Opening of Selwyn Ridge Primary School

  • Brian Donnelly

Tihei mauri ora E nga iwi, e nga reo, e nga karangatanga maha o nga hau e wha. Tenei te mihi atu
ki a koutou. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Everyone here must be tremendously thrilled at being able to participate in the opening of this new
school. However, I can assure you that no-one is more thrilled than myself.

I have spent the past 25 years of my life in schools, in primary, intermediate, area and secondary
schools and I doubt whether I will every get my love of schools out of my blood. To me they are
the most wonderful places in the world where the highest qualities of the human spirit are
demonstrated daily. The fact that my wife is also a teacher and is presently principal of a two
teacher school means that it is impossible for me to escape the daily reality of schooling.

Therefore to be invited to participate in the opening of this new school is thus far the highlight of my
new job.

This must be a tremendously exciting day for you all, and I understand, one that has been a long
time coming. As long ago as the mid-70s it was realised that another school would be needed in
this area. When this site was bought, the land around was mostly farmland, with most of the houses
further west of here. Due credit must therefore be given to the foresight of the planners of that

Given the nature of New Zealand's demographics, such forward planning is not all that easy. When
I grew up in a new state housing area in Auckland the roll of the primary school across the road
from us grew to 1,200. Permanent buildings to cater for that roll were constructed. However, the
young population all grew together and moved onto secondary schooling and adulthood and the
roll dropped to 300. The problem was you cannot move permanent buildings easily.

We are now experiencing the third wave of the post-World War II baby boom, of which I was a
part. Unfortunately, populations in New Zealand move. The staggering growth of the number of
school age children in this area is proof of that phenomenon.

Selwyn Ridge Primary School is, as you will know, the second of the new schools to be opened in
this area

This is all part of the biggest school building programme since World War II, a programme for
which $442 million has been budgeted.

I am looking forward to having a good look around the school in a few minutes, but what I have
seen so far is very impressive. I spotted the microwave dish on the roof of the Administration block
and I am told that the school's design lends itself to take advantage of technology developments in
the next century and that cabling between all buildings will provide telecommunications and
computer links.

Let me tell you that you will be the envy of other schools around the country built for a different
period. It makes no sense to build our schools to meet the needs of the past. If education is to be a
sound investment for the future our new schools must be built to meet present and future education
needs. But we must also plan in advance for teacher supply. At present the bulge in student
numbers caused by the third wave of the baby boom is moving through the primary section of our
compulsory education sector. In the future this bulge will move into the secondary sector and we
could be faced with an oversupply of primary teachers and an undersupply of secondary teachers.
We need to ensure that we have at least a portion of our teaching force which is mobile across the
sectors. This is one of the reasons why this government is absolutely committed to achieving a
unified pay system at the earliest possible moment.

There are always a number of people to congratulate and thank on the completion of a project
such as this.

First and foremost I want to congratulate the people involved in setting up Selwyn Ridge School,
especially the chairperson of the Establishment Board, Claudia Shepherd, the principal, Faye
Scott, and board members. The work involved in the establishment of a new school such as this is
huge and I know that you have worked tirelessly and have brought genuine entrepreneurial talents
to the task. It must be extremely gratifying for you to look upon the fruit of your labours.

You've done a great job in getting the school landscaped and developed, although I should imagine
that Fergus and Drena gave you the odd moment of concern. I understand that you now have the
challenge of keeping the children off the new grass for a while and ensuring that the younger one
refrain from using the area around the courts as a giant sandpit.

The local community has, I know, been right behind the school and its enthusiasm and support has
helped with the speedy completion of the project. Communication has been good between the
community and the school and many future parents have spent many hours of their spare time freely
helping with the large number of tasks that have had to be completed before today. This
community support augers well for the future success of this school, indeed I would go as far as to
say it is essential for the future success of the school.

The Maori community has provided ideas and support. I note from the kaupapa of today's
ceremony that the school has already established a culture which recognises the dual heritage of
our nation.

The Establishment Board has been very supportive of the principal and project managers. Having
been a principal for 13 years I can say that a relationship of mutual support between principal and
Board is absolutely essential to the successful operation of an educational institution. You have
started off on a good foot and it is my fervent wish to see such continue.

The Tauranga District Council's Mayor, Noel Pope, and CEO, Paula Thompson, have provided
interest and support, demonstrating a very positive relationship between the school and its wider

The contractors, Marra Construction, have worked hard to meet all the deadlines and have the
school ready for opening day. Particular mention must be made of site foreman Phil Marra and
Robin, for their wonderful efforts.

The school's architect, Dennis Pocock, who also designed the Tahatai Coast School, has created a
modern appearance that blends in well with the environment and the surrounding real estate.
Congratulations to you, Dennis. Nothing has been too much trouble for the project manager
engaged by the Ministry, Paul Barnett, and the Aspen Contracting team has worked wonders with
the landscaping and planting.

I also want to thank the Ministry of Education staff in Rotorua and Hamilton for guiding and
supporting this project throughout.

However, the key factors in any successful school are the principal and the teaching staff. It's great
to have new, attractive and functional buildings but without high-quality teachers and high-quality
professional leadership, our investment will be wasted. Your teachers are your most valuable
educational resource. The dedication of this staff has already been demonstrated by the willingness
of the teachers to be on-board early this month to undergo professional development and to
prepare classrooms and resources for opening day.

Teaching nowadays is an enormously demanding and complex task. Nevertheless, it is my
observation that although the vast majority of parents believe teachers are doing a wonderful job,
praise if articulated infrequently. However, some parents can be very quick to criticise. If there is
anything that adds to the stresses and strains of an already complex job, it is the imbalance
between the articulated criticism and praise. So I urge parents and the Board, if you think your
child's teacher is doing a good job, let them know; if you are grateful for some extra which the
teacher has offered, drop him or her a note of thanks. In essence, be forthcoming in your praise.
You will have no idea what wonders a culture of positivism has upon the job satisfaction of your
most valuable resource.

Selwyn Ridge Primary School has all the elements necessary for success; excellent facilities, a keen
and enthusiastic Board, full and active support of the community, and a dedicated and talented
principal and staff. Whip all these ingredients together with a culture of positivism and that success
is guaranteed.

I am honoured and, as I've said, thrilled to be part of this opening and I will take a special interest
in this school's further development. But for now, I reiterate my congratulations to all those
involved in the school's establishment and wish you all well for the future. No reira, tena koutou,
tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.