Pic: BTG010321BALLANCE2 Caption: Ballance School has a strong focus on the environment.
By Steve Carle
Ballance School has started the new term with a new principal, Brenda Sutton. She has been a principal for the past 16 years.
Before her appointment at Ballance, Brenda was principal at the picturesque Kenepuru Sound in the Malborough Sounds. She ran a rural schoolover the past 11 years with a roll fluctuating between 10 and 15 students. It was two hours from the nearest town.
Before that she had been principal at Akitio School for five years, after teaching at Pahiatua Primary School.
"I live in Ballance and have owned a house there for the past 20 years - I can be considered a semi-local," she said. "I saw this job advertised and applied and am very privileged to have won this position.
"Upon my arrival at Ballance School I found it exceptionally well resourced. The roll has dropped, however we do have younger children in the district who will join us as they enter their schooling years.
"Part of our focus is community engagement and consultation. One of those is making connection between home and school and the community. Part of that will be collaborating to work with the Ballance Hall Committee, the school Board of Trustees and the church, which is a community asset.
"Ballance School is not zoned, anyone can enrol here, but we don't want to take children off other schools. If new entrants were looking at coming to a rural school with a country feel, then absolutely yes.
"We have a real country focus and are working on a localised curriculum. On February 23 we went out with the Ecology Team and the New Zealand Dairy Team to undertake a study of the creek at Mabey's farm - looking at water quality.
"The children will be following that through. We will be reconnecting with Enviroschools and hope that will be all part of our environment around here. It is our wish to enhance water quality through plantings and tidying up.
"We will be focusing on what's in our local curriculum, for our tikanga and history and for our Enviroschools. We're part of the Kāhui Ako, which has achievement challenges for the school-wide Bush cluster. There is a focus on wellbeing and student achievement.
"We're working on our strategic direction currently, in line with the new national educational learning priorities, putting our learners at the centre, so giving them a stronger student voice.
"This term the children have come up with a plan to develop our school areas - such as taking responsibility for repainting the outdoor activities area and cleaning up the outside living classroom. We have edible gardening classes on Wednesdays.
"As well as a focus on academic subjects, we have a strong focus on the environment and local curriculum learning.
"We have appointed a second principal release teacher, Louise Ilton, who is well-known around Pahiatua - having taught at Mangatainoka School and prior to that being principal at Papatawa School. We're very lucky to have her. She takes the edible gardening programme on Wednesdays.
"We have two fantastic volunteers: Granny P (a.k.a. Heather Poyzer) who comes in three days a week to read one-to-one with our junior children. She has been doing so for about 20 years.
"Robert Horne (alongside Mali Swanney) has been attending to our pool, getting it up and running and caretaking for it - for well over 30 years.
"We are very lucky to have people dedicated to our school," she said.