Upcoming Events

  • Last day of School 2023 – Thursday 14th December
  • Summer Holidays – Friday 15th December – Sunday 28th January
  • Teacher Only Day – Monday 29th January – School closed for instruction
  • Teacher Only Day – Tuesday 30th January – School closed for instruction
  • IEMs – Wednesday 31st January – No timetabled classes
  • IEMs – Thursday 1st February – No timetabled classes
  • Teacher Only Day – Friday 2nd February – School closed for instruction
  • Mihi Whakatau – Monday 5th February
  • Waitangi Day – Tuesday 6th February – School closed
  • First day of regular timetable – Wednesday 7th February
  • Good Friday – Friday 29th March – School Closed
  • Easter Monday – Monday 1st April – School Closed
  • Last day of term one 2024 – Friday 12th April

The Mihi Whakatau is the welcoming of new students into our school. This will occur in the morning of Monday the 5th of February. 
New students in Year 7-13 will then spend the rest of the morning on the 5th in their Homebase and communities. All other Year 7-13 students will then join Homebase and community after lunch on the 5th.
Year 1-6 will begin after the Mihi Whakatau and Kai at 11.20am on the 5th.

Timetabled classes start on Wednesday the 7th of February for all Year 7-13 students.

You will receive emails closer to the start of the school year to let you know when course descriptors for term 1 2024 are ready to view and when bookings for IEMs are open. 

Message From Anita

Kia ora koutou

Thank you everyone for a wonderful year. I am proud of our kura and how we are a community or hapori, which thrives on whānau and kaimahi (staff) working together to support our wonderful ākonga (students). Thank you to our wonderful Board, led by the wonderful Danette Wereta, for your support, wisdom, time and mahi throughout 2023.

I would like to acknowledge the massive work done by our kaimahi this year to ensure that all our young people have had opportunities and support to explore their passions and interests and work towards reaching their goals. Sadly, we have to farewell some of our staff this year.

Louise Wilson is retiring. She has been working at our kura, since 2003. In 2003 the school was called Unlimited Paenga and was based in Southern Star House with a roll of 40 ākonga. Louise is a brilliant teacher, with a real strength in making Mathematics accessible to young people.

Zack Williams has been teaching Science and Chemistry at Ao Tawhiti since 2017. He is heading off to teach at Cashmere High School and we will miss his great teaching and his support of amazing outdoor education opportunities.

Tilia Mehrabi is also heading off on an adventure, as she is travelling Aotearoa in a van with her partner. Tilia has been supporting students as a Teacher Aide and as a founder of GLUB, the hugely successful after-school club for our older students.

Karen Martin is another teacher aide who is leaving us to study vet nursing, with the ultimate aim of rehabilitating dogs after surgery, (she is living my dream).

Eimear Twomey has worked as a Teacher Aide and supporting our Te Kura students in 2023, and she is heading back home to Ireland.

Abby Robertson did an amazing job teaching te reo Māori and has joined Ferndale School for 2024.

We were also fortunate to have some fantastic part-time Learning Advisors help out throughout the year. Thank you to Larisa Gonsalves, who taught Mathematics and is working at Catholic Cathedral College in 2024. Thank you also to Brianna McZant who taught Hospitality, Sarah Walker who taught English and Sean McCabe who taught Music.

Kelly Jenkins is heading off on maternity leave for 2024. Gina Harrison has also taken leave for 2024, and is exploring other kura and working at Te Matauru Primary School. We look forward to seeing her and Kelly back in 2025. Sarah O’Brien will return from her maternity leave mid-way through 2024.

Thank you to the following staff who took on extra responsibilities in 2023. Melva Gill and Gina Harrison took on the role of Community Leader for Years 4 – 6. Steve Ingram taught part-time Music throughout the year. Steve Hunt became our Kaitiaki, while Anne-Marie Hampton filled in as Deputy Director for Megan Taylor, while Megan was on study leave. I would also like to thank Jenny Ward who did a fabulous job as the Community Leader for the Years 1-3 community. Her creativity and warmth were an asset to our school. 

