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New Classroom for Starship Kids

New Classroom for Starship Kids

Children with serious illnesses or injuries now have even less reason to miss out on school after the Northern Health School opened its new dedicated classroom unit at Auckland's Starship Hospital.

The Telecom-sponsored school is responsible for ensuring sick children throughout the upper North Island continue learning when they are unable to attend their usual school for an extended period.

Previously, the Health School had used a variety of rooms at Starship Hospital and these were limited in size, scattered throughout the building and sometimes too small for children in wheelchairs or beds to access.

The new classroom unit at Starship Hospital has been funded by the Ministry of Education and can accommodate 12 students at any one time. It is also purpose designed so children in wheelchairs or confined to their beds will have access to the unit.

Principal Jim Craig says the new unit demonstrates the increasing understanding between the health and education sectors about the benefits ongoing learning can have for ill children.

"Many children look forward to lessons with our teachers because it gives them a sense of normality at what can be an emotionally and physically demanding time. This new classroom will give children a place where they can have time out from the ward and exercise their minds.

"We also find that Health School students benefit from the opportunity to work one-to-one with a teacher. This is enhanced by the fact that our teachers develop an education plan for each student based on consultation with their regular school teacher, parents and medical practitioner," he said.

The new classroom will also help students leave the hospital walls virtually. Telecom has donated a set of video-conferencing equipment to link Northern Health School units, including Starship, with the School's headquarters in Newmarket. The equipment will allow lessons to be conducted between sites and also be used for professional development of staff.

The equipment will operate over Telecom's SchoolZone, a service specially designed for New Zealand schools that offers video conferencing, high-speed internet access, safe browsing, email, virus and scam filtering, and website hosting.

"Telecom's sponsorship allows our teachers to use the latest technology to normalise children's lives as much as possible when they are going through a difficult and often traumatic period," Mr Craig said.

In 2003, Telecom also provided the School with laptops and wireless networking cards so teachers could use them as mobile teaching tools when visiting students throughout the hospital. The laptops are used to access online resources and keep students in touch with their classmates at their usual school.

A new wi-fi system in the Hospital now allows the teachers to access the School's network with their laptops anywhere they go within the Hospital.

The Health School has five teachers based at Starship Hospital and they teach about 40 students a week, totalling about 400 students over the course of a year. The School has 30 teachers based throughout the upper North Island and the majority of their time is spent teaching in children's homes.

Health School students have a range of serious medical conditions, such as cancer and cystic fibrosis, and typically spend about ten weeks on the School's roll. The School only teaches those children who meet its criteria of having a serious illness or injury which requires more than ten days off school.

More than 1,500 students were admitted to the Northern Health School in 2004, including children transferred to Starship Hospital from other parts of the country.


Northern Health School facts

- The Northern Health School is one of three Health Schools (formerly Hospital Schools) established by the Ministry of Education in 2000 and sponsored by Telecom. It has its headquarters in Auckland.

- Northern Health School teachers are also based at Starship Hospital, Kidz First Hospital, Taranaki Hospital, Gisborne Hospital and in Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, and Rotorua.

- The school admits students from Year 1-13 who:

- are unable to attend school due to serious illness - they may be in hospital or at home for a period expected to exceed 10 school days

- have had, or are likely to have six hospital admissions in a twelve month period

- have had repeated school absences due to ill health exceeding (or likely to exceed) 40 days per year

- need support to return to school after hospitalisation and/or recuperation/rehabilitation at home

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