A new school for the Ōrewa North West community

By Diana Wilkes

Steve Mouldey, the newly appointed tumuaki at one of two new schools being built in the community, shares his thinking on establishing a new school.

A bit about Steve:

I am currently in my first term as the foundation principal of a new school – Ōrewa North West School (ONWS) in Auckland. I have taught in a number of schools in Auckland and Wellington over 20 years as a teacher in New Zealand. Over these years I have always looked for opportunities to extend my thinking and be challenged by people, so I would have more of an impact for my students. This includes being involved in programmes, such as Te Kotahitanga with Professor Russell Bishop; Quality Teaching Research and Design Project with Assoc. Professor Claire Sinnema; and the Key Competencies and Effective Pedagogy project, with Dr Rosemary Hipkins. My teaching career started in secondary schools and has shifted into primary after a 3 year experience of leading a small private school catering to all ages.

Nukumea community – aerial map — Image by: google maps

Can you tell us a little about the ONWS community and environment where the school is being established?

The ONWS community is brand new and in fact many of our eventual community do not even live there yet. Ōrewa is a rapidly growing area 30 minutes north of Auckland city and our school is situated amongst an area of new housing. We are surrounded by the new housing developments and will be the heart of this new community.

Orewa North West Primary — Image by: Image provided by the ONWS Establishment Board of Trustees

School signage on the construction site — Image by: Diana Wilkes

What steps did the Establishment Board take to help drive the visioning process and what is your role in this journey?

I am very lucky to have a fantastic Establishment Board who had created various workstreams in their first 6 months together. The visioning workstream had spent time together creating experiences to push the thinking of the Board and to start gathering their thoughts on where the vision of the school is heading. These activities had included research readings, videos of new schools and a range of collaborative activities unpacking these documents and their reflections. As soon as I was appointed, I was invited to join this workstream and to help lead the Board workshops. I was then able to work with Tārai Kura to gather the voices of our community. This was not easy in the double whammy of a new, developing community and Covid restrictions ruining any chance of meeting kanohi ki te kanohi. Thankfully, our wider community has a very active Facebook community group and this provided a valuable platform for gathering views through the use of online forms.

Establishment Board mahi around visioning for design and learning — Image by: Diana Wilkes

Orewa Northwest School eBoT vision mapping — Image by: Diana Wilkes

How have you been involved with property and learning space design? How do you envision your flexible spaces will be used to suit a range of needs, now and into the future?

Our site is reasonably restricted so we did not get much input into the actual building design, but have had a lot to say about the internal design! We are still working with the architect and delivery manager now on some internal changes, even as the building construction has begun. This is critical, as those of us working in schools truly understand the way these buildings are actually used.

How are you, or might you, actively engage with mana whenua – local iwi, hapū, rūnanga, and whānau to inform your vision, transformational change, local curriculum design and ensuring a bicultural and inclusive approach to establishment?

We have begun an exciting partnership with local iwi, in an area that can be difficult to begin with. Many places around Auckland have many different iwi and hapū that can claim mana whenua status, and ours is no different. The four identified mana whenua were invited to bless our site and three of these were present at the site blessing. One of these groups, Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara, has continued to engage with us and gave me a pōwhiri at our local hāpori marae to bless my mahi as Tumuaki. We are now working with them to hear our local histories and how this could shape both the vision and cultural narrative of our school, along with the exciting potential for the gifting of a new name for our school. This is an opportunity to create an internal design for our school, along with a strong culture, that truly reflects Aotearoa into the future. I am very keen to establish a school where both te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā are woven together in the fabric of our school.

Pōwhiri at Te  Herenga Waka o Orewa — Image by: Image provided by Steve Mouldey

Pōwhiri at Te Herenga Waka o Orewa — Image by: Diana Wilkes

In developing an authentic, localised curriculum, schools are looking to understand their local history, connect with mana whenua (local iwi) and community groups. What your you initials thoughts regarding how you might localise your vision for learning with curriculum, pedagogy and design?

With the exciting step of appointing our foundation Deputy Principals just completed, I am looking forward to our work together creating an inspiring local curriculum. I have a real passion for the power of our NZC that enables the core concepts and skills needed to be taught in a way that reflects our community. I see this through our team really understanding the intent of the NZC and working with both local iwi and our local marae to pair these up with significant stories and places in our community. The sweet spot is where the concepts, local stories and the passions of our ākonga intersect.

What’s on top for you this term? What are your priorities?

As the first term for establishing our school, my priorities were about creating the vision and values first and foremost. Other priorities were a name change that would feel right for both our community and mana whenua, and finding the right leadership team. I can happily say that I have appointed two fantastic deputy principals who will make a stunning leadership team for our school and community. This leaves the deeper mahi of completing our school vision, so the foundation is laid for the leadership team to launch the local curriculum and pedagogical approaches that reflect that vision. I am currently working to synthesise the voices of our board, mana whenua and the community into a vision that will lead us into the future.

Orewa North West School Building site  — Image by: Diana Wilkes

Looking ahead, what do you see as being the key milestones and/or touchpoints for the establishment journey?

The next key milestone is the name and vision. I’m picturing that vision as a mountaintop lake at the moment, as so many of the other plans and systems flow from having this right. Those other streams that will flow from the vision are the elements such as our curriculum design, inquiry or problem-based learning (pbl) model, the internal design fit out of our buildings – e.g. what ways the breakout rooms are set up to help us meet the learning vision, and how that vision is reflected in the way we move through the buildings.

Other key milestones that will be worked on alongside these are really the systems that enable the inspiring learning to happen. I’m envisioning different members of our leadership team (including the office manager here) taking responsibility for different systems, and then regular touchpoint sessions so we can ensure the cohesiveness of our system design.

Then we get to the two really exciting parts of enrolling students and bringing the community onboard with us and appointing our team. Personally, I know that these will be real highlights for me, so I’m trying everything possible right now to not let my head get too far ahead into the year, as otherwise I will spend all my time dreaming of the community events and staff professional learning opportunities – and right now, I need to focus on the vision and systems that will really enable those parts to fly later on in the year. 

Feel free to reach out anytime: stevem@onws.school.nz and/or follow our establishment here: https://www.onws.school.nz/