Paul Kennedy, New Zealand and Argentina regional principal, OneSchool Global

Paul Kennedy

 

What attracted you to this particular principal’s role and when did you commence it?

I commenced in the role of regional principal for OneSchool NZ in August 2017, and I was attracted to OneSchool Global because it is, in many ways, at the cutting edge of education. Their focus on developing self-directed learners is something I am passionate about, as well as the pedagogy of asynchronous learning that meets the needs of every individual student.

The opportunity to be part of a global school and to collaborate with other regional principals from across the globe, rather than being the "lone wolf" at the top of the school was also very attractive – I had been in that position in several schools and wanted to work more as part of a team.

 

How would you describe your school?

OneSchool Global is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive, truly global schools. With over 9500 students, over 120 campuses and over 2000 staff and volunteers operating across 20 countries, OneSchool’s global education ecosystem provides an environment in which our staff and students thrive.

We develop learners who “learn how to learn and achieve”. We facilitate this learning through a forward-looking and pioneering approach to education. While academic excellence has and always will be a priority, OneSchool challenges dated educational practices and processes with our Self-Directed Learning Programme. We place students and their learning outcomes at the centre of all that we do, with a focus on what and how students are learning, rather than merely on what is being taught.

In New Zealand, OneSchool Global has over 270 staff providing its innovative learning and teaching approach to over 1600 students in 17 campuses spread from Invercargill in the south to Kerikeri in the north, and in 15 places in between, as well as our three schools in Argentina. We also have a national support office based in Auckland that includes finance, IT, HR and administration staff.

To make our learning happen I am assisted by two associate principals (junior and senior), a teacher academy director and 12 campus principals based across the region (one is based in Argentina).

 

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

My leadership is focused on coaching and developing our campus principals and associate principals, maintaining consistency across our campuses, and ensuring that all of our school goals are achieved. I continue to focus on meeting the needs of each individual student and the gains each of them makes on a daily, weekly and yearly basis.

This has to be done through coaching, mentoring and supporting the individual campus staff and leadership rather than directly through the students. With students spread across 20 different sites (and two countries) it is impossible for me to directly influence those students, so I rely heavily on the empowerment of the leaders on each site and my focus has to be on those leaders.

Our school is determined to remain at the cutting edge of education. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the experience for our students and how we might deliver better outcomes. We know that student outcomes are directly linked to the quality of teaching and leadership. This is a key focus for us, and we are committed to teachers and leaders developing as coaches who grow all members of the school community.

 

Can you briefly describe your career pathway?

I would describe my career pathway as "unusual"! I qualified as a primary teacher in the early 1980s and after teaching for several years decided I needed more excitement and joined the New Zealand Police as a uniformed police officer. After 14 years in varied policing roles including traffic, general duties, training and leadership, I returned to teaching. After a brief stint back in the classroom, my first principal position was running a school at a secure unit for youth offenders, followed by 18 months as manager of special education for the Ministry of Education in Christchurch.

Following this I spent seven years as principal of Halswell Residential College, a residential school for secondary students with severe behavioural and intellectual issues. I then moved into the independent school sector as headmaster at The Cathedral Grammar School in Christchurch for five years before moving to OneSchool Global.

 

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

I truly believe that you learn from every leader you encounter – sometimes you learn the right way to lead and sometimes you learn how not to lead! Over the years I have worked for some great leaders and some very poor ones, but I think I have learnt equally from them all.

Personally, I take inspiration from the vision of Martin Luther King (“I have a dream” is framed on my office wall), the humbleness of Sir Edmund Hillary, the determination and compassion of Nelson Mandela, and the thoughtfulness of Maya Angelou.

 

How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata – It is People, It is People, It is People!

I truly believe in servant leadership and the need to invert the traditional structure model of a school so that students and teachers are at the top of the tree rather than the principal. My job is not to be the most important person in the room, but rather to be the least important – our students come first. Closely followed by the staff.

My role is to nurture, support, and provide focus and direction. Developing and growing people is a passion of mine and I hope that informs my leadership on a daily basis.

 

Can you share your thoughts about independent education – in New Zealand and internationally?

The independent sector, whether in New Zealand or across the globe, provides an educational choice for parents who want something different from what state schools provide. Whether it is a different type of pedagogy, a cultural choice, faith-based education, or something else that makes an independent school unique, our schools provide that point of difference to the state sector.

 

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

It is easy to talk about remuneration and conditions of work, but ultimately the biggest benefit of working in an Independent School in New Zealand is "freedom". Freedom in the way we deliver education, and in how we operate our schools.

 

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

I think students get to benefit from that freedom in some of the new, creative and innovative approaches that independent schools take in delivering education. This also helps create a unique culture that our school community – students, staff and parents – can buy into and feel part of.