Why have you chosen to come to Hereworth School?
I visited Hereworth four years ago, whilst on holiday with my family. There were definitely aspects that appealed - the strong Christian ethos, the commitment to excellence in boys’ education, the purposeful wellbeing program, the extensive co-curricular opportunities, and the strength of relationships – and all this in one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand. Being able to immerse myself in the Hereworth community and to lead this wonderful school forward to ensure the provision of a high quality, inclusive, caring education, unleashing the potential in all boys and staff, I felt would be energising and enriching at the personal and professional level.
What do you aim to achieve as Principal?
Firstly, to continue to foster quality relationships, as relationships are the essential DNA of a school. Members of the community must be treated with respect and empathy to ensure a positive and supportive culture exists, as this builds a strong sense of belonging. This is particularly important for staff as they are responsible for providing a quality of relationship that facilitates, empowers and enables learning to take place, thus ensuring that the achievement of the boys, whether inside or outside the classroom, reaches the highest level possible. The relationship between teacher and student is the ‘killer app of learning’.
Secondly, to develop a shared vision with the Board Members and Senior Executive that allows Hereworth to be a reference point for boys’ education, allowing them to develop into confident, connected, lifelong learners. This vision must contain initiatives that involve the staff, for this will energise them by providing them with an exciting picture of the future. This vision would focus on the important drivers within a school - pedagogical practices, student wellbeing structures, leadership development and co-curricular pursuits. The boys need to become resilient learners, as fluent in emotional intelligence as they are in cognitive intelligence, who can think independently, are ethically aware, growing constantly in their faith, and can approach the world with curiosity, compassion and empathy.
Tell us about your choice of career as an educator. Were there enlightening moments or inspirational people to set you on your way? Describe the pathway your career has followed.
I commenced my working life as an exploration geologist. After a number of years working in mines and on grass root exploration projects, I retrained as a science teacher by completing a Diploma of Education and was offered a position at Sydney Church of England Grammar School. I really enjoyed my time there, in particular working with Robert Grant, who provided great encouragement through his positive and thoughtful leadership. After several years, I knew it was time to venture further afield and moved to Barker College as a science teacher, and gradually progressed into a number of middle and upper management positions including Head of Science and Director of Studies. It was a great learning opportunity, especially being able to work with Rod Kefford and witnessing his passion for innovation, excellence and improvement. My next move was as Deputy Head – Teaching & Learning at Blue Mountains Grammar, followed by 10 years as Headmaster of this School. My years at BMGS were deeply enriching and fulfilling. It was a very special place - warm, outward looking and generous of spirit. It was a great privilege to lead this community and to have played a part in the development of the lives of so many students. To see students taking up opportunities, growing in their learning, faith and character, experiencing success, enjoying themselves, making friends and feeling valued as members of this community gave me a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction. To experience the extraordinary goodwill of so many families, the ability and enthusiasm of great students and an amazingly committed staff whose professionalism and dedication extended well beyond school hours, was indeed a blessing.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Leadership involves me as Head, together with all staff, raising one another to higher levels of morality and motivation by increasing the consciousness of all staff through appealing to Christian ideals and ethical values. This creates a strong moral culture within the school, causing people to reach outwardly to serve others and inwardly towards their own potential. As Head, I must be sensitive to building the organisation, engaging the school community in a shared vision and purpose, and distributing leadership amongst staff. I must also build the culture necessary to enable change to take place. Influence needs to be used to create effective school teams based on mutual trust, respect and support. There is a definite need to establish collaborative processes and provide opportunities for teacher-leadership through shared decision-making. This notion of distributed leadership fosters not only the development of leadership in staff but also their commitment to new initiatives. It leads to the empowerment of staff which increases their motivation, thereby having positive effects on learner outcomes. As Head, I see myself as a partner with staff on a journey towards enhanced competence and effectiveness, learning together, and focusing on the School’s goals to produce better outcomes for our students, ourselves and for all our futures.
Can you share your thoughts about independent education - in New Zealand and internationally?
Independent schools are significant providers in the mix of schooling provision in a number of countries, and demonstrate the capacity of non-government entities to provide great educational outcomes in teaching and learning, student wellbeing and leadership, and faith development. While delivering on these priorities independent schools are innovative in creating effective solutions, in partnership with the community, to address challenges facing them. We have to be agile, and we have to allow new approaches – this will enable us to continue to build the evidence base where it doesn’t yet exist.
What do you see as the benefits of working at an independent school?
Having the autonomy to develop programs for students that meet their own particular needs is important. Working alongside many wonderful people – board members, executive, staff, parents and most importantly, our young people, is a great benefit. A strong caring and supportive culture that underpins the Christian ethos is another benefit of the independent schools in which I have served.
What encouragement would you give to parents considering a private education for their children?
My own children have journeyed through an independent school and been shaped by it. They have very precious memories and developed lifelong skills. My wife and I will always be thankful for the positive impact the staff had on them. Independent schools offer so much by way of academic excellence from high quality and well-resourced teachers and staff. There are also strong pastoral and wellbeing programs for students and staff. There is the focus on the reinforcement of traditional values and students have many opportunities to be involved in a broad range of co-curricular activities, including Music, Sport, Drama, Debating, and Arts. I believe independent schools really do focus on the acquisition of a broader set of skills for their students so that they are equipped with outcomes for life as they strive ever higher to do their best – they enable them to be future ready for an ever-changing world.