Profile: Danny O'Connor, Executive Principal, ACG Strathallan

Why have you chosen to come to ACG Strathallan?

It was a combination of factors that attracted me to ACG Strathallan. The school has an excellent reputation for offering an outstanding education in a caring and supportive environment, and I had heard so many wonderful things about the school community. I believe passionately in the importance of providing students with a holistic education based on strong core values so that they can develop as learners and as individuals, both in the classroom and beyond. This approach to education is clearly evident at ACG Strathallan and it was one of the determining factors in my decision to move back to New Zealand after so many years abroad. There is also something very special about the learning environment created by having students from Preschool to Year 13 all on the same campus.

Do you think it will be a big change coming from Singapore to New Zealand?

Singapore is an incredible country and my family and I have really enjoyed living here for the past six years, although I must say that living abroad really makes you appreciate everything about home and how fortunate people are to be able to live in New Zealand. The people, the sense of community and the amazing natural environment are the envy of so many people around the world. It will inevitably take some time to get settled but I am excited about returning to Auckland with my family.

How would you describe your educational philosophy?

Education needs to focus on the holistic development of students. Schools have a responsibility to provide students with a wide range of opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary not only to be successful in life but also to be positive, valued members of their communities. Creating a nurturing environment for learning to occur is crucial and the daily interactions in a school should be based on strong core values such as honesty, integrity, respect and compassion.

What makes a great school?

Great people make great schools. Like any high-performing organisation or team it is about getting the right people in the school. Having a team of passionate teachers who genuinely care about the students they work with is essential. Great teachers have the ability to be able to connect with students and to inspire them to want to learn and achieve in all areas of life at school. Once you¹ve got the right people on board it is about working together to provide students with a holistic curriculum that allows them to grow and develop as individuals. At all times, the best interests of students should be at the heart of every decision, and there should be a culture of high expectations and mutual respect.

What excites you about education?

The power of education to bring about a positive change in the lives of other people is what excites and drives me. We live in challenging times and there are significant global challenges to be overcome by current and future generations. Solving these challenges will undoubtedly require new knowledge, skills and innovative approaches to ensure that we can all enjoy a more sustainable future. Education has the power to educate and inspire people to solve these problems and to ultimately help bring about a positive difference in the lives of others.

Do you have any immediate plans for ACG Strathallan?

My immediate plan is to get to know the staff, students and parents within the ACG Strathallan community. Their perceptions of the various aspects of school life are important and it will allow me to gain a much deeper understanding of our strengths and areas for development. Like all great schools, the partnership between the school and home is vital to ensuring the future success and wellbeing of all students at ACG Strathallan.

What are your thoughts on the educational landscape in New Zealand?

It is a fascinating time to be in education with so many schools grappling to respond to a world that is changing at an exponential rate. Widespread advances in technology and communications have forced educators to rethink what and how we should teach. There is an increasing focus on developing knowledge and skills that transcend traditional disciplines so that students can apply their learning in a variety of situations. Being creative, thinking critically and working collaboratively are valuable skills necessary for an uncertain future.