some of them only started lessons at the beginning of Term 3!  Some started in Term 2 and the rest in Term 1.

Special thanks has to go to Anish and Aimee who announced all the items and to Samuel H who did the sound for the whole learning celebration. He was vitally important! Thanks also to all the kids and adults who helped move music gear and stayed afterwards to put it the gear away at the end. That was very helpful.

"I am astounded at the naturally musically talented children we have here at Amesbury School and am finding that a LOVE for MUSIC is very easy to promote with them. I was so proud of them for giving it a go and being brave & confident" (Naomi).

Monday 26 August 1:50-2:50pm

Drums 2 "One way or another"

Hamish     Freeman     Fynn     Gio     Leni
Guitar 1 “Ten green bottles”
Garv     Sam T     Sayuni     Nethmi     Gregory
Abbie     Levi        Nirvanah
Speech & Drama “The elephant and the blind men”
Matthew U     Karina     Lopa     Kali     Aimee
Joshua A     Siddarth     Garv
Keyboard 1 “Hiking Song” & "Dinosaur Dreams"
Leni     Emily L     Anish     Aimee     Melissini
Kate     Holly         Lopa
Guitar 2 "Twist and Shout"
Chris      Roddy     Jackson     Thushar     Arnah
Oliver     Josh A
Drums 1 “Pay Attention”                      
Josh TC     Cruz     Gabriel D     James D
Singing 2 “True Colours”
Hannah S     Ankana     Bella Joe     Vivian
Siddarth        Siyala         Pray          Emily Y
Guitar 3 “I’m a believer”
Emma L     Hannah D      Mycke     Samuel H   Josh N          Ella             Ayrton      Samuel C
Keyboard 2 “Hokey Pokey”
Corey     Hannah S      William     
Ryan      Siyala
Abbie       Priya           Rayhaan
Singing 1 "Don't stop believing"          
Rayhaan     Aimee      Anaiya     Kate      
Samuel C
Ella             Aidan      Sharmani
Drums 3 “Wake me up when September ends”
James R      Michael      Luke      Vanessa

School Band (7 Days Ahead) "Beautiful"
Drums – Michael              
Keyboards - Emille, Anish
Bass – Caitlyn                   
Electric Guitar - Arman
Acoustic Guitar - Josh N   
Sound - Samuel H
Singers - Anaiya, Germain, Aimee, Sharmani

Photos from the mountain

Check out snowball fight photos on the Tukino Facebook Page. Our kids gang up on Terry the mountain manager.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day two update: Great skiing and a blizzard!

Update from Angela

We've had a great day!  Matt posted some photos on the blog this morning, internet very slow though so not able to put very many.

Kids have been skiing from 9am till about 2pm.  The wind picked up and light snow blizzard so had to get off the field.  All good! We are loving watching a movie right now while hearing the wind rip past the windows and down the chimney, as the aromas of dinner spread throughout.  They are all snuggled in!

Matt is the hero of the ski field - never skiied and he's going from the top of the field, over jumps all with no poles. All the kids are doing amazingly well!  They have picked it up fast. My achievements: I bought a jacket from the ski shop - oops!

Parents are awesome and so helpful, great company too!

Tonight:  songs on the guitar by the fire and fingers crossed that we can get on the field tomorrow.

Have a great evening!

Day 2 at the snow and it is SNOWING

From Angela

It's snowing!!!

The kids are really excited to get back on the mountain.  They gave us bonus ski lessons yesterday afternoon. The weather is likely to pack in this arvo and tomorrow not looking so good for skiing.  But at least with yesterday and today's skiing the kids will get a really good go.  Hopefully we'll get some morning skiing in tomorrow

Everyone slept well. The fire keeps the whole place warm so everyone was snuggly all night.  We woke up to beautiful snow all over the cars etc. 

We are the only ones here so we have the whole entire ski patrol people and instructors to ourselves.  

Lots of food and yummy meals - definitely no empty tummies here!

