Newsletter – Sunday 23 February 2020

Upcoming Events

Term 1, Week 5: Starting Monday 24 February 2020

  • Wednesday 26 February: Breakfast Club
  • Thursday 27 February: Athletics Day, Nga Puna Wai,
  • Friday 28 February: Thursday Timetable

Term 1, Week 6: Starting Monday 2 March 2020

  • Wednesday 4 March: Breakfast Club
  • Thursday 5 March, 10.30am-3pm: Yr 1-6 Swimming Sports
  • Thursday 5 March, 5pm-7pm: Sarah Marshall’s Community BBQ Night


Message from Steven

Welcome to 2020

It’s been a fantastic start to the year. I’m really excited by the energy and enthusiasm that the students and staff have brought to the school. This time last year we were still on split sites and wondering if we would ever get into our new facilities in time for Term 2. A year on and it’s fantastic to be able to start the year in the CBD with so many new faces joining us. We’ve made several tweaks to structures at the school this year, and I’m really grateful for the way you have supported us as we find our feet with them. The shift in the timetable to allow L2L on the same day has been great as it opens up the number or opportunities available to our students. Students in my homebase for example are able to now attend courses offsite without it impacting on their classes at Ao Tawhiti, while others still have organised offsite learning days that allow them to follow their passion for the outdoors, while others still are participating in the programmes being lead by their Community Leader Sarah Marshall. We have also moved the 1:1s to the morning which has probably been the biggest shock to the system. Week 1 felt really busy in the mornings as the students adjusted to the new times and the end of the day is much more manic with all 615 students leaving at the same time. I do however feel that this change will better serve everyone as we start to adapt to it.

SDL – a key point of difference

I’m eager to remind our community that one of the beauties of attending a school with a special character that places the student at the centre of their learning so that their love and enthusiasm for learning is retained, is our unique ability to allow students to manage portions of their learning independently. It is in my view the core of what drove the Discovery Learning Trust to establish the two schools in the first place.

I’ve been a little disheartened to hear from some families that they do not value this style learning as much (or at all) as the classes or teacher directed learning that we offer. Every student who is interviewed before they enroll at the school tells me about the things they are passionate about. It’s a powerful moment listening to students talk about how they could follow this passion through a project, inquiry or class that they take.

Our school needs this style of learning to flourish inside its stated special character. It’s not any less valuable just because a teacher didn’t lead it. I would strongly encourage you to work with your child and their learning advisor to establish a manageable passion project that they can lead themselves. There are not many places that allow you to lead your own learning so take advantage of it.

Kāhui Ako

Late last year we joined a Kāhui Ako with Hagley College, Te Pa and Christchurch East. A Community of Learning/ Kāhui Ako is a group of education and training providers that form around children and young people’s learning pathways, and work together to help them achieve their full potential.

Our Kāhui Ako (or Community of Learning) is called Te Taura Here o Ōtautahi. Mike Fowler, the Principal of Hagley is the leader of Te Taura Here o Ōtautahi.

We are at the very beginning of our collaborative journey, with staff currently being appointed to the various across school and within school roles.

Te Taura Here o Ōtautahi has three major focus areas.

  • Wellbeing and Positive Education
  • Future Focused Education
  • Pathways

I’m really excited about what benefit our students can get from learning with not just the 3 other schools in the Kāhui Ako, but also from the 12 ECEs have agreed to work with us too.

I will keep you updated on what’s happening in our Kāhui  Ako.

Visitors to the school

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks for me showing people around Ao Tawhiti.  Two school leaders from Sydney had a look on Wednesday afternoon and were stunned by our students – their engagement was commented on so many times, as well as our schoolwide systems. 

I also had the pleasure of showing a primary teacher from a NZ school. She took the time to send through the following feedback that I’d thought you might like to read.

Reflecting on the personalized experience you offer your students, I think both of my own children (one a totally social entity and the other very gifted and above his peers) would have thrived in your environment.  You and all your staff should feel extremely proud of what you are offering students. You may not feel like everything is perfect YET but you are light years ahead of many other schools in meeting the needs of all learners (not just a select few).

Steven Mustor

Message from Megan

Kia ora koutou. It is great to be on board the Ao Tawhiti waka, and to have the year now fully underway. I want to say a huge thanks to all of the staff, students and families who have made me feel very welcome and supported in my first few weeks on the job.

