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Flaxmere College principal Louise Anaru’s voice wavers as she talks about the challenges her school community faced a few years ago with the loss of some of their students to suicide.

The Hastings school was already facing challenges with achievement, retention, engagement and attendance, and Louise and her staff knew that a bold, collaborative approach needed to be taken to turn things around.

Staff, students and whānau worked closely together to co-construct the Flaxmere Way, an approach entrenched in the school’s values and the idea of building connections.

“All that we have achieved at Flaxmere College has been in collaboration with others,” says Louise. “The transformation of our school came about through collaboration with students, staff and whanau, and through partnering with our local community and Mana Whenua.”

Their efforts were recognised at last year’s Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards, with the high school taking home the Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award and the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award.

Louise described winning the awards as “extremely humbling and a huge honour”.

“As with the whakatauki – He waka eke noa: we are all paddling in unison for the wellbeing and success of our young people,” she says.

With the 2019 Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards now open for entry, the Ministry is encouraging schools, kura and early learning services to share their stories of success.

The Awards were created five years ago to celebrate excellence in education – essentially the effect great teaching has on students, whānau, communities and beyond.

Now an established fixture in the education calendar, the Ministry of Education is keen to see more schools and early childhood services submit their examples of great teaching, leadership and engagement working with learners, their whānau and the community.

Across four categories – teaching and learning; leading; engaging; and health and wellbeing –the Awards recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements in early learning, primary and secondary schooling, with the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award given to the single best overall entry among the four category winners.

There is also an Education Focus Prize, which in 2019 will be awarded for Excellence in Māori-medium Education.

The Ministry of Education is urging teachers and principals to consider sharing the great things happening in their schools and early learning services. They are also keen to see parents and community leaders encouraging their local schools to enter the Awards.

Louise Anaru says the process of entering the Awards has provided a great opportunity to reflect on Flaxmere’s progress and development.

“The application process builds on current school internal evaluation evidence.  It is really a case of telling your school’s story. I found the process really positive and a great opportunity to reflect on where we have come from, what we have achieved and where we are heading,” says Louise.

She would love to see more schools, kura, and early learning services enter the Awards this year.

“I strongly encourage my colleagues and fellow early learning services, schools and kura to enter. It is a great way to affirm the whole school community and celebrate success together.  Success breeds success!”

More information and entry forms can be found at www.pmawards.education.govt.nz

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