Miramar South School – Low Decile and High Quality

As the debate rages about the proposed merger of two Miramar schools I want to challenge the perception that these schools have a lower quality of education, teaching staff and student behaviour.

For the past two years I have been a proud supporter of activities at Miramar South School, presenting books to students and attending their special events and prize givings. I have been so impressed by the atmosphere even though the buildings do need an upgrade.

A school however is more than the paint job on the hall and this school is a remarkable and spirited mix of cultures. The teaching staff are a dedicated group of people who believe their students are entitled to the best that a quality public education system can offer. Their approach is reflected by the students who appear to have a high level of motivation to participate in all school activities. These children, from places like Somalia, Afghanistan and across the Pacific, as well as Maori, are well supported by the parents who are always present in numbers at the school events. There are a few Pakeha families involved in this school and they are having the rich experience of being a cultural minority in an environment that fosters respect for everybody.

The school works well with the local community, a recent example being the senior students’ camp which required major fund rising as parents and the school have no extra cash. The school worked with local youth workers who participated in the camp, providing energy and role models to the 12 year olds who are about to move into a bigger world.

Miramar South School is open about their experience of “white flight” but utterly reject the notion that they offer a lesser quality of education or that their students are more disruptive than higher decile schools. According to staff who have worked in others schools the percentage of children with behavioural issues is no different to that experienced in higher decile schools.

My observations are purely anecdotal, but I keep going back to events at the school because of the warmth, energy and passion for learning that I observe. I recently attended a school camp “thank you’ event held for those of us who had helped make it happen. A young girl came up to me utterly unprompted just to say “thank you for your support”. Whatever happens with the merger let’s not pretend low decile means low quality. These children represent a new cultural demographic and this school is bringing out the best in them.

2 Comments Posted

  1. Thanks for your advocacy for a struggling school, Catherine. All schools deserve to be supported and encouraged, especially those with multiple challenges. In my experience of reorganized schools in Invercargill, it takes years to build a school culture again and the children do suffer in the interim. There has to be very compelling reasons, other than purely economic, to negatively affect two obviously well functioning schools.

  2. Great to read about this – we want a public education system that delivers the best for all our children, but so often this doesn’t happen for those who already have the least.
    Dedicated principal and staff as well as parents can make such a difference! Years ago, I taught in a very similar kind of school in North London – brilliant principal, who led by example and great staff, including three NZers and a couple of Australians as well as Welsh, Indian, coloured South African. We had appalling conditions – one of my classes was held in the toilet block and another on the stage of the hall – but fantastic parental turnout and relationships with some of the poorest immigrant families in London. The kids ran our daily assemblies -as well as the notices etc, they would read from their favourite books or put on music from their different backgrounds or dance and sing. It was their school and despite their difficult lives it was a place they felt safe (and got fed – the principal made sure of that, from his own pocket if necessary)and wanted to learn. Some arrived at 7 am and some were still there till five – that principal made sure he was there to open up (big iron gates)and make cocoa for the early ones and was still there to see the late ones off safely.
    It was hard work, but I learnt such a lot.
    It is great to read positive things about our often beleagured teachers.

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