The L2L programme kicked off for the year on Friday February 14 and the building was abuzz. This ‘learning to lead’ element of the school week is closely tied to our special character and is the time dedicated to supporting our tamariki and rangatahi to lead their own learning and the learning of others. The total L2L time across the week is the same as last year, but this year’s timetable places all of it on a Friday. We’re excited about the possibilities that are opening up for our students by having a full day devoted to L2L. Last Friday saw students involved in a broad range of learning activities, both on and off site, including tuakana-teina student mentoring, workshops, collaborative visioning, support with study, SDL and projects, trips to favourite spots such as the Margaret Mahy playground, and even a BBQ.

The L2L days are organised by Community Leaders with whanaungatanga an important focus at this early stage of the year. There is a desire to build a sense of community as a way to support students to lead their learning. If you would like to get involved with the L2L programme at all, your child’s Community Leader is a great person to get in contact with, in the first instance.

As a member of the senior leadership team, L2L is one of my particular responsibilities. I’m looking forward to engaging with staff, students and families about L2L as I begin to review the programme and work towards making it as successful as possible.

Megan Taylor

Message from Ian

School Apps

Ao Tawhiti has an App for communication. 

On the App you’ll find options to…

  • Leave an Absentee message.
  • Contact staff.
  • Access useful school links.
  • Find events on our calendar.
  • See what’s happening on our News feed.
  • Access the Parent Portal.
  • See our Term Dates.
  • Receive Alerts from staff.

Please feel free to head to the following link to download it…

Alternatively you can find it at the AppStore on your Apple or Android device. Search “schoolappsnz” to download the App. Then search for “Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery” to find our school .

You will also be asked for a password at the download stage… we will update this a couple of times a year so keep an eye out for the email…the password is currently…



You will initially be asked to sign up to the Alerts you might like to receive from staff. Our suggestion would be to sign up to your homebase and your community. As staff think of more things you might find useful to get an alert about, we’ll add those to the list, so you may want to update this every now and again…you can find your alert subscriptions in the dropdown menu at anytime in the top right hand corner of the app.

We’re hoping that you’ll find this a great way to stay in touch and up to date.


Ian Hayes

Message from Niki

Kia ora whānau, ngā mihi nui ki a tātou katoa 

A very warm welcome to 2020. It has been an awesome start to the year. It was so wonderful to catch up with old faces and meet lots of new ones in our IEMs. Thank you for making the time to come to this vital part of our kura, meeting your child/rens’ LAs and co-constructing  plan for their learning. 

Thank you also for the feedback to the form I sent out around IEMs. If you have not had the opportunity to complete it, it is still open until 21 Feb here. At the time of writing this, there was a fairly even spread of responses from parents new to Ao Tawhiti, parents with some experience of our school and parents with many years experience with our model. 84% of you felt IEMs help you know what your child gets up to school, and 92% agree that IEMs are useful in helping build relationships. Most people said they appreciated the focus on the student and how the LAs spent time getting to know the kids.

Thank you also for the feedback to the form I sent out around IEMs. If you have not had the opportunity to complete it, it is still open until 27 Feb here. At the time of writing this, there was a fairly even spread of responses from parents new to Ao Tawhiti, parents with some experience of our school and parents with many years experience with our model. 84% of you felt IEMs help you know what your child gets up to school, and 92% agree that IEMs are useful in helping build relationships. Most people said they appreciated the focus on the student and how the LAs spent time getting to know the kids.

Some feedback indicates a desire to know more about how to remain involved with your student’s learning across the terms. This is possible through our LMS (Learning Management System). Your student *should* be able to tell you how to access this (logins were sent to you by Derek on 4 Feb), but to help out (in case they don’t know…) we will be holding an LMS workshop on Monday 2 March at 6.30pm. Come along to the Community space on level 1, bring a device and a notebook and find out how to remain involved outside of IEMs.

Other feedback included a desire for more social events. On March the 9th we will have a session run by Seth Johnson from Mana Ake and myself about anxiety. We will have some drinks and an opportunity to socialise before and after the session. Look out for further details in the next newsletter.

There was also a call for info about NCEA. This can be found on our website:

NZQA also has lots of information:

One final desire was for parents to have the ability to connect with LAs other than their child’s HBLA or to chat to HBLAs without their child present. Appointments can be made via email ( If you’re unsure of the name you need, please email and Jonelle will make sure your email goes to the right person. 

Parent parking T1

The lovely folk at South City Mall have extended their invitation for parents to park for a few hours during the week for this term only. Please make sure you park on the Bath St side of the mall and have a wee wander through the mall on your way to/ back from school. We are incredibly grateful to managers Steve and Kylee for supporting our parents with free parking so they can be at school and help us live our special character without worrying about parking. 

