Term 2 Letter from the Principal

Mary_Nixon_Default_Photo_1I trust everyone had a lovely holiday break. We have been very busy over the past few weeks. A lot of initiatives are now established to ensure we further develop our themes of pride and purpose. Academic progress continues to be celebrated regularly as this is our core business. An Achievers’ Breakfast was held just before the break to honour Year 13 students striving for their personal best.

Two of our students from 2018 were among 35 students selected nationally for the Top Scholar Awards held in May at the Grand Hall in Parliament in Wellington. The Prime Minister and Minister of Education acknowledged the importance of students striving to achieving their personal best and the exceptional skills of students receiving recognition for being at highest level in the country. This term teachers are identifying students who need a boost in motivation or skills to reach for their next aspirational level of achievement. Students at risk of underachieving are being targeted for success. Teachers, deans, heads of faculty, community of learning and senior leaders are working closely together to personalise programmes and foster successful outcomes for all students.

Recent research and national educational data report Takapuna Grammar School is one of the best schools in the country to learn and achieve both academically and socially. The school offers diversity and global links alongside a huge range of educational and co-curricular opportunities. I encourage you all to value our teachers and make the most of what the school has on offer. I also thank the parents and friends of the school who contribute their time and skills so willingly. The plan just released by the working party outlining changes to NCEA fits with our school goals. Staff and students will work over the coming months incorporating the shifts into our strategic planning and curriculum review. The forward direction is structured and simplified compared to the current system and leaves room for students to engage in personal interest areas alongside building rigorous qualifications for university and vocational pathways.

This year the school set up an Innovation Faculty to provide opportunities for students to foster their creativity in areas of interest. Alumni and friends of the school are working with staff and students in this new space and we anticipate showcasing some of the developments later this year. Experts from within and from outside the school are working with students on design projects including using robotics, 3-D printing, coding and art. All junior students are being introduced to design thinking and being encouraged to look at new ways to use existing and re-cycled materials. A launch of this initiative in Term 3 will showcase some of the student outputs.

Hauora is another key theme in 2019. The increasing pace of life creates more opportunities but also more anxiety. Students are being offered information about life skills they think are important. In Term 1 financial information was provided to Year 13 students. A psychologist spoke to all students about current influences that impact them such as social media. Assemblies have been a forum for providing students lots of valuable information including how to keep themselves and school safe and to feel they all belong. There have been engaging presentations by peer teams and a range of performances by a diverse range of students.

This term Year 13 students will be provided with new and additional careers information. All students will be introduced to a new careers tool in whanau form classes. The 21st century skills initiative launched last year will be further rolled out via assemblies and whanau classes. Alumni are being invited by student leaders to talk to students. The first guest in this series was Sir Stephen Tindall.

Teachers continue working through weekly staff professional development to link more closely with all their students. They are getting to know more about each student to help them navigate their learning and create future pathways. Subject and whanau teachers are fostering culturally responsive relationships so every student feels they belong and are contributing to life at school. The Devonport-Takapuna Kāhui Ako aka Community of Learning is gaining momentum with systems and structures being developed to link learning from Year 1-13. Early childhood centers are poised to come on board soon. Our second annual conference will be held on Friday, 31 May. The theme is ‘ignite’ and the focus is engaging teachers from all the sectors to incorporate shared community of learning objectives into their practice. The refreshed achievement challenges will be shared with the wider community later this year.

The building projects have made significant progress this year. The main building will finally be uncovered from its shrink wrap in late Term 4. The back half of N-Building has been renovated. Rooms in this area as well as in the east wing of the main building will be open for use this term. These teaching spaces are inspiring and staff and students are really looking forward to working in them. We plan to invite whanau later this year to visit and experience these developments. A number of other site improvements have been completed, including netball and multi-purpose practice areas. More plans are in progress for further facilities to be available and information will be released when these are confirmed.

The TGS co-curricular programme is huge and provides a raft of opportunities for students to participate in what they love and to try things they are unlikely to have on offer beyond school. The physical and social skills developed, along with having fun and trying new things, helps build important human dispositions. We value all the support teachers, parents and friends of the school provide to help out and encourage students. The level of performance is breathtaking at times. To reach these levels takes time and a lot of effort and discipline. I encourage you all to come to events as a good audience makes all the difference.

Please support teachers as they seek more pay for the incredible work they do. It increasingly difficult to find high quality teachers. The pay is not attracting people into our profession or retaining them for long enough. Our school is one of the few that is fully staffed with people who are talented and dedicated to their vocation. We need to ensure they are valued and respected as their role underpins the quality of the community local and globally.

Mary Nixon

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