Category Archives: Principal’s Blog

Welcome back!

With only a few days to go before the start of term 3 I wanted to wish everyone all the best for the new term.

I trust all are rested and have managed to find some Vitamin D somewhere!

Our best wishes also go to the staff and students involved in the school musical “Popstars” which will be performed in week 3 (10-13 August). It promises to be an outstanding show so make sure you get your tickets as soon as they are available.

The talented team has been rehearsing since the beginning of the year and I commend their commitment having given up a large part of their holidays to work on the show.

Growing greatness – kia mana ake


At Mission Heights Junior College we use e-asTTle tests at the beginning, middle and end of the year to help us gain an insight into the numeracy and literacy abilities of our students. This data in turn helps us to personalise and cater for the diverse learning needs of our students, it is also used to help us measure student progress.

At the completion of each test each student has an ‘Individual Learning Pathway’ report that is generated for them. This report allows them and us as their teachers to identify their strengths and weaknesses. This is the report that your child will share with you in their Student Led Conference.


The report is divided up into four quadrants:

  • Achieved (Yellow) – questions that, given the student’s overall e-asTTle score (in the appropriate curriculum area), should have been answered correctly and were.
  • Strengths (Green)– questions that were expected to be answered incorrectly, given the student’s overall e-asTTle score, but were answered correctly. These questions are more difficult than his/her overall ability. However for reading, it is possible for a student to have correctly guessed the answer to questions that would normally be outside their ability range. While such responses will be excluded from the student’s level calculation, the questions will still display in the Strengths box.
  • Gaps (Red) – questions that, given the student’s overall e-asTTle score should have been answered correctly but were incorrect. These are questions that would be expected to be relatively easy for the student. This is an area where teachers will investigate to determine the reason. It may be due to carelessness, skipping questions, illness or not having being taught it yet. As these questions are at a level easier than the student’s overall ability, it is expected that the student should be able to learn this information quickly.
  • To Be Achieved (Blue) – questions that were expected to be answered incorrectly, given the student’s overall e-asTTle score, and were answered incorrectly. These questions signify areas that the student has yet to achieve and in which it is expected they will require more teaching and learning of strategies to achieve in this/these areas moving forward.

It is possible for the same objective to be listed in multiple quadrants, because the questions relating to a single objective may be of varying curriculum levels.

A question may appear more than once in the same quadrant. This is because a question may have more than one objective associated with it.

More information about the ILP reports can be found here.

We have recently developed and are trialling a new tool which will see students identify the area of most concern in the ‘To Be Achieved (Blue)’ box of their report and make a goal using strategies to target this area of weakness. We are hoping that by doing this students will have a better understanding of the reports, their own capabilities and take more ownership of their learning between tests by making and revisiting goals around their needs.

At the completion of the test an overall score is generated for each student, from these scores we are able to identify if students are ‘well below’, ‘below’, ‘at’ or ‘above’ where they should be for their cohort nationally. This information is outlaid in the ‘MHJC Traffic Lighting’ for reading and maths and is used by teachers to personalise the learning of students with level appropriate texts and tasks. This differentiation and personalisation of learning is important in order to help students make positive shifts towards where they need to be to meet cohort expectation or to extend them and provide them with the necessary challenge needed if they are working above level.

The Teacher’s Craft – the iceberg metaphor

As teachers are preparing overall teacher judgments for the reporting of National Standards it struck me that parents and students may not be aware of the work of a teacher. It can best be described by what you see, which is the tip of the iceberg and a huge amount of work under the surface which is the rest of the iceberg.

The tip would be what students see: delivering the lesson itself, managing the class, motivating, guiding and advising students and being actively involved in their learning inside and outside the classroom.

The unseen work includes a huge amount of planning and preparation. This includes meeting with other whanau teachers to decide on the context for each year level, each term; ensuring tasks are set which cover the curriculum strands of their learning area; setting and marking an assessment task; reporting and providing feedback and feedforward on student progress and ensuring the learning outcomes are authentic and engaging for all students (differentiation). We meet once a week after school to ensure the planning is coordinated in each whanau and also track students’ progress, identify who needs support and develop appropriate action plans.

