School name:     Whangaparaoa College
                 New Secondary School
Type:            Years 7 – 13 co-educational high school
2009 roll:       1422 (full capacity will be 1700)
Principal:       Brian O’Connell

Funding Source (e.g. New Schools; 5YP; Roll Growth; SPG; community-raised):
New Schools; 5 Year Agreement; and Remedial (Leaky Building) funding.

Designer: Babbage Consultants (Stage 1); Architectus (Stage 2)
Builder:   Watts and Hughes Construction Ltd.
Opening date: January 2005; stage 2 to be complete September 2009.
Cost:      $48 mill.

What was the vision that guided your designer/architect on how teaching and
learning would happen at the new school? Who was involved in the development of
the vision and how did you do this?
The design process was well underway when Brian O’Connell took up appointment in
February 2004. He stopped it, and spent three months, with the board of trustees,
consulting the community to find what sort of school and design they wanted. Senior
and junior colleges were discussed, as were whanau-type structures. Key points of
vision eventually agreed included: a full years 7 to 13 college with a specific area for
junior students; architecture that would reflect the learning activities in each block;
and buildings that would allow flexibility and not determine or define the teaching
practice. “We wanted a design that allowed lots of linkages with plenty of glass to
make teaching and learning visible; lots of shared spaces; usable spaces outside
under big eaves; linkages between rooms and digital linkages with wireless where it
was needed for seniors with laptops”, he said.

What were you setting out to achieve in that vision, for example what were the
teaching practises (and learning styles?) that drove the design of the learning and
teaching areas?
The design produced by the architects allows teachers to be flexible and decide on
the most appropriate teaching practice, said Brian O’Connell. “We teach students,
not subjects; and we are teaching for students’ understanding so we are not the font
of all knowledge. Our teachers set out to make sure students understand and not
just to make sure they get the notes they have to go away and learn from”. He said
that the visual linkages created throughout the campus, by the use of glass in all
learning areas, were the most important factor. “This is a real boost to the quality of
teaching practice”. The major change, and challenge, with the new buildings was the
shift from teaching a subject to teaching the students.
Which of the seven teaching practices set out in the NZ Curriculum (pp.34-35) are
supported by your learning environments?
The two teaching practices identified by the principal were “creating a supportive
learning environment by having quality learning spaces”; and “reflective thought and
action”. The variety of different spaces offered to teachers and students by the
Whangaparaoa design was the big factor that enabled both of these.

What types of teaching and learning spaces have you included in your design (e.g.
flexible general classrooms or learning studios, open plan, flexible or multi-size
spaces, indoor/outdoor learning environments)? Whanau/ awhina/ learning streets
for shared learning and social interaction?
The new college includes just about the full range of types and scales of learning
space from: modernised conventional classrooms in the refurbished intermediate
school buildings (see photos WpC11 and 12); to whanau space in the Maori Studies
centre (WpC13); open plan in the ICT, science, technology and visual arts area
(WpC14, 24, 26, and 30); learning studios for music and drama (WpC18 and 19);
indoor/outdoor environments (WpC32 and 33); and areas for shared learning and
social interaction (WpC11, 28, and 39). There is also a large auditorium (WpC17) for
performance, assemblies and community functions.

What provisions have been made for independent or small group learning?
As noted and illustrated above, spaces for independent and small group learning
have been provided in every block, and the use of glass means that teachers can
supervise these areas easily. “Hush glass” has been used to minimise sound
movement between rooms.

How do your teaching and learning spaces differ from those in older, conventional
“Our very visual spaces would be the main difference, along with the high levels of
connectivity and the flexibility of most of our interiors”, said Brian O’Connell.

What can teachers do that they would find difficult to do in older, conventional
Whangaparaoa College teachers can work in learning communities, surrounded by
their colleagues in each subject area and able to see each other at work. They can
separate practical work and conventional classroom teaching, as illustrated in the
technology, science, and visual arts areas in photos WpC22 and 23, 24 and 25, 30
and 31. They can team teach, as in WpC14, and share commons or breakout spaces
as in the junior classrooms shown in WpC34 and the senior classrooms in WpC11.
Above all they can choose from a wide range of teaching and learning practices
because of the flexible environments they work in.

Provision for teachers decentralised work areas e.g. are they ‘eyes on the street’
available to students?
A distinctive feature of the college design is the provision of seven different teacher
areas across the campus. A sample of these is shown in WpC21 (performing arts
staff); WpC29 (science and technology) and WpC38 (physical education and health).
Most of these spaces are glass enclosed and located for easy student access.

