Category Archives: Principal’s Blog

Holidays during term time

It is a good time to wish everyone a restful and safe holiday after a very busy term. Next term has new challenges for our Year 9 students who face their first set of examinations in week 4 and Year 10’s who will benefit from the experience last year. There are many other activities in term 4 which require everyone to be at school for the whole period particularly the end of the year when we celebrate the achievements of our students in Prize Giving Assemblies.

With holidays much on our mind I need to remind parents that I cannot approve holiday leave during term time. I have received several requests already for this term and the end of the year. The Ministry of Education has given schools clear instructions in this regard. There are several reasons for this policy which naturally relate to the work a student will miss while away and from a wider perspective if too many students are away the programmes we are running become less meaningful for those who remain. We adopt a compassionate approach to families who need to attend funeral services overseas but ask that families liaise with relatives regarding the timing of weddings and other family celebrations so that students can attend without disrupting to their learning.

Exciting plans for 2017

I was extremely impressed by the number of students and parents who attended our recent Option Evening. The commitment of parents to their children’s learning is a key component to success at school so any opportunity to reinforce this responsibility is appreciated. I would also like to explain the importance and benefits of your child/ren attending a Junior College and what some of our plans for 2017 include.

The model of a Junior College is unique as it provides our Year 9 and 10 students with opportunities they may not get at other traditional schools. I have compared our senior students to trees in a forest who do not have any competition for light above them and so can grow taller and stronger. I see this every day when I speak to our students who show a maturity and sense of responsibility resulting from the leadership positions they hold or for being simply the “elders” of the school.

Aside from the programmes we traditionally run we are “continually evolving” our practice to engage all our students. In this regard we are conscious of the need to develop programmes and opportunities specifically for our Year 9 and 10 students.

Some new and existing opportunities we will provide in 2017 include:


A significant change next year is the introduction of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. This promises to take our students to another level of learning. The differentiated (personalised) learning opportunities with devices familiar to students is exciting and heralds another dimension to the collaborative environment already so successful in terms of engagement and achieving authentic outcomes.

Our commitment to preparing students for the future with specialist option subjects and we review our options every year. We are introducing Digital Technology in Year 9 and 10 next year. This exciting subject includes coding, electronics and robotics which will appeal to our aspiring engineers and programmers. We also took a strategic decision to introduce Mandarin to Year 7 and 8 students this year and this will be offered to Year 9’s next year as well as Spanish – “the international languages of business”.

Mindful of the need to orientate students to the NCEA assessment system we offer “low stakes” NCEA Internal Achievement Standards to Year 10 students. These credits may be carried over to Year 11 and assist students to reach level 1 with less pressure than students in other schools. The knowledge of the process is an asset for students entering this relatively complicated assessment system.

The Accelerate Classes in Year 9 and 10 provide our top academic students opportunities to collaborate on a high level; engage in deeper learning and enter national and international academic competitions which challenge their intellectual abilities. However the DEEP programme also provides other students the opportunity to extend themselves in enrichment programmes reflecting a huge variety of interests and passions.

To complement the opportunities provided in our extra-curricular programme we will be offering students the chance to enrol for the William Pike Challenge Award as a DEEP option which will appeal to the adventurous who have a passion for the outdoors. The award helps prepare our students for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme which is offered at Ormiston Senior College. It fits naturally into our curriculum as the service and activity components can be done through either Whanau excursions or special Outdoor Education trips.

We also intend building on the tremendous growth in participation in all our cornerstone activities and reach even greater heights of achievement. We have been particularly pleased with the success of our Saturday morning sports teams (netball, cricket and soccer) who have competed against top teams from other schools and the phenomenal growth of basketball.

I trust this help you to understand something of the new opportunities our students will enjoy next year.

Growing greatness – kia mana ake

E-learning at MHJC – BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for 2017

At MHJC, e-learning supports our school vision of providing authentic and contextualised learning to our students. A digital learning environment allows our teachers to integrate creative strategies and satisfy the individual learning needs of our students. This integration supports personalised and differentiated approaches, enhances academic rigour and engagement, connects our learners with global contexts, and enhance an already established collaborative learning environment.

The challenge lies in shifting from teaching and learning about digital tools to teaching and learning with and through digital tools. This means rather than using technology to do old things in new ways, we want to do new things in new ways and use technology to enable and transform teaching, learning and the curriculum.

One to one learning

The school has provided stand-alone devices at a ratio of one device to two students since 2009. This means that students have been able to collaborate using these devices or work independently depending on the required outcome. Within this digital learning environment, teachers and students have been able to develop their digital capability and have shown a willingness to try new strategies.
After receiving the infra-structure for ultra fast broad-band in 2015 and In keeping with our vision of promoting innovative and personalised learning, we chose to investigate the potential of using chromebooks this year to see how portable, one to one device to student ratios could engage and accelerate the academic success of our students. The results have been extremely positive with students and teachers enjoying the possibilities and outcomes being enhanced with the use of the chromebooks.

We are pleased to inform parents that next year we will allow students to bring their own device to school (BYOD).

