I’ve just spent the weekend in Rotorua attending a 10 year celebration of the beginning of the Primary Open Learning (POLO) primary teacher training programme in Rotorua. This is a programme that I had a part in establishing when I was working at the Christchurch College of Education. Back then it was difficult to imagine the programme would last for ten years! To date there have been 163 graduates of the programme – most of whom are now teaching in and around the Rotorua or central North Island region. The Rotorua programme is a regional initiative based on the distance education teacher education programme that CCE have been running since 1995. Similar programmes have been run in Gisborne, Panguru and Te Aroha – but only Rotorua has continued for 10 years.
This is a credit to the vision and leadership of a number of people, including the principals association of Rotorua who initiated discussions with the Christchurch College of Education, to the management and staff of CCE, and to the long term commitment of Ann-Marie Hunt (left rear in photo above) who has been the local coordinator of the POLO programme since it began – and the many other lecturers and staff who have worked with the students there. It also owes a lot to the partnership that has developed between CCE and the Waiariki Polytechnic that has been the local “home” to the project since it started.
The theme of this weekend was “making a difference”, and during the weekend I heard many stories from students of how this programme has made a difference in their lives, and how they are now able to make a difference in the lives of the students in the classes they are teaching.
The weekend was also attended by some of the past and present management team from the Christchurch College of Education, making it especially significant for them as it also marks the end of the formal relationship with the College as an entity, as in six weeks time it will amalgamate with the University of Canterbury.
The final part of the weekend was a poroporoaki that held in the Wharenui at Waiariki Institute of Technology(see picture below). A feature of the Rotorua POLO programme has been the wananga, led by Peter Moeau, that were held in this wharenui. Many students spoke of the significance of these experiences throughout their course – in preparing them to work with Maori students in mainstream schools.