Wednesday, August 12, 2020

This is a statement which I wrote for our recent school newsletter:

 "Kia ora koutou katoa

Warm greetings to you all

Some of our school community have already heard the news that just over the week ago, I informed our Board of Trustees of my resignation as Principal of our school. While this has come as a surprise to some, it has been in my thinking and planning ahead for many months. 

I have been very privileged to be the Principal of Papakura High during a period of tremendous expansion and growth. Not just in numbers, but also in our school culture, levels of academic achievement and in the overall perception of our school in the wider community. Along with the rest of our staff, I can honestly say that we have much to be proud of. 

The Board of Trustees will be starting the process of recruiting a new principal for our school very shortly. This will be a very exciting time for our school. I have every confidence that there will be a strong field of applicants for the role, and that the successful candidate will work very closely with the school’s leadership team, the whole staff and the Board of Trustees to build on the school’s progress and move the school forward for the next phase of its development. 

After five years (the full time at high school of a “generation” of our students) it is time for me to move on to new challenges, and also to return to my home town of Otautahi- Christchurch, where my whānau is based. My departure is not only the end of my time as educational leader in this school, but it brings to a close over 40 years of working in varying roles in schools around the country. I have been very fortunate to have had a senior role as a Head of Faculty at Hamilton Boys’ High School for some years, as well as Assistant Principal at Lytton High School in Gisborne, Deputy Principal at Melville High School in Hamilton and Principal at Aranui High School in Christchurch for ten years before taking up my current role here in Papakura. I have treasured my love of teaching  and in the five schools in which I have been professionally active, I have always been looking to learn new things about teaching and learning. 

I have been contacted by many individuals since the announcement of my departure from Papakura High, and I have deeply appreciated all the kind messages I have received. It has been very difficult to make the decision to leave the school which I love and the community which I feel very much part of. I will miss my colleagues and students very much. However, there comes a time for all of us when we know we have given our best, and then it is time to move over for a new individual, with fresh energy and vision, to take over the reins. As I still have a number of months before I leave, can I assure you all that the next few months are very focused on the achievement of our NCEA students in particular, and that this message to you is not yet goodbye!

Ngā mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa"

Tuesday, May 12, 2020



  1. Toilet paper is the most  prized commodity in the country

  1. Things can always get worse!

  1. No one is coming to clean up the kitchen.

  1. A good book is one of life’s great  treasures.                         

  1. Being alive is glorious!

  1. There is no end to the new  learning we can engage in.

  1. Chocolate is the antidote to most evils.

  1. The room for improvement is the biggest room in the world.

  1. The difference between being bitter and being better is the I.

  1. Patience is the ultimate test of character!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Today I clicked onto the New Zealand Herald to have a catch up on the latest news about the Covid-19 numbers and was instantly hit by something that has intrigued me increasingly regarding media practice and newspaper practice. That is the growing reliance on media commentators who express  views which are frequently politically influenced, who have carte blanche to churn out their predictable and tiresome views on a daily basis, which then appear to have a significant place in the way that the news and current events are presented.

What fascinates me in particular is that these individuals, featured here with their views about the government, are actually getting paid for this. I often wonder how they ever got to be in this position, given the quality of their journalism. I imagine that I could dream up a piece, related to some current issue, and then see what level of toxicity I could use, with which to present my opinion. While newspapers are wanting to ensure that a range of voices are heard in terms of commentary on important issues of the day, it appears that the more toxic or antagonistic the view, the more likely the press attention and coverage is achieved. This is a great shame, as in the past, newspaper columns had really balanced, insightful and thoughtful commentary, whereas now they simply expose the deeply held prejudices of the writer.

I'd like to suggest that readers should actually paid to read the sludge which appears in newspapers rather than paying for the privilege. At this rate, editors would be far more circumspect about ensuring that public commentary plays a balanced role among the news reports, and  would  aspire to publish newspapers which  contain quality journalism. At this point in time, I will happily put up my hand if an incentive could be offered and likewise happy to start paying once the current dismal, woeful standard of journalism is addressed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


This morning I have shared a few thoughts about an experience which I had  in my local park a few days ago which I entitled Things are not always what they seem. I hope you enjoy reading this little piece. I am very fortunate to live just a few steps from Hagley Park, one of the most magnificent public parks in the country. The early British settlers in Christchurch made it a priority in their very precise town planning, to allow for a wealth of public spaces. I am very privileged to be able to enjoy my life in Auckland and to still have a home base in the Garden City.

Sunday, April 19, 2020



Monday 20 April 2020

Kia ora and welcome to this new week!

