New Primary School-heart of Nikau

Mel Bland is principal of Te Uho O Te Nikau, a new primary school in Flat Bush. Times photo Wayne Martin

From posh kids to those a little rough around the edges, she has taught at some of the best international schools all over the world as well as worked with decile one schools in New Zealand and helped turn them around.

Mel Bland takes great pride in the fact that as a native Fijian, she is founding principal of Te Uho O Te Nikau, a new school primary in Flat Bush that will open its doors in February 2019.

Housed currently at Ormiston Junior College till their school construction is completed, Ms Bland is already creating quite an impression.

The first thing that strikes you about the vivacious and friendly school leader is a black Labrador that follows her on a leash wherever she goes.

It is not unusual to see the founding principal surrounded by a young fan club that wants to play with Nikau, a pet therapy dog.

A dog lover who has even worked as a community outreach manager with SPCA, she says that dogs on-site are priceless.

“And it’s great for some kids who find it difficult to make friends,” says the educationist who has worked with pet therapy for children with rage problems.

The Public Private Partnership School will cater for 700 students between Years 1-6. The school will also house the Mt Richmond Special School unit.

Having interacted with diverse communities – she extensively taught in the Philippines, Taiwan and Singapore -Ms Bland says that she finds the diversity of the community in Flat Bush appealing. “I do believe I have worked with every nationality in the world which adds such an exciting dimension to my current job.”

Excited about the curriculum and the design of the school, she says that the site has two bridges built over river tributaries running through. There are two massive fields and huge learning buildings.

Explaining the significance of the school name she says, “We are the heart of Nikau that was used for nourishment and shelter. Everything in the school is connected and is part of a narrative.

“All the trees planted are native and we have plenty of bird-feeding trees as well as a beautiful path through the garden. The idea being that the Nikau provides for the once many manu (birds); the analogy is the berries are the teachings and the manu are the tamariki (children).

“Ten per cent of the school curriculum is committed to outdoor learning. I want children to climb trees and learn about plants; to take water samples and study them. Ours will be a waste-free school,” she says.

“We have worked on thoughts of a cultural concept for the bridges connecting the car park to the school.”

From a walking dog school bus to cool uniforms designed by Kukri Sports, there is a burst of new ideas that lean on the practical as well as work on building exciting and positive relationships with neighbouring schools and the community.

The school at 187 Flat Bush Road is taking student enrolments.