How will your new facilities accommodate teaching and learning in curriculum areas
such as technology? physical education? the arts? Does this vary from the traditional
school approach?
The architectural design and internal layouts were purpose-built for these subject
areas. The technology block is “industrial” with exposed building services (WpC26
and 27); physical education has its own large complex surrounded by hard courts and
playing fields (WpC35 – 40); and the performing arts centre has theatrical
architectural style (WpC16) and a host of facilities (WpC17 – 20) for specialist
learning and teaching.

What provision has been made for teachers’ professional learning, collaboration and
As noted and illustrated already, teachers are accommodated as professional,
collaborative, learning communities.

Did you have MOE goals in mind e.g. engaging families and communities and how is
that reflected in the approach to the school’s design?
“We have tried to make the college entrance and reception welcoming and open
(WpC5)”, said Brian O’Connell. The performing arts auditorium also has a wide and
welcoming entrance and lobby (WpC15). The principal said they had recently
employed a person to engage with community groups who may wish to make use of
the auditorium at reasonable cost; and this promotional work will be extended to
the gymnasium and Astroturf area next to the gym.

What provision have you made for e-learning in the new environments?
The college has 35 interactive whiteboards in use, and, to ensure all students have
basic ICT skills, the old intermediate hall has been confirmed into a large computer
skills classroom (WpC14). Senior students use laptops and wireless connectivity gives
them anywhere/anytime internet access.

What special or unique features and/or learning benefits have the buildings
The special learning and teaching benefits offered by the Whangaparaoa College
buildings have been noted above and, in summary, include: flexible learning spaces
with sliding glass doors into both indoor and outdoor breakout spaces; designs that
reflect the specialty subjects within the buildings; the high visibility of teaching and
learning throughout; the grouping of teachers in professional communities; the
location of library/information centres close to the subject areas; and the plentiful
scope for e-learning.
Have the new environments led to changes in teaching practice and/or student
learning and the success that you planned for?
“Not yet, but we will get there”, was Brian O’Connell’s response. Constructing a big
campus over four years, with earthworks and building activity a constant since
2005’s opening, has put stress on the staff. “It’s difficult in a big new school which is
always growing and expanding to find the time to get everything organised. Staff had
often been overloaded with acquiring resources, starting up programmes and
activities, and developing the college curriculum and learning programmes. For these
reasons the college had been finding staff recruitment and retention a challenge.
Older schools have all these things in place and teachers can focus just on
professional practice, said the principal.

Have there been any unforeseen benefits/outcomes?
“We’ve noticed improving behaviour and more friendliness”, said Brain O’Connell
“and every time we open yet another new building, it gets better again”. He said the
visibility of everybody was a contributor to good behaviour. “Very few are off task
because you can’t hide anywhere”.

Do you have an ongoing school plan for learning environments? What’s the next
“The next step is to look at some beautification ideas and more outside learning
spaces”, he said.

What features of what you’ve achieved with these learning spaces would you
recommend to other schools?
Brian O’Connell recommends the visual connections between spaces, and the
flexibility that teachers enjoy at Whangaparaoa.

Was there any specific consideration given to the internal environment of the spaces
such as acoustics, daylight, artificial light, ventilation and heating? What did you set
out to achieve and are you happy with the results?
The one issue still to be resolved in the internal environments was excess light. “We
wanted lighting to be natural daylight but this has created problems around the use
of data projectors, interactive whiteboards and computers”, said Brian O’Connell.
Resolving these problems, possibly with shade blinds, was a high priority.

ISLA Captions for Whangaparaoa College

WpC1        The campus features several large and distinctive blocks: gymnasium (1);
years 7-8 classrooms (2); visual arts, science and technology (3 and 4); performing
arts (5); admin/reception (12) and the lower cluster of classroom blocks which remain
from the old Hibiscus Coast Intermediate School.
WpC2       This 2006 aerial view shows most of the major blocks on a site which
features wetlands to the left and playing fields created from low hills and ridges on the
WpC3       The site has been extensively landscaped into gardens and walkways, and
the blocks (such as the visual arts block in the foreground) feature indoor/outdoor
teaching spaces.
WpC4        Walkways are well used on this long campus. Students here are streaming
out of the visual arts/technology block at the end of the school day.

