The Tamariki Special Character
Extract from the Integration Agreement 1990
Our Special Character is officially defined as...
Providing an education along the lines of the principles developed by A.S. Neill, the essential elements of which are:
A value for emotional, physical, spiritual and social, as well as intellectual, development.
A value for group involvement.
A value for trust, co-operation and emotional health.
A respect for individual learning rates and patterns.
Introducing the Tamariki School Special Character Statement
Prior to becoming a state-integrated school in 1990, the Tamariki community developed a Special Character Statement to describe the aims and philosophy of the school, and to reflect the intention of the founders of the school in 1967. The original Statement detailed areas of emphasis, to clarify how the school applied the influencing principles of A.S. Neill, the Playcentre movement, Dr. M. Bevan-Brown and others.
During the development of our school curriculum in 2013, the original aims have been relabelled with terms from the NZ Curriculum, as our Vision and Principle statements. The list of eight emphasis descriptions has been separated further to provide a list of the Values of the school.
The Tamariki School Special Character Statement
The Vision we have for the young people at Tamariki school has been summarised as:
To equip each child, according to the child’s nature and talents, to lead a personally satisfying life.
To equip each child to be an effective and contributing member of a democratic society.
To be a supportive community that nurtures its members.
The Principles and beliefs that guide the delivery of learning at Tamariki are:
Emotional well-being is the basis for cognitive, social and physical development
Children learn best when given the freedom to learn through play
Democracy can be experienced by the children through involvement in decision making and dispute resolution
Individual learning patterns, priorities and self-examination should be accommodated and encouraged
Co-operation, respect and trust should be fostered
Tamariki School has eleven key Values or areas of emphasis. The values are part of the everyday curriculum at the school – and are to be encouraged, modelled, and explored;
1. Emotional and social wellbeing and growth
Emotional and social wellbeing and growth are regarded as the base for cognitive development, and strategies which support these growths have priorities over all other activities. Tamariki operates in many ways more like an extended family, offering support and encouragement to all its members. It seeks homeliness and limits its numbers to sixty so that all members may know everyone else. Children mix freely irrespective of their age or gender.
2. Close relationships
The school values and works to achieve close relationships between teachers and children, children and children, and parents and teachers. These are based on trust, and we accept that children may need to test the reliability of teachers before learning takes place. Teachers are expected to be emotionally nurturing of the children, willing to cuddle them and to accept as natural a child’s need for physical contact.
3. Participation in rule making and group meetings
The children are deeply involved in creating and maintaining the social structures by which the school functions. This involves rule-making and dispute resolution through the mechanism of whole school and small meetings, which, when called take priority over all other activities. The school rejects punishments as a source of control or as a response to inappropriate behaviour.
4. Learning through play
Play is regarded as children’s work. By playing with ideas and objects they develop functioning cognitions about their world. The children may and do use all the materials in the school for their own purposes. We require an environment in which unstructured play freely occurs, with access to trees, sand, water, mud, junk materials, puzzles, games and other resources. We also respect the child’s need at times to be still and quiet.
5. Learning under child’s control
The child’s learning is to a very great extent under the child’s own control. In this way children can genuinely advance at their own pace in response to their unique developmental sequence. Attendance at classes is generally voluntary, and exceptions must be justified. Such justification would normally be that the child is afraid of taking the risk of failing and compulsion would be applied for a limited period mutually agreed, to carry the child over the risk period. Mistakes are regarded as important learning information and public grading is NEVER done. There are no class stratifications until the child enters Year 7. Children always work at their individual level of competence.
6. Learning belongs to the child
The child’s learning belongs to the child, therefore the child is responsible to itself for this learning—a teacher can assist and support, but is not responsible for the outcomes chosen by the child. No adult has the right to demand to see the child’s work and such access is always under the child’s control.
7. Learning follows own developmental patterns
Children can genuinely advance at their own pace in response to their unique developmental sequence and their individual level of competence. The focus of teaching strategies is to acknowledge and support what children do well, and use these strengths in areas of weakness. We do not use norm-referenced tests as they are incompatible with our emphasis on the individual. However, we do use criterion-based assessment methods to assess the children on an individual basis against the New Zealand curriculum, and their progress is monitored. Other private assessments are seen as being useful at times. Competition is not regarded as a desirable learning activity.
8. Child-control over environment and resources
The children have a very large measure of control over the environment and the adults in the school recognise the environment as a most important resource for children’s development in all areas. Accordingly, they will defer their need for an orderly and tidy environment to the child’s need to experience cause and effect; to experience why order and tidiness are desirable. The school values and fosters a child’s full and committed engagement in any activity and this engagement can be inhibited by a concern about mess, so we accept that mess may be created at times.
9. Self-reflection and goal setting
The children are encouraged at all times in all areas to compare their work and skills with their own previous achievements and their own goals. Self-examination is constantly fostered, and the capacity to use a skill and to generalise from it, is taken as demonstrating possession of that skill.
10. Working with individual strengths
As mentioned, the focus of teaching strategies is to acknowledge and support what children do well, and use these strengths in areas of weakness.
11. Involvement of whānau
Parents are welcome in the school, have unrestricted all-day access, and are not required to fill any particular role. In keeping with the school’s function as an extension of the family, pre-school siblings are welcome and their presence is enjoyed by the community.