Welcome Back!
25th January 2018
Exciting, isn’t it! A brand new year, a fresh start, and lots more great things to look forward to at Ouruhia.


What an amazing end of year concert! You may have seen Michelle’s beautiful photos on Facebook, and some of these are now on display in the school foyer. I just love the arts, and the spark and creativity and lift they give to our lives. We are certainly blessed with talent at Ouruhia, and as a school we strongly believe in developing and nurturing those talents, showing our kids how rich and satisfying life is, built around a core of music, drama, dance and visual art.


We want Ouruhia to be fun, memorable, and relevant. One of our mottos is “Learning for Life and Making it Count.” We want kids to love learning, be curious, and having lots of "Wow!" moments. Kids with those attitudes and experiences will be motivated and engaged, and keen to make every step count on the road ahead. Let’s have a great year together in 2018 planning that exciting journey, and enjoying the trip!

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Ngā mihi,


Learning and Growing; Growing and Learning

October 28th 2016
Ouruhia has a proud tradition of school gardens and learning about (and through) horticulture. From the 1930s to the 1960s, our school garden won the McFarlane Shield on several occasions...


...and most recently in 2013 we won an award for our school vege garden.

2013 Edible Garden Award Winner (Shirley/Papanui)

We like to make learning authentic for kids...and an easy way to do that in science is to use the plants and animals all around us. It's great fun finding spiders and creepy-crawlies outside, drawing dew-laden spider webs, growing plants from seeds or weeds, and finding out names and fascinating facts about the plants in our playground

This year I have had the absolute pleasure of doing some teaching with the Year 2 class, and we have had a lot of fun finding out about plants in our playground, and how we can be scientists by observing, measuring and recording.

We have collected, sketched, observed and measured leaves...

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...grown plants from seeds and cuttings, and experimented how best to grow kowhai seedlings (by scraping the hard shell of the seeds and comparing the strike rate with non-scraped seeds.

We have dug up dandelions, looked at how long the tap root is, and pulled apart the flowers and seed heads to see if we can work out how many seeds each plant makes...and why there are so many dandelion weeds in my lawn!!

Yesterday we were excited to hear about a new project in our area which Ouruhia School has been invited to be a part of.
Greg, a Regional Park Ranger from ECan, visited us to explain what was planned, and how we could include learning about ecology and pests.
ECan and the local CCC rangers are planning to plant areas around the Brooklands lagoon, and we are going to help...not just with the planting, but by propagating and growing-on some of the trees and shrubs at school.
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We will be learning about the local ecosystems, how people help and harm such ecosystems, and finding out some of the key plants, birds, reptiles and invertebrates living in the area. The teachers are excited about being involved in planting days each term, and we know that the kids are going to love it too. Here is what I emailed back to Greg...

Thanks Greg,

We are all very excited about this project at Ouruhia School, and have entered these dates in the calendar. Thank you for thinking of including us. We have found that previous involvement in plantings at Spencerville and Otukaikino have been very worthwhile, but an on-going project such as this would be more meaningful and valuable to us. We would be happy to enlist the help of our local families and community as well, and would promote it through our school Facebook page www.facebook.com/ouruhiaschool/

We are having a visit from Ngai Tahu on 9th November to talk about our “Cultural Narrative” which will presumably include usage of the Brooklands/Styx waterways, and plants of significance. That will tie in very nicely.

We see this project as something we can base a lot of our Science and Social Science curriculum around, including learning about…
  • the significance of these areas to Ngai Tahu/Ngai Tuahuriri
  • bird and plant species which are significant in the area, and threats to their survival
  • how to recognise and identify common plants and animals in the area
  • the life cycles of these plants and animals
  • how to propagate and care for these plants
  • how to observe, measure, and record features of these plants and run experiments about plant growth (ideally with a shade house and propagating facility at school)
  • how ecosystems are related
  • how we can influence and support our local community by demonstrating a sense of kaitiakitanga (guardianship)
  • what jobs people do related to conservation and enhancing the environment
  • technology…how to label and protect planting areas

Already at school we have a small group of enthusiastic parents and teachers who help the children learn about local plants and animals. We have a school garden (in fact this is a proud tradition at Ouruhia School, dating back to the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s when the school won awards for its garden). We love to base our curriculum on the local community…making it more authentic for children. I have attached some photos of various horticultural activities the children have been involved in this year.

I can assure you that Ouruhia School will truly embrace this project and we feel very grateful to have been invited.

We look forward to working with you,

Kind regards,

Mark and the staff at Ouruhia.

These photos show some of the things we have been doing at school this year around Living World Science. (It's not just about "learning science"...there is so much involved with the development of attitudes, working together, communicating, planning, being independent and thoughtful, and practical skills. And it keeps that "Wow" factor...loving learning!)

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Keeping the "Wow" factor in schools


12th February 2016

Last year we had such a great time at Ouruhia exploring and enjoying Science and cooking activities...it underlined the necessity of keeping that "wow" factor, and fun, in schools. We want kids to be as enthusiastic about learning at 12 years old as they were when they started school at 5 years old. Too often our schools kill the excitement for kids, under pressure to meet assessment targets and demands of record keeping. But the fact is, kids learn better when they want to, when they are engaged and challenged, and can pursue at least some of their personal interests. When they are excited by learning, show curiosity and initiative, and keep the learning going at home ("any time, any place"), we know we are on the right track. Last year we had lots of reports about kids at poster.pnghome excited about learning and wanting to keep doing more. The Arts and Science are perfect vehicles for stimulating those INDEPENDENT, THINKER & CAN-DO qualities.

Today at assembly we watched a great little video about a boy who had wonderful creativity and self-belief...and the result was both heart-warming and inspiring. Have a look at the clips below...

What does that tell us about our consumer society, about plastic, shiny, expensive toys and presents, and about spending time in front of TVs and computer screens?

There is a great web-site for parents and teachers, accessible through Skoolbo, simply titled "Junior Inventors", which I would thoroughly recommend to you. Click on the pictures, and enjoy exploring the possibilities.

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Happy parenting!

Ka kite ano,


Proud to be Principal...

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10th August 2015
At the start of this term (Term 3) Jocelyn Murray and I presented a slide show and talk about how we cater for Year 7&8s at Ouruhia. We were privileged to be joined by two of our past pupils, Logan Bell and Josie Dawber, who spoke of what it meant to them to be an Ouruhia senior. Our current Year 7&8s also wrote down why they love being at Ouruhia, and one of our current pupils, Aidan, and his parents, spoke as well. A common theme was that they looked forward to the responsibility and respect of being a "big brother or sister" to the younger children. Aidan's Dad also talked about the difference between "options" and "opportunities". Bigger schools sometimes offer more options, but at a small school like Ouruhia, the children get more opportunities to participate in them. Quite often all the class gets to take part in special events; at an intermediate school, only a few children may be selected.

It is with great pride that I looked at the slide show photos (see here)...the faces, the enjoyment, the memories of good times had by all, whether it was at camp, on the sports field, doing science, drama, concerts, art or achieving well in Cantamaths or in Literacy...and thought what a great little school we have.

And on top of that, we have recently shown how we can "punch above our weight", with our Year 8 Cantamath team coming 2nd in North Canterbury (and our Year 7s 7th= and our Year 6s 8th=), and our Year 7&8 Football team coming 2nd in Pegasus zone in a 5-a-side tournament last Friday. We regularly have visitors telling us how awesome our kids are, and I know we have just as awesome a bunch of teachers and support staff.

I really love my job!


History...and learning through The Arts

Term 2, Week 1, 2015
Wow, what a start to the year!

This week one of my highlights has been working with a group of singers practising for the ANZAC service in Kaiapoi on ANZAC Day.

We have been learning the song "Sons of Gallipoli" (see here ) and on Saturday, our "choir" will join singers from other North Canterbury schools to perform during the service. It has been wonderful seeing the children taking this very seriously and respectfully. The way they stand, heads up, shoulders back, and singing with solemn pride, shows that they are beginning to see and feel what is obviously a highly significant day for many New Zealanders.


My own grandfather was 21 at the start of World War 1, and while he didn't go to Gallipoli, he was in France for a number of years. I remember him talking about the incredible heat and noise of the howitzer guns, and how terrible the mustard gas was. Grandad didn't talk much about his war experience, like many of his generation. I couldn't really imagine what life would have been like for him in the trenches, although reading "Birdsong" by Sebastian Faulks certainly started to paint that picture for me.

The thing I find hardest to understand is what it was really like for him, not only while he was overseas, but when he came home. Many of the returning soldiers must have been terribly affected by their experiences. I was lucky that my grandfather, on the outside at least, seemed to have managed to survive and recover from the trauma of war, and lived to the age of 91.

I remember one of my History teachers telling me that to really understand History, you need to understand the impact on people. "See the human side of everything," he said, "not just dates and facts and figures." At times like this there are many stories and films that help us to develop that deeper understanding. (I have just read a wonderful series about the impact of two world wars on five families: Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants" and "Winter of the World"). Books, drama, films and the arts generally are so important exactly for that reason; by reading or watching a story unfold, we start to get a real sense of the impact on people - what it was really like. And isn't it true that people now and 100 years ago, here and across the world, often have huge amounts in common in the way they think, feel and act. This is the nub of our Social Science curriculum.

If we as parents and teachers can help children connect with that sort of deeper understanding, the sort when you read a particularly powerful novel or watch an especially moving film or show, when your emotions and thoughts are strongly affected, then that is the sort of learning that is truly important. Empathy, understanding and wisdom...they are so important for our society and our world. And that is why two of the Learner Qualities we value at Ouruhia School are to be Caring & Sharing and being a Thinker. And it is one of the reasons I love theatre and books.

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Thursday 11th September 2014

We have been very busy this term with preparations for the centennial, and with a visit from ERO at the beginning of September.

What a wonderfully affirming experience it is to be told you are doing a good job! While we haven't received the official draft of our report, we were given very positive feedback, and encouragement to keep going on our path developing our practice.

