A year at school…

Geoff BoothGeoff Booth talks to Annette Taylor about his first year as principal at Puketaha School. It’s been a good one, he says.

In fact, more than that, it’s been downright wonderful. “It’s one of those roles which is full of challenges. If seen in the right way, these become opportunities,” he says.

That is what the country school north-east of Hamilton is all about – “We look to the future but are proud and aware of our history.”

The school celebrates its 100th jubilee in 2016, and the celebrations are already being planned.

Geoff was deputy principal at Tauranga Intermediate for a year before taking over from Bob Moffit in September 2013.

“It was very hard following after him, he has left a real flavour to this school, and was such a part of it. I was very fortunate to be awarded this position.”

The school has a roll of 280 and is growing. “We have a challenge facing us – the children coming through our doors are forever evolving, it’s a very different world out there. And we have to equip them with the skills to thrive in it.”

The rate of change in the world is the one thing which has exponential growth.

“We know that in 25 years children are going to be in careers that don’t exist. The reality is they won’t have five to six jobs, they’ll have five to six careers. We have to prepare them for this, which is a big challenge – because we don’t know. What we do know is that some key things won’t change, such as values. No matter what career you are in, values are core.”

One of his highlights is building Puriri Park, a new play area near the swimming pool.

Geoff hanging with the school hens.
Geoff hanging with the school hens.

“It was a real community venture, with working bees on the weekends and people giving so much time. There are loose tyres, rocks, tree stumps, a bridge and culvert for kids to play in. We’re about to do some more planting and put in a flying fox.”

Geoff believes learning takes place when students enjoy the process. “We’ve got to offer them experiences and make school fun.”

Learning taking place at Puketaha School Photo: Annette Taylor
Students listen to Major Blunder talk about the Battle of Mons Photo: Annette Taylor
Major Blunder at Woodlands
Major Blunder at Woodlands

An example is the September visit to the school of Major Blunder, a member of Alf’s Imperial Army who stages ‘pacifist’ battles throughout the Waikato. “He took them through the Battle of Mons, the first engagement by British forces in World War One. And then they got to re-enact the actual battle itself. It was far more powerful than reading passages from a book and asking them questions.”

Geoff enjoyed his own schooling at Melville Primary. “I remember the experiences, the camps and activities. I had a great time.”

The next few years will see some changes to the school – a $1 million grant from the Ministry of Education will allow classrooms to be refurbished into larger, collaborative rooms.

In addition to the traditional, one-to-many teaching area, there will spaces where students can be in small groups, be alone, or get stuck into a construction project.

Work on this starts in December, just before the end of term and will probably take two or three years to complete.

“What a great opportunity we have here, with our children and the community.”


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