A Whangārei school principal says he is not afraid of door-knocking and having important conversations with parents and whānau about student absenteeism.
Portland School is a bronze-winning rural Enviroschool that has seen student growth of 200 per cent in the last two years.
Principal Shane Nicholas is confident the school is one of the fastest-growing in Whangārei.
The primary school provides education for children in Years 1 to 6, with more than 65 per cent of the children identifying as Māori, and approximately 13 per cent of Pacific heritage, as of July last year.
Nicholas said the school provided free lunches - prepared with school-grown fresh produce - stationery, and transportation to students to improve student attendance, which remained above 90 per cent on average, pre-Covid lockdown last year.
"If the children are absent, I go door-knocking and get them into the car to school. We have to show them the high expectations we have got for them."
However, Nicholas said it was only possible because of the small size of the school.
"Students who have had attendance problems in the past, once they come here, the engagement level and building relationships with whānau have helped to get them to school.
"A lot of our families may come from a low socio-economic background, didn't particularly have good experiences at other schools, so they are automatically shy," Nicholas said.
Teachers and principals were generally perceived as intimidating, Nicholas said - and it was about "breaking down those barriers".
The principal said although the school's ideology is centered around three goals - wellbeing, being an active and global citizen, and curriculum - student wellbeing remained a priority.
Nicholas said he was proud of their "diving into passion" programme, which runs one day a week, where the whole school is divided into four groups to work on school beautification, art, coding and technology, and building rat traps.
This was aligned with the "Tuakana-teina" Māori model of learning.
With regards to the history of Aotearoa New Zealand, Nicholas said they had grabbed the bull by the horns and were aiming to be the poster children for that.
"It is something we hold close with the localised curriculum and are going through the process of gathering local stories of the area. We want to know who our heroes are and what values they show."
School 50th to benefit from new programme
Ngā Iti Kahurangi is improving classrooms in around 600 small or remote schools across Aotearoa, at no cost to the schools, and Portland School has become the 50th school to benefit from it.
Tamariki, kaimahi, contractors and the Ministry of Education came together to celebrate the milestone and to show their appreciation for the school's new LED lights, acoustic panels and insulation, and residual current devices for electrical safety.
Ngā iti Kahurangi - Improving Classrooms in Small or Remote Schools - got underway in November last year with its aim that by mid-2024, around 600 schools would have received upgrades.