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New year will bring in first junior high school


St Andrew's Middle School will begin the 2013 year as the Waikato's first junior high school.

Turning St Andrew's into a junior high was one of the things high up on the "to-do" list of principal Tanya Thompson when she took over leadership of the school this year.

St Andrew's opened in 1977 as an intermediate school, catering for forms 1 and 2 (year 7 and 8). About 12 years ago it was extended to become a middle school taking in forms 3 and 4 (years 9 and 10).

Earlier this month, after a six-month campaign with the Education Ministry, St Andrew's was officially designated as a junior high school, one of only a few in the country, and will drop its St Andrew's title to open on February 4 as Hamilton Junior High School.

Ms Thompson said the school, which had a roll of 138 and staff of 25, would begin next year as a "fresh new place".

Reasons for the move included boosting the public profile of the school, which is partly surrounded by Hamilton's Te Rapa commercial area, and to provide education better suited to the age group and maturity level of its pupils, she said.

"The ministry and the ERO [Education Review Office] have both put out reports identifying gaps in the performance of year 9 and 10 students in many high and middle schools.

"Junior highs are smaller and more personalised. The years when kids go through puberty are crazy and physically, emotionally and mentally challenging. It is better to be able to cater to them together."

Ms Thompson said the new status would allow the school to provide NZQA- approved NCEA-level programmes and credits.

The school offers students the opportunity to pursue further study in the academic as well as the commercial worlds, and staff have sought help from nearby Te Rapa industrial and commercial businesses to allow students opportunities for work placements and job experience.

© Fairfax NZ News