More than a Makeover
“Run-down, unpopular schools could get make-overs to improve their image and encourage more parents to send their children there.” - RNZ education correspondent John Gerritsen
There is no question that Ridgway is run down. We are a Wellington school caught between phenomenal roll growth in Auckland and disastrous earthquakes in Christchurch. We don’t resent the money spent to provide new schools in those places, as it’s obvious they were necessary. We understand the budget constraints our Ministry of Education officials have had to work within over recent decades and know exactly why we are in the position we are in. We’ve waited patiently for ‘our turn’ and are both relieved and grateful that our time has come and work is underway bring our classrooms up to standard. I’m also cautiously hopeful after the discussions we’ve had so far with the MOE infrastructure team that we’ll get the fit for purpose learning spaces that we need, not just a quick carpet and paint job. That is to say, I’m hopeful that we’ll get more than just a ‘make over’.
I think there is definitely some truth to the idea that parents find run down schools unattractive and given the choice many would drive past a ‘run down’ school to another that looks nicer and more modern. It’s disturbing to be in a ‘run down’ school and see 'run down' linked with ‘unpopular’, as if somehow these things must go hand in hand. The implication is that ‘run down’ and ‘unpopular’ are an indication that the quality of education provided behind peeled paint must be less than that found in bright and shiny new classrooms. It absolutely is not the case!
The buildings may be run-down at Ridgway School, but the quality of education we are providing is as good as anywhere else in the country. Our children learn and are successful by any measure you’d like to use. Our staff work extremely hard to cater for every single child, and go above and beyond what could be considered their duty every single day. Not only are our children successfully learning and meeting academic expectations, they are also enjoying a wide range of physical, cultural and artistic activities which are helping them to grow into the well rounded individuals that we need to run the world they will find themselves working in 10 to 15 years from now. I’m proud of what we are achieving at Ridgway. (Follow our Facebook page to keep up to date with all of the wonderful things going on.)
Deeper into the RNZ article you’ll read that for some schools the problem of property maintenance is due to falling rolls, but this is not the case at Ridgway, and I’m sure is also not the case for many other schools. It’s also implied that some schools are run down because they have ‘wider problems’. Again this is not an adequate explanation for us. Our buildings are run down simply because there has been extreme underfunding of school property over decades. What's not mentioned is the possibility that schools have chosen to spend their funding on children's learning rather than buildings.
Teachers and support staff at Ridgway are acutely aware of the deficiencies of our buildings and have had to work even harder than ever in recent years to overcome the limits that these have put on us. They are adaptable and flexible and find ways to work around the problems that the buildings give us. We understand that the community feel upset and undervalued when they see how flash other schools look, because we feel that way too. We are looking forward to a complete refurbishment of the junior block and new buildings to replace the existing prefabs on our site. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. The building work to be done will provide our children with the safe and healthy school that they deserve, and will be much more than a superficial makeover.