Mark Phillips, Principal, Crimson Global Academy (CGA)



What attracted you to this particular principal’s role?

While aware of the swift rise of online education in the tertiary sector, the idea of a secondary school that ran entirely online was not one I had considered, let alone viewed as a career option. Now almost every teacher and every school in the world has experienced the potential (and challenges) of online education.

It did not take long to believe in both the opportunities that an online education can provide nor believe in the vision for the school. To be involved in an innovative development within the New Zealand education scene was professionally attractive. Particularly so, given it is a rapidly-developing alternative for many students across the world. To develop a school from scratch was a very enticing challenge.


How would you describe our school?

There are a number of differences and many similarities that characterise our school.

Firstly, we have a large number of part-time students (approximately 75% currently) that come to CGA to accelerate their learning, study subjects that may not be readily available at their current school or to provide additional support for their current studies. As approximately 50% of our students are based outside of New Zealand we are providing access to great teachers, a quality curriculum and a pathway to tertiary study that is not always readily obtainable in their locality. Our students live in approximately 25 different countries.

We focus exclusively on academic courses designed to prepare students for tertiary study and to enhance their opportunities to access universities beyond their local options.

We are developing an extensive extracurricular programme that supports the development of well-rounded citizens. These activities are largely different (or a subset of) a traditional school. We strongly encourage students to be active in their local communities.


Were there any particularly enlightening moments or inspirational people who have helped set you on your way?

I have spent the large majority of my career at Macleans College in Auckland under the leadership of four Principals. All of whom have had a considerable influence.

Colin Prentice established the school and his foundation values and philosophy still drive that school and underpin my educational philosophy today. Allen MacDonald followed and had an unwavering commitment to advancing and enhancing the academic opportunities of the students. Byron Bentley followed Allen and it was Byron who provided me the opportunity to move to senior leadership and develop my interest in the use of data for school advancement. Byron was entrepreneurial by nature. Under his leadership he cultivated in this state school a highly-successful commercial operation (amongst other achievements) and as a result enhanced the educational opportunities and facilities for the local community.


Can you briefly describe your career pathway?

I started teaching at Macleans College gaining opportunities for both curriculum leadership and significant extracurricular involvement. With a young family I accepted promotion to Head of Mathematics at Otorohanga College. I then moved back to Macleans College to head the much-larger Mathematics Faculty. In 2001 I was granted a year's leave to become a Teaching Fellow at The University of Auckland. This enabled me to teach and contribute to a number of Stage 1 courses. The opportunity to undertake additional study was also refreshing. I moved to senior leadership at Macleans College with a sabbatical for 18 months to run a software data analytic company (EdPotential) that had started from the school’s involvement with Victoria University. I have then moved to my current position as Principal, Crimson Global Academy.


How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

I don’t think too deeply about leadership philosophy particularly. But I wish to develop a culture within the school that focuses all staff to improve both their professional skills but also contribute to the growing success of the school. It is important to me that I am transparent in my actions. I am data driven and evidence is critical in driving decision making. Enabling our staff to enjoy and experience satisfaction in their work is also central to my actions.


What do you hope to achieve through your leadership/what are your future ambitions for the school?

Our aim is to provide an opportunity for students to access academically-rigorous qualifications, to recruit an outstanding teaching staff and leverage the strong admissions support that Crimson Education provides to universities across the world. All facilitated by leading-edge technology. Our ambition is to grow our school to be the largest premium provider of online education in the world.


What do you see as the benefits of working at an independent school?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my career in the New Zealand state system. But the independent sector enables greater choice and flexibility. This flexibility is evident in our curriculum and our timetable. It provides additional choice for our staff as to where they can live. It also has the opportunity to establish a community with a more homogenous set of priorities, enabling our school to develop a strong community with similar values and aspirations.

While a greater degree of similarity exists between the aims of the school and our community, the students at the same time are diverse. As a result, our student body naturally encourages tolerance and respect. These differences create a vibrant school community.


What do you see as the benefits for students of attending an independent school?

Attending an independent school is a choice that parents and students make to align their own personal vision of education with a school that encourages this development. Our parents and students choose our school as a result of the vision and opportunities the school can provide. We focus on learning and developing well-rounded, interesting and motivated citizens. We have greater flexibility to develop skills that contribute and make a positive difference to their communities and the world at large.