Cell phone signal is unreliable, but we are buying wifi so Matt and I can be online with laptops. 

The lodge landline is the most reliable number to call if anyone wants to contact us.  The number is in the paper work you have, and also parents have this number also.

Have a great day - off to get our gear on and to hit the slopes!

The Crack of Dawn at the snow

A beautiful sunrise greeted us this morning as we woke up. Snow had fallen over night. A casual pre-breakfast snow fight. Baked beans and eggs. Heading over to the ski-field in about half an hour.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

1, 2, 3...Here we go - Amesbury School's first ski camp

Off to the snow and Day One update

The children were noticeably excited (and the parents were pretty excited too) as they waited for the teachers to get ready to leave. They all looked decked out ready for the snow especially Karina (see photo below) whose delightful ensemble was finished with a dignified grey moustache. As well  as adding to the aesthetics of her outfit, I am sure it will also provide a little warmth should the weather turn nasty.

Soon after the bell sounded for the start of day, all the ski children, parents and teachers piled into cars and drove towards the mountains. Matt sent an email tonight giving us the day one update and they have already been skiing!

From Matt:

Hi Lesley and Urs,

Angela and I want you to know all is well! 

A quick ride up with a few stops this morning in Levin and Taihape. Just one vomit stop - not letting you know who (what happens on camp stays on camp).

We settled in at the lodge and the crew here asked us if we wanted to just get out there and start lessons! Of course! So we managed to sneak in an extra half a day skiing.

We started cooking dinner a bit later than expected, so no one has been fed yet, but the chicken roast is nearly out of the oven. Kids are watching a DVD. The fire is raging in the corner. The wind is picking up outside and adding to the atmosphere.

A full day of skiing tomorrow to look forward to. Hope the weather holds up.

Good times.

Matt and Ang.

P.S the internet and phone coverage is pretty patchy up here, so parents may not be able to text their kids. Parents can call the landline if they really feel the need. The number is in a previous information email

No ski photos yet, but here are the gang leaving from school....

Celebrating Fathers' Day: Letter Display

Check out the letters written by some of our students displayed at Johnsonville Mall to celebrate Fathers' Day. These letters show how wonderful the fathers in our school community are and how much our children love them. I really enjoyed reading these letters, getting to know our fathers a little better (e.g. David Waters and the dance moves he can bust out!) and seeing the warmth that our children express towards their fathers.

The letters by our children are displayed on the second and fourth panels. I love the illustrations and the way the letters have been decorated.

Fathers, you are in for a real treat when you receive these on Fathers' Day.

A big thanks to Kath O'Connor for providing us with the photo.

What have the teachers been up to/or what's in store?

Our teachers are always busy planning and preparing learning programmes for our students. Here are a few other things they have been up to.....or will be up to.

Lisa....Lisa is in her last week of school. On Friday she will take maternity leave for up to a year. Her baby is due 11 September and we will let you know when the great day arrives. Yesterday after school, teachers had a baby shower for Lisa where she was "showered" with gifts. Teachers tasted baby food and had to guess the ingredients. No-one was very good at it (although Lesley's experiences with 8 children did give her a bit of an advantage), but we were all agreed - "Thank goodness we don't have to eat that stuff!" Putting diapers on a balloon did not go very well for Mike (and Urs did not even give it a go!), but Demelza showed her years of experience of  folding great mountains of nappies ready for use on her twin brothers. However, it was Matt and Andrea who created the cutest balloon baby resplendent with a bow. All the best Lisa. We will all miss you! And we look forward to seeing the new addition to the Amesbury whanau. It's gonna be another boy! Three boys now. When will we have a girl....and who????

Crisanna...Crisanna came to the Baby Shower bringing her handsome son, Acton, with her. He is now 11 weeks old. Crisanna is eager to start back next term for one day a week. We are excited at the prospect of having her back to teach Te Reo Maori and Kapahaka etc.

