Marian College – The meaning of spirit on a journey across multiple sites
Marian College will have spent 12 years without a permanent site when it moves into its new campus in 2023. After significant liquefaction following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, Marian had to move from its North Parade location.
Plans are well underway for Marian College's new campus in Papanui. Despite not having a permanent campus for so long, Marian College has maintained a level of school community because of their students, whānau, and teachers who are involved with the school. As they plan to move their staff and 430 students to their new campus, discussions are focussing on what the new school will look and feel like.
Marian College will have moved locations three times over the past 12 years. Despite this, the school has a strong connection to its community. This connection is facilitated by the families who continue to support the school, the teachers who work there, and a sense of resilience born of adversity.
Families are still sending their children to Marian College and recommending the school to friends, family, and whānau.
Marian's community connections are further enhanced by being a faith-based school. The school is supported by the wider Catholic community of Christchurch, many of whom are alumni of Marian.
“A faith-based school has another layer to it. Another sense of a common faith/belief. In our religion we call ourselves ‘hopeful people’ and I think that is true. That is part of our strength. Schools are fundamentally the same, what is different about a faith-based school is what you have in a sense of how you operate, what you believe in and what impact that has on the whole community.” – Victoria Spencer, Deputy Principal Teaching and Learning
In the past, Marian has worked closely with Shirley Boys’ High School, and students from either school would attend specialist subjects if their home school did not offer them.
Since moving to their current site, there has been collaboration in both academic and faith events with Catholic Cathedral College: sharing masses, a campus ministry, and classes where appropriate.
Marian ‘cohabitated’ with Saint Bede's College on their campus in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 earthquake, and this has led to ongoing collaboration between the schools. This collaboration continues even now that they have moved to their temporary site on Barbadoes Street and there are plans for it to continue on the new site.
The senior leadership team at Marian have emphasised how important it is to work with other schools in their rohe, and they look forward to further developing their relationships with St Joseph's School (Papanui) and St Francis of Assisi School in their new location.
Designing a brand new school
Finding a site for their new school, and developing an architectural design, cultural narrative, and Education Brief has taken longer than initially expected.
From an estimated 2-4 year time frame, it will have been twelve years before their new school will be open. During this time, the school leadership team has learned a lot, and believe this delay will be an overall asset to the new school.
They've been engaging with other schools, talking with other principals in the Canterbury region, engaging with the local diocese, and attending conferences, all of which have informed the new design. They have been able to learn valuable lessons from schools who have been through the build or redevelopment process.
“If it had been 2-4 years, we would have probably operated in the same way as North Parade and not really thought about as much change as we are prepared to make now. We’re feeling braver and we’ve seen good teaching and interesting design. This design isn’t the design we would have built if it had been 2-4 years.” – Rachel Parkin, Deputy Principal Pastoral Care
Staff have worked together to explore the history of the school and its special character, and to define ‘what is Marian’. The visual portfolios produced as part of this process have been valuable in informing the architects and landscape designer.
Marian's new school is to be student-centred, with an emphasis on flexibility as well as sustainability and the environment. The latter value is informed by Pope Francis' leadership around caring for the planet, so a lot of work is being done on repurposing and reusing rather than sending items to landfill.
The new school will have a focus on family and hospitality, where whānau and visitors can feel welcome. There is also going to be more space to display students' work.
Construction on the new school is planned to begin in May 2021, with the school being ready to open on its new site for the 2023 school year.
There are plans to evaluate the timetable structure, so that future collaboration with St Bede's will be easier, as the two schools currently have a different structure to their school day.
The new site has been gifted a name, Māhutonga, which means Southern Cross. This name signifies the school's journey and navigation. Work is underway on a landscape design that is reflective of the name.
Being a special character school means they bring additional cultural factors to their new site, such as a chapel named after Mary MacKillop, the Sister who founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph, which was also the name of the chapel on its previous North Parade site. These factors will continue to guide Marian in developing their new school.
- Consult widely – When planning for a new school, involve as many people as possible. Marian discussed the future plans with students, whānau, their Māori and Pasifika groups, a variety of staff (current and past), and distilled this into their vision for the future school.
- Be prepared for it to take time – Consulting widely takes time, as does visiting other schools for inspiration, discussion with colleagues in the sector, and developing a sense of what is important for your school. This can't be done well if it is done quickly.
- Remember what is important – The school as a physical space is important, but not as important as the young people who go there to learn and the school’s history and character. As principal Mary-Lou Davidson said:
“In the end it’s just people, the whole thing is people. What will be built will be wonderful, whatever it is, and it will have some of the things we wanted and maybe not all of them. It won’t be about that. It will be about your tūrangawaewae, your place to be, to stand. You can put the picture on the wall because you can put the hole in the wall. It is where you are, and people will know that and will come back to that. All those people who have been on other sites will still come back and that will still be Marian”.