Tauranga's newest primary school has officially opened with about 70 more pupils than expected.

Taumata School in Pyes Pa opened its gates to 150 pupils yesterday, with children, teachers and parents welcomed on to the site for the first time.

Foundation principal Gen Fuller said the school had first expected about 80 pupils on day one but was pleased the starting role had surpassed expectations.

"We are creating history. What an amazing opportunity to start a brand new school," she said.

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It comes off the back of some Tauranga schools having to build extra classroom spaces to cater for their expanding school rolls as Tauranga's population of about 135,000 continues to grow.

Deputy principal Mike Rankin said the school was currently staffed for 180 children, with seven teachers and two deputy principals, including himself and Jackie Price teaching three-and-a-half days a week.

The junior school currently had about 100 children and five teachers.

The senior buildings and school hall had been officially opened, with the junior and middle school buildings expected to be finished in Term 2.

The primary school was catering for Year 1 to 6 pupils in the school zone this year, with Year 7s welcomed in 2020 and Year 8s in 2021.

New Zealand Education Institute Tauranga branch member Barrie Wickens said Taumata School's current staffing requirements were normal.

"It takes a huge effort to start a school from scratch and the teacher entitlement is extremely important," he said.

"The roll will grow quickly and the playing field evens out."

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The Tauranga Special School principal said the teacher shortage was a "national crisis" with 300 vacancies nationwide.

The Ministry of Education deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the new state full primary school was built to help cater for Tauranga's high population growth.

MacGregor-Reid said new schools such as Taumata School were resourced with a staffing entitlement that was bigger than the school's initial need so staff can prepare to get their school up and running.

The site was designated for educational purposes in 2014.

Last year, the ministry forecast schools would need 650 primary and about 200 secondary teachers for 2019 if nothing was done to increase supply in the short term.

As at February 3, Bay of Plenty schools had lodged two primary teaching roles and four secondary teaching roles with contracted recruitment agencies.

MAKING HISTORY

Principal Gen Fuller said it had been a rewarding yet challenging journey and had tears in her eyes as she looked back on progress photos since the blessing of the 5ha Kennedy Rd site in February 2018.

Addressing the founding pupils in her opening speech, Fuller said the children had been involved from the very beginning from turning the first sod of soil to discovering historic kumara pits and being welcome to their first day at the school.

"The children are the last piece of the puzzle," she said.

"I just feel so privileged to be part of something that is brand new," deputy principal Mike Rankin said.

The newly opened school featured a brand new senior school building with library, multi-media board room, school hall and flexible learning spaces.

Outside was a brand new playground, avocado trees and soon-to-be-built wetlands at the rear of the site.

Board of Trustees chair Jay Kedian also welcomed the pupils, teachers and parents to their first day of school.

"We are the historians, we are creating the history."

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

The Strachan children Zoe, 5, Tristan, 9, and Elijah, 7, with dad Conrad, principal Gen Fuller, mum Jolie and baby sister Rosie, 1. Photo / Zoe Hunter
The Strachan children Zoe, 5, Tristan, 9, and Elijah, 7, with dad Conrad, principal Gen Fuller, mum Jolie and baby sister Rosie, 1. Photo / Zoe Hunter

The Strachan children woke up this morning and pulled on a brand new uniform.

Zoe, 5, Elijah, 7, and Tristan, 9, were three of the first 150 pupils to be welcomed to Tauranga's new Taumata School as their parents Jolie and Conrad watched proudly.

For the Strachan family, it made sense to send their three children to Taumata School after recently moving to the area.

"We feel very lucky," mum Jolie said.

The proud parent said getting the children ready for school yesterday morning was easy.

"They basically woke up in their uniforms," she joked.

Their youngest child Zoe, 5, who was attending her first day of school, would graduate from the primary in 2026.

"We feel really privileged to be part of the journey," Jolie said.


HOW MANY TAURANGA TEACHERS?
Primary: 1172
Secondary: 928
Total: 2100
Source: Ministry of Education

Founding principal Gen Fuller. Photo / Zoe Hunter
Founding principal Gen Fuller. Photo / Zoe Hunter

Q&A WITH THE FOUNDING PRINCIPAL

Name: Genavier Fuller (Gen)

Age: 44

When did you start teaching and why?
My first year of teaching was 1996. I became a teacher because I have a genuine love of people and I see the role as providing an opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of learners. Ultimately, through being a learning coach, mentor and confidante, teachers are able to challenge our young people to be the best possible versions of themselves.


What made you want to become principal of Tauranga's newest school?
The unique position of foundation principal of Taumata School provided an opportunity to create a new learning landscape deeply committed to having learners at the centre. It provided an opportunity to thoroughly look at what research identifies as best practice, explore recent neuroscience around how the brain works and stages of development, and then use all of the information to develop a set of learning principles and practices that support that research and evidence. It also provided an opportunity to have input into creating well-designed innovative spaces that have the potential to enhance learning for students. Definitely a privilege.

Looking forward, what do you expect the 2019 year to bring for you and Taumata School?
This year we are focused on being a 'learning school' exploring what it means to be a learner; and implementing our experiential curriculum. We have five guiding principles that we will explore and embed which include collaboration, authentic/relevant learning, agency, curiosity and grit.

What is your favourite thing about Taumata School?
I love that this is a school for the community. We have had amazing, positive support from our community and everyone is genuinely excited about partnering with us on this journey.

What do you think makes a good teacher/principal?
They are connected and engaged; have a clear and future focused vision; have a genuine love of children and prepared to go the extra mile; know that learning is the business, are models of learning, innovators and supportive of innovation and creativity and are comfortable with the uncomfortable (prepared to take risks based on evidence and research)