Horizon School, in Snells Beach, celebrates its 30th anniversary this month and principal Helen Pearson says it’s exciting to see the growth in the school, which she sees as a vote of confidence in the kind of education it offers.
The state-integrated Christian school roll now stands at 242 and in the last two years, it has opened eight new classrooms, a computer suite, art studio, technology area and science laboratory, as well as several spaces for quiet work.
The expanded space comes after Horizon took over buildings previously occupied by a private TV station and the Huhu film studios.
Ms Pearson says Year 7 and 8 students had a hand in the design of the new classrooms turning “a rabbit warren of corridors, recording rooms and offices” into classrooms, a large collaborative space and breakout spaces.
The school expanded to include a college in 2019 and the former Huhu Studios forms the school’s secondary block.
Ms Pearson says the new college spaces facilitate strong relationships between teachers and students.
“Rather than being squashed into small classrooms facing the teacher at the front, learners have room to work with teachers in small groups or as individuals,” she says.
Earthworks are currently taking place on adjacent farmland to develop still more learning spaces and additional sports fields, to cope with anticipated growth in the college.
The school, formerly known at Mahurangi Christian School, was founded in 1991 following an upsurge in Christian parents homeschooling their children, who wanted to see a Christian school.
Parent and recently-trained teacher, Maryanne Curry, took on the role of the first unofficial head teacher and worked without pay to get the school up and running. The school was based in rooms provided by Mahurangi Baptist Church and soon had a roll of 16 pupils from Years 1 to 8.
In 1992, Robert Steedman was appointed the first official principal. At the time there were 22 students on the roll, which grew to about 40 over the next two years.
The school became state-integrated in 1995, which means it gets the same level of funding as a state school, except for the land and the buildings, which remain the responsibility of the school. Ms Pearson says state integration dramatically lowered fees for students.
She says the school wants to create an environment where students can learn about God and follow Jesus’ example of love.
She says many parents today are less engaged with church institutions, but still feel the importance of giving their children a spiritual education.
In recent years, Horizon has been known for its strong emphasis on “real-life” learning where students learn through practical experience. It also has an emphasis on students helping design their own learning programmes.
“As an example, one learner could write two songs, perform them for an audience, record them and design an album cover, which would give him 22 credits for NCEA in art and music,” Ms Pearson says.
The school will celebrate its 30th anniversary on October 29, assuming Auckland is at Alert Level 1. It will include a gathering of those involved in the school throughout its history, speeches, a slideshow of past and present photographs and the blessing of new classrooms. The event will be live-streamed for those who can’t attend.