In 2024, we welcome back Marlene Te’evale-Hunt and Megan Taylor. Nicole Cunningham will be the Community Leader across Years 1- 6. We also welcome Mary Lee, who will be replacing Gina Harrison in 2024, as a Home Base Learning Advisor.

I will be on refreshment leave in term one. Niki Stephenson will do a wonderful job as Acting-Director in my absence.

I wish everyone a fabulous holiday break, spending time having fun with loved ones and enjoying the sunshine.

We look forward to seeing you all in 2024.

Meri Kirihimete

Ngā mihi nui


Message from the Board

As we approach the holiday break, we want to extend our sincere gratitude to each and every one of you—our dedicated teachers, support and administrative staff, and everyone in our wider community. Your unwavering efforts have once again made Ao Tawhiti an exceptional place for learning and growth.

This year, like any other, had its share of ups and downs, but through it all, your hard work and commitment shone brightly. As a board, we are truly grateful to be part of a team that authentically cares about our students and the unique learning environment that we continue to create!

We wish you a well-deserved break filled with whatever brings you joy and relaxation. 

Looking ahead, we eagerly anticipate the adventures and achievements that the coming year will bring. See you in 2024, ready to embark on new challenges and successes together.

A special thanks goes out to Anita for her outstanding leadership. Having her back with us is wonderful, and we appreciate the guidance and inspiration she brings to lead us forward.

Enjoy the holidays, and here’s to a fantastic new year!

Messages from Senior Leaders

Message from Niki

Kia ora e te whānau,

What a fantastic year 2023 has been.

As I spend time going through my calendar, I am struggling to condense all of the highlights from this busy, successful year at Ao Tawhiti. Here are a few of the main ones:

  • As ever, the mihi whakatau at Majestic was a wonderful way to welcome new whānau in February
  • In March we had our whole athletics day at Hansen Park. This was a great day in a cool location that we are keen to revisit
  • We also hired Rachel and Catherine to be LAs at the CAC 
  • Cycle Safety happened in April, with the Y6 tamariki taking advantage of this free service from CCC
  • Te Ahi Ora came to Ao Tawhiti and taught several students how to twirl fire sticks safely in May, the Y1-6 students had 2 weeks of swimming at Te Pou Toetoe and Meridian volunteers helped Y5/6 plant upwards of 200 native trees at the CAC
  • June was the month I decided to create a playground where the front deck is, and students were rostered home because of rolling strikes
  • In July Harold and the Life Education Trust van came for the year 7-9 community
  • In August, ski trips started and the great Ao Tawhiti Quiz to fundraise for our playground raised $3000
  • September saw Rachel Cummins and I at the inaugural Innovation Expo at Te Pae, showcasing the mahi that has been happening at the Climate Action Campus
  • In October Jenny organised the successful inaugural Action camp at the CAC, HBs Kea and Kākāpõ had a fun camp, and there was a Hallowe’en fancy dress fundraiser on the same day as HB photos
  • Rutherford’s Den came to visit in November, and LAs on L1 planned and delivered some cool experiments for students to enjoy. Jenny also organised the Ao Tawhiti Film Festival to air at Lumiére cinema in the Arts Centre, showcasing students films, and HB Kororā had an epic camp
  • And in December lots has been happening – MASH Tough Kids, choir and kapa haka performances, Christmas activities organised by some wonderful parents

Other things of note in my calendar are RAMs training for whānau, PLD/ Teacher Only Days for staff, several bake sales and fundraisers for a range of causes, and a myriad student– and adult–led workshops as well as a whole heap of trips to CAC, Tũranga, pools, playgrounds, Orana Park, Willowbank – the list goes on. It is great to see students using the city as our campus and living our special character to the full by taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to them by coming to Ao Tawhiti.

What’s not in my calendar are reflections on the interactions I have had with students, staff and whānau, which are the most important part of our work here and the thing I enjoy the most. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. If you have helped in any way at Ao Tawhiti this year, whether on trips, in the HB, on the floor, by running a workshop, supporting fundraising or any of the other innumerable ways you support us to live our Special Character – a thousand thanks! We really could not do it without you. I am looking forward to another awesome year at Ao Tawhiti in 2024, we truly are privileged to belong to such a cool community.

Wishing you all a peaceful and restful break, see you all next year.