Lesley....The week before last Lesley attended the first Australian Asia Education Foundation National Conference which was held in Melbourne. Over 600 people from around Australia and a contingent of 10 New Zealand principals attended. It was Lesley's first time visiting Melbourne and the experience was particularly sweet because the trip was paid for from a grant Lesley received from the Asia Aware New Zealand Foundation. Lesley is very grateful for the opportunity to attend this significant event and will write in more depth about it shortly. A BIG thanks to Asia Aware New Zealand. We really appreciate their support of New Zealand schools.

Urs, Angela, Demelza and Lesley....These four intrepid educators were keynote presenters at the recent Massey University Education Symposium entitled "Innovation and Inquiry: Making a Difference in your Community." A range of university staff, and primary and secondary teachers attended. Urs, Angela et al, were given a two hour slot. Lesley gave the big picture thinking behind the personalisation of learning at Amesbury School and Urs, Angela and Demelza provided examples of the ways this is implemented in the different parts of the school and in different curriculum areas. One principal went home to Taupo from the symposium and by the Monday had made some significant changes to his teaching and learning programmes. He has since let us know that the change towards more personalised learning programmes is making a big difference for the students in his school. It is such a privilege to be able to influence education around New Zealand

Lesley....On Friday Lesley will be returning to the Manawatu to present at a conference for assistant and deputy principals.

All staff at Amesbury....are involved in writing a chapter for a book which is being edited by a couple of academics at University of Waikato. Their chapter, entitled 'Causing Learning at Amesbury School' is being written collaboratively as part of their writing professional development. Lesley has almost completed another chapter for the book and will shortly start one more which outlines Amesbury School's big picture thinking.. Principals and staff of three other new schools are contributing further chapters to the book.

Matt and Angela....are off this week on Amesbury School's first ever ski camp. Woohooo! A big thanks to Angela for organising this and to Matt who was willing to leave his precious Charlie and help out. Thanks also to all the parents who are transporting children and helping with the supervision of them. We look forward to seeing photos of the action at the snow.

Karyn....the student teacher who has been on practicum at our school for the last few weeks will be finishing this Friday. Karen has fitted in really well and it has been a great pleasure to have here here. We wish her all the best as she continues with her teacher training.

Amesbury School Welcomes Jonathan

Jonathan Raine has joined us from Newcastle in England. 
He is a keen Newcastle supporter and rides  a motorcycle and a unicycle! We can't wait until he brings his unicycle to school.

Summary of information from BOT meeting 31 July 2013

The Board has met with the Ministry and heard the feedback from consulted schools. The Board will be revising its application to take into account the feedback from the Ministry and will send the revision in as soon as possible. Lesley will write a fuller BLOG Post with more information regarding this.
The Board reviewed the unconfirmed ERO. The report had some very positive statements about Amesbury School.
Will be presented to the next meeting of the Board.
Pick up and Drop off zone
The necessity to keep the drop off zone clear at pick up and drop off times was discussed. We will look at solutions implemented by other schools.
Health and safety policies were currently under review as part of the policy documentation review schedule.

The Board reviewed the documentation related to the river rafting risk assessment for the Year 5/6 camp, and supported the camp to proceed.

David and Lesley were authorised by the Board to review the ski camp RAMS and to approve when satisfactory.

The Self Review Policy and Annual Self Review Plan were endorsed by the Board.

Wednesday 28 August, 2013 5.30p.m.

ERO Report Confirmed and Now Online. We can all be proud!

Kia Ora Koutou

Congratulations EVERYONE

We have just received our confirmed report from the Education Review Office. It is a very good report and students, parents, staff and Board of Trustees can be very proud because we did it together! Three next steps have been identified. and these are listed below. However, the report contains a number of very strong, positive judgments which relate to students, staff, parents and board. I have included some of these in the excerpts below. The full report can be found at In particular, the report highlights our very effective curriculum and the way it promotes student learning and our very strong self-review processes which ensure ongoing improvement. 

