© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Reputation and location: reasons Halswell residents want a new high school

Jessica Swan
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Hillmorton High School students  Hillmorton High School Facebook

Community leaders in Halswell are pushing for Hillmorton High School to become a local hub – but some residents want something different.

As one of the fastest growing regions in Christchurch, the government’s growth plan for education in Halswell doubles the existing high school’s capacity to 2000 students.

Principal Ann Brokenshire attests Hillmorton to be the third largest high school campus in Christchurch, allowing for this huge growth.

She explains they already host relocatable buildings to keep up with in-zone demand for their facility, and have much more space available for the next step.

However, the government’s plan also identifies many residents’ desire for an additional secondary school in the area – despite Hillmorton’s capacity to grow.

In fact, city councillor Anne Galloway says it’s a topic that comes up often in her meetings with residents.

As an old girl herself, she can’t see any reason why people wouldn’t invest in their local school and is a strong advocate for more intentional community participation.

“The fact is in most areas, a high school is the focal point for a lot of young people. There’s not that focus for Halswell young people because they don’t go to a local school.”

By choosing to attend schools in the city, she believes youth become disconnected from the activities and social networking in Halswell.

Community board member Andrei Moore pins residents' desire down to two main factors: location and reputation. 

Because of the size of Halswell, and its accelerating expansion, he says many people don't feel Hillmorton is close enough to be their local school. With travel time and fossil fuel emissions taken into account, he understands why people want something nearer to them: bike, scooter or walking friendly.

But he also identifies reputation as a reason that comes up too often.

Brokenshire says the Christchurch question of “what school do you go to?” contributes to this unhealthy perception about what makes a school good.

While the school decile is 5 out of 10, she says that’s no reflection on their standard of teaching.

“Deciles should be removed, it’s just a measure of the socio economic status of the parents. It’s not a measure of quality of education at all.”

Instead of looking at results, she thinks schools should be based on their “added value”: things like pastoral care, social interaction and inclusion, that are separate from grades. Culturally, she believes the school is a rich and diverse place – something not measured by NCEA.

“By sitting next to someone in class who's not the same as you, you learn a huge amount about both yourself and people with other perspectives. That’s what we need. We recognise educational outcomes are far broader than simply academic results.”

Hillmorton is currently applying for funding towards a new gym, and is hoping to upgrade facilities.

However, the timeline for the expansion to fill another thousand students is a waiting game. While the master plan is already complete, the school needs to reach the top of the priority list before construction begins.