Comments like...

  • good quality education
  • highly reflective culture
  • safe & inclusive
  • strength in meeting individual needs
  • school values strongly support learning and school culture
  • respectful and caring
  • each student valued

We will publish the official report as soon as we have it to hand.


Our People, Our Place, Our Future: Our School, Our Submission

Wednesday 5th December

Tomorrow we will be delivering our submission to the Ministry of Education opposing the proposed closure of Ouruhia School, and proposing some new ideas for our school and our cluster. This has been a result of a number of public meetings, surveys, research, letters, drafts and re-drafts of our ideas. We are so fortunate to have such a committed band of parents who have kept working on this for two and a half months. What an extraordinary effort! In particular, I want to thank...
  • Chris Mene, who facilitated our workshop and on-line survey;
  • Lyn Bates, our Board Chair, who has carried a huge load of extra meetings and correspondence;
  • Matt Cox, - "Stats Man", who was meticulous in his research, and seemingly tireless in his pursuit of a just outcome;
  • Alex Goodall, who led our Parent team from the Board and the Action Group;
  • Angela McDonald, Catherine Cruickshank, and Rebecca Hall, who surveyed our local community;
  • Deane Bird, for his photography;
  • Sonya Boyd, who created and managed our Save Ouruhia School Facebook page; and
  • Emma Goodin, who wrote and edited our submission with such clarity and skill.
There are countless others who attended meetings, wrote letters, bought T shirts, and generally supported us with ideas, and encouragement. Thank you so much to everyone; I don't think we could have done any more.

The gist of our submission is summarised in the slides on the opening page of our wiki; this is the slide-show which we presented to the Minister on 7th November. The final draft of our submission, yet to be ratified by the Board of Trustees (but likely to be close to what will be sent to the Ministry), is below.

Now I feel we have done all that we possibly could have. We hope that the Minister and her team see that we have a truly compelling case. Time to park that, and enjoy the end of year.

I am looking forward to our end of year concert, and I know the children are too. The production is called "Five Gold Rings" and is based on the song "Twelve Days of Christmas". The key message is about the value of people working together, and the show culminates with the song "Christmas Gold", which is not about money, but the real treasure of Christmas. It talks of the joy of giving and the support we get from our friends and loved ones; that is the real Christmas Gold. And I think Ouruhia School is very rich with that sort of Gold.

I look forward to seeing you at our break-up on Tuesday 18th December at Kaiapoi High School Auditorium, from 6.30 p.m.

Kia kaha.

Kia pai tō rā.


Community Consultation Meeting - 6th November

Monday 29th October

We are holding a consultation meeting and workshop, hosted by our school and facilitated by Chris Mene, on Tuesday 6th November, 2012, at 7.00 p.m. in the Spencer Park Lodge. Come along and have your say about what you think of the proposal to close Ouruhia School, and share any other ideas or proposals for the future of schooling in our cluster.

You can register for this meeting at http://ouruhiaschool6nov2012.eventbrite.com

We would value your attendance at this meeting so we can hear your views on the Ministry’s proposal and a preferred way forward for our wider school community. The wider the range of community groups we can involve, the stronger and more robust our submission will be.

If you are unable to attend this meeting on 6th November, you are invited to provide the school with a written submission. A useful template to assist you is available from raewyn.willocks@ouruhia.school.nz or you can go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6WSZBM2

Thank you.

Minister of Education's visit

The Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, is visiting Ouruhia School on Wednesday 7th November from 12.30 - 1.30 p.m. She would like to hear from parents and the Board of Trustees.

This is her letter:

We look forward to seeing you there.


One month on...
Thursday 18th October

5 weeks ago we were told of the "firm proposal" to close Ouruhia School.
3 weeks ago we received the Minister's official letter, which marked the beginning of the consultation period required
3 days ago we were given the "data" and reasons for closing our school.

Many of us think the whole process has been back to front, and too rushed. Wouldn't it have been better to have started with presenting the schools with the data and concerns about projections of population change and repair bills? Couldn't each cluster have come up with a range of solutions to address those concerns...and do it in a collegial way with some empathy for our communities and knowledge of local circumstances? The inept way that this whole sorry saga has unfolded smacks of rushed reports with misleading information, high-handedness, "we know best", and a sense that the proposals are very firm - a done deal.

We are now required to put a submission to the Ministry by 7th December. This is despite the fact that nearly 3 weeks of the consultation period had elapsed before we got the "rationale", and we still do not know what the other options are for our children in this cluster if Ouruhia closes. How can we make a meaningful submission without the facts? (We are challenging some of the assumptions and population projections through our own research. We still don't know what is proposed in the Belfast area, apart from a "split campus" on an as-yet indeterminate site. Our submission may well be quite different depending on what alternatives our children are offered in this area.)

The Ministry phoned me on Friday night to ask me to a meeting at 8.00 a.m. Monday morning to give us the "rationale" for closing.This was what we received:

This key points from this rationale document are...