The use of the term "genuine" with regard to students being involved in co-constructing and shaping their learning is a strong judgment and significant. This is an attempt by ERO to capture the fact that we are not just going through the motions or paying lipservice to 21st century personalisation of learning, but are genuinely involved in making Amesbury School's vision of putting "PERSON" back into learning a reality. Our thinking about "personalisation of learning" has continued to grow and develop and I will share more about this in a separate blog post.

The Education Review Office review was a very collaborative and open process. We appreciated the ERO reviewers openness and willingness to engage deeply in a dialogue about learning at Amesbury School. As a result, it was a very useful process for us and, also, for the reviewers. We are pleased the review is now behind us for the moment, but we will look forward (and look towards) a further review in three year's time. 

As part of the report, ERO advises the school of their return time. Three years is normal. ERO returns to some schools in 1 - 2 years and about 10% of schools have a return time of 4-5 years. All new schools have a return time of 3 years. This makes sense because one year after opening is very early in a school's life and too soon to push out the next review to 5 years. From my perspective, an ERO review is an opportunity to stop, take stock and to really clarify where the school's thinking has got to. When you have to articulate what you are doing for outsiders (such as review officers), it forces clarity. This review was really timely for us.


“The curriculum very effectively promotes and supports student learning.”

"The school vision of 'learning for life, learning to live; joy for learning, joyful living' is meaningfully reflected. There is a clear rationale for the choices made in designing the school curriculum and selecting areas of emphasis to 'create connected, confident, actively involved, life-long learners'. 

“High quality teaching, reflective of the school’s priorities, effectively promotes student engagement and achievement.”

“Strong, respectful relationships between teachers and students are evident. A calm, cooperative, positive climate prevails.”

 “Personalised learning is well embedded. Teachers are responsive to each student’s strengths and needs and develop individual programmes based on the curriculum and their knowledge of students.”

“Students are well engaged, motivated, successful learners. They talk confidently about their learning and why it is important. Students are genuinely involved in co-constructing and shaping their learning.”

"Students are provided with a wide range of learning experiences."

“Parents are well informed and very involved in their child’s learning. Partnership between home and school is given priority and parents and students feel a strong sense of belonging.”

“The appraisal process is very improvement focused. It includes comprehensive self-reflection…..Robust feedback, following observations of teaching, acknowledge teachers’ strengths and ask searching questions that guide improved practice.”

“High quality self-review reflects a genuine focus on improvement."

"The board is focused on positive outcomes for students. Trustees consult widely with the community to inform policy development and the strategic direction of the school. They monitor progress towards strategic goals and school targets. Board members have reviewed their performance and used this information to plan the future. Trustees recognize the importance of ongoing development for the future."

Next steps:

1. Success for Maori as Maori: Build on established partnerships with whanau, seeking their input into planning the curriculum and helping set future strategic direction.

2. Increase the involvement of teachers in the analysis of schoolwide student achievement data.
3. Regarding hub reviews: record progress more consistently and evaluate outcomes for students.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Amesbury Ferns Post Match Report - Championship Round 4

Saturday saw the Amesbury Ferns biggest defeat in terms of score line but was probably one of the best performances they have given as a team.

The Ferns defence was tight against a good St Brigids side and there was some great team work getting the ball down the court.  9-0 was the final score.

Congratulations to Aimee who deservedly was Player of the Day - an awesome game Aimee, great commitment on defence. Magic Moment went to Melanie who zipped around the court getting some great intercepts as always.

Our last game of the season is on Saturday 31 August at 10.10am against QMC Burgundy.  Another early one so should give you all plenty of time to rest before our netball match in the afternoon!  Please be at our warm up spot at9.40am on Saturday.  Captain for our last game will be Melanie.

Can you also please get your votes in to me asap for the end of season awards. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Churton Park Community Centre News

Hi Everyone

I hope many of you will be able to make it to this evening’s Churton Park Classics Concert, here in the Centre from 7pm. It should be fun!

For what’s coming up next week, please click here.