PINs 2020

Thank you to those who have already offered to do PINs. This term with L2L happening on Fridays anyone is more than welcome to come in and run a workshop. The focus in term one is very much relationship building in communities, and workshops will be coordinated by Community Leaders. Please contact your CL if you’d like to offer a workshop.

If you have something specialised you’d like to offer, please get in touch and I can advertise across communities.

At the end of the term we have a 3-day event planned which will offer further opportunities for parents to be involved in our awesome school. More details to follow!

Meal Train for the O’Donnells

The O’Donnell family would like to pass on their gratitude to everyone who has contributed to the meal train so far this term. They have enjoyed many a delicious home-cooked meal. There are still some dates available on the meal train. If any of you lovely community members would like to cook a meal for the family, please click on this link and add your details. Dates do not have to be taken in sequence; for example, it is possible that the next available date does not suit, but a date next month would. Please select a date that is convenient for you. Many thanks.

Niki Stephenson

Message from Duncan

Welcome back to a new school year! I hope you all had a relaxing summer and that you are arriving at school refreshed and ready for a new year.

2020 Focus

My roll is changing a little this year. I’ll no longer be looking after all things related to year 11 – 13. Instead the primary focus will be looking at the impact our teaching has on our learners achievement. This project will have a long term focus and will be aligned to the school charter and annual plan.

The details of the plan and the journey this project takes will evolve over time as focus points are determined and developed. Initially, however, my main objective is to observe and gather information.

I have started this process already with staff at the school during the teacher only days. As part of our special character we acknowledge that learning is a partnership. In this regard I have plans to work with students to get their voice and would also like to have feedback from our parent/caregiver community.

If you are a parent/caregiver and have a few moments to spare I’d really appreciate you completing this  form.


In addition to my school wilde focus I continue to hold responsibility for the management of specific aspects of school life. One of these areas is the work I do alongside Brent with respect to the qualifications framework.

I’m interested in gathering data on how students are tracking against their NCEA goals. I’d like to know their initial goal and compare that to their end of year achievement.

I’m also interested in getting feedback from them during the year regarding the progress they are making against their goal and any changes they have to their goals.
I have created a form that I would like to have completed by all students in years 11 – 13 and by any student at younger year levels (7-10) who have NCEA goals. If you are a student who this is relevant for or you have a student who this applies to could you please complete this form.

Here’s to another great year!

Duncan Woods

News / Notices

Te Araroa 12/02/2021

Expressions of interest sought for 2 term adventure to the ends of the Islands. Hardship and suffering guaranteed.

Matt Parkes

Community News from Sarah Marshall

Kia Ora Whanau

So that is our first couple of weeks of school for the year done. Hope you all made the most of the opportunities that were given, and challenged yourself to take risks.It has been exciting to meet new families and reconnect with the ‘old’.

A few notices to keep in mind:

Sports Day: Thursday 27th February 9am-2.45pmNga Puna Wai sports ground, Augustine Drive, Halswell
Our community are to dress in the colour red – so start thinking about what you are going to wear.

Showquest: If you are interested in being part of our team this year – don’t forget the meeting on Friday 21st at 1.30pm in 1.2. Showquest Poster

Friday L2L: Weeks 3 and 4 we have set up rotations for students to spend time with the LA’s allowing them to get an opportunity to know who they are and what they are about.Then from week 6 we will offer workshops and common interest of the students, followed but student lead PINs in the afternoon. 

Banqer: We have had an awesome opportunity to use an amazing programme that basically prepares you to become an adult. Think; writing a CV, getting a job, paying bills, flatting, buying a house, kiwi saver, investing etc. This programme allows you to practice all those skills so you are ready when you go into the ‘real world’.We will be having the CEO come and talk to us on Friday 21st at 2pm about how it all works. Parents welcome. Banqer High

Community BBQ: You are invited to a community BBQ on Thursday 5th March from 5-7pm on our level 3 balcony. This is a great opportunity for families to meet and students to mingle as well as chat with staff. Please bring a plate of food to share.

School values: Let’s not forget one of the reasons why we chose to come to this school, for it’s guiding principles and core values.This fortnight I want to talk about Kaha. Our students push the boundaries of their own learning by taking risks. Over the last few weeks I’ve said “we don’t know what we don’t know” a lot. And as learners I think we need to step outside the box and challenge ourselves to try something new or hard and see what happens. Allow other people to inspire us – who knows what might happen

Nga Mihi

Sarah Marshall

Introducing Megan: Trainee Counsellor

Megan has joined us and will be here on Thursdays and Fridays to support students.  Megan is a qualified nurse and is in her second year of counselling training.  Megan has a grown up son, and has lived here for 33 years, mostly in Christchurch, originally from Texas!  She likes to paint, read and watch movies so feel free to say hello.  Contact Megan at, or at the counselling room on Level 4.