Year 7 – 13 Timetable 2024

We have a new timetable for 2024 for our Years 7 – 13 students.

We have extended Home Base time on Monday morning, to give students and Home Base Learning Advisors time to work with students, so they are organized for the week ahead.

We have two-hour lessons (split by morning tea) on Tuesday and Friday. This will support classes, such as PE who often go off-site, Art, Drama, Hapori and other subjects which can benefit from extended learning periods.

Hapori classes are spread throughout the timetable, with different Hapori options being available in every colour block, as well as subject and NCEA classes. Students can still choose to do Arotahi (self-directed learning) in color blocks.

Off-site learning can still occur for students who have negotiated this as part of their learning program.

Note: Year 7 – 8 Home Bases will also run during green block to allow time for the literacy program.

Anita Yarwood

Code Club

Code Club is run by 4 dedicated parents who come to Y1-6 every Tuesday afternoon to work with tamariki who are interested in coding and robotics. This term they have been running a hugely successful girls only code club and students who would not usually have tried coding or robotics have had great success trying new things and experiencing new learning.

We are so grateful to Leon, Dimitri, Justine and Carolina for their time, energy and dedication.

The team of 4 have grand plans to extend Code Club to Y7/8, possibly 2-3 on Wednesdays, as well as continuing to keep the junior Code Club going but they need YOU!

They are looking for a group of volunteers to help run Code Club. The only requirement is that people are able to read and have a current police vet. No experience or expertise is needed in coding because here at Ao Tawhiti, Everyone is a Teacher and Everyone is a Learner!

If you are interested in helping, please contact

Niki Stephenson

Mātauranga Ngahere (Forest of Knowledge)

Weaving nature-based education, hands-on ​experiences, and community collaboration to provide a holistic and immersive learning ​journey for young ākonga. Rooted in the principles of kaitiakitanga and community ​engagement, this transformative program aims to nurture well-being, academic ​engagement, and personal growth while fostering a deep connection with the environment.

Anne-Marie Hampton

Practical Support for whānau over the break:

Christmas is definitely a challenging time for a lot of whānau meeting bills and food costs on top of the expectations the holidays bring.

Foodbank Canterbury provides information on local foodbanks with location and contact details if you need to link up any whānau.  

Parenting helpline is also an amazing service that can further support whānau during non-contact periods

Online Resources:

Mana Ake Facebook Page The Mana Ake page has shareable wellbeing material for your school newsletter – please help yourselves! We will also share information about cluster wide courses and information sessions for parents.

Mana Ake Website Mana Ake – Stronger for Tomorrow

Fearless Triple P – A free on line course for parents who would like to support their children who experience anxiety


Stationery Packs for Junior School 2024

Parents, we’ve teamed up with Schoolpacks Qizzle for our junior stationery packs in 2024. Order from and choose a delivery date that fits your schedule over the summer.

PINs – A Huge Success!

Thank you to everyone who made PINs a massive success. From LAs and TAs giving up non-contact time to run a workshop, to the admin and SLT teams and the students getting stuck in – it would not have been the success that it was without your on-the-ball support! Enormous thanks to Niki for the organisation of such a fantastic day for our tamariki.

University Philosophy in 2024

Every year we offer a university Philosophy course at Ao Tawhiti. It is taught at school and students gain credit towards a university degree. There is no cost involved to students. The course is Phil110 – Science: Good, Bad, Bogus. It’s an introduction to the philosophy of science and skeptical thinking. We examine conspiracy theories, urban myths, and pseudoscience. It’s lots of fun and very interesting. If you’re interested, please email Brent or sign up to 8PHL next year.

Brent Silby

Geoguessr – a 4.2 class

The purpose of this snippet is to give gratitude to the students who helped me with my 4.2 Geoguessr class this term. When it came time to pitch an idea for my 4.2 class I was not really sure what I would do. I had noticed a couple of students in one of my other classes playing Geoguessr after they had finished their tasks for the lesson and I asked them if they thought Geoguessr might make a good 4.2 class, to which they said yes. 

