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Championing curiosity and inclusivity with modern, fit-for-purpose learning spaces

Pakuranga College in East Auckland, New Zealand, is a co-educational secondary school recognised for its commitment to fostering collaboration and where the learning process is co-constructed by students and teachers.

Focused on developing outstanding citizens equipped to meet the challenges of the future, the school embarked on an inspiring journey in 2020 by opening up the college grounds to build a modern facility – the Haque Building.

Haque caters to Computing and English upstairs, while downstairs is a special needs hub supporting neurodiverse learners. The facility is designed to be flexible and accommodate current and future learning needs, so naturally, the furniture needed to be modern, flexible, and fit their learning space aesthetic.

The school partnered with Furnware in 2021 to furnish this impressive facility with modern, fit-for-purpose furniture solutions. Working closely with Principal Michael Williams and Business Manager Carol Stephenson, a local Furnware Learning Space Design consultant considered the school’s pedagogy, the learners and the spatial goals for the building, bringing to life their vision for a high-quality learning environment that fostered curiosity, diversity, and inclusivity.

In our catchup with Michael, he explained how Pakuranga College is positively different in many ways. One of them is that instead of asking learners to become repositories of knowledge, the school encourages them to explore, investigate, collaborate, and create innovative solutions using the many resources around them.

“The new spaces are absolutely fit-for-purpose. The computer suites allow for group teaching, while also facilitating individual coding work. The English classes foster a new level of collaboration and group discussion using circular and whiteboard tables,” Michael noted.

He emphasised that “the breakout spaces are great for group learning, and the table settings allow a much greater focus on collaborative learning with peers than the traditional class setting where students face the front. The whiteboard tables are everyone’s favourite – it is great for students to sketch out their ideas on a surface that can be shared, rather than individual devices or notebooks.”

This dynamic culture is seen across the board and carried through the school's neurodiverse special needs learning environment. The Pegasus Unit, located on the ground floor of the Haque Building, is a unique environment developed for neurodiverse students offering a life skills programme with specialist teaching in Physical Education, Music Therapy, and Drama. Every student has a tailored education plan to develop social and life skills to help them lead independent lives. Learning zones are cleverly integrated with thoughtful spatial layouts and furniture solutions, allowing students to differentiate between social and workspaces easily.

With neurodiversity comes the understanding that one-size-fits-all is no longer best suited. We have a café-style layout at the front of the Pegasus Unit that encourages casual social interactions – the soft seating creates a calming and comforting environment when students first arrive.

Mike Hunter - Head of the Department at Pegasus

Head of the Department at Pegasus, Mike Hunter with his students

“We have zones dedicated to learning life skills such as cooking and washing, and classrooms for academic learning. Separating these zones using furniture promotes structure and minimises disruption. The whiteboard tables are an excellent addition to these spaces as they encourage collaboration and make learning visible.”

The measure of success for all the thought, detail, and planning is how the students and teachers use this impressive new facility. Business Manager Carol is delighted with the outcome, “The teachers and students love the new furniture, especially the whiteboard tables – they are a fantastic teaching and learning tool for any classroom."

Furnware was the right company to partner with as they listened to what we wanted to achieve and came back with good furniture suggestions and practical advice. Furnware became our trusted partner to bring our vision to life with the Haque project.

Carol Stephenson - Business Manager, Pakuranga College

As Pakuranga College continues to champion curiosity and inclusivity with the other parts of the school, Furnware will be its trusted partner and support its spatial goals.

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