Since it was founded in 1963, the Kadimah School has enjoyed a reputation for developing Auckland pupils who are smart, self-confident and community-minded. From its origins as the Jewish Kindergarten, which first opened its doors at the Maon in Parnell, to the full-fledged integrated school of today, Kadimah’s Jewish approach to education has at all times aimed to produce young people who are respectful, responsible and active members of the community.
The word kadimah means forward, and onward and upward since that time the school has accordingly marched. Thanks to an early, generous bequest of the Bernard Goldwater Trust, the original kindergarten grew into a primary school based in Greys Avenue, which opened in 1971. Margaret Murray, a graduate of King's College, London, was selected as the first headmistress, overseeing a roll of just one.
By 1975, however, the head count of pupils was up to 46, and growing. Aided by small classes and individual attention, the children were notably happy and socially confident—qualities that enhanced the school’s growing reputation as an intimate place of learning. Although many pupils were not Jewish—and nor were a majority of teachers—they were aware of the security, discipline and respect that comes from the school’s distinctly religious background. T'fillah, for example, which was first led by an Israeli educator, was not compulsory in the early years but all the children were nevertheless enrolled.
Hebrew itself was a very popular subject and some of the older pupils requested a wish to return for lessons after they had gone on to their intermediate schools. An added highlight that put Kadimah on the map was during the 10th celebrations of the reunification of Jerusalem. Children from Jewish schools through the world were invited to submit paintings of Jerusalem. Of the 40 winners, one came from Kadimah: Rachel Ruissen. (Another winner, an Arab pupil, also came from Auckland.) By 1980, the school was also celebrating all the Jewish festivals: another unique feature of its culture and role in wider Auckland. Its sporting life also grew during this period. In 2011, Kadimah College went "public" for the first time, with its annual tuition fees being dramatically reduced as a consequence, thereby becoming the first Auckland Jewish school to be integrated into the state system, while also being allowed to keep its special Jewish character.
At the time it changed its name to Kadimah School. Kadimah’s Jewish character has been positively noted by government officials involved in monitoring the change. “The school’s main objectives are to foster students’ sense of Jewish identity and pride in their heritage in an environment that builds a lifelong love of learning,” reviewers reported in 2013, making mention on its longer school day, which was modelled in order to accommodate the teaching of Jewish studies and other special character programmes. “Teachers take advantage of local amenities to offer students physical and artistic learning and experiences,” the report continued. “These excursions are thoughtfully planned and involve good levels of supervision. Music is taught as a specialist subject. Years 7 and 8 students participate in additional technology learning at Parnell District School. The school’s challenging inner city site is well managed to ensure children have access to physical activities.
“Digital learning opportunities are being increasingly offered to students. Teachers are trialing the use of mobile technologies for students within classroom programmes. With funding from the board, senior leaders plan to develop teaching approaches to support students’ use of digital learning.”
Image header (above): Kadimah School students © Kadimah School. Reproduced here with kind permission of Kadimah School, Auckland New Zealand.