**These Girls Mean Business Seminar**
Join local women’s business forum, These Girls Mean Business, for a seminar on effectively using newsletters and blogs in your business. Contact Angela Craig ( or Melanie Murray ( if you’d like to come along.
** Ukelele Classes **
Our beginner Ukulele classes start on Tuesday (27th) from 1 – 2pm. If you are keen, let me know. Spaces are limited, but there are a couple of spots left. Our teacher, Carole, has negotiated a discount at Northern Music if you need to buy a ukulele – email me for more details.

**Bodevolve Classes **
Natasha from Bodevolve is bringing a range of exciting classes to CPCC, starting next week. There’s something for everyone!

Monday 6 – 6.45pm Bodevolve BAT class
Lift and tone your booty, tighten up your belly and shape up your legs. 45 minute session with exercises targeting common problem areas the Butt Abs and Thighs.  This class is designed for all fitness levels.

Wednesday 10 – 11am Mums & Bubs Pilates
Pilates Mat - 60 minute session Pilates is a body conditioning routine that helps improve flexibility, build muscle strength in the legs, abs, arms, hips and back.  It puts emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing and developing a strong core or centre.  Suitable for all ages and abilities. Bring baby, get a workout and meet some other mums!

Thursday 7 – 8pm
Bodevolve Circuit Training - 60 minute session will take you through a fun and dynamic full body workout.  Resistance training using high intensity aerobics, it targets strength building and muscular endurance.  Move from one exercise to another at an intensity appropriate to your own level of fitness and strength.  Spaces are limited, so please book with Natasha: 027 292 3944 or 

** Zumba Gold **
Zumba Gold starts on Friday with a free launch class. See you here at 1pm!

** 500 Club **
500 Club starts on Thursday from 1 – 3pm. Come along and don’t worry if you’re not sure how to play…we have a couple of experts only to willing to teach new players!

** Monday Lunchtime Yoga with Diane **
Diane from Santosha Yoga  will be running lunchtime Yoga classes on Mondays from 12 – 1pm, starting 2nd September. The first course will be for 4 weeks until the end of term for $44, with a full term course starting in Term 4. Diane teaches a traditional gentle method of yoga – see the attached flyer for more information. Book with Diane via 0274 210 775

** Tuesday Craft Mornings **
Feeling crafty? The lovely Helen Ingram, who is one of our regulars here at CPCC, has suggested establishing a craft group. What a great idea! Bring along whatever craft you are working on at the moment and join us for company and a cuppa. Craft Mornings will be every Tuesday from 10am – 12pm in the small meeting room, starting Tuesday 3rd September.

** Scrabble Group **
Please let me know if you are interested in joining a scrabble group here at the Centre.

To keep up to date with what’s on at CPCC throughout the week, you can follow us on Facebook ( It’s publically available, so you can view it even if you don’t belong to Facebook.

Have a great weekend!


Earthquake Friday 16/8/2013 Debrief

Earthquake Emergency 16/8/2013


Friday 16th August was a swimming day. At 2.31pm when the earthquake struck, Harakeke students were in maths sessions with teachers in the Harakeke Hub and Koru students were at Khandallah School for swimming. Half the students were getting changed following their swimming lesson and half the students were in the playground having finished their lessons earlier. No senior leaders were on the school site as Lesley was at a conference in Melbourne and Urs was completing a project off site. Angela (Associate Principal) was at swimming with students.

What happened when the earthquake struck?

At school:  
· In Harakeke Hub teachers told students to drop, cover and hold. All children and teachers did and stayed in the turtle position for about 2 minutes.  
· School band students were with Naomi in Kakariki.  Demelza went down to Kakariki to check earthquake drill procedures were being followed. Students and Naomi were already in drop, cover and hold position. Demelza went into the drop, cover, hold position.
· Gail went under her desk.  
· When teachers felt it was safe, students were allowed to sit up.
· Matt went immediately to the office to check in with Gail.  He did a check around the buildings and outside, as per the school’s emergency procedures, and gave the all clear to everyone to evacuate buildings following the school’s evacuation procedures.  
· Teachers grabbed the Emergency Grab Bags and absentee lists from the wall and met at designated meeting places. School band students taken to netball courts rather than to the Harakeke Hub meeting place.
·  Rolls taken. All students accounted for.
·  Harakeke students walked to courts to await the all clear.
· Check of buildings made and Gail rang the bell for the all clear and students went back inside. 

