Profile: Peter Cassie, Principal, Saint Kentigern Boys' School

 Peter Cassie 2018 Portraits 6 Copy WEB

What attracted you to the Principal role at Saint Kentigern Boys’ School?

A new challenge after 12 enjoyable years at Scots College in Wellington. I already knew Saint Kentigern well, due to my time spent teaching nearby at King’s, earlier in my career, and always felt that Saint Kentigern provided a fantastic education for boys.

How would you describe Saint Kentigern Boys’ School?

A friendly school that is an extension of family life. The school understands the importance of a close relationship between our boys, their parents and their place of learning, leading to a true sense of community. With an exceptional team of teaching staff, we have a central mission for our boys – the pursuit of excellence in every learning adventure and the enjoyment of this journey as they discover "a world of opportunity for boys".

What do you hope to achieve through your leadership?

  1. Create a sense of the Boys’ School being a welcoming place
  2. Aspire to excellence and be constantly prepared to adapt and make changes to ensure continued improvement
  3. Encourage boys to believe in themselves, give of their best in everything they do and are prepared to try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes
  4. Develop boys who are confident, articulate and engaged in their learning without arrogance or a sense of entitlement
  5. Ensure staff feel a sense of belonging and see a pathway for growth and leadership development
  6. Grow a school culture that embraces excellence, community and pride

What are your future ambitions for the school?

To be the best we can possibly be in every aspect of a boys’ growth, and to ensure we prepare our boys for their future and the next stage in their educational journey.

What pathway has your career followed?

I loved my own school years, therefore, teaching was always the direction I was heading. I trained in Auckland and after graduation spent four years at Weymouth Intermediate (an open plan, coeducational, decile 1 state school) and loved every minute of it.

I moved to a contributing school in Papakura to gain experience with younger students. After two years, I went to King’s School, Auckland (boys only) to teach at Year 7. This was where I became passionate about the education of boys and realised that for the previous six years, I did not really get the best out of the boys in my coeducational class.

During just over thirteen years at King’s, I became a Sub-Dean and then Dean of Year 7 & 8.

I moved to Wellington in 2001 to become Principal at Scots College Prep School (Years 1-8). This was an opportunity to rebuild the entire Prep School (and the logistics required to keep a school operational) and introduce a new curriculum.

I was appointed as Principal of Middle School Scots College (Year 7-10) as the College made changes to their organisation and delivery of programmes. It was a great experience to be part of the implementation process and have a mixture of primary and secondary staff all working for the same outcome.

I left Scots after 12 years to be appointed as Principal of Saint Kentigern Boys’ School in Term 4 2012. I have loved every minute of this role and am excited by the physical changes taking place on campus. The Saint Kentigern Trust Board is undertaking a major building programme to develop new Senior School classrooms and a Specialist Teaching Facility for science, technology and the arts. The overall development also includes the relocation of Saint Kentigern Girls’ School to the current Boys’ School Campus (Shore Road) and a future plan to build a new Preschool onsite.

Saint Kentigern offers a pathway from Preschool (girls and boys age 3-4) to Primary School (a separate Boys’ School and Girls’ School for Years 0-8) and onto College (boys and girls taught separately in core subjects for Years 7-10 and becoming co-educational in Years 11-13). Being part of a larger organisation that covers both single sex and co-educational opportunities from age 3-18 years of age is an amazing experience and new challenge.

Were there enlightening moments or inspirational people who set you on your way to a career in education?

No one in my family was a teacher. My love of school life was the key driver to a teaching career. I still remember those teachers who I admired and respected and it was their qualities and the relationships they had with students that now drives me to think and act as I do.

Ian McKinnon, as Headmaster at Scots, set me up on my Principalship Pathway which was not one dimensional. He believed in me and gave sound advice when needed. Matching his work ethic and ensuring any changes were beneficial for the students were valuable lessons.

How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

I like to develop a team where staff:

  • Are valued
  • Are empowered to make decisions
  • Work together for the benefit of the students
  • Are not afraid to challenge and ask questions, however, when a decision is made, they are all in behind it.

And that I:

  • Lead by example
  • Am visible

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

Independent education gives parents a choice about where they send their children to school. Their expectation is one of excellence and independent schools work hard to deliver this. Being independent allows a school to be innovative and adapt at a faster rate than others if circumstances demand change. This became increasingly evident this year, in particular, with the advent of distance learning during the Covid-19 lockdowns. As an Independent School, we were able to quickly allocate resources to develop sound online teaching practices and continue our teaching and learning programmes uninterrupted. Anecdotally, worldwide, this was recognised with an upswing in interest in independent schooling despite tough economic times.

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

Independent Schools can choose how best to resource their schools and one of the greatest benefits is being able to attract and retain the very best teachers who are passionate about teaching and the development of the whole person. Independent schools support their staff and there is a commitment to continue to invest in their ongoing professional development.

Innovation is encouraged and there is a real sense of continued improvement to ensure we provide the very best for our students and are able to adapt to a changing world and education landscape.

Independent Schools are driven to go from Good to Great!

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

The quality of teachers makes the greatest difference for our young people and as an independent school, we select and expect the very best from our teaching staff. In turn, our students can expect a high level of excellence in their teaching and learning programmes.

Families have great aspirations for their children and at primary school level in particular, students are only just starting to discover their interests and passions. Independent Schools are generally well-resourced to offer a broad range of opportunities both within the curriculum and through a wealth of co-curricular activities that helps a child grow and develop.

An Independent School determines its own culture and as a Presbyterian School, Saint Kentigern has a very strong values-based education where the values are not only talked about but lived in every aspect of daily life. This, too, serves to develop the whole child and in an environment where service to others is given great emphasis, students are encouraged to be caring and empathetic individuals – to "be kind". When families buy into a school’s values, a very strong sense of community develops – one that at Saint Kentigern, I am very proud to be a part of.