WpC5        The new reception/administration block presents an open and transparent
face to the community.
WpC6     Inside the admin area, the same open visibility is maintained. The
boardroom is at left, leading into the principal’s office at right.

WpC7      All the college deans share a large open-plan office in the admin block.
WpC8       The ground floor of the admin block includes a student services centre with
a health clinic, careers and guidance offices.

WpC9      The old intermediate school buildings suffered “leaky building syndrome”
and are being re-clad and modernised into up-to-date teaching spaces.
WpC10     In the old buildings, corridors and rooms were relatively cramped.

WpC11 Transformed, the old intermediate classroom blocks now feature extensive
corridors which will be used by break-out groups from the transparent and modern
learning spaces.
WpC12 The refurbished classrooms feature big floor areas, acoustic lining, cabled
and networked computers, new windows and teacher offices.

WpC13 A Maori Studies centre has been set up in one of the refurbished blocks
(block 8 in WpC1).
WpC14 What had been the intermediate school hall has become the Information
Technology centre. The recently inserted mezzanine floor has more computer work
stations upstairs where senior students can work independently.

WpC15 Sweeping pathways lead to the lobby of the auditorium in the performing
arts centre. Drama, dance and music classrooms are on the lower level at left.
WpC16 From the ground level, the architecture of the performing arts centre is
fittingly soaring and creative.
WpC17 The 600 seat auditorium is multi-purpose: music, dance and drama
performance as well as college assemblies and community use.
WpC18 This music room is big, bright, light and open giving teachers and students
lots of flexibility.

WpC19     The drama room is similarly well designed for rehearsal and movement.
WpC20     Beneath the auditorium and next to the drama rooms is a large costume

WpC21 The college design features several staff common rooms rather than one
large staffroom. This is the comfortable meeting and work space for teachers in the
performing arts centre.
WpC22      This food technology classroom includes some bench space and cooking
equipment but mainly it is for formal teaching. A fully-equipped food tech laboratory
is immediately available in the background (see WpC23)

WpC23 Neighbouring the food technology classroom, this kitchen provides the
practical work space and does not have to accommodate desks, bags, books.
WpC24 The design of the science teaching and learning spaces follows the same
principle as in food technology: separation of theory and practical work into adjoining
WpC25 A science class undertaking practical work in one of several central
laboratory spaces. Science classrooms for formal teaching (far background) surround
these practical spaces.

WpC26 The technology spaces have a suitably industrial design. Again, all internal
walls are glazed so that teaching and learning are highly visible, and so that safe
supervision is possible from any direction.
WpC27 Especially in the technology areas, building services and infrastructure are
exposed and become a learning resource for students.

WpC28 As with staffrooms, the college design includes distributed and specialised
library/information centres. This is the one in the science, technology and visual arts
block. Notable features are high quality lighting, ICT facilities, comfortable furniture
for reading, and work spaces for both individuals and groups.

WpC29 The teachers’ room in the science/technology block also has a combination
of individual work stations and settings for group meetings.
WpC30 The visual arts rooms are at the east end of the science and technology
block. They all open onto a commons space where students can work at computers,
large tables or a light table. The room set aside for Year 13 portfolio preparation is in
the right background.

WpC31 The visual arts teaching spaces all feature high visibility, tall student work
tables and stools, and easy access to both the commons space and the outdoors where
students may go to work.
WpC32 The sheltered work areas outside the visual arts rooms are on the left; the
external traffic movement areas on the right ensure that the science and technology
learning environments are traffic free….all the floor area can be used for learning and
WpC33 In the block for years 7 and 8 classes, there are pairs of classrooms with
shared breakout and wet activity areas between them.

WpC34 The junior classrooms, like the other college learning spaces, have lots of
glass and access to adjacent indoor and outdoor areas for flexible approaches to
WpC35 There is a confidence course for the years 7 and 8s next to their block. The
college’s hard courts and gymnasium complex are beyond.

WpC36 The gymnasium features multi-game floors, drop-down partition for
multiple use and extensive insulation for sound-proofing and warmth.
WpC37 Upstairs in the gymnasium are several classrooms for health and physical
education teaching…..

WpC38 ….and a seven-teacher office opening onto a large…..

WpC39 ……outdoor terrace which serves as breakout space for the classrooms on
either side, and as venue for staff barbecues.
Wpc40 The narrow college site originally had no space for playing fields until a
large ridge was bulldozed away, and major retaining walls were created.

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