Message from the Principal

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

Below is the speech I gave at the College Prizegiving on 5 December.  It may be of interest to those of you who weren’t at the event.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank for joining us this morning.

Our prize-giving is the highlight of our year as we acknowledge outstanding successes of our students. Our academic core is strongly celebrated today, as well as the all-important complementary aspects of sports, performing arts and leadership.

2019 has been a pivotal year for Parnell College driven by two key areas – the commissioning of the Senior Campus and the consequential “splitting” of our school into three distinct communities. And the continued strong growth in our school.

Increasingly families are seeking a structured education that is anchored in traditional values. This demand for places at Parnell is fuelled by problems in the Education Sector such as Innovative Leaning Environments (open plan classrooms in my day), desperate teacher shortage, a move away from the rigours of hard work – the generic homework default seems to be online maths programmes, and the lack of consistent, meaningful standards across New Zealand Schools. Parents and students desire focussed classrooms with emphasis placed on teaching and learning rather than multitudes of interruptions, distractions, and poor student behaviour.

Yesterday’s news highlighted what some of us have known for a long time…. Children are increasingly struggling to belong at school, to feel comfortable, to fit. Moreover, NCEA buries students in a continuous avalanche of assessment without the nuggets of genuinely earned success that lift a child’s spirit. It is here that the Cambridge Curriculum shines, providing time for quality teaching and learning, providing consistent structure so students and staff are secure in their work, and providing continuous opportunities for students to improve and succeed in feedback assessment. Couple this with Parnell’s heart, and warm, safe culture, and it is easy to see why we are so in demand.

I am delighted, and to be honest, relieved that our Senior Campus has had such a good year. Start-up wasn’t easy for many varied reasons, compounded by such a short timeframe. But the sheer determination of everyone – staff, students, support staff, and head office to make this work has seen exactly that…it works well, and gives us a strong platform on which to build going forwards. Parents – can I acknowledge you too for your support and understanding of the complex issues at play. Thank you to everyone involved – I hope you are proud of what has been accomplished and excited by its future.

In close relation to that I especially want to thank our student leaders, Jack, Tessa, Travis and Maia for all your work this year. If ever there was a year in which we needed strong student leadership this was it. You and the prefect team have enabled the culture at our Senior Campus to get off to a positive and inclusive start.

Particularly impressive, and meaningful to me, were their final reflections. As we sat around the table at our last meeting I asked them to share one thing that they had learned. This is what they said…

  • Some things just have to be instinctive due to timing and speed
  • That it is possible to create a new culture from existing proud cultures
  • There is a tricky junction between being a leader and a friend
  • It is wonderful to cause others to do new things with success – to empower them.

Those four aspects sum up the fundamentals of true leadership, and I am proud that we have a school in which students can learn such high level concepts.

Whilst as a school we are confident with Cambridge, IB is new to Parnell College. Here again I want to thank Alex Marshall and all the IB team for getting us off the line. With one eye on the predicted scores I can say that we are pleased with how this programme has gone, with some students look to have done very well!

We want to congratulate our first graduates of the Auckland University Master of Education Practice programme. There is no finer testament to being an academic school than having our own teachers commit time and effort to academically developing themselves in their professional area. Congratulations to Ed Coup, Sarah Best, Joseph Janiszewski, Terrence Beeton and Malcolm McLean. Thank you for leading the way.

Our co-curricular life is booming as you will be aware of through our newsletters and three school Facebook sites (sports, clubs and performing arts). Students and families are increasingly aware of the importance of having co-curricular activities as part of their programme. They provide a wrap-around curriculum for learning teamwork, resilience, performance and practice, leadership, and so forth. At the IB conference in March this year it was made clear to us that nowadays “good” universities receive strong academic applications as a matter of course. What makes an application stand out is the extra a student brings to the table. Where is the evidence of teamwork under pressure? Time management? Practice and personal development? Leadership? Our message to students is clear: a strong academic qualification at the core, surrounded by a portfolio of co-curricular activities demonstrating the various and necessary skills.

Early next year we will open our Early Childhood Centre – The Parnell College Early Learning School. This will be our fourth campus and is located at the top of Carlton Gore Road in the old Mind-lab building. The centre will be inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach – a student centred pedagogy that uses experiential learning in relationship driven environments. That is not code for free play. A high level of structure underpins a program based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration and discovery. As such, there is an excellent fit with Parnell College, and a logical connection to our Primary School. The centre will cater for 120 children and we currently have 105 registrations of interest, so it is clear that places will be in demand, especially as it gives priority entry into our Primary School. The current timeframe is to open in April.

This year perhaps more than any has felt like a blink of an eyelid. That it has been so smooth and powered up is testament to an exceptional Senior Leadership Team.  Ed, Vee, Julie, Lisa, Holly –  Thank you for your skill, and perhaps more importantly, your spirit.

Students, whilst today’s ceremony is about celebrating your success, I know that you greatly appreciate your teachers and the support staff. Time and time again when I ask students what makes Parnell special, the reply is their teachers. And seldom can they identify a single favourite. Please will you all join me in thanking our amazing staff.

To all the students and staff that leave us we wish you all the very best in your futures.

Students – please stay in touch, join our alumni, and share your successes and journeys with us.  We are proud of you!

Parents, thank you for believing in ACG Parnell and for your support of our journey and what we do.

All the best for the holidays. Look after each other, and for those of you that celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very merry one.

Russell Brooke

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