Category Archives: Principal’s Message

Mid Term 4 2017

We are very quickly heading towards the end of the year and this term is only 8 weeks. We have just waved goodbye to our seniors and we have run a number of really enjoyable prizegiving events honouring the contributions made by so many of our students. NCEA exams have commenced and the majority of our senior students are currently preparing themselves for these. The change of government has raised the relentless cycle of NCEA assessment that seems to be occurring for our young people mostly in years 11, 12 and 13 and the relationship between assessment and wellbeing. As a staff, we have been talking about this for quite some time. Schools are places of learning and growing and although assessment is important, it does take time away from learning! We have already embarked on a senior curriculum review and I anticipate we will be consulting widely with students, parents and our community about changes we might want to make to what senior school may look like in 2019 at WHS.

We are also currently undertaking a review of our strategic plan and we would like to invite you to comment on our progress to date. I anticipate I will have a link in next week’s weekly update where you can view our draft plan and make comments.

I mentioned at senior prizegiving the retirements of several long standing staff members. Joan Hinton (Science 1981-2017), Marietjie van Schalkwyk (Technology 1998-2017), Denis Wright (English 2001-2017) and Jane Shallcrass (Library 2002-2017) will all be leaving us at the end of this year. They have all been wonderful, inspiring members of staff who will be greatly missed. We wish them well in their retirement.

We have recently approved building remediation work to be undertaken on the eastern side of the hall. This should greatly rejuvenate this space and this work is likely to occur over the first two terms of next year.

Summer sports have commenced (and in the case of senior volleyball has already finished for the term) so students are actively involved in floorball, futsal, touch rugby, cricket and ultimate Frisbee. I encourage you to encourage your young person to get involved with sport next year if they are not already. We have an excellent sports programme that offers a wide range of sports for all ability levels. You can find out more details from Wendy McIntyre, our sports coordinator (

Ngā mihi nui

Dominic Killalea

As we reach the end of term 3, our senior students are preparing for the most busy and stressful time of year having recently completed school examinations that will enable them to gauge their progress to date on externally assessed standards or spend valuable time on portfolio work. Reports for seniors are available on the portal and it would be productive if you are able to spend some time with your young one and talk about the school examinations and the implications for the end of year exams. External examinations commence in about 6 weeks time on Thursday 9 November so there is still some time for students to action that study plan and set themselves up for success. Of paramount importance is that students are in class as much as possible to give themselves the best chance of success. Please continue to support us by emphasising to your student(s) the importance of attendance and punctuality each period, each day.

This is also a time when a lot of our senior students are doing pathway planning. Chuni Bhikha, our careers advisor pointed me to an interesting article from Stuff about areas where there are skills shortages and where there is likely to be job growth in the next few years. A lot needs to be considered when students are planning their future pathway and I have pasted the link below.

If you saw last week’s weekly update you would have seen that our junior debaters performed outstandingly to win the WGT Wiggs trophy for only the second time since its inception in 1974 (we also won in 2013). They are the premier debaters in the Wellington region in the junior division this year and this is truly an outstanding achievement. Congratulations to Ben Watkins, Xandi Gobbi, Harrison Scott and Josh Bluck. In addition, Ben Watkins was voted Best speaker. Special thanks to Denis Wright who has mentored a number of very successful debating teams over the years.

Winter sport has drawn to a close for 2017 and there have been outstanding performances across a wide range of sports. We will be celebrating these performances at our annual Sports Prizegiving on Tuesday 31 October at 10.45am in the Riley Centre. Please join us if you are able to. Congratulations to all those who have participated in sport so far this year and a particular thank you to the coaches and managers who spend so much of their time providing great experiences for our students.

Our music evening last Tuesday was another great night. The standard of musicianship was, as always, very high (no pun intended) but the evening felt a little more mellow than normal. I think that was a combination of some of the song choices and the fact that we won’t get to hear Daniel Martin, Cassandra Bahr, Poppy Donaldson, Lauren Jack, Ruby Robinson-Shaw and Rita Zhao at music evening again. A lot of the students seemed to be waiting for the traditional mosh pit dance towards the end of the programme and right at the end of an appropriate number a few students made their way to the front. This led a stampede of eager dancers who were then met with a couple of jazz fusion numbers. I think it is the only time in my life I have seen a mosh pit for jazz. The performances over the night were quite outstanding and testament to the wonderfully eclectic music programmes so ably led by Fritz Wollner.

On Tuesday 12 September we held our first WERO day, a day of wellbeing where year 13 students were off timetable and able to attend a range of workshops. This is the first time we have done this and I feel it was a great success. The idea came from conversations between Jania Bates and her rōpū last year – students wanted a chance to find out more about aspects of ‘adult’ life such as practicalities of flatting, finance, sexual relationships, and consent education. The day was put together by the WERO leaders and overseen by Deputy Principal Megan Southwell. We are already making plans for the next edition next year.

Finally, this is a time when we are looking ahead to the new year and making decisions in relation to timetable, staffing and resourcing. I am very proud to announce that we will be offering Te Reo Maori to all of our incoming year 9 students as part of our core for 2 hours a week for the whole year. It is wonderful that this announcement comes days after Wellington Girls’ College have announced a similar strategy and we should celebrate that some Wellington schools are able to resource this important opportunity for our young people. It is important for all of us to continue to build our knowledge of Maori Tikanga and Te Reo to strengthen identity and culture and we are in the very fortunate position that we have two teachers who can teach Te Reo Maori.

I hope you are able to spend some valuable time with your young person over the school holidays. Help provide them with the memories that will last a lifetime!

Nga mihi nui

Dominic Killalea



We have reached the middle of term 3. Winