There are smiles all around at Salisbury school right now.
That’s because the all-girls school in Richmond has just received a funding boost – one that will secure its future. And if that wasn’t enough good news, the school has just announced the appointment of a new Principal, Ellie Salcin-Watts.
Ellie will start the role at the beginning of term one in 2020, and board Chair Emma Thompson says the thorough recruitment process attracted several high-calibre candidates.
Ellie has both hands-on and management experience in learning support, and as the school’s Deputy Principal for five terms, she has a good understanding of the school and its students.
“Ellie’s passion for the school is palpable and her strengths are numerous,” says Emma. “As Deputy Principal she has made a positive impact since she joined us last year by ably supporting our former Principal Brenda and by re-invigorating the school curriculum.”
The new Principal said that she was excited about a new future for the school, and to build on the success that the school has had in the last year.
“We’ve seen huge growth in our students since introducing play-based learning and trying to find new ways of helping our girls see themselves as a success.”
Ellie has been involved heavily with restructuring the school’s curriculum this year and introducing new and innovative ways of learning. She says that its’ rewarding to be able to see the growth of students and continue to help the school evolve.
Play based learning sees students learn in a self-driven environment where students can engage in problem solving, analysing, applying knowledge and creativity.
“We’ve really seen a success in our girls in the last year – and now imagine how much better they’ll be able to do with a new purpose-built facility.”
The appointment of a new principal comes off the back of some other great news for the school – funding to completely replace the school’s dated classrooms.
Last week Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced an $8 million construction budget to replace the school’s classrooms and rundown accommodation.
The school for girls aged 8-15, in Richmond, was earmarked for closure by the last government until the process was stopped by Chris Hipkins in 2017.
The School is New Zealand’s only single-sex residential school for girls with complex needs, and the board say that they are thrilled about the planned multi-million dollar rebuild to replace its aged buildings.
“I’m delighted that in two short years, Salisbury School has gone from facing closure to a confident future where students with learning challenges will continue to receive a quality education and learn essential life skills in a modern and safe environment,” says Chris.
The school was created in 1917 and is one of three residential special schools in New Zealand for students with highly complex behaviour or learning needs that impact their lives at home, school and in the community.
“Almost all of the school’s buildings are more than 50 years old and much of it over 90 years old,” Chris said.
“They are not inspiring environments for learning and living and they don’t meet our high standards for delivering education. This is particularly important at a residential special school where suitable facilities require very high specifications.”
Salisbury School Board Chair Emma Thompson said the Board is over the moon the plans for a fit-for-purpose school are going ahead.
“It is really exciting to know we will have new school buildings specifically designed for what our extraordinary students need, given that their needs are a lot more complex today compared to when our current buildings were designed,” says Emma.
The redevelopment, which is expected to begin in 2021, will see the demolition or removal of the existing residential and ancillary buildings, administration block and day school.
These will be replaced with new residential units to cater for a roll of 20 high-needs students, a new administration block, a multi-purpose hall and dining facility and a kitchen. A new day school will also be built.
The new buildings will be specially designed to suit the needs of the students, given that their needs are more complex today that what the school buildings were originally designed for.
“It is fantastic that the need of our students has been listened to.”

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