I pitched the idea to some other students and then Enda McMahon got wind of it and really became the co-constructor of the class. Enda is an exceptionally good Geoguessr and together with another LA, Michelle who we needed because of the popularity of the class, the three of us have co-constructed this class mainly drawing on Enda’s expertise and ability to host the games. As a geography teacher I have been heartened to see the level of global knowledge about places and environments that students who play this game acquire. We were also able to sneak in some deeper learning about cultures and life in different parts of the world while learning a global vocabulary of places. 

Thanks again to Enda for embracing our guiding principles. especially “Everyones a learner and everyones a teacher” and “Learning is a partnership”

Craig Perry

Student Achievement

Harper Macpherson in year 7 was involved in the Aotearoa Youth Aerialist Championship held in Christchurch over Show weekend. She won the Rising Star award for her age group and category.

PINS Fire station visit

The Pines Kairaki Volunteer Fire Brigade and FENZ Maintenance Depot welcomed our students for the day. With the station siren going off and a pager test to all crew from Fire Comm welcoming Ao Tawhiti students it was a great start to a great day.

Our students got to ride in the 4×4 and experience working with a hose (which isn’t as easy as you may think) as one parent realised. The Pines Kairaki Brigade did us proud by putting on a great Show and Tell with a times demo between the crew. The highlight was getting wet!!!

After a bite to eat and a play at the playground we visited to FENZ Equipment and Maintenance Centre in Rangiora. Again, a fascinating time with students asking lots of questions. The manager of the centre is an urban fire fighter as well so he showed us the equipment he wears when he goes to fires. Interesting to see the difference between the two brigades. We were shown how and where the fire hoses get cleaned, tested and repaired and tried to lift them – not an easy thing to do. We also learnt there are different types of hoses and what they can look like if they get destroyed at a fire.

One student said it was the best day of their lives 2nd to their birthday.

I think it is safe to say everyone, including the parents that helped, had a fabulous day. Thank you to the crew of Pines Kairaki Bridage and Shayne at the FENZ Rangiora Centre.

Claire Cameron

School Laptops in 2024

Kia ora whānau, 

We have a limited number of school laptops available for students’ use; due to increased demand for these devices, we are changing how we lend them at school in 2024. 

If students have their own devices, we prefer that they bring them along with a way to charge them if the charge will only last part of the day. 

Early in 2024, you will be sent a Google form where you will be asked if your student needs access to a school device. The students you identify as needing access will be issued a scan card to access laptops on a first-in-first-served basis. 

Students will only be able to lend the laptops for an hour; after this hour, they will need to return the laptop. This is to provide equitable use for all students. 

Learning advisors will no longer have laptops for students to access in their classes. 

The management of turning up to classes with a laptop, if needed, will sit fully with the student. 

Jonelle Matthews

He aha ngā mea nui i tō ao? In your world, what matters most?

The Chief Children’s Commissioner (Mana Mokopuna) Claire Achmad shares a survey for children and young people that will guide their work for the next four years.

  • There is a te reo Māori and English versions of a quick video of Clarie explaining the survey on their Insta.
  • The survey can be done in te reo Māori or in English.
  • Responses are anonymous.
  • This survey can be completed by children and young people, or jointly with theirwhānau, or in groups with support from trusted organisations/support crews.
  • The kōrero they hear from children and young people will feed into their Statement of Intent at Mana Mokopuna, which is our plan for what we will focus on over the next four years.
  • They will make sure to report back publicly on what we hear through this survey, so that they close the loop with mokopuna, whānau and their support crews.

Galactic Success in Star Wars Appreciation Class!

The Force has been strong in our Star Wars Appreciation Class, which has recently concluded with resounding success. Students dove headfirst into the rich lore of the Star Wars universe, sparking intense debates on the age-old question: Is the Empire truly better than the Republic?

But the excitement didn’t stop there! The Akonga, known for their creativity, took their enthusiasm to the next level. They channelled their inner Podracer engineers and unleashed their imaginations to design unique and breathtaking concept drawings. The classroom walls now showcase an array of Podracers, each a testament to the students’ ingenuity and love for the Star Wars universe.

Furthermore, lightsabers became more than just fictional weapons—they became tangible creations. Akonga channelled their inner Jedi and Sith as they meticulously designed and constructed their very own lightsaber hilts. The hum of lightsabers could almost be heard as students proudly displayed their personalised creations, each one a reflection of the builder’s connection to the Force.

