Principal profile - Julie Gifkins, St George's School
Why have you chosen to come to St George’s School? What do you aim to achieve as Headmaster?
As soon as I stepped into St George’s School it felt right. St George’s values its traditions and values its people. The direction that the school community wanted to go in aligned with my educational philosophy. Looking ahead to the future with hope and confidence for our young people, to ensure we are responsive to their needs as they will become our community leaders in the future.
To enable this, we need to be true to our motto, Fidus et Audax, "Faithful and Daring” by being brave in our approach to best practice teaching and learning, dreaming big and growing our people to grow an effective community of learning for our young people. The community we build and contribute to is not only within the school, it includes the local area, national and international.
This will be done through our new DISCOVERY opportunities within STEM, The Arts and business, offering choice, personalised learning, student voice, creativity, and community enterprise.
My aim is that we provide opportunities for our young people to develop their character and citizenship in a whānau that genuinely cares and supports them to grow; all with kind hearts, kind thoughts, and kind words and actions.
What do you see as the benefits of working at an independent school?
We have choice to personalise and be responsive to students' needs.
Tell us about your choice of career as an educator. Were there enlightening moments or inspirational people to set you on your way?
A turning point for me was my re-education during post-graduate, educational leadership Masters studies, later in life. I loved it! Just as in Mathematics one needs to articulate the strategies in use, this was the case in leadership learning. Being informed by research and one’s ever changing real world context has shaped and continues to shape the growing leader. Learn from your stories and learn from the people who have nudged you to grow and to learn.
Describe the pathway your career has followed.
A zigzag. I love choice and freedom to be responsive to students’ needs. I have never seen my career as a ladder to climb, rather it has been more of an adventure playground.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I enjoy building highly effective teams who never lose sight of the fact that the students are the ultimate beneficiaries. Along the way, it's about the sense of team, building high trust relationships, having fun, dreaming big and daring to be brave, supporting the purpose of our roles and becoming the key drivers of where to next, with and for our students.
Can you share your thoughts about independent education - in New Zealand and internationally?
We have an amazing network nationally and internationally. We are informed by research and collaboration. Offering choice and being able to build schools that are responsive to students’ needs through best practice teaching and learning, attracting and retaining quality staff and using data to inform, enables us to create opportunities to benefit and ignite our learners.
What encouragement would you give to parents considering a private education for their children?
The investment in your child’s education is one of the most important decisions you will make. It is about choice – get a feel for your school, and if it feels like, looks like and sounds like a second family for your child, then explore some more.