Koru Hub at swimming:
· Angela’s group were getting dressed in the changing rooms and students and teachers didn't feel/barely felt the earthquake. Not realising what had happened, they carried on getting dressed.
· Lisa and Mike's groups were outside on the playground. They felt the earthquake. Lisa called out 'turtle'.  Students got into position and stayed in position for about 2 minutes.  
· All children gathered at our school’s pre-determined meeting point at Khandallah School and the roll was taken.  
· All students hopped on the bus and headed back to school.  On arrival children were taken into Koru Hub and released as parents came to pick them up.
· Harakeke Hub children were released to parents. Four parents of children who were supposed to walk home were phoned. All came to get their children.
After event:
·  Debrief with staff.
·  Board member, John Bunting, came down to school to check for damage.

Things that went well:

  • In the absence of senior leaders, all staff quickly assigned roles and responded appropriately and effectively.
  • Children were all quick to get into the turtle position and stayed there until further instructions were given.
  • Children were really calm and composed during the earthquake.
  • Emergency procedures were effectively followed by groups offsite as well as onsite.
  • The significant number of practices held since the beginning of this term was clearly effective in assisting this - children knew exactly what to do without too much thinking.
  • The staff had responded appropriately to the holiday earthquake by focusing on improvements to their emergency procedures in the three weeks prior to the major earthquake emergency. For example:
i.                     Earthquake emergency preparedness sessions had been held with teachers
ii.                   Emergency procedures were talked through and updated
iii.                  Although emergency supplies were not needed in this earthquake, food/drink supplies had just been restocked and updated and emergency blankets purchased. Emergency Grab bags had been checked and student rolls updated.
iv.                 A significant number of emergency drills had been carried out.
·         The safety and care of children during the earthquake was paramount and assured.
·         Quick response by BOT member who checked the school.

Things for consideration:

  • Part-time staff had not necessarily been involved in the practices or preparedness sessions and therefore were not as familiar with the emergency procedures as the other staff.
  • After the earthquake, nervousness affected the children and they became quite noisy which made it hard for teachers to do the roll and account for all children quickly.
  • There was some movement to evacuate before the all clear signal was given. The bell (or verbal signal, if power is down) signals that a thorough check has been completed and it is safe to evacuate - all students and teachers needed to stay inside until that point.
  • When walking to the netball courts during the evacuation, Harakeke students walked along the pathway by Koru Hub building. After shocks were still happening and they would have been at risk if there had been falling debris.
  • Off site, teachers accessed the roll on their phones. What if the internet was down?
  •  The buildings were checked for damage and students went back into the buildings quite soon after all students had been accounted for. When is it safe to go back into buildings after an earthquake?
  • Many parents phoned school. This overloaded the phone system and distracted staff from their focus on the safety and wellbeing of children.
  • There was insufficient communication between teachers at the different sites. Angela remained unaware for too long that a significant event had taken place.
  • Once the safety of all children was ascertained, no communication was sent out to parents to assure them that their children were safe.
  • The manual bell is not adequate in an emergency for signalling an earthquake evacuation.
  • Confusion about whether children should walk home or not.

We took the holiday earthquake as a serious reminder that we could be involved in a real emergency and so began increased earthquake drills and emergency preparedness. Friday’s earthquake provided a perfect real-life opportunity to carry out our emergency procedures and now to review them further. It was especially useful that this relatively “safe” emergency took place on a day when things were not quite as usual - no senior leaders on site, half the school off site and in two slightly different locations. In general, it all went really well and we can be assured that teachers are well able to take the leadership role in an emergency and carry out procedures that ensure the safety of students whether they are onsite or off.  However, it also alerted us to the range of situations the school might find itself in when an earthquake/emergency strikes, rather than just being all onsite together; and of the need to develop a range of procedures to enable us to deal effectively in these various permutations. The more we have talked about possible scenarios, the more complexities we have discovered.