Teachers, like our students are expected to be learners and so a professional learning and development programme is provided every week. This year our key target areas (Maori and Pacific Achievement; Numeracy and Literacy) all have team leaders who provide best practice, support and advice to teachers to improve their teaching capacity in these areas. In addition an e-pedagogy team leader is monitoring the chromebook trial and providing key lessons in the use of the google platform and other innovative digital teaching tools and methodology.

Depending on the time of year, our teachers will also be involved in the extra-curricular programme which involves practices, rehearsals, matches and performances after hours.

There are many other demands including organising excursions, attending Learning Area meetings, doing duty, completing administrative tasks like attendance, facilitating Student Led Conferences etc. This quick snapshot of the teacher’s craft may help to explain why we all look forward to our holidays!

Thankfully our task is made significantly easier by the supportive MHJC community. Your support makes our job worthwhile. Our families who assist us to create a positive learning culture and students who are co-operative and courteous help us to reach our goal…….

growing greatness – kia mana ake

Good citizens

As global citizens we are affected by events internationally and I am sure you share my shock at the deaths of 49 people in an Orlando nightclub and then a British politician on the street in her electorate last week.

These events remind us how fortunate we are to be living in a relatively peaceful and tolerant society. We are also reminded to continue to promote respect and tolerance as basic values within our school. The best way to combat violent extremism is to nurture the belief in our young people that differences can be resolved in a peaceful manner and that while we may not always agree with each other, we respect each other’s opinion and right to express it in a peaceful and dignified manner.

It is perhaps timely to also remind everyone of the need to keep open lines of communication so that problems can be solved before they reach a crisis point. We have Learning Advisors, Senior Leaders and Guidance Counsellors to contact if students or parents need support or advice.

My thanks to everyone who, as good citizens have contributed to promoting such a respectful and dignified culture at MHJC.

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake

Matariki and our new Board of Trustees

Last week we celebrated Matariki, the Maori New Year which symbolises renewal. The school is also experiencing a new era with the election of our new Board of Trustees. We are pleased with the number of parents (11) who stood for election and signalled their desire to contribute to the governance of the school. This indicates a strong community spirit and commitment to the school.

Once again we thank the out-going board for all its efforts. Under the leadership of Alanna Young and more recently Blair Telfer, the school has established a strong reputation as an innovative organisation that strives for and achieves equity and excellence. The school is also in a strong financial position and has sound policies and procedures thanks to a robust programme of self-review.

In short we are well set to work with the new board to enter a new phase and a renewed commitment to the school’s vision of growing greatness – kia mana ake.

Muhammad Ali, growing greatness – kia mana ake

This week sees the passing of another icon. The death of Muhammad Ali came as a shock to many but relief for a family who had witnessed his suffering from poor health since the end of his boxing career. Social commentators and historians are already assessing the impact of this great man both as a boxer and instrument of social change. His life influenced how we view religion, race and conflict and this must be a measure of greatness.

One of Ali’s famous phrases was “I AM THE GREATEST” and I wondered how relevant his statement is to our vision. Not everyone can be the greatest however we can all aspire to be the greatest we can be. I am sure Muhammad Ali will join me in urging everyone in our community to aspire to greatness in whatever field we choose.

Vision statement – Growing greatness – Kia mana ake

This week we introduce the Te Reo Maori translation of our vision statement “Growing Greatness”.

“Kia mana ake” means to continue to seek ways to improve the internal power we all possess.


As a community we seek ways of promoting cultural diversity and in particular acknowledging our obligations to the Treaty of Waitangi. The newly created Maori and Pasifika committee led by Rebecca McGrath is making significant progress by strengthening ties with families and building on the success of the celebration evening held in term 4 for the last two years.


