Tuesday 16th May 2017

Association of Boys’ Schools New Zealand annual conference in Wellington. 

Last Friday, I flew to Wellington with head prefect Henry Bell to attend the Association of Boys’ Schools New Zealand annual conference for headmasters and head boys. There are 42 schools for boys in New Zealand at present, and almost all were in attendance. The dinner on Thursday night was a concurrent affair where the boys were entertained by motivational speaker Billy Graham while the principals listened to guest speaker Sir Graham Henry. During the day, the boys enjoyed a full programme which included the high ropes course at Adrenaline Forest, leadership activities and tours of Parliament Buildings and Te Papa. The highlight for me was the sight of 40 head boys, all in their dress uniform, at the end of the day. There was a palpable sense of potential and excitement for the future.

John McGlashan College has benefited from its association with the Boys’ School Association New Zealand which is a cohesive and educationally focussed organisation with links to the International Boys’ Schools Coalition (IBSC). These two groups run high calibre professional development both here and internationally which disseminates current research and developments in boys’ education to the educational community. 

Why attend a boys school?

The IBSC states that … “While young men and boys can, and do, excel in many types of educational settings, schools for boys focus with an intention on learning that addresses not only how to excel academically but also how to grow young men of integrity and empathy.

In engaging and supportive single-sex environments, students explore their values and establish a foundation for making responsible decisions. They explore their own definitions of self, who they are and who they want to become; they learn to forge healthy relationships; they step out of their comfort zone to explore their full potential.They are preparing for their roles in a globally connected world.

One of the important advantages of a single-sex education is the opportunity it presents to create a learning environment, literally and figuratively, that accommodates what boys and young men need.”

Perhaps one of the most interesting conversations I had at the conference in Wellington, was with a small group of experienced principals. They reminded me of a woodwork teacher at John McGlashan College in the late 1980’s who talked about “going with the grain” when teaching his students. His advice to me, as a young teacher, was to go with, rather than against the grain. He suggested that it is a matter of directing the spirit and the energy, not changing the essential soul of the students in our care. We must not overlook the fact that our students are first class young men who will emerge into adulthood in ways that will give us cause for considerable pride. Good schools should accept each boy for the person he is and nurture his innate qualities. Good schooling honours the grain and works the timber accordingly.

Neil Garry