Tell us about Seven Oaks School. How would you describe it?
Seven Oaks is an independent school that achieves outstanding academic results by growing the social and emotional abilities of our students. We achieve this by authentic hands-on learning and by building strong relationships with the children and community. Each child has an individual learning path and there is a high level of student agency.
You’ve been in the Principal role at Seven Oaks for over a year now. How is the school changing and developing under your leadership?
When I started at Seven Oaks, there was a perception that we were a school for children with specific behavioural needs. This perception has now changed. We are now perceived as a school that focuses on the social and emotional wellbeing of our students. The curriculum is also coming into sharper focus and is easier to explain.
What are your future ambitions for Seven Oaks?
In May 2020, we are opening a pre-school. Having a pre-school on site that shares our vision will help increase our roll in the younger classes.
In 2022, we are planning to open a year 9/10 class and then a full high school a few years later.
In the future, I would like us to spread our philosophy into other schools.
Describe the pathway your career has followed.
I started my career in Japan teaching English for a private company. Initially, I only taught adults. I was later asked to go and teach in the schools in Osaka. After eight years in Japan, I moved back to New Zealand and became a teacher. I have taught every age from New Entrants to Year 8.
I was Deputy Principal at Lyttelton West and Lyttelton Primary for over ten years before I became the principal of Seven Oaks. Lyttelton went through a lot during this time with the earthquakes, a merge and a change to modern learning environments. I learnt a lot.
Were there enlightening moments or inspirational people who set you on your way to a career in education?
Finding out that I got on so well with children and enjoyed their company was a life-changing moment for me. This happened while I was teaching in Japan. After my first day teaching children, I knew that I had found my calling.
How would you describe your leadership philosophy?
I use the Servant Leadership model. A Servant Leader shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. I feel that using this model benefits me and the educators at Seven Oaks. Our educators are very highly motivated and want to perform to a high standard.
Can you share your thoughts about independent education in New Zealand?
Independent schools get a bad rap in New Zealand. Most people believe they are for the rich and are old fashioned. This is very incorrect. There is a much wider range of philosophies in the independent school system than in the state system. Also, many parents are not well off but feel that an independent education is the best fit for their child.
What do you see as the benefits of working at an independent school?
You have more freedom to design a curriculum that you totally believe in, and you can organise your school in any way you see fit.