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Year 9 students enjoy Ka Ora, Ka Ako lunch in their new uniform, left, Exodus, Tyson and Tyler. Photos: SUPPLIED

New look and nourishment for students

Moving with new initiatives is something Thames High School has embraced this year with the introduction of free school lunches and new uniforms.
Ka Ora, Ka Ako, or Healthy School Lunches Programme, was a Ministry of Education programme that had become available to all Thames High School students at the start of 2024.
Thames High School principal Michael Hart told the Profile the school had been fortunate to be eligible for the programme.
Kaiaua company Pel Group Ltd stepped up to the plate as the new Ka Ora, Ka Ako provider for the school, tasked with preparing lunches to feed 420 students every day.
Mr Hart said students received morning tea and lunch, with Pel Group prepared to adapt their menu based on what “hits the mark” and what doesn’t.
Wraps, sandwiches, burritos and cheeseburgers had been some of the items so far.
A recent survey showed 25 per cent of young people hadn’t eaten as regularly as we would have expected them to, Mr Hart said.
“We know anecdotally that there is a need, and based on the uptake it has certainly been well appreciated.”

The lunches had been a real benefit and helped with financial stress for families, Mr Hart said.
Better well being, engagement to school, regular attendance and better concentration were other benefits the school expected to see, Mr Hart said.
“That’s the ultimate aim – to have healthy kids who are able to engage in positive learning.”
Thames High School head students Cassandra Duthie and Koen Liddell said the lunches meant students did not have to worry about food.
People eating more, getting food into their system and having increased energy levels had been the main changes the students said they could see.
Another change for the school this year had been the introduction of new uniforms, with a roll out transition planned to take place across a three-year period.
A 2021 school survey made it clear the community thought there was an opportunity to refresh the uniform, Mr Hart said.
Year 9s kicked off 2024 in their new gear, with other year groups to shift to the new uniform over time. The school was pleased to have a comfortable, good quality uniform at a good price point, Mr Hart said.
“Value for money for a durable uniform was a really important part of our process,” Mr Hart said.
However, head students Cassandra and Koen said there had been some confusion for students unsure about which tops they needed, and found it hard to tell the year 12s and 13s apart anymore as they now had the same tops.

Mr Hart said there had been some miscommunication, but that had all been resolved after the first week or so.
“Those are just everyday teething things when you’re experiencing a new thing.”
Before the update, the senior tops were worn by year 13s, but now included the year 12s because both groups were senior students, Mr Hart said.
“And we like to identify them as such.”
The school had been looking at an identification system for the year 13 uniform to distinguish between the year levels, but it was still a work in progress.
Mr Hart said he had heard lots of comments from his community and the students enjoying wearing the uniform.
“They can see it making a big impact out there.”
One thing the school made sure of was that the uniform was non-gender specific, with different styles of shorts and fitted and straight leg trousers.
“So effectively, whether you call it a masculine or feminine traditional fit, whichever you wear, it doesn’t matter,” Mr Hart said.
Refreshed health and physical education t-shirts had been emblazoned with the school tohu, a design that reflected the school’s whenua [land], Mr Hart said.
“It really makes a big impact and looks really, really smart.”
“We’re really hoping that 2024 is going to be the great year that it has started off being,” Mr Hart said.