  • Predicted loss of numbers in the "East Belfast" cluster (our area)
  • Only 16 of our pupils live in the Red zone; there are a total of 95 pupils currently living in the Red zone (Brooklands)
  • Revised estimate of work to be done at Ouruhia of $600 000, mainly for weather-tightness (but no further cost breakdown)
  • No buildings now identified as requiring structural strengthening, but DEE (detailed engineering evaluation) still to come at end of 2013.
  • Need to re-level some rooms; other damage mainly surface cracking
  • For students living in the eastern part of the Belfast Cluster (east of the motorway and the proposed northern by-pass) i.e. our area, about the same number attend Ouruhia School (77) as Belfast School (76). 33 go to Marshland. (If they all came to Ouruhia, that would make our roll 150-180, depending on how many left the area because of red-zoning...and it would take some pressure off Marshland and Belfast Schools when their rolls grow)
  • Estimate of 400 fewer houses in the eastern part of the Belfast cluster

Where to now?
We have appointed Chris Mene, Chair of the Papanui/Shirley Community Board, to be our Facilitator. Chris will be working with us to consult our community and write a report for the Ministry by 7th December. We are expected to come up with our own ideas for our cluster, as just rejecting the proposal to close Ouruhia is likely to be unsuccessful.

We are running a public information meeting next Tuesday 23rd October in the school library at 7.30 p.m. This meeting is really just to bring people up to date with what our Board and Parent Action Group have been doing since the public meeting on 17th September, and sharing what is planned in the next few weeks. (And what brilliant work that group of parents has been doing!)

Our official consultation meeting, chaired by Chris Mene, will be held in the Spencer Park Lodge on Tuesday 6th November at 7.00 p.m. All interested members of the Ouruhia community are invited, including present and past pupils, staff and parents.

I was interviewed by TV3 yesterday, and there will be a segment on Campbell Live in the next few days...keep a watch for it. (I will alert school families by putting something on Facebook as soon as I hear the date.)

As a final note, I thought this was a poignant article by Chris Trotter in The Press. It talks about grass roots decision making, real democracy and ownership of decisions. Our Minister would do well to read it.

Kia Kaha.


“Education Renewal” Plan – Didn’t see that coming!
Thursday 27th September

How things can change in an instant! The announcement on 13th September that the Ministry is proposing to close Ouruhia School was completely unexpected and has rattled us all. None of us can see the sense in this decision; it cannot be justified on educational grounds, on the basis of earthquake damage, or on predictions of population change.

We absolutely refute the idea that schools with under 150 pupils are less viable or somehow providing education of lesser quality. On the contrary, I have found research that indicates that small schools not only teach our kids as well as big schools, but they also have superior social and pastoral environments because they foster "a family atmosphere", "good standards of behaviour" and "close links with parents and the community".

Earthquake damage to land and buildings at Ouruhia School has been minimal and requires very little in the way of cost or repairs. Moreover, my concern has been that some of the data which the Ministry holds about our property is misleading. When a person in Wellington reads that we have 9 buildings, that they are all earthquake damaged, and one building is not cost-effective to repair, I wonder if they get the same picture of our school as a person walking around those same buildings. It would be easy to say, “Close that damaged school!” on the basis of the impression created by those “facts”.

We believe that our school will grow in the near future. We have maintained our roll between 2010 and 2012, and despite families moving out of Brooklands, we are still getting requests to enrol here. With the Prestons, Highfield and Belfast subdivisions coming on line very soon, the next area for growth will be north of the Styx River. Our Parent Action Group is doing some very good research into population and pre-school numbers in our area.

Update: Tuesday’s meeting with the Ministry Of Education was not the opportunity we had hoped for to argue our case; we were grouped with five other schools, and the purpose appeared to be to outline the process to be followed from now on.
Firstly, we need to receive the official letter from the Minister telling us of the proposed closure of our school and what our options are in response. That letter is not now expected until the second week of the school holidays.
Following that, we will have somewhere between four and six weeks to respond. Our plan with our submission is to counter the Ministry proposal by challenging the facts that they appear to be working from. We will also need to come up with an alternative proposition for the Belfast Cluster which will cater for population changes, quality education provision and equity.

The schools present at Tuesday’s meeting took the opportunity to castigate the Ministry for the way the whole issue has been handled so far, with no prior warning or consultation at the grass roots. The shock and emotional impact of the announcement on our communities have created a climate of anger and mistrust, and we urged the Ministry to work with us in a more consultative way and with more realistic time-frames.

Throughout all of this heartache and shock, what has been heartening has been the incredible support from our community, and the amazing amount of hard work that is being done by our parents, staff and friends to fight for our great school. Thank you. Keep believing in us. Let’s see this through.

Listen to this piece on National Radio, Tuesday 18th September...

Great Parent and Community Support
Monday 17th September

On Saturday, Aaron Keown and I (and some parents) met with National MP Nicky Wagner at school to show her the "damage" our buildings have sustained. We discussed our concerns about the "facts" the Ministry had about our school, and Nicky promised to raise those questions with Minister Parata in Wellington on Tuesday.

