Schools and early childhood education services in Christchurch and Canterbury showed innovation and resilience following the Christchurch earthquakes, according to a new report from the Education Review Office.
The report published this month records the experience of many teachers, principals and early childhood education service managers and staff in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.
The stories were told to ERO reviewers during visits to schools and ECE services in early 2012.
Among the main findings was that procedures and protocols were often thrown out of the window in a bid to put children’s well-being first.
Most schools and ECE services focused on four aspects when planning – making sure children were safe, supporting children to continue learning, supporting staff and families, and managing any anxiety. Many services quickly introduced new practices to support children and keep them feeling calm while also dealing with damaged buildings and loss of resources.
Many set up new services in makeshift sites and made learning portable. Teachers and early childhood staff also became role models and leaders in making sure children and families were able to keep going and remain calm despite on-going aftershocks.
Many schools adapted their curriculums to help children learn about and deal with earthquakes while early childhood services helped children feel safe by practising safety drills and planning escape routes.
The disaster also helped services plan better for future emergencies with ideas including having an emergency mobile phone stored with important information and using social media to get in touch with parents, and developing plans with families to ensure children could be picked up if an emergency happened.
ERO’s National Manager Review Services for the Southern Region Graham Randell said the reviewers were impressed by the changes education services made and that ERO believed many of the practices adopted in Canterbury could be useful for people in other areas of the country should they suffer a major disaster.