Profile: Jason Speedy, Headmaster, Southwell School



What attracted you to this particular principal’s role?

Knowing New Zealand’s independent school sector extremely well and Southwell, I saw the Headmaster’s position at Southwell as an excellent opportunity to professionally and personally thrive. The truly all round holistic education and the opportunity to shape and guide positive culture were key attractors.


How would you describe your school?

Southwell is a dynamic, purposeful environment that is relational and personalised.

Its values are alive through whole school, year group, academic classes, boarding, sporting, cultural and the service spheres of daily life. Southwell educates the whole person with a strong emphasis on positive psychology and our people striving to be their best self. 

Set on a vast campus near Hamilton City’s CBD, the architectural design of its century-old chapel is embedded into all of its facilities, inclusive of its many new cutting-edge learning spaces. All of this provides a unique village feel and an environment to be very proud of as a community.


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

I wish to lead by positive example and guide our staff teams to embrace the opportunities before them on a daily basis, and for them to understand that they need to inspire both hope and aspiration before the students in their care consistently. I want people to feel valued.

Future ambitions for Southwell involve our community constantly reflecting, to enhance what we do. Teachers need to have a learning mindset, access to professional development, quality time to reflect and the need to know how to lead themselves and others. 

Continually maintaining, improving and creating outstanding facilities to learn and work in is always in my mind. Southwell has an exciting campus development period about to start with the building of a new junior school, sports pavilion and boarding house.


Can you briefly describe your career pathway?

  • Grew up in the South Island and moved north to attend Westlake Boys’ High
  • Attended Auckland Teachers College/Auckland University, majoring in physical education
  • Gained a Master’s of Educational Leadership at Massey University and attended Harvard University’s Leadership & Vision Programme
  • Played and coached professional rugby union in Italy for seven years
  • Had various roles at Kristin School as a Teacher, Secondary Sports Director and Deputy Principal in the middle school
  • Had roles of Deputy Principal, Associate Principal and Acting Principal at St Peter’s, Cambridge
  • Headmaster at Southwell, 2016 to present day.


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

Many of my teachers at secondary school were characters that I thrived under, particularly in the sporting scene.

Principals who gave me a chance and believed in me were Claudia Wysocki, Jan Blair, Ted Berry and Marge Scott at Kristin. Steve Robb and myself also had a great relationship at St Peter’s, Cambridge, with Steve giving me plenty of autonomy and challenge.

As a 24-year-old rugby player at a First Division Italian rugby club, the President and Owner sacked the Coach six games into a 24-game season and named me as as Player-Coach. From pure player to suddenly planning trainings and game plans, selecting the team and facing the media, it was a great challenge and became a tremendously rewarding experience, with the strong connections forged still alive today.

Generally, I learn and take positives away from most people I am in contact with, rather than exclusive individuals.


How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

I value people and focus on their strengths.

Schools are about being immersed in humanity and being inclusive.

I set high expectations for myself and the community, with clear communication to our students, staff and parents around this in terms of our values and striving to be our best selves.

Positive psychology underpins my persona.


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

I have thrived in the three independent schools I have worked in and enjoyed creating relationships and visiting many Australian, United States and United Kingdom independent schools in my time. The ability to focus on the all round educational offerings and connect with staff, students, alumni, parents and supporters personally is significant in the independent sector, with minimal bureaucracy stifling the pathways to great outcomes.


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

For teachers:

  • Small class sizes and the ability to really teach and create relationships with their students
  • Quality non-contact time in their day to reflect, assess and create
  • Vast professional development opportunities, internally and externally.

At Southwell we embrace our whole staff of teachers, administrators and property, cleaning, boarding and dining hall people. They are all part of a house team and everyone knows everybody. You can be truly valued in an independent school, no matter what your position, and enjoy the celebrations and moments of a school year collectively.


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

As a student you will:

  • Become known
  • Gain a sense of place and belonging
  • Be nurtured in an environment that has strong expectations and the ability to support and scaffold you
  • Provide opportunities to ignite the gifts that lie within – whether that be academically, socially, sporting wise, culturally or serving others to finding specific interests
  • Learn to understand yourself
  • Be connected to a school for life.