Marlborough Express - Marlborough schools doing fantastic work

Columns
Friday, April 1, 2016

I recently had the great pleasure of visiting a number of our wonderful schools in the Marlborough and Kaikoura areas.

In one day, I visited Canvastown, Havelock, Linkwater and Picton primary schools and Queen Charlotte College. In the past month I have also visited Blenheim School, Marlborough Girls' College and Kaikoura Primary School.

We have 34 schools in our northern part of the electorate and since being elected as Kaikoura MP, I have not yet managed to get to each of them. Ideally, I would like to visit all schools at least once a year, and this is something I am working towards.

I found that each school does fantastic work in encouraging our children and young people to achieve the best they can, be well-prepared for the future and to be lifelong learners.

What I found particularly interesting was how each of these schools manage to achieve this within very different school cultures and communities.

For instance Blenheim School, in its urban setting, faces very different needs and challenges to rural schools such as Linkwater and Canvastown, which in turn are different from Kaikoura.

Seeing how each school overcomes these challenges, and how they encourage their children to thrive within their particular local setting, is very valuable.

Schools are such a vital part of every community, from urban suburbs to small rural towns and provincial centres like Kaikoura. This community spirit really shone at each school I visited.

Something else that impressed me was the schools' edible gardens, in particular the gardens at Canvastown and Linkwater schools. Each thriving vegetable plot provides an excellent learning resource for children and their families, with many benefits for the wider community.

It was great to see the pride which both students and staff took in this worthwhile programme.

Another valuable part of these visits was the chance to speak to the principals and teachers who are on the ground and can tell me what things are working, and what things are not.

This became even more important for me when last month I joined the education and science select committee in Parliament.

As part of this new role, I will be involved in the review of the Education Act. This will lead to legislative change, so for me getting this grassroots information from our teachers and principals is very important.

Another huge issue in education is the new Health and Safety Act.

At this stage, as people get to grips with what the new act entails, there is a lot of fear of the unknown. However, a lot of those views are starting to be allayed as more resources become available online and are posted out to schools.

As the year progresses, I hope to visit many more of our electorate's wonderful schools and other education facilities.

It goes without saying that great teachers, quality programmes, engaged students and supportive families are the key to New Zealand's positive future.