Over the weekend I found an “elocal” magazine in a box of memorabilia and the article which was included in it, from early 2016, gave me something to smile about. 
Apart from the fact that the photo is a lovely one of Roy and Moananoa, two of the head prefects of that year, it was a phrase related to the school’s future which caught my attention: “towards a triumphant future.”
In term 1 of this year, I sensed that our school was starting to get closer to this feeling of triumph than has been the case for quite some time. I know many of you have been feeling the same level of excitement as we have seen our numbers grow and grow. While we know there are a lot of challenges ahead of us, and that we will continue to face, we know that our school is flourishing. “Triumphant” is an unusual word to choose but it’s a word that gives me a little bit of a thrill when I read it. It’s a grand word, 
and it’s used in connection with our great and wonderful school. I get a thrill every time I walk into our 

staffroom and see the wonderful, clever and creative staff we have gathered together, who make such a vibrant and happy team. I get the same thrill every time I sit on the stage in our junior assembly and look down at hundreds of junior students, whose families have chosen to enrol them in our school. I guess that is “triumphant.” The list goes on...

Wednesday, April 15, 2020



Thursday 16  April 2020


Many years ago, in the course of  a conversation with a very conservative Deputy Headmaster in the school where I was employed,  I made the suggestion that schools should be agents for social change. My colleague poured scorn and contempt on such a notion. I have never forgotten that conversation, and it has troubled me for the past 20 years. As time has gone by, I have become increasingly convinced that I am right about my notion, and that my colleague was wrong.

Schools have a powerful influence over social norms and behaviours in a number of ways. For sure, preserving the status quo and protecting the rights and entitlements of the privileged in our society is still very much the “kaupapa” of some of our schools. In our school, Papakura High School, we have an amazing opportunity to engage with our community and the society around us, to progress our pathway to becoming a bi-cultural society. This pathway will help to confront the deficits we see all around us in terms of social inclusion and engagement. The education which we offer our young people, our rangatahi, plays a big role in this. The changes we have made in our school’s own culture are the first steps in this direction. Our school motto “Kia Rangatira” is a power statement in this regard. This morning I struggled to remember the Latin motto “ Summa Pete”. 

For real change in our society  to occur, we need to turn some of our social norms on their head. Imagine if being bilingual became one of those social norms. The participants who make up our society must be able to see the value of overcoming social disengagement to be able to embrace something as radical as this.  As educators, we need to be at the forefront of this. We have opportunities to take steps to grow in this area. Many of our staff already come from cultural backgrounds where being bi- or trilingual is the norm. Our school can be an agent which contributes to positive social change and growth. There are naturally a number of ways this can happen. I have just identified one which I think can make a real difference right now. 

During the lockdown, Hemi Kelly’s “A Maori Phrase a Day” facebook page has repeatedly appeared on my phone screen. Hemi’s approach is very clear and basic, and offers an excellent opportunity to pick up and enhance your reo Maori in a really non-threatening and relaxed way. His lessons are also on Youtube.

I have really enjoyed dipping into Hemi’s facebook page and even reading some of the questions and answers which follow each lesson.
Our period of enforced lockdown provides us with a great opportunity to learn something new - or a lot of new things!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


Wednesday 15 April 2020

Welcome to the first day of Term 2 and to our new mode of teaching! We are all go today! I am looking forward with great excitement to hear the stories of these first encounters with our students via your digital classrooms. 

 Last week in our online meeting I mentioned being struck by this huge poster of Sir Edmund Hillary hanging in the arrival hall at Christchurch airport. It gave me a lot of food for thought.

There’s no question that the current context is one which throws into relief the incredible importance of our self-management skills, our ability to organise ourselves, our motivation, and our capacity to entertain the possibility of doing things differently. Many of us have been teaching for a long time. We have developed habits which are hard to shift. We have also developed approaches to our teaching, which in time, have become entrenched. I know this from first hand experience!  Some of us have allowed the wealth of professional learning related to digital pedagogy, which we have been offered as a Kootuitui school, to slide over us superficially, and have not made significant changes to our practice. Because we haven’t always been convinced of the need to change. Now of course, is the time when this is being forced upon us. Not just us, but teachers all over our country! Fortunately, we have colleagues who are hugely supportive, and whom I have sensed, will never be patronising or demeaning in their response to requests for assistance. And we are all going to require assistance in some area or other, as operating as an online school, or, in some transitional form, will require learning for all of us.

As human beings, “conquering ourselves” is enormously challenging. Sir Edmund Hillary made a profound statement here. Sometimes rousing ourselves to learn something new, or changing our practice, can be incredibly difficult. But as individuals working in an educational context, this is extraordinarily important. During our lockdown, we are also  having to face tests of character. These include coping in homes where children are becoming frustrated and bored, to supporting confused elderly and vulnerable whanau, or those like myself whose “bubble” is a solitary one. Develop our patience, tolerance and understanding of others is part and parcel of this process. For all of us, embracing change, however, is the biggest mountain we have to conquer, as we launch into our new  term. 

One lesson we have all learned, is how much we need each other. As a community of colleagues and  friends, there is much we have to offer each other from ou own experience and learning. And simply, in terms of social contact and emotional support. We have really exciting times ahead of us with new opportunities.   No reira, kia kaha, kia rangatira!