Miriam Denney

Sports Coordinator News / Ao Tawhiti Athletics Day, Thursday 27 February

Kia ora Team,

I hope this newsletter finds you all well. Term 1 has seen a good number of students signing up to weekly sports, which is awesome! We’ve got two senior indoor netball teams, a senior volleyball team, a junior indoor football team, a bowls team & three students entered into mountain bike cross country. We had more students sign up to other sports but unfortunately not quite enough to form teams. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide more sporting opportunity in term 2.

I’m excited to announce our whole school athletics day being held at Nga Puna Wai Sports Hub on Thursday 27th February from 9am-3pm. School will be closed on the day & all students are expected to turn up to Nga Puna Wai. Students are encouraged to turn up in their community colours & participate in the events on offer. It’s a really fun day, some students choose to compete with the aim of qualifying for Canterbury Zones & higher honers, others just wanting to enjoy the day with friends & whanau trying something new. I believe we cater for everyone & we’re really fortunate have the day at a top class facility like Nga Puna Wai. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Community colors are:

  • Nadine & Gina – Green
  • Sarah Marshall & Kay – Red
  • Steve & Sarah Higginson – Yellow
  • Laura & Craig – Blue

Nga mihi nui

Clint Williams

Community News from Sarah and Steve

Tēnā Koutou

What a fantastic start to the year! Thank you to our Level 2 Community for starting the year with enthusiasm and energy. We are all looking forward to a wonderful 2020.

Our first L2L day saw students engaging in designing student led workshops, AT projects, mentoring, productive study time, and plans for possible future workshops. More ideas are continuing to flow and it has been an awesome experience to observe students engaging and sharing in shared passions. Sarah H would like to thank the community for welcoming her and the new students to Ao Tawhiti and we are very excited for the year ahead.

Sarah & Steve

Kay’s Community News

Homebase Time and 1-1’s: This community is made up of 6 LA’s, Kay Hayes, Kate Armour, Michelle Verkaaik, Mattias Wieland, Niki Stephenson and Derek Thatcher.
This week we have focussed on building the primary relationship between students and Homebase LA. We have also focussed on ensuring all students can access the Ao Tawhiti systems that we use. HBLA’s have been working with students to access the LMS and their personal email accounts along with making sure everyone’s timetables are correct.

Self Directed Learning: Students have been asked to have one colour block as Self Directed Learning and HBLA’s have been working closely with them to unpack what this might look like. It would be fantastic is families would also support students with their SDL projects. These may need resourcing or further unpacking.

Learning to Lead Time: We continued to work on building relationships. On Friday we operated in small hubs at first and then moved around the floor working through a series of challenges in Homebases. This was an opportunity for students to work in different small groups and interact whilst having fun. After lunch we headed to Margeret Mahy to finish the week off. Friday went really quickly and I saw heaps of smiles. 

Camp 6th – 7th April: We have booked an overnight camp at Spencer Park on Monday 6th April. We will not be at school on Monday 6th April and Tuesday 7th April. On the Monday we have some University of Canterbury student teachers running some activities for us and on the Tuesday we will be doing Adrenalin Forest (for those students who want to ) followed by lunch. Then we will head back to school for a final Community day in the city on Wednesday 8th April. Students can stay in cabins for the night or tents if we run out of space. This camps main intention is to build strong relationships between students and staff through some challenging activities as well as through a lot of fun. Parents are welcome to come out in the day time or in the evening or stay over with us. It could be a great opportunity to get to meet other parents, students and staff. More information will follow shortly as we need to give Spencer Park and Adrenalin Forest some more exact numbers.

Overall we had a great first couple of weeks and we have a lot of plans for some more fantastic times!!

Kay Hayes

Breakfast Club

Breakfast Club is back on Wednesdays in the Cafe area on Level 4, from 8.15am.We offer beautiful bread and spreads, cereals and student cooked mini pancakes, all free to students.We would appreciate any parent support, from shopping to washing up organisation and student support, and any contributions! Just drop in and join us.

Miriam Denney

Other Notices

Bush Farm School

Have a 9-13 year old? Love to learn about fire and whittling? Free on March 22nd? 

Bush Farm School is excited to welcome back John Lawry, an Auckland based artisan craftsman and educator, with over 25 years experience, to come teach us for the day in Purau. October sold out with rave reviews. 
Limited spaces.  Book today!