It seems that we are going to to get a very strong turn-out at tonight's meeting (7.00 p.m. in the Library). There has been huge interest from the whole community, not just our current parents, but former school families as well. We look forward to hearing your ideas and reactions to the news. We will be establishing a driving committee and focus groups to get our message out to the wider community and to challenge the Ministry on some of the assumptions and "facts" that led them to this decision to close Ouruhia.

In related news...
Here John Bangma, President of the Canterbury Primary Principals' Association, describes how appalling the process was in announcing to Principals that their schools were to close.

Proposed Closure - That makes no sense!
Friday 14th September.

Last night it was heartening to see such great support on our Facebook page.

This morning I was interviewed by Rachel Smalley on TV3. (View it here)
The points I wanted to make related to the Minister's comments about the 13 schools having issues around damage to property, loss of population, and demographic projections. None of those make sense in Ouruhia's case. What's more, the data held by the Ministry about our school appears to be flawed. It states that all 9 of our buildings are earthquake damaged, and the Library is "not cost-effective to repair".... What?

We had a magnificent turn-out of parents at 8.30! The staffroom was packed...at least 42 parents were there, and the definite feeling of the meeting was that Our School is worth saving; this notice of closure is a mistake.

We then moved across to the Library (-the badly damaged one??) and had a lovely assembly singing our favourite songs, all of which had a poignant message about community and resilience.
E Tu Kahikatea; Ma Te Mahi Ka Ora; Build Us Back

Jessica Rowe from TV3 filmed our assembly and then interviewed a number of parents, children and myself. Watch TV3 tonight (or see it later on-demand - click here).

We have had lots of messages of support from Principals and our MP, Lianne Dalziel, today. Campbell Live want to come to our meeting on Monday night (7.00 p.m. in the Library). Let's bring those ideas and the determination I saw today, to fight this crazy proposal.

Kia Kaha.

Ministry Announces School Closures
(Thursday 13th September, 5.00 p.m.)

I was called to a meeting at the Lincoln Events Centre this morning - a "pre-announcement meeting" - prior to the 11.00 a.m. announcement of the Christchurch Education Renewal Plan.
After a few introductory niceties, the Principals and Board Chairs in the room were told that our schools would be those most affected by the changes.

It was proposed that 13 schools, including Ouruhia, would close. Another 18 would be merged.

This news was a total broadside for me; at our last meeting with the Ministry just a few weeks back, I could see that our school was holding its roll and was essentially undamaged. We've had excellent ERO reports, our staff are doing a great job, the kids and parents love it here... if it ain't broke, why fix it? It makes no sense.

I told the staff and Board the news at 3.15 today, and we are all in total shock.

We invite parents to drop in to the staffroom tomorrow morning (Friday 14th) at 8.30 and to join us for an assembly at 9.00.

We plan to have a community meeting on Monday 17th Sept at 7.00 p.m.in the school library, to share ideas about how to respond to this news. (The Ministry assures us that the community will be "consulted"; we want to be in a position to give them your thoughts when they meet with us on 25th September.)

In the meantime, we need to continue to do a great job for our kids. We still have just over a term to go this year, and we have plenty of exciting things planned.



Annual Reporting

Dear parents,

Here is a summary of our 2012 Annual Report.

... the short version:

... or the more detailed version:

It briefly describes the results for our 2011 Student Achievement Targets in Reading, Writing and Maths, and includes Whole School Data on "National Standards", despite my serious concerns about the validity of such data and the dangers of using it to compare schools. (We are required by the Ministry of Education to include this data in our Annual Report this year.)

I am fully in favour of reporting to parents in plain language about how well their child is doing at school, and describing where that progress sits in relation to normal expectations for that child's age group. The assessments we have in place (such as PATs, AsTTle, Reading colour wheels, Numeracy project) allow us to judge pretty well where our children sit in relation to the different levels of the curriculum, and whether the children have improved since last year.

However, there are huge difficulties in pulling that data together to make a judgment about fitting an overall "National Standard". In Writing, for example, different teachers might give greater or lesser weighting to spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, complexity of sentences, or other deeper features when assessing a work. If a writer has a great vocabulary, and uses complex sentences, but has poor spelling, is that of a higher "standard" than another writer's work which is spelt and punctuated correctly, but has rather simple and boring language? And how do we know that our professional judgments will be the same as the school down the road? And when looking at school-wide National Standard data from year to year, how do we know what is responsible for any changes in the numbers? In a school our size, just one child of high or low ability arriving at our school, or leaving, can affect our results by 10 or 20%.

For the above reasons, and because the "National Standards" were not trialled or well-implemented with adequate professional development in our schools, I would ask that you read these results with a scientific awareness of the possible flaws of assessment. Having said that, I am proud of the achievements and progress of our children at Ouruhia School, and for the way our staff seek to continually improve their knowledge and professional practice. Our children generally achieve well, not only in Reading, Writing and Maths, but also in cultural, sporting and social areas, as evidenced by comments we often receive from visiting teachers, and when going on camps and visits.

I am happy to discuss these reports further with you if you have any questions.

