CJ Healey took over as Principal of Long Bay College in September 2017. Here, he discusses his sharp focus on the golden triangle of care, learning, and environment, and how this focus will shape the Auckland school’s progress going forward.
2021 is a big year for Long Bay College. The school still has the same heart as it always has. We are in a privileged position in terms of our geographical location; being situated along a beautiful beach and regional park and our school still attracts a significant number of families new to New Zealand (or at least it did pre-COVID).
Our strategic plan over the last three years has had three key areas, namely: An extraordinary culture of care, exceptional learning, and the environment to support both goals.
Culture of care
We have introduced our Atawhai programme as our keystone pastoral delivery. Each staff member is assigned a group of 15-16 students to meet with on a weekly basis for an hour, with an aim of strengthening the relationships between the triumvirate of home, student, and school.
The level of support for our students has also been increased in terms of numbers of guidance counsellors and we have also introduced youth workers to our school who are a lot younger and perhaps more relatable to our students than an elderly principal!
A major step we made here was to ensure our curriculum was inclusive to all and did not preclude our students from following their interests and passions. To support this, we removed all prerequisites as barriers to course entry.
While external factors drive schools on to worry about the ‘quality’ of their NCEA results as a measure of how ‘successful’ they are, we have achieved success in improving our results across the NCEA levels in terms of pass rates and endorsements, whilst being permissive rather than dismissive.
The role of Atahwai and the relationships between our students and their parents have been crucial in supporting our students towards success. Rather than a definitive benchmark and a stern ‘no’, we now look at what is in the best interests of the students in attaining their hopes, dreams, and life ambitions. It has been quite powerful.
While valuing the traditional curriculum subjects, we believe in broadening and deepening the opportunities to our students. After a review of our junior curriculum, we have replaced the time after junior exams in Term 4 with project options. Year 9s and 10s can now study subjects that inspire a passion in them and, just as importantly, their teachers. Topics such as cryptology, pop art, rocketry, the design and manufacture of prosthetics for para-athletes, coding, and more are options.
While many will review this as ‘business as usual’, it is the strategic work that we have undertaken in ensuring our environment is fit for purpose that allows us to deliver the other two elements of the strategic plan. When I first arrived and asked the students, if they were principal of the school what would they change? Almost without exception they replied, ‘improve the toilet facilities’. As a result, the board of trustees delivered refurbished facilities in every single one of the schools’ toilet blocks.
We have also refurbished a 16-classroom block, constructed a new wood technology block, are half-way through significant administration block refurbishments, are installing weather shelter canopies and have secured land to develop two new sports fields, one of which is close to completion.
Upgrading and replacing the hardware to support our entire network over the last 12 months has also been a significant investment that has been essential in providing the foundation for continued development in Exceptional Learning. We invested heavily in the most important resources needed, pre-COVID time, taking the opportunity to develop protocols, systems, and resources as well as the knowledge and the understanding to make online learning work. As such, we were able to hit the ground running in lockdown, with a full timetable of learning for the duration of both timetables, using our Microsoft Teams and OneNote platforms.
Such was the exponential learning at this time that it has accelerated our commitment to BYOD and digital learning at the school. The PLD support programme we intended to roll out in 2022 began early in 2020 and is a focal point for us in 2021.
New for 2021
We introduce a house system for the first time in the school’s history, which is based on our values. We hope this will further engender school spirit, sense of pride and belonging at the school. We are also investing heavily in our PLD programme, including the restructuring of the school day with a late start PLD one day a week.
The two key focuses for the year are digital learning and rolling out a teaching pedagogy and philosophy that is designed to be somewhat unique to our school and will become custom and practice as to how we teach here.
Another initiative is our Aspiring Scholars Programme, developed to support our Year 9 entrants whose goal it is to ultimately succeed in New Zealand Scholarship exams when they are ready.
For our staff, we are introducing our Middle Leadership Programme, which will see eight selected middle or future leaders develop their skills, knowledge and understanding in leadership over the course of four terms. We are running this in-house with the support of the Springboard Trust.
One of our strategic initiatives for 2021 is to further develop our understanding and appreciation of the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Te Ao Māori and Te Reo Māori at all levels of our community.
We have made great strides in these areas over the last three years and we recognise the unique importance in always striving to improve in this domain if we hope to be a beacon of practice within New Zealand.