It was a pleasure to see our Year 9 and 10 girls’ netball team aspiring to perform at the highest level in the Saturday morning competition. After successful grading games they were placed in the second section of their league which means they are in the top 6-12 schools in Auckland. On Saturday they lost narrowly to Auckland Girls’ Grammar in a very exciting game.


They showed admirable resilience by never giving up and I am proud of how they lived our vision – Kia mana ake!


Our vision – “growing greatness through innovative, constantly evolving, personalised learning”


It is useful to remind ourselves of the many ways we promote personalised learning. This may be helpful for parents who can do so much to assist students at home when supplementing the work of our teachers at school. Research shows that one of the biggest influences on student achievement is student reflection on their learning.


How do we support personalised learning?


  1. Student led conferences – these are held twice a year and are intended to bridge the gap between home and school. Students share their aspirations, reflections and progress with their “school and home coaches”. This is the culmination of a number of other initiatives which help our students to take responsibility for their learning journey.
  2. Digital resources are used extensively and I urge parents to encourage their use at home. Students should never have the excuse they have no homework as Maths Buddy and Reading Plus provide them with opportunities to strengthen weaknesses or extend themselves further within the curriculum. At school every student has one session a week when they either work on these digital resources or other assessments under the guidance of an experienced teacher (Whanau Based Learning for Year 7 and 8 or Personalised Learning for Year 9 and 10). This is in addition to the session they spend with their learning advisor.
  3. The DEEP programme provides every student with a chance to discover, extend themselves, cover essential work and explore new opportunities. They design their own timetable from an array of over 100 choices which helps them to deepen their learning.

These strategies have helped our students successfully transition to senior college and developed independent learners.

New Zealand Sign Language Week








Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand

It was a great pleasure to see students and staff acknowledging this important week in our calendar. We have been fortunate to have hosted a satellite class of the  KDEC (Kelston Deaf Education Centre). The class demonstrates our commitment to inclusion and celebrating diversity. Students from the class demonstrated sign language at lunch times and many of our students enjoyed this and other demonstrations during the week. Teachers were also challenged in daily competitions during our staff briefing.


Our students have benefitted greatly from having the satellite class at MHJC. They have learnt an appreciation for students who have risen above their hearing disability to succeed and enjoy their learning. The KDEC students have also inspired various projects and initiatives including the IPENZ award winning project winners who designed an emergency alarm signal for deaf students who could not hear the sound at the school.


The acceptance of the class has helped deaf students to feel part of our community and for normal hearing students to gain an appreciation and consideration for others.


This affirms our vision of growing GREATNESS

G for Good citizens.

NCEA for Year 10 students

As part of our plan to provide a seamless transition to senior college, we offer NCEA achievement standards to students in year 10. Teachers will be preparing students again this year in most year 10 subjects. Our goal is to give students an opportunity to understand and become confident in the NCEA system and it gives students a chance to succeed in a senior assessment framework.


Almost seventy people heard Ms Lambert provide valuable information about NCEA (which is also on our web site) last week and also heard Diana Patience, the new Principal of Ormiston Senior College highlight recent NCEA achievement data and the programmes offered at the school which help their students achieve so well. Almost two in every three students gained an excellence or merit endorsement in level 1 last year which is an outstanding achievement.


We work closely with OSC to ensure our programmes prepare our students for success there and I am pleased to report that providing NCEA opportunities at MHJC does help our students start on the “front foot”.


NCEA is an excellent qualification, acknowledged throughout the world and recognised by universities overseas. It also requires on-going commitment by students to their academic programme rather than an “all or nothing” examination at the end of the year which some schools offer. We find therefore it suits students who prefer to be assessed in a variety of ways (and students have a chance to re-submit if they feel they could do better) at a time when they are ready and with rigorous controls relating to setting, marking and moderating assessments.
I wish all our year 10 students everything of the best as they start their internal assessments. I am sure that they will, like every other occasion,  rise to this academic challenge.