Kind regards,

Mark Ashmore-Smith


Ouruhia School

21 Turners Rd

Christchurch 8083

Ph/Fax 03 323 8855

Mob 027 303 9670

We've had a great term.

I've just been reflecting on a wonderful term as I wrote the latest newsletter.

Swimming was certainly a major focus during February, and we are delighted that the extra lessons in North Canterbury, as well as having our own heated school pool, have resulted in a big improvement in swimming ability across the school (-see the graphs in the newsletter). We are not where we need to be yet, but let's keep going and aim for competent swimmers (in at least 2 strokes, able to swim 50-200m) by the time they leave Ouruhia at the end of Year 8.

As well as the swimming, there was a lot of excitement and effort evident at our school triathlon on March 16th. We used these sports events to talk about our school's "Dispositions" and Values, and these are highlighted with some wonderful photos on the notice-board beside the main entrance (end wall of the library). We have talked about : "Can-Do" Attitudes, Independence, Team Players, Thinkers, and Community spirit during our assemblies this term. We tease out examples of what these qualities look like on the sports field, in the playground, in the classroom and at home. We would love it if you used this language at home too. ("You were showing great Independence when you sorted that out!" "I like the way you showed your Thinking skills in working that out." "When you helped your brother you were being a Team Player, because you showed respect and co-operation...")

Of course, school is not just about swimming and triathlons; we are passionate about learning and helping kids move forward. The goal-setting meetings held with parents last month are an important part of setting up a successful year for your children. As the children get older, we like them to take more and more responsibility for identifying their needs, setting goals and short-term targets, and doing something about it. We know we are on the right track when children can tell you what they need to work on, when they regularly practise these skills, and when they can show you that they have improved..."because here is what I was doing last month, and this is what I can do now."

We look forward to another great term after the holidays.

School resumes for children in Term 2 on Monday 23rd April at 8.55 a.m. School is closed on ANZAC Day, Wednesday 25th April.

Welcome back

School resumes for children in 2012 on Wednesday 1st February at 8.55 a.m.

A Teacher Only Day will be held on Monday 30th January. If you wish to talk to your child's teacher or me before the start of the school term, please leave a message on the school answer-phone (323 8855) or email principal@ouruhia.school.nz .

Children, please remember to bring your swimming togs and sunhat from the very first day of school. Most of your stationery can be purchased at retail outlets before school commences (see the list that went home with your school report). Other more specialised items will be available for purchase from the school office at the start of Term 1.

For school term dates in 2012, click here.

I look forward to seeing you all again, and hope you have had a lovely holiday.

Here are some wonderful photos of our end of year concert:



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The Great Living Legends Muck-in - Canterbury

Join DOC and Living Legends for the planting event at Otukaikino Reserve to help us plant 5,000 native trees and honour Rugby Legend, Tane Norton.
Date: Saturday 3 September 2011

Time: 9.30am - 2.00pm

Location: Otukaikino Reserve, Main North Road, Belfast (meet at Belfast Hotel for a shuttle)

What you will need: sturdy footwear, spades, gloves

Cost: Free
Register online for The Great Living Legends Muck-in - Canterbury

Otukaikino Reserve

Otukaikino Reserve is a 13ha freshwater wetland reserve to the north of Christchurch – at the southern end of the northern motorway. It is one of the few remaining original wetlands that were once common around Christchurch. A boardwalk taking approximately twenty minutes meanders around the wetland, through tall raupo, flaxes and grasses. Sitting areas are placed along the way.
Otukaikino is significant for Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, as it was once used for burial preparation and is designated a Wai Tapu site. The water, vegetation and mud were used by Tohunga (priests) for embalming purposes. The Department of Conservation, in partnership with Lamb & Hayward Funeral Directors and Tuahuriri Runanga, is restoring this wetland reserve by the gradual planting of living memorials – native trees and plants – donated by Lamb & Hayward, to commemorate each funeral organised by the Company (at no cost to the client). There are no burials within this reserve and specific trees are not dedicated to any one person.
Living Legends will help these groups and other community groups who have been involved to return this outstanding public recreation area and wetland to as near as possible its natural state by planting an additional 5000 trees there on 3 September 2011.

Facebook Page

(Updated 5th August 2011)
Raewyn and I went to a workshop yesterday and found that we could set up a School Facebook page. (Click here)

Not only will this be an easy way for us to keep you informed of interesting news, but by linking the page to Twitter, parents can sign up to have text alerts every time we post something. Please sign up. If we have another school emergency, we will post information on Facebook, which will then automatically come to you via text. For information on how to do this, see our ICT and e-Learning page.

Welcome Back! (Updated Thursday 10th March)

It was great to see the children and parents back at school yesterday (Wednesday 9th March). We had a class time until noon and then many parents joined us for lunch and a fun afternoon of old-fashioned games in groups of mixed ages... tug-of-war, 3-legged race, sack race, hula hoops and more.

The day had a nice feeling to it, and our aim of helping the children (and parents) enjoy their return to school, and strengthen the "community feel" of the school was certainly achieved. I spoke to the children at one point about how they were demonstrating those qualities we value at Ouruhia School:

Students at Ouruhia School are

Learning for Life and Making it Count!

