Sixteen years have flown by for Horsham Downs Primary School principal Phil Missen.
“It’s amazing how quickly the time goes when you enjoy what you’re doing,” he says.
In that time the school has undergone a number of changes. “We’ve gone from having the identity of a small, rural school to one very much serving students from within the city boundary – these students make up 75% of our roll. That’s been a major transition but I think we’ve managed to keep our rural roots intact.”
When he began in 1995 there were around 100 students. That has now grown to just under 300. “I guess we’ve provided an alternative for people living in north Hamilton, where the most prominent schools have around 600 students. Sometimes one or other of the parents have had a rural school background themselves, and have a nostalgia for that type of education.”
Student numbers are not the only thing to increase. “We’ve gone from five classrooms to 12, and we’ll be opening our 13th in term four.
The school, founded in 1916, has just held a celebration week for its recent building development.
“This is something that, as a process, began quite a way back. There was a time, back in the 70s and 80s, when the school was threatened with closure. We knew the roll would take off, and we could see there were advantages to being a mid-sized primary school.”
In 2007 the Ministry of Education provided funding for renovation. “Four years later, we’ve finally arrived at completion. It’s been very exciting, and we’ve got our new classrooms, relocated two, and managed to retain our playing field by building on the hill instead.”
Another plus was keeping one of the original classrooms, which has now been turned into a library. “This Victorian building has made a stunning library; we’re very delighted with it.”
The Parents Association was very active, and through applying for grants and holding events such as balls and gala days, raised enough to build the new junior playground, complete with shade sails.
After 16 years, Phil says his job has grown with the school. “I’m still having as much fun as the first day when I stepped on the school grounds. Over that time I’ve gone from being a teaching principal, to a more administrative role. It suits me fine and there are still plenty of challenges.”