Willowbank Primary School

Willowbank Primary School



Photographer: Michael Ng

Willowbank Primary School in Howick opened in April 2001 with a roll of 87 children, nine teachers and three auxiliary staff, but now caters to around 850 children with a staff of 60.

The site was originally in a rural fringe environment but now the school finds itself in the centre of a fast growing suburban area.

Willowbank Primary is unique in that its arrangement of teaching and learning spaces were designed to optimise academic achievement as well as social interaction. Through the 'Awhina' concept, children socialise and learn in three different settings: in the classroom, within a year-level team and in their Awhina, or smaller family group. This was a key achievement for primary schooling in New Zealand, with the focus of design shifting from exerting control over children to inspiring and supporting learning.

The school is the first built to the Ministry of Educationn's revised property guide for new development. Its design is innovative, with the arrangement of spaces accommodating a variety of curriculum delivery options. It also incorporates advanced environmental design features, where temperature, ventilation and light levels are all controlled by a central computer.

Willowbank has received an Enviroschool award for its commitment to the environment. It is also a Zero Waste School, with programmes in place to limit the amount of landfill collected.


  • Design Share Awards, innovative Schools, Recognised Value Award 2004
  • NZIA Resene Local Award 2001