They are:
Team Players,
Thinkers and
Skilled Learners,
Who have a Can-do Attitude and who
Value and contribute to their Community.

An Ouruhia learner is a Team Player because we value sharing, cooperation, respect and commitment

An Ouruhia Learner is a Thinker because we value curiosity, critical thinking and creativity.

An Ouruhia learner is Skilled because we value self-management, initiative and BEST effort.

An Ouruhia learner has a “Can Do” Attitude because we value perseverance, resilience, determination and enterprise.

An Ouruhia learner has a sense of Community because we value respect, diversity, active involvement and responsibility

Have a look at these photos and you will see a reflection of all of these dispositions and values!



Kia kaha,


Back to normal -

Thursday 18th August
School resumes normal hours today 8.55 a.m. - 3.00 p.m.

Children who registered for the ICAS Maths test will be sitting that today.

Again, can I ask children to...
  • dress warmly (in case of power cuts),
  • bring an indoor board game or cards to play at break and lunch time (as you will probably not be able to play outside), and
  • bring slippers or warm socks to wear inside.
See you soon.


School opening today at 11.00.

Wed 17th August 7.30 a.m.
We are going with the plan below. See you soon.

School possibly opening tomorrow, Wednesday

16th August
The plan at this stage is to start school tomorrow, Wednesday, at 11.00 a.m. for children (please arrive from 10.30 a.m. to avoid congestion at school gate). Classes will run from 11.00 until 12.45 (normal lunch time) for the first session.

As the weather may change for the worse overnight, I will confirm the opening time by 7.30 in the morning. It is possible that the above arrangements may have to change, or that school could even stay closed tomorrow if there is a lot of snow tonight or if the roads are very icy and dangerous. Watch this space.

Assuming we will be open, can I ask children to...
  • dress warmly (in case of power cuts),
  • bring an indoor board game or cards to play at lunch time (as you will probably not be able to play outside), and
  • bring slippers or warm socks to wear inside.

Looking forward to seeing you all again... and hearing your snow stories!

Mark Ashmore-Smith

Snow today - School closed

16th August
School closed again today, Tuesday 16th August, due to snow and dangerous driving conditions. Watch this space for updates about tomorrow. If the weather starts to clear but conditions stay slippery we may look at a later start on Wednesday.

Drinking Water is Safe

(Updated 21st June 2011)
Our well water has been tested on three separate days and is safe to drink.

Ouruhia School will be open again tomorrow, Wednesday 15th June.

(Updated 14th June 11.40.a.m.)

The buildings and grounds do not appear to have suffered any further damage. Water has been tested, but until we have 3 clear tests, we ask that children bring their own drinking water, and do not drink from school taps.

Kind regards,


School Closed Tuesday 14th June due to aftershocks

(Updated 13th June 8.10 p.m.)

Ouruhia School will be closed on Tuesday 14th June

Education Minister Anne Tolley's office says schools in Christchurch City will remain closed tomorrow (Tuesday 14th June), due to infrastructure issues and to allow assessment of school grounds.

I will be getting the water tested and will leave a message on the school wiki about when we will be re-opening.

I am confident that the buildings and grounds are safe, but need to make all health & safety checks.

Ministry of Education updates will be available from here:

Kind regards,


Ouruhia School Pupil Reports

The teachers and I are reviewing the pupil report form which we developed last year to comply with National Standards reporting. We received mixed feedback about it last year, and are wanting to improve on it this year.
Please take a few moments to email me about what you liked about the report, and what you didn't like, or found confusing/too wordy/unnecessary/or lacking.
You may want to focus on these key questions, or just write as a free response
  • Did the report give you the information you wanted?
  • Was it easy to understand?
  • Which parts of the report are most useful?
  • Which parts of the report are not necessary?

Please email your comments and ideas to principal@ouruhia.school.nz

Earthquake Update: (Latest Update: Monday 8th March 2.30 p.m.)

We have just received confirmation of our third clear drinking water sample, so we are clear to open for children as planned tomorrow (Wednesday 9th March). Children will spend the morning with their class teachers, and in the afternoon join in with fun activities in the school grounds. We are mixing up the age groups after lunch and moving them around 11 stations of fun activities, run by teachers, support staff and Nth Canterbury Sports Trust personnel. It will be a time of celebration of being back at school and enjoyment of each other's company.

Parents are welcome to use the staffroom before school and from 9.00 - 10.00 a.m. as a "drop-in" centre this week, to chat and catch up with each other with a cuppa.
We are also inviting parents to join us for lunch at noon (a picnic?) and for the community games time after lunch.

We look forward to seeing you again soon,

Kind regards,


(Earlier Update: Friday 4th March 4.00 p.m.)

This is the latest information from the Ministry... received today at 2.00 p.m.:

Ouruhia School has been declared structurally safe by an engineer.
We can now allow adults (staff and Board members) on site to prepare for re-opening the school for children.