The area of communication was the most problematic area. Firstly, having done a practice bulk text test earlier in the week, the school failed to send out a text assuring parents that all was well. This has been included as a very clear step in our emergency procedures. Secondly, the number of parents phoning the school caused a problem for staff and overloaded the phone system. We will be communicating with parents that they must not phone in an emergency. For essential messages, texting is the appropriate way to communicate because staff will be able to get to the texts when they have accounted for all students and assured their safety and well-being. Thirdly, while the onsite and offsite groups responded appropriately to the earthquake, there was insufficient communication between the different school groups following the earthquake. We have set up a protocol in which each group texts all other onsite or offsite groups and senior leaders when all students are safe and accounted for. Once this information is received, the bulk text will be sent out to parents.

Of course, the major communication issue is that in a severe emergency, communication lines are likely to be down. In this circumstance, all children will be kept at school. Parents will need to pick up their children as soon as they are able. But parents can be assured that teachers will stay with the children at school for as long as it takes for the last child to be picked up. No children will be allowed to walk home. With offsite groups, we have realised that teachers rely on access to rolls on their phones. All groups going offsite are now required to take an absentee list and a paper roll (along with the first aid kit that they always take) just in case the internet is down.

 A major discussion has centred on the question of when it is safe to go back inside the building after an emergency evacuation in an earthquake because aftershocks are likely to be continuing and, perhaps, the big one has not yet struck? Our conclusion is that, in general, in an earthquake emergency, it is best to remain outside until all students are picked up. However, until information starts coming in, initially it can be quite difficult to tell how severe an earthquake is. For example, on Friday a number of schools did not feel it necessary to do an emergency evacuation at all. Our three different onsite and offsite groups each experienced the earthquake differently. One group did not feel it at all. The other two did and felt the need to do an emergency evacuation.  In general, we will err on the side of caution and this might mean that parents are asked to pick up their children when, in the final analysis, there might have been no real need to.

It is encouraging that teachers automatically took on leadership roles with no senior leaders on the school site. This will inevitably happen from time to time. However, to assist with this possibility, prompt cards are being developed to outline different roles in an emergency. These cards will be passed out in an emergency to ensure all jobs are being covered when key people are not present. However, in the short-term, while the likelihood of another biggish earthquake is still quite high, the school will try to ensure there is always a senior leader on site.

Our thinking this week has made us realise that our emergency preparedness has focused on situations in which children end up being all safe and accounted for. Once we have tidied up the things that have arisen as a result of this emergency, we need to begin to think about some worse case scenarios and ensure that we are prepared for a severe emergency which may involve serious casualties or even death.

Major Action Items

Whenever going offsite, staff must take a paper copy of the roll and absences and not rely on phones for access.
Develop procedures to ensure effective communication with parents, by parents with the school, and between school groups.
Continue to carry out regular earthquake emergency practices, but vary the scenarios and the situations (including when people are offsite).
Ensure all part-time staff are kept up to date with emergency preparedness.
If we do not have another significant earthquake in the near future, carry out a full emergency evacuation to really test the newly developed protocols and procedures.
Review procedures for a worst case scenario – serious casualties and death.
Work with Bellminder to provide the emergency evacuation bell that we need.
Develop very clear, concise emergency prompt cards which will be placed in Emergency Grab Bags. These will provide a quick reminder to staff of all tasks that need to be done and ensure that they are completed even when key staff are offsite.
Clearly communicate with parents the procedures and expectations in an emergency.
Continue to review and clarify procedures as new information or scenarios emerge.

Purchase two hard hats to be used when checking the building.