The Star Wars Appreciation Class not only provided a platform for academic exploration but also creativity, teamwork, and critical thinking. Students engaged in friendly competition, honing their debating skills and unleashing their imaginations through Podracers and lightsaber hilt creations.

May the Force be with you all!

Evan Kiddey

Climate Action Survival skills

Students enjoyed the challenge of fire-starting without matches… it took a little effort, but everyone managed to get their fired lit using only flint and steel.

Matt Parkes

MASH Tough Kids

During the last week of term, ākonga from years 1-8 competed in the MASH Tough Kids obstacle course.

Game testing at Maui Studios

On the last Friday of school a group of yr 7-10 students went to Māui Studios to help them play test an immersive game in a metaverse where rangatahi learn about energy systems. The goal was for the students to note any bugs and give feedback on how the game played. This is a group of students who are passionate about digital games and is was a great opportunity for them to visit and engage with the Game development industry. Maui Studios is an amazing business that creates digital materials from graphic novels, to TV commercials to video games. It was also really cool to see Matauranga Māori, Maori knowledge and Kaupapa embedded within their day to day running of the business and the content they create. Some of the students were invited to be play testers moving forward which is a cool opportunity to stay connected with the industry.

Craig Perry

Thank You to The Christmas Craft Team

We would like to thank the Christmas Crew Rachael, Jess, Dee, and Barbara who made Christmas activity packs for all of the Year 1-6 Community Homebases along with the play dough donators. We all feel Mel said it best with her email:

I don’t know if it is possible for me to communicate just how grateful I am to you guys for all this mahi. It will make the next two weeks something all of us – children and me – will look forward too. Honestly, my guys are so ready for exactly this sort of thing!! I appreciate so much all the work you Christmas craft elves do with this – more like Christmas angels, really. From the bottom of my tired, fried, end of year brain, heart and soul, THANK YOU. 


Or, as another staff member put it:-

Once again Rachael……The things you touch are just so thoughtful and brilliantly delivered.

There are so many things that I love about you doing this and everything else you do in our community.

The thing that stands out the most is that you just get all of the stuff done. No fuss, no song and dance just pure care and love. 

We are very lucky to have you and the team putting in the hard yards to take care of us all, especially at the end of the year when you, Dee Jess and Barbara will be just as frazzled as the rest of us.  

Love ya work 

Students in Y1-6 have been enjoying the Christmas activities, including decorating gingerbread biscuits, for the past couple of weeks while LAs got on with their end of year tidying up.

Happy Holidays from HB Kākāpo

Performing Arts Concert

The concert showcased all the amazing performing arts talent from around the our kura and had a selection of acts including bands, duos, dance, and solos.

Senior Production

“My favourite character was Frank the Tree!”

“I’ve loved bonding with the cast.”

“Thankyou for the amazing experience.”

“It was great to see all the hard work come together in the performances.”

“I’m never going to forget the monkey mask!”

“I really enjoyed the cast’s energy.”

“The costumes were great.”

“That was fun!”

“There was a real sense of community throughout the whole experience.”

“I had lots of fun recording the whole project.”

“It was great getting to experience something new and connecting with everyone along the way.”

“Working with this special group of people has been the highlight of my year.”

Production Crew

Tec projects

Lots of ingenious creations in tec class this term – we’re hoping students will think about how they could use some arotahi time to work on technology projects next year.

Matt Parkes

Other Notices

Circotica Classes over the Holidays

We currently have our Summer Holidays (08/01-04/02) and Term 1 classes up on our website.

Life101 Launchpad special offer

Concerned your teen doesn’t have the life and financial skills to survive or thrive in the real world? 

Sign them up for the Life101 Launchpad — a fun and engaging online course for teens to learn fundamental life skills based on four key areas – Work-Ready, Financial, Investments and Identity. It contains a series of nine one-hour workshops utilising scenario based learning so teens understand the practical application of the skills in real-world situations.

9 hours of learning can change your teen’s future! Sign them up before the end of January using the code LAUNCHPAD20 for a 20% discount. 

For more information and to sign up go to