10 May 2016

Lyttleton gets new, post-quake school

9:58 am on 10 May 2016

The port town of Lyttelton has taken a big step towards in its rebuilding after the 2011 Canterbury earthquake with the opening of its new primary school.

Lyttelton School

Lyttelton School Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The settlement, just through the tunnel from Christchurch, lost most of the businesses on its main street following the quake - but is slowly re-emerging from the rubble.

The new primary school replaces the Lyttelton Main School and will also be home to pupils from Lyttelton West, which was controversially closed by Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Teacher Francie Graham

Teacher Francie Graham Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Bringing the schools together would unite Lyttelton, said Francie Graham, one of the school's teachers.

"I think there was quite a bit of apprehension. Everyone talked about going to a new school, which it isn't really - we've been Lyttelton Primary for two years.

"I think there's just been a collective sigh of relief, their eyes are just popping, it's just fantastic watching their faces because this is really something quite unique."

Principal Diana Feary

Principal Diana Feary Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

A lack of consultation from the Ministry about what the new school would look like had left a sour taste, said principal Diana Feary.

She was determined to overcome this and had given one teacher the job of working with the community on ways to include it in what the school did.

"We had parents coming and doing a sewing group with children last term - they made all sorts of cool things.

"So it's extending that kind of thing so our community knows that's something we value. That old story comes back, it takes a village to raise a child - well it takes a community to educate a child as well."

Books wait to go on the shelves at Lyttelton School.

Books wait to go on the shelves at Lyttelton School. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

As part of its outreach, Lyttelton Primary includes a hall that doubles at night as the venue for the Loons Theatre Group. In turn, the theatre company will provide drama classes to the children.

Work is continuing to fit out the school hall and the Loons Theatre plans to open its doors there in mid-June.

Ms Feary said drawing on the resources of the community made sense.

"When children are working with people who are passionate about something, it's far more motivating for them.

"We know we're not good at everything as teachers so it's really cool to bring community people in who have expertise and passion in different things."

Another of these is Project Lyttelton, a social enterprise with its fingers in many pies including a time bank, community garden and op-shop.

In working with Lyttelton Primary it has helped the children with preparing meals for the elderly.

Project Lyttelton's Margaret Jeffries

Project Lyttelton's Margaret Jeffries Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Project Lyttelton chairperson Margaret Jefferies said the quakes had been a blessing, because they had forced people to throw out the rule book.

"It gives you a chance to start thinking about what's happening over in other parts of the world, what are they doing, or what could we dream up."

In Lyttelton and Christchurch, people reconnecting with their communities wasn't just a temporary post-quake phenomenon, she said.

"You know for some people they might think, 'well that's had its day', but it hasn't because it's really a style of being.

"Christchurch is more or less the capital in New Zealand of social enterprise, and that's people working out how are we going to do these things differently."

Tim Winfield, whose son Leo is in year two at Lyttelton School, liked what he had seen so far of the new open plan modern learning classrooms.

"It looks like the kids are enjoying it.

"We've done a lot of information stuff with the school around the different learning styles and that sort of thing. It's early days but it seems to be good for the moment."

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