Sunday 31st March 2019

"Our guiding principle has always been one of inclusiveness and empathy towards all people, and this continues to be our message."

Ruby Jones artist 
Ruby Jones artist 

As we reflect on the terrible tragedy at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre last month, we realise that our country, and the lives of all New Zealanders, has changed irrevocably. The best we can do for the young people in our care is to discuss the situation honestly, maintain good routines and lead by example. 

John McGlashan College's guiding principle has always been one of inclusiveness and empathy towards each other, and this continues to be our message. We need to reassure the younger generation that there is hope for the future.

In 1918, the forebears of the College could not foresee such events but I know that their vision included values of being welcoming and inclusive, celebrating diversity and contributing generously to the wider community. Despite the obvious challenges, I have been impressed with the tone of the college in this first term - there has been resilience and compassion, determination and empathy.  I commend the boys and staff for their attitude and ongoing loyalty to our community.

Schooling Futures – Stronger Together??

You may be aware of the recent Ministry of Education Task Force review on Tomorrows Schools: Schooling Futures – Stronger Together.

This report draws attention to the potential challenges for state integrated schools if the changes proposed in the ‘Schooling Futures’ report are implemented.

In 2016, state integrated schools worked with the Ministry and the government of the day to update the 1975 legislation for integration without loss of the protections afforded in the first Act.

There are concerns about how the proposed changes would impact on state integrated schools which are not prepared to lose any provisions of this legislation as a result of changes in the general organisation of education.

Integrated schools support the aspiration of Government to raise achievement and engage all learners.

Restructuring on such a large scale will take time to embed and there is a risk that valuable time will be lost in addressing the bigger issues of equity and achievement.

New bureaucracies are not guaranteed to raise achievement; achievement and engagement occur when excellent teachers engage with learners. In New Zealand, state integrated schools educate 1 in 8 students and are a significant component of the schooling provision.

Overall Taskforce Findings

  • The current system is not working well enough for children from disadvantaged homes or for those with significant additional learning needs.
  • Resourcing for the compulsory schooling sector is currently inadequate for learners and those who work in it (equity funding delivered to New Zealand schools is approximately half that of comparable OECD countries).
  • Political imperatives too often take priority over the long-term best interests of children.
  • There is no evidence to suggest the current model has been successful in raising student achievement or improving equity (as was intended by its originators 30 years ago).
  • The quality of teaching is the major ‘in school’ influence on student success but our teacher workforce strategies lack the necessary support, coherence and coordination.
  • Wellbeing data indicates an urgent need to collectively support schools to address complex community and societal challenges.
  • The current system has been designed for autonomous schools, not for networked and connected schools - innovation and success at one school is difficult to scale up to enable system-wide improvement to be initiated, supported and sustained.
  • Agencies have lost the capacity and capability to deeply influence schools in their core business of teaching and learning – they have not been adequately funded and are not able to be sufficiently responsive to the needs of schools.
  • The Board of Trustees self-governing model is not working consistently well across the country.
  • Unhealthy competition between schools has significantly increased and has also impacted on the ability of some parents to exercise choice.
  • The gap between the best and worst performing schools is widening.
  • Decile ratings have been misused as a proxy for school quality and decile–based equity funding to schools is no longer fit for purpose.
  • The role of principals is extremely demanding, and principals often find themselves spending too much time and energy on matters not directly related to the core business of teaching and learning.
  • Principal appointment and performance management processes are not always robust, or even credible, because boards do not always have the capability or capacity to carry out such a task.
  • Current methods of evaluating schools and the schooling system are inadequate and may lead to negative unintended consequences.

The JMC Board will carefully monitor the government's proposals but there is no doubt that the changes will take many years to implement. We will keep you posted.

I look forward to catching up with many of you at the upcoming Parent Interviews. All the best for an enjoyable break over the holidays.

Neil Garry

As I write this, the McGlashan community has been saddened to hear of the death of Distinguished Old Collegian, Ron Elvidge. During his time at the college, Ron stood out as a highly respected athlete and academic who was Head Prefect and Captain of the First XV and First XI. Ron was New Zealand's oldest living All Black, and hero to many, especially here at the college. We have sent our condolences to the Elvidge family and have honoured his memory at today’s Chapel service.