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E te Tumuaki, me te Poari Kaitiaki, e ngā Kaiako, ngā tauira, me ngā mātua, o tēnei kura Whitiora, tēnā koutou katoa. I extend greetings to the Principal, Board of Trustees, the teachers, pupils and parents of Whitiora School. I specifically acknowledge: Jacqui Schmitt, Chair of the Whitiora School Board of Trustees and Board members; Paul Cooper, principal of Whitiora School and your staff; and Faizan Ullah, Student Council chairperson – tēnā koutou katoa.
Thank you for the splendid powhiri. Thank you also for inviting me and Lady Janine to Whitiora School to open your new Totara and Kowhai Learning Centres. After the Learning Centres have been opened, I am going to speak to some of the students about leadership. That should be very interesting – for me and the students.
Back to the opening ceremony for the Totara and Kowhai Learning Centres, let me start my talk by congratulating the board, staff and wider school community for providing a great environment for its students. I’ve been doing a bit of research into Whitiora School and I’ve found that it has a good reputation for encouraging its students to be all-rounders.
The most significant endorsement was provided by the Education Review Office when it released its review of the School six weeks ago. As all the teachers know, ERO doesn’t hand out compliments willy-nilly, so I was impressed when the ERO said that at Whitiora School:
“Students learn in safe and settled environments that are characterised by positive relationships amongst teachers, students and their peers. High expectations for achievement and standards of behaviour are understood and evident throughout the school.”
Opening the Totara and Kowhai Learning Centres today is a special event for me. Opening new educational facilities is something I look forward to because it represents faith in the power of education to transform lives, and it is a commitment to young people. The new Learning Centres will improve the environment for Whitiora teachers to teach and Whitiora students to learn.
Opening Totara and Kowhai Learning Centres is also special because it represents the culmination of the dreams and the hard work of people. I am sure hours and hours of planning and other work went in long before the first sod was turned.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to be talking to some students about leadership. And I’m pleased that the students and I will be meeting in one of the Learning Centre teaching spaces!
This week is Leadership Week. It is an annual event, when leaders from across New Zealand go into schools and talk to students about leadership. Those of us who participate during Leadership week are members of the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Dream Team. The theme of our talk this year is “Dare, Dream, Do.”
Sir Peter Blake was one of New Zealand's most distinguished leaders, who had a dream of winning the America's Cup. He led the sailing team that first won the Cup for New Zealand in 1995, and successfully defended it five years later. Sadly, he died while on an expedition in South America in 2001.
I can think that there was a lot of daring, dreaming and doing when it came to your new learning centres! When your school was planning to replace the old classrooms, the easy option would have been to opt for something similar. I am pleased to see you didn’t go down that path.
From what I’ve heard, the Totara and Kowhai Learning Centres are quite different. They are innovative and exciting places for students to learn. Having open plan spaces, that let teachers have an option of large rooms for group learning and small withdrawal rooms for small groups makes Totara and Kowhai effective teaching-learning spaces. And, modern furniture, the neat use of technology, including a digital green wall for film editing, support flexible learning.
I want to close by quoting someone some of you might have heard of, namely Dr Seuss. In his book, The Places You’ll Go, he wrote:
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
Whitiora School – congratulations, today is your day! In declaring the Whitiora School Totara and Kowhai Learning Centres officially open, it’s now over to the staff and students to make great use of this fantastic new facility to go where-ever you dare to go. And especially for the students, I hope it stimulates the brains in your heads and the feet in your shoes, so you can steer any direction you dream to go! Thank you. Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.