When it comes to celebrating different cultures in the community, Hampstead School feels it is on to a winning formula.
Principal Peter Melrose says the school takes a proactive approach to welcoming new students and their families to the area. It works to make new families understand how they can get involved in activities throughout the year and build connections with staff and other families. At the heart of it is the goal of creating a sense of community that extends beyond the school gates.
The school has aimed to make the grounds and buildings visually welcoming by having signage written in multiple languages. Multi-cultural murals and art are also on display. One of the murals in the school was created by students and features greetings and graphics to illustrate where they were from.
“When people come into a school it’s like entering a mini culture of its own … it’s that shared [sense of] community. We want to make everyone feel there is a place for them here.”
The school’s Kapa Haka and Pasifika groups are open to students of any ethnicity, and cultural activities are shared with the wider community through channels like Facebook, the school’s newsletter and performances around town.
“We put out invitations to class assemblies and to our cultural events to make sure we have our families coming into the school. It allows parents to see their children up on stage in a strong position, where they are celebrating New Zealand culture and their own culture,” he says.
Part of what makes school a good place to build connections between families is the time parents spend before and after class interacting with one another, Peter says. Some parents will be there 20 minutes before school finishes, sitting on the verandahs, and having conversations or making plans.
Various cultural weeks are also held at the school throughout the year. They help to showcase where students have come from and how they have settled in the community. The exposure to other cultural traditions ultimately makes it easier for locals and newcomers to appreciate their diversity.
“We’ve seen a number of ethnic groups come into the school over the years and that diversity has increased. I’ve seen the benefit the richness of those cultures has brought to the school community,” he says. “They are able to talk about their own country and impart some of the language and various parts of their culture and traditions. It educates the rest of the students and the staff.”