Carlton School

By Lin Ferguson


Carlton School may have a decile-two rating, but principal Paul Petersen says it is a high-performance school with children excelling in all areas.

With a roll of 309 students, it is Wanganui's largest primary school.

There is a discernible difference at Carlton School.

It was not just a school, it was a school being powered by smart business and marketing acumen - a positive force realised by the school's board and staff three years ago, Mr Petersen said.

Carlton school was not simply a school zoned in the suburb of Gonville.

"We want our school to be open to all children from all over Wanganui," he said.

He is against zoning and has tried to get rid of it from Carlton but to no avail. The Ministry of Education was adamant that zoning stayed, he said.

He is proud of his school and says so often. He is passionate about wanting his students to succeed and to that end he pursues other educational institutions forming symbiotic relationships that are strong and working well.

Attention to business and marketing to drive up organisational performance was starting to pay off at Carlton.

Determined there should be a marketing plan in place, he and his board approached the Massey University Marketing School last year.

Five groups of up to five students had worked up ideas for marketing in a real-life context, he said. Tomorrow the marketing students would be at Carlton, keen to know who had submitted the winning plan, Mr Petersen said.

Another aspirational target used to spur on the growth of the school, its delivery and achievement was talking to UCOL Information Technology students in Palmerston North.

They were fantastic and created a website design through their course work, he said.

"Now [we] have a first-class product which is innovative and fresh. The students got to learn on the job, so we've really helped each other. I have to say it has meant for us a cost-effective product which is excellent, it really is," Mr Petersen said.

As the visitor I was impressed by the series of framed "Habits of Mind" posters throughout the school.

These posters feature photographs of notable and famous New Zealanders with advice written underneath on how to train your mind into always having successful thoughts.

The advice includes: Successful people don't give up easily. If it doesn't work one way, they try another.

Successful people think before they act. They make a plan before solving problems.

Successful people can see the funny side and have a laugh.

Successful people create clever, original and creative solutions to problems.

The posters were another cost-effective exercise in that the graphic was done by Wanganui High School graphic design students.

A few years ago Carlton School's campus was a collection of mismatched colours, some faded, some a bit run down. But in the past three years the school has undergone a transformation with equipment upgrades, the grounds becoming fully fenced and secure, exterior painting and interior image upgrades for older rooms and playground equipment bought.

The school website was up and fully operational and there was a clear vision for the direction of the school in the next five to 10 years. "So the school is now uniform, the same colour, nice gardens, wonderful new fence and gates ... you see we're right here on State Highway Three in the public eye. It just wasn't a good look to have a shabby, rundown looking school when you're so public ... we need to look our best all the time," Mr Petersen said.

The Massey marketing students were asked when developing their marketing plan for the school, to review it with a "marketer's eye", that is to say: physical external environment, visual appeal and building interiors. They were also asked to ensure that the Carlton School website was maximising its marketing and advertising opportunities and looking at options the board could explore for an electronic sign in front of the school that could bring in income.

"The electronic board would be set up at the front of the school and hopefully advertise community events as well as advertising for various businesses with the images flicking over about once every 15 seconds. Maybe we could also sponsor a local sports team," he said.

Another of the creative, inspired ideas at Carlton was the dedicated boys class in Room 15 which has been a success story; so much so that other local schools have followed in Carlton's footsteps.

When you arrive in room 15 most of the boys look like modern-day Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns, with a few Harry Potter types tucked in cosy corners. This class is testament that some primary schoolboys need to learn in a more energetic, adventurous and liberated way; a way that schedules physical exercise bursts throughout the day between lessons, such as a fast game of ball-tag or some serious running around the school field. For these chaps of "The Lions Learning Den" (the name unanimously voted in for the class three years ago), they know they are the chosen ones and are proud of it.

Hanging in a prominent place is a constant reminder that says: "Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so that we could listen twice as much as we could speak."

This innovative boys' class kicked off at Carlton in 2009 for a raft of serious reasons.

Mr Petersen was about to take over and during discussions with deputy principal Gay O'Connor, the subject of how to improve boys' education had come up.

Both agreed that there was a group of boys who needed to learn social and co-operative skills to manage themselves in the learning environment.

They proposed to the school board that in 2009 a group of Year 4 and 5 boys who had learning/behavioural issues should be in a separate class where the learning programme would cater for their needs.

The board approved and parents were also asked, and all were keen for their boys to be part of Room 15 and the boys-only class was born. It was the first of its kind in Wanganui and is only one of a few primary school boys' classes in the country.

"And a second boys-only class for younger boys is about to start," Mr Petersen said.

Carlton School was moving from strength to strength in an educational and business fashion, he said.

"These days you have to manage your school like a business as well as a school. This is what we are trying very hard to do now. To ensure people in the community see a great school and one to be proud of."

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 01 Oct 2014 10:55:28 Processing Time: 707ms