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Health School Moves Into ‘Mother Ship’

Thu, 28 Oct 2004

Health School Moves Into ‘Mother Ship’

It’s the South Island’s largest school in terms of the area it covers and tomorrow the Southern Regional Health School is officially opening its new home, or ‘mother ship’, as the school’s principal likes to think of it.

The school is one of three Health Schools (formerly Hospital Schools) established by the Ministry of Education in 2000 to keep ill children learning when they are unable to attend their usual school for an extended period.

The challenge of meeting the educational needs of these children is compounded by the Southern Regional Health School’s ‘zone’, which encompasses the entire South Island, plus Stewart Island and the Chathams.

The school’s teachers must travel about 120,000kms annually to teach ill children in hospitals and the community, but Telecom’s sponsorship is now helping reduce teachers’ time on the road by connecting teachers and students virtually.

The school’s principal, Chris Parsons, says communications technology means the school’s new headquarters in Cardale House in Christchurch will be much more than a bricks and mortar home.

“Our goal is to provide ill students with education whenever and wherever they need it and a combination of Ministry of Education funding and Telecom’s support means we’re now at the point where we can begin to realise this.

“Our new headquarters in Christchurch will be a virtual command centre, or mother ship, from which we deliver lessons to students in hospitals or homes throughout our region.

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“Video conferencing, or the transformation of laptops into mobile teaching tools through a combination of webcams and G-trans cards, will enable us to link students with teachers virtually anywhere,” he said.

As well as helping the school overcome its unique geographic and educational challenges, this technology will lessen the influence of time with students able to complete and post their work online 24 hours a day. Mr Parsons said this will be invaluable if a student has, for example, disturbed sleeping patterns.

The school’s Southland-based teacher, for example, already uses a Telecom-provided G-trans card in her laptop so she can record her notes in a centralised database while visiting students within her area. A laptop with a G-trans card is also used by students in Christchurch Hospital to access online resources and communicate with their friends from their hospital bed.

Telecom Chief Information Officer Mark Ratcliffe said Health Schools are the unknown Samaritans of the education system.

“Health Schools do an outstanding job of helping children keep up their education when they are ill, but their work is largely unheralded outside of the families of the children who need their help.

“By combining the commitment of their teachers with communications technology, the Southern Regional Health School is set to make even more of a positive difference in children’s lives,” he said.

Telecom customers can help the Southern Regional Health School obtain additional computer technology and equipment simply by calling 123 and nominating to sponsor the school through Telecom’s School Connection programme. Telecom distributes $10 million to New Zealand schools and Early Learning Centres through the programme every year.

Southern Regional Health School facts

• The Southern Regional Health School was established by the Ministry of Education in 2000 to help keep children learning when they are unwell for extended periods and missing school.

• The school has 14 teachers based throughout the South Island. On average they spend a quarter of their time teaching in hospitals and the remainder is spent teaching children in the community.

• The school’s roll averages around 350 students each year. In August, the school had its highest monthly roll since it was established with 112 students enrolled.

• The school enrols children from Year 1-13 who: - are hospitalised; and/or - recuperating/rehabilitating 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 40 days per year - need support to return to school after hospitalisation and/or recuperation/rehabilitation

• The school is affiliated with the Northern Health School based in Auckland and the Central Regional Health School based in Wellington. All three schools are sponsored by Telecom and funded by the Ministry of Education.

• The school was previously headquartered with the Ministry of Education in Christchurch.

Programme for the opening of Cardale House – Friday 29 October

2:00pm Powhiri 2.15pm Address by Southern Regional Health School Board Chair, Kevin Smith 2.20pm Address and opening by Mark Ratcliffe, Chief Information Officer, Telecom NZ, via video conference 2.23pm Address by Southern Regional Health School Principal Chris Parsons 2.30pm Finish and afternoon tea


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