Ōtūmoetai Primary School held the official opening of its new playground, featuring basket swings and a flying fox, on Friday afternoon.
Student leaders, the kapa haka, and the school's senior management team were all in attendance, alongside TECT Trustee Peter Blackwell who spoke of TECT's contribution to the project and cut the opening ribbon.
After formalities were over, children quickly jumped onto the new playground equipment to give it its first playtime. And there was plenty of play to be had.
11-year-old student Katy Bradnock says she has had the most fun on the flying fox.
"The playground is absolutely amazing; it is very high quality. The flying fox goes pretty fast and high, and my favourite part about it is swinging at the end, racing all my friends, and jumping on it – it's just so fun.
"We also have a lot of basket swings at school now, and because they are so popular, it means everyone can use them. You also don't see flying foxes around that much, so we are lucky to have them."
Student Brodie Scholes, aged 11, says the students came up with rules to ensure everyone was safe while playing.
"The new playground is super cool; everyone loves it in the school. We chose the basket swings because everyone loves the other one we have, and the flying fox is also a big hit – we are the only school in our area that has one.
"We came up with rules around lining up either side of the flying fox, so no one gets hurts as well, which I think is good."
Positioned in the heart of Ōtūmoetai, Ōtūmoetai Primary School is the largest kura in the area and currently has 577 pupils on the roll, with this expected to grow to over 600 by the end of the year.
The school's fields, playgrounds, courts and common areas are not only utilised by the students during school hours but are also regularly used outside of school hours by the wider community.
Marcus Hughes, Ōtūmoetai Deputy Principal, says the new playground was much needed.
"We had a very tired and ageing playground that was built approximately 20 years ago. Although it was fun and challenging, it got to the point that it was irreparable and unsafe for the students to use, so we had to remove it.
"This is an exciting day for our senior students. The 2020 student leaders came up with the design of the new playground to fit the area after consulting with their peers.
"This included feedback about the popularity of the one basket swing we have at the other end of the school that is used more than any other piece of equipment. The double flying fox also ties in perfectly with the sloping area of the school.
"There is a feeling of ownership amongst the children. I know that they are very excited to use it, and we will no doubt have to create a roster for everyone to have an equal turn."
Marcus says TECT's contribution to the project was invaluable – making the playground a reality.
"We simply could not have raised the funds over the past two years with Covid. All of our amazing playgrounds have been paid for by successive Board of Trustee and PTA groups over the last ten years. This is the first playground grant we have received, and we are extremely grateful to TECT.
"TECT's support has helped us achieve a safe, durable, challenging addition to our school's playground that enables more children access to quality playground equipment. Further to this, we hope it will also be enjoyed by the wider community outside of school hours."
TECT's funding of $32,198 helped with the purchase and installation of safe soft fall surfacing, the two swings and the double flying fox.
TECT Trustee Peter Blackwell says the new playground will be enjoyed by students and the community for many years.
"We are lucky as trustees to be involved in TECT, supporting schools like Ōtūmoetai Primary around the Western Bay of Plenty with projects like this. Playgrounds are fantastic for developing children's critical thinking and collaboration skills, imaginative play, and there are countless social, mental and physical benefits.
"I'm proud to be a part of the opening of this playground, which will be enjoyed not only by children today, but by children for many years to come. It has been a privilege to be here at the opening, and I was impressed with the kapa haka performance and speeches by the student leaders. They are clearly proud of what they have accomplished, and a big hats off to Marcus for leading this project."
To learn more about Ōtūmoetai Primary School, visit https://www.ops.school.nz/.