Karen and Alwyn Poole set up the Villa Education Trust as a charity in 2002. Using an Integrated Project Based Curriculum (designed and written by Alwyn himself) to maximise learning and development for students in the middle years (Years 7-10), they opened their first school, Mt Hobson Middle School, in 2003.
A small, private school in Newmarket, it is now in its 15th successful year and its proven track record resulted in the Trust’s successful application for two Auckland Charter Schools in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Currently the Trust operates 25% of all partnership schools within New Zealand:
South Auckland Middle School is located in Manurewa. Officially recognised as a ‘Decile 1 School’ it is outperforming its neighbouring schools.
Over 80% of those enrolled are from Maori and Pasifika families, what the Government refers to as ‘Priority Learners’. South Auckland Middle School is currently full, with waiting lists through to 2018. The Trust’s second Partnership School Middle School West Auckland, located in Henderson, opened in 2015 and includes a Te Reo bilingual unit. Again, over 80 percent of those enrolled are Maori and Pasifika.
In addition, for the start of the 2016 academic year, Mt Hobson Middle School launched the Villa NCEA Academy for students in Years 11-13 needing an alternative educational approach at this crucial time in their schooling.
How we help children
With expert teaching, coaching, mentoring, significant purposeful practice and an opportunity to express themselves, all children can develop high quality skills and knowledge sets and achieve regardless of background, wealth and previous experience. At each Partnership School a Community Liaison Manager works directly with families to truly understand their children and to know what is going on in the home; someone who can access and provide support, mediation and guidance when needed.
In addition, if students turn up to school: hungry – they are fed; without proper uniform - they are re-clothed; wherever possible, any barriers to learning are removed.
Class sizes are kept to a maximum of 15 students and all are provided with a personalized learning plan (Individual Base Plan)– something that state schools do not offer mainstream students. We also have an intimate school environment with a four-year age spread to give opportunity for learning and development with less societal pressure.
Physical environment, approach and atmosphere
With three schools, the Villa Education Trust has shown its capability to set up and efficiently manage schools in a variety of locations, to meet a spectrum of learning needs from all backgrounds. Core values unite the three school communities:
- Excellence in learning
- Cooperation among students, families and the community.
- Building of personal character through applied Christian values.
- A strong emphasis on thinking skills and students understanding how they think and learn.
Mt Hobson Middle School is a ‘boutique style’ school situated in Newmarket, with easy access from all public transport links. On-site parking is available for visitors. Parents are asked to drop children off on Dilworth Avenue where they can safely pull over and allow children to vacate the car. It is then a short walk around the corner to school. The villa has been modified to be an ideal teaching space for this number of students (the maximum school roll is 48) and curriculum model. For the activity based afternoon, students use the excellent facilities within the Auckland area, transported in school buses, allowing them access to Auckland’s top sports facilities and museums. Mt Hobson Middle School provides onsite IT for all students.
South Auckland Middle School is located in beautiful green surroundings on Mahia Road in Manurewa and is led by Principal Wendy Grieg. An abundance of fruit trees are located within the grounds enjoyed by all 180 students at morning tea and lunch time.
The modified facilities are home to three ‘villas’ of 60 students each led by a highly qualified and experienced Academic Manager.
Community Liaison Officer Elliott Ikilei ensures the safety and support of students both within school and within the home environment.
Community facilities, including Manurewa Pools, are used for the activity based afternoon programme. On site parking is available for visitors and parents.
Parents are encouraged to visit the school both to view the academic morning and to develop community links.
A Whanau lounge with free refreshments and information for parents and families is available and open each school day and a Whanau Friday evening is held termly for all students and their wider families. Learning at South Auckland Middle School is free. We provide uniform, stationery and IT for all students and cover the cost of field trips. No donations are asked. Middle School West Auckland is spread across two sites in Henderson, West Auckland.
The largest campus is Jack Ralston House, located off Lincoln Road, which is home to 150 students spread across 3 villas. The school’s Te Reo Bilingual Unit is Pohutukawa Villa located on Waipareira Avenue, offering a maximum of 60 spaces.
Students are grouped into villas of a maximum of 60 overseen by experienced Academic Managers, with the school being led by Principal Alex Metzger (formerly Deputy Principal of Auckland Grammar School).
High quality, modified teaching facilities and on site IT are available at both sites and parents are an integral part of the school community. Whanau evenings are held termly and parents are encouraged to visit school regularly to speak with staff and develop community links.
Community Liaison Manager’s Alex Hawea and Filipo Levi assist and support students and families to ensure there are no barriers to learning and children arrive at school fed, dressed and ready to learn.
Middle School West Auckland provides uniform, stationery and field trips to all its students and no donations are asked – learning is completely free.
For South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland it is important to highlight that the schools are FREE (uniform, stationery, field trips and on site IT is provided and no donations are asked. For Mt Hobson Middle School, it is important to stress the ‘boutique style small school environment’ and nurturing nature, ideal for students with specific learning and behavioural needs or those needing a different approach.