We have to sign off a checklist of Health & Safety points and send to the Ministry for approval to open for normal classes. Children cannot attend until this approval is given.
The main item I can see for attention is the provision of drinking water. We have had one drinking water test passed as safe, but need to get 3 tests done to comply with CDHB regulations, since we have our own well (unless we go for bottled water brought from home, hold a back-up supply for contingencies, and disconnect the drinking fountains). I am getting a second water sample tested today, and will get a third done Monday morning.

There may be a little bit of liquefaction to clean up in the grounds...any volunteers?

Wednesday is looking the likely opening date at this stage. Teachers will be on site Tuesday cleaning rooms and preparing for a "Welcome back" day. (We are planning to invite parents to join us for a picnic lunch at noon, followed by a community games afternoon.)

Some of our families have moved away temporarily from the district, but we expect them to return in the next few weeks. We will be enrolling possibly 6 new children who have been displaced or do not have a school yet. Some of these will only be for a short stay, but we look forward to making their time at Ouruhia a welcoming and positive experience.

If you have any questions or information about children attending/not attending Ouruhia School, please email principal@ouruhia.school.nz

Kind regards,


(Earlier Update: Monday 28th Feb 8.00 a.m.)

We have received conflicting advice from Ministry of Education and from Civil Defence, and it is now apparent that Ouruhia School must stay closed.

Christchurch Schools are CLOSED until further notice, and definitely closed for the rest of the week. This edict comes directly from Civil Defence. Civil Defence controls all decision making during the National State of Emergency that currently exists. Their edict is definitive, and must be followed. If their ruling changes, we will tell you.

Apologies for the confusion.

Should you wish to talk to teachers about your child's return to school and how he or she is coping, please email or text me and I will arrange for them to contact you or meet you at school.

Our Swimming Sports have been cancelled, as the Kaiapoi Aquatic Centre is closed until further notice, but we will be continuing swimming lessons at school while the weather is suitable. So kids, bring your togs every day!
Parents are welcome to use the staff-room as a "drop-in" centre before school. We hope that you will enjoy each other's company and a cuppa, and by being in the staff-room, you will be out of ear-shot of the children if you need to discuss earthquake issues.
We plan to get the children back into "normal" school routines fairly quickly, but expect they will need time to "off-load" and swap stories about the earthquake. We have access to advice and activities for children following traumatic incidents, and parents might like to look at these on http://www.minedu.govt.nz/ (click on the big orange rectangle for the latest Earthquake updates).

NB There will be no Room 4 Activity Week as planned for 2nd - 5th March. Activities will be re-scheduled.
I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Kia Kaha

(Earlier Update: 23rd Feb 8.00 p.m.)
Ministry of Education advice 23rd Feb (see www.minedu.govt.nz)

Schools and early childhood services - Christchurch City, Selwyn District and Waimakariri District

All schools and early childhood education services in Christchurch City, Selwyn District and Waimakariri District must remain closed for the rest of the week.
Schools, ECE services, parents and students in Christchurch City should follow **Civil Defence advice** about the conditions of the state of emergency.
If your school or service is in Waimakariri or Selwyn, please advise your parent community of the situation and consider having at least one person available in case students arrive at your school or ECE service because they didn't get the message.
This instruction covers all schools and ECE services in the three districts in response to the requests from Civil Defence and local authorities to minimise impact on the infrastructure by reducing road travel and the use of drinking water and the sewerage system.
More information about closure will be posted on our website by 3pm Friday 25 February.
The primary consideration is everyone’s safety and well-being.

(Earlier update 23rd Feb 5.20 p.m.)
Water available: Still no power on at school, but plenty of fresh water available there if you need it. Please help yourself; there is a ladder and bucket with a rope beside the large concrete water tank (near the swimming pool). Please be careful when removing the concrete lid. Bring your own container.

It seems that we have been very lucky at the school; there does not seem to be any significant damage to the buildings (although I am only passing on my untrained observations). There are some cracks in the paved areas, but so long as the septic tank and field drains are intact, we should be able to resume normal programmes as soon as we are checked by the authorities. Buildings will need to be passed as safe, drinking water tested and toilet facilities checked. Not sure how long that will take, but we will follow the advice of the Ministry of Education on that one.

I managed to get around and visit some families this morning (Turners Rd, Spencerville Rd, Marshland Rd, Kainga, Brooklands and Spencerville) as well as visiting the CD headquarters and fire station. I was relieved to hear and see that families were safe and managing fairly well. In the mean-time, please support each other. One of our "Ouruhia School Dispositions" is Having a Can-Do Attitude. Resilience and positivity will be themes when we return to school. We can get through this together.

Kind regards,


( Earlier: 22nd Feb 8.45 pm)
Ouruhia School will be closed until further notice, probably for the rest of this week.

Please listen to radios and TV for updates, or visit www.minedu.govt.nz

My thoughts and best wishes are with you and your families. I will be at school tomorrow (Wednesday) if you need to drop in.

Kind regards,


Mark Ashmore-Smith

027 3039670

E-mail: principal@ouruhia.school.nz