Papakaio School ‘feels like home’

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As the saying goes, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

“In that respect, I haven’t really done a day’s work since I got here,” Papakaio School principal Damian Brown says.

As Mr Brown reflects on his first term back at the school he holds close to his heart, he can hardly believe his luck.

“It’s been amazing. The feeling is still the same – it feels like home when I’m here,” he said.

Mr Brown started as principal at Papakaio School at the start of term 3, after spending the previous two years as principal at Totara School and the five years before that as deputy principal at Papakaio.

Term 3 had been a bumpy ride, keeping the school community connected during the Level 4 and 3 lockdowns. While that could have been viewed as a negative, it was also an opportunity, he said.

“It was also an opportunity for us to come together as a community, and show how we can support our tamariki.

“I think we did that really well.

“I couldn’t be better supported than what I have been.”

Staff taught online through lockdown and pupils were engaged in the learning, which was a reflection of the type of community Papakaio was, he said.

“I’d like to thank the community. It wasn’t easy for them, and they really supported us to help the kids remain engaged in programmes while they were off-site.”

Mr Brown also implemented other changes throughout the term.

A new programme, Ringa Atawhai, or Helping Hands, shaped the way pupils related to each other, and there was a push on structured literacy, and a year 8 leadership programme.

A house system was also introduced, strengthening the links between age levels and allowing the year 7 and 8 pupils to become leaders.

“I think we just need to show a bit more faith in those kids and watch them blossom,” Mr Brown said.

“We’ve just got to encourage them a bit more to take on those roles.”

There would be a “big focus” in coming year on encouraging year 7 and 8 pupils to take ownership of their learning.

The school board had invested in new programmes, and bought a 3-D printer and robotics equipment.

“We’re going to give them a bit more agency and choice about how they go about their learning, so they can call this place somewhere they are super proud to be and be from.”

Some “big changes” had been made, but it was the small things happening every day making him proud – including the team’s cohesion and helping create a school culture.

“There was nothing wrong with the culture when I started, but I wanted to put my stamp onto it and put my energy into it.”

Construction of a new classroom would get under way soon and work on the school’s bike track had just finished, he said.