Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

Mission Heights Junior College and Mission Heights Primary School, Flat Bush, Manukau, New Zealand

Exemplary design categories: community use and involvement, cultural and historical value, flexible learning settings, green school, integrated services, library/media/resource centre, technology rich

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
Mission Heights Junior College and Mission Heights Primary School reflect innovative design in that they are two separate schools built on one site with a number of shared facilities. The shared reception is designed to be inviting for primary children, junior college children and their families with different height reception areas, which lead intuitively to distinct sides of the building for each school. The library operates as a fully collaborative area: library zones are designed as inviting areas for children of all ages. It also offers a seminar space, formal and informal work zones and individual reading zones, a projection space, an issues desk that caters to smaller and older children and a substantial central resource area for staff resources for both schools. The provision of 21st century learning spaces was an important design objective. There are flexible learning spaces within classrooms, and furniture and computer workstations are mobile. Sliding doors and glass walls in each classroom open up to learning studios where children can work independently or in small or large groups but still be monitored as these spaces are glazed and visually connected. Efficient design of joinery and removal of wet areas in classrooms to a shared central space in the corridor has provided additional space for instructional materials, bags and interactive boards in the classrooms. Teachers in both schools do not work from textbooks…students find their learning information online or from their teacher, and, by using their personalised swipe card students can access their own work portfolios at any of the more than 400 computer terminals. Mission Heights Junior College is built to a whanau (community) design which has four connected but discreet buildings or whanau communities. Each “school within a school” allows students and staff to develop a strong sense of community in a large school environment. Within the whanau the classrooms surround a central learning studio space which is used both as an active digitally-intensive learning space and as a social space with its own kitchen for student use. Glass sliding partitions allows visual connectedness between spaces and flexible use of classroom and central whanau spaces. Senior teachers' offices are situated centrally within the Junior College whanau areas and are also visible to students. All learning spaces have sound fields so that every student can hear easily. Mission Heights Primary School is built around the concept of learning Communities with central learning studios. These studios are shared by a pod of three classrooms as an extension of learning space to de-privatise the classroom and extend learning possibilities. Teachers do not have a territorial area in the classroom as the focus is on the learners: teachers have a collaborative work space that is shared by six teachers at each level in each building to allow professional conversations and collaboration across the school. The schools have been designed to rigorous environmentally sustainable specifications. Students can see and learn about alternative energy as the school has solar panels, a wind turbine, roof water collection and harvesting lights. All furniture is made from recyclable low volatile organic compounds. Extensive use of glass provides natural light and careful attention to roof design has contributed to a comfortable working environment without the need for air conditioning. The school has maintained the focus on environmental sustainability with a recycling programme, worm farm and a student initiative to “adopt” the neighbouring bush reserve. All landscape planting is in native trees. There are no rubbish bins in the grounds with students taking home any rubbish that is not recyclable. The community concept extends to students helping to clean their whanau environment.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
The Establishment Board of Trustees developed the school’s vision and were directly involved in the design process with representatives of the community. Community meetings were held with parents and local residents to obtain feedback on the vision, design and development of the school. Progress on construction was reported monthly though a website and flyers, which encouraged involvement of the local community well before the school opened. Prior to opening, school tours were held for students and the local community. Local Iwi contributed to the landscaping and blessed the site and buildings. Manukau City Council and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority were involved in development of travel plans and consulted widely with the community as part of this process. Teachers and principals from other schools were also involved in providing input as were the Mission Heights teachers, once appointed.

Activity Areas: The schools share an administration block, library, performing arts centre, sports fields and ICT infrastructure. The junior college has whanau (extended family) spaces for students and teachers, a large auditorium and gymnasium. The primary school has a multi-purpose hall and shared commons spaces (“learning studios”) between trios of classrooms.

Project costs: NZD 25,700,000.00

Source: Submitted to OECD for "Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011" in 2010

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User perspectives (2)

“The school has been open since February this year and has met and even exceeded our expectations. Our vision for a school with flexible, independent facilitated learning has been realised. Our students are engaged and both teachers and students report high levels of satisfaction with their new school environment. “Our glass environment means that we are all visible as we go about our daily work, from the principal to the students. Teachers feel comfortable in allowing students to move to work beyond the classroom as students are supervised in a non intrusive way. This has already developed independence and key competencies such as managing self and participating and contributing have become parts of our school culture. “The school and wider community are proud of our wonderful school”. The Mission Heights Primary School principal Veena Vohra said: “The school has in most areas exceeded expectations of the local community, the staff and the students for teaching and learning. This is particularly evident at MHPS as the construction of the new stage two buildings has commenced for 18 classrooms and six learning studios with no changes to the concept or the design, layouts or services that were in the stage one first block.
School principal, Mission Heights Junior College, Joan Middlemiss
“The school has in most areas exceeded expectations of the local community, the staff and the students for teaching and learning. This is particularly evident at MHPS as the construction of the new stage two buildings has commenced for 18 classrooms and six learning studios with no changes to the concept or the design, layouts or services that were in the stage one first block."
School principal, Mission Heights Primary, Veena Vohra

Images (5)

Drawings (3)

JCwhanau (Registration required)
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Credit: John Sofo, ASC Architects
Primspaces (Registration required)
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Credit: John Sofo, ASC Architects
Site Plan (Registration required)
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Credit: John Sofo, ASC Architects