This strategy provides us with an opportunity for teachers and students to collaborate on a new level. We will still promote quality teaching which includes traditional as well as modern methods and must emphasise that a device is a tool to enhance learning and should not replace the teacher nor the use of other engaging pedagogical approaches.

We have investigated the viability of BYOD and believe our students and teachers are well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity. There are several key questions we will answer on our web site and have an information evening later next term.

As a consideration to families who have already invested in a device for their child/ren, we will allow any device provided it meets certain specifications. These specifications will be provided by the school and will include screen size and the need for a key-pad (mobile phones will not be considered as a learning device). While we have found chromebooks to be functional and cost effective for our pilot study we believe that the choice of a device should be one that suits the individual learning needs of your child. We are also making provision for the safety of the devices at school by providing lockable shelves for students to rent if required. In addition we will develop an educational programme to provide technical support and strengthen existing digital citizenship advice to ensure we use the devices correctly and appropriately.

I am convinced that this new exciting direction will have a positive impact on engagement and achievement and it builds on the excellent foundations laid since the opening of the college. It also strengthens the transition of students into the college and will help to prepare students for the next step in their learning journey after year 10.

Growing greatness – kia mana ake

Next steps in the journey for our Year 10 students

Many parents have been asking me for advice about their Year 10 child/ren’s next steps on their learning journey. I need to emphasise that the vision for the Flat Bush area was for MHJC to be the feeder school for Ormiston Senior College and I remain committed to this ideal. We work hard to ensure there is a seamless transition from our contributing schools through MHJC to OSC. Diana Patience and I have regular meetings to seek ways to collaborate and we have spoken recently about how we can share resources to develop each other’s sporting programme. She has already made good progress with her school being involved in a sports exchange this year.

I am also convinced that Ormiston Senior College is able to provide outstanding academic opportunities for your children. The school’s results last year indicated excellent growth and to have over half of the Year 11 cohort achieving an excellence or merit endorsement is a record most schools would envy.

I attended the Prize Giving last year and was very impressed by the tone of the event and the achievements of the students. One was of particular note – Taraani Mohammed (former student of MHJC) who was awarded a scholarship from the University of Auckland to cover her entire study fees estimated at over $30k.

Finally we all want students to learn in a happy, caring environment and the personalised learning programme that they are used to combined with entering the school with well-established friendships is a crucial ingredient to academic success.

I hope my words, visits to the school and meeting members of staff may help you to make an informed decision. But don’t forget to listen to your child as well!

“Growing greatness – kia mana ake”

The Olympics

Very soon the 2016 Olympics will be over. What an amazing spectacle it was. After the feats of Usain Bolt start to fade, important reminders for me were:
Not everyone can get a medal however we can all be satisfied by improving our personal best;
The most disappointed people were spectators and journalists with unrealistic expectations;
Sometimes effort and sacrifice is rewarded;
How well the human race responds to new challenges and records set the bar even higher;
How important simple gestures of affection and humanity transcend all other sporting moments.

I cannot resist the opportunity to reinforce what we do at MHJC:
Provide opportunities for our students to challenge themselves to succeed. Encourage everyone to reflect and improve their performance. To strive for excellence but remember to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. And always show good sportsmanship – thank the officials, supporters and other competitors, without them there would be no event!

I look forward to the Paralympics which for me is an occasion which celebrates an even greater ideal of the inner spirit overcoming physical disability. Prepare to be inspired!

Growing greatness – kia mana ake.

Enrolments 2017

I would like to urge our community to ensure that enrolment applications are handed to reception in good time. Much of our planning and in particular staffing is based on the data we collect before the end of this term so accuracy is important.

The Board of Trustees has indicated that Out of Zone applications may be considered for 2017. This is in response to a number of families, particularly from Mission Heights Primary School who have found themselves to be outside the new zone created by the Ministry of Education to cater for the opening of Ormiston Junior College next year. They had originally bought homes inside our zone with the intention of attending MHJC so the board felt the need to support their application. We wish to keep families and community together – whanaungatanga.

It is also important to remind the community that if you have a sibling at the college and your home used to be inside the zone your child may remain at the college and siblings are entitled to enrol without going into the ballot.

“Growing greatness; Kia mana ake”

Opportunities for greatness

Term 3 is a very busy time for us all and illustrates the numerous opportunities our students are provided to grow their greatness.

My compliments to everyone who entered the Speech Finals on Friday. Ms Lambert and I had a very difficult task separating the top speeches and we were very impressed with the overall quality. Students provided original, sophisticated, informative speeches in a highly accomplished manner – congratulations.

This week is an exciting one for the cast and crew of “Popstars”. Months of rehearsing will come to an end with the opening show and we are sure the students will have a great time performing to large audiences.

Science Fair and Maths Week provides plenty of academic challenge to students and the winter sports continue with great performances by our basketball, netball and soccer teams.

Finally an amazing bit of information was that over a quarter of our students volunteered to host the Year 6 Open Evening – what an amazing reflection of the passion our students have for their school and desire to serve.

Growing greatness – kia mana ake

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

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