Nga Puna O Waiorea

2010 WSC Senior Prize Giving: Principal’s Address

2010 has begun and ended on a high note. Recently, we have been heartened by the very positive ERO report presented to the school during the last month. WSC will not be reviewed again for another 4-5 years; only 10% of NZ schools are placed on this delayed review cycle.

The review report identifies a number of features distinctive of WSC:

  • students who are highly engaged in learning and proud of their school;
  • positive relationships between students and teachers;
  • teachers’ high expectations for individual students’ learning and success;
  • department heads focused on working with teachers to develop effective teaching practice;
  • a school which values individuality, creativity and inclusiveness;
  • a board and staff who actively seek parents’ participation in the life of the school;
  • high levels of student success in NCEA and Scholarship;
  • high rates of retention and achievement for Maori and Pacific students;
  • effective pastoral care and support for student well being;
  • recognition and celebration of student achievement in a wide range of academic, creative, cultural, sporting and leadership areas.

I would like to recognise the invaluable assistance of board chairperson, Trevor Crosby, and deputy principal, Ruth Roberts, in our management of the review.

At the beginning of the year we were encouraged by our excellent academic results.

In the Scholarship examinations WSC ranked in the top five schools in the Auckland region ( this includes private and state schools; single sex and coeducational ) - for most increasing students chances of passing Scholarship over the last three years.

Notably, the 21 Scholarships gained were distributed across 14 subjects, an indication of strength across all curriculum areas, with 3 gained in Classical Studies, Statistics & Modelling and Media Studies.

Five students, including dux Matthew Edmond, gained 2 Scholarships each. Tristan Marler was awarded an Outstanding Scholarship in Painting.

In NCEA, we also had cause to celebrate outstanding results:  WSC’s Level 3 University Entrance pass rate of 88% exceeded the national average by 23%, the same decile school average by 20%, and ranks first for all state schools in the Auckland region and first in New Zealand for all decile 8 state secondary schools.

WSC’s Level 2 pass rate of 93% ranked first for all state schools in the Auckland region and first in the country for all decile 8 state secondary schools.

Across the four measures ( Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 & UE) Western Springs College ranked first equal ( with Epsom Girls Grammar School ) among all state secondary schools in the Auckland region. Westlake Girls’ High School was third.

There is considerable interest these days in the comparative performance of male and female students.

Last year the gender difference at WSC was a consistent 6% in favour of girls across Levels 1, 2 and 3; this was less than the national differential for all levels, especially so for Level 3 ( 6% at WSC compared to 14% nationally ) and for U. E.( less than a 1% difference at WSC compared to 10% in New Zealand ).

Any notions that coeducation does not serve students well academically certainly do not apply to WSC. Just how well boys are doing at WSC is shown by the fact that that the WSC male student pass rates are higher than the national female pass rates for same decile schools: by 6% for Level 2, and by 14% for Level 3 and U. E. In similar vein WSC female student pass rates exceed those of female students from NZ decile 8 girls’ schools at all levels.

Maori achievement at WSC continues to be very encouraging: in the last year an 81% pass rate at Level 2; and an 80% U.E. pass rate at Level 3. This year the school was proud to be one of three in NZ selected by the Ministry of Education for a research project on best practice in working successfully with Maori students.

At this point it is appropriate to acknowledge the extraordinarily successful year enjoyed by the Nga Puna O Waiorea unit:

  • the Rumaki Level 1 pass rate (86%) exceeded that for all students at WSC by 4%;
  • the Rumaki Level 2 pass rate (89%) is less than 5% below the overall WSC Level 2 pass rate (93%);
  • the Rumaki pass rate for U.E. (87%) matched that for all students.
  • the kapahaka group’s gained first placing at Auckland’s Polyfest; fifth placing at the national competition in Rotorua; and second placing at the Te Ahurea festival this term;
  • Tuhoe Tamapeira placed second in the senior Maori section and Uenuku Mckree-Pomana represented WSC and Auckland at a national level in Dunedin in the Nga Manu Korero speech competition;
  • Nga Puna won the Mahepohepo sports competition in rugby league and netball, with the league team winning the WSC sports team of the year award at last Friday’s sports dinner awards ceremony.

It is also very pleasing that Pasifika student NCEA pass rates were very comparable with Maori students: 77% at Level 2; and 80% for both Level 3 and U.E. The U.E. pass rate was 40% above that for Pacific students in NZ same decile schools.

These outstanding achievements, sustained over the last five years, have enabled WSC to achieve its strategic goal of becoming the first choice secondary school for an increasing majority of families living in our home zone. As a result for the second consecutive year the Board of Trustees has decided that there will be no out-of-zone enrolments for the year ahead. This strong position has qualified WSC for additional roll growth funding, enabling us to commence planning for another new four classroom block.

Recent visitors to the school will have noticed the transformation of the site with the newly levelled lawns, tiled footpaths and tar-sealed driveways. Work is about to begin on the long awaited renovation of the western field, a $600,000 project which will have a second soccer and cricket playing surface in place for 2012. Negotiations are about to begin with the Ministry of Education concerning building replacement funding for both the Art and Technology blocks: a recent structural survey has recommended the demolition of both blocks because of severe erosion of the foundations. One scenario is that both areas could see the construction of new two-storey blocks with the specialist facilities on the ground floors and the new classrooms upstairs.

Another critically important building need is the provision of a second gymnasium. Our strategy will be to incorporate into this project replacement facilities for our due to be demolished sports centre.

A major school development focus for the school is its ICT infrastructure. A recent staff review has identified a range of high priority needs: a faster, more reliable network; a learning management system which facilitates teacher development, gives our students enhanced access to resources and more self direction of their learning; and improved parent access to individual student information. There are, of course, considerable financial implications. We will be launching a concerted fundraising drive to resource these developments and in doing so we will be depending on considerable school community support. Watch this space.
Other important developments include changes designed to strengthen the academic culture of the junior school and to enhance grade quality in NCEA.

I would like to acknowledge a number of colleagues and three teachers who are departing at the end of this term.

Graeme Moran’s outstanding services to teaching were recently recognised when he was awarded the prestigious Woolf Fisher Fellowship. Certainly, our head of History at WSC is somewhat of a living legend in this school community; yet he has also been chosen at national level by NZQA and the Ministry of Education to contribute his curriculum and assessment expertise. Congratulations, Graeme.

I would also like to acknowledge the excellent services of Heather Dikstaal in the senior management group of the school. Heather has acted as deputy principal since Linda Dillon took leave at this time last year. We have valued her entirely professional and highly competent performance in the role and her excellent management of students and staff.

Rob James has taught Economics and Social Studies for the last five years. Rob has been endeared himself to many students and staff with his open-hearted, even zany, style. We will particularly miss the fishing stories, Rob; I remain grateful that you have maintained your 100% record in returning our teachers safely to shore.

Colette Shearer is leaving us to travel overseas after four years of valuable service in Physical and Health Education. Colette knows how to make learning fun for students, yet behind this is a teacher who thinks deeply and imaginatively about her curriculum.

We are particularly sad to farewell Helen Armstrong, head of Science since 2005. Above all, Helen is a wonderful teacher. She has reminded us that the best department heads are themselves great teachers who thereby command the high respect and support of their colleagues and are able to build collaborative teams. Helen, best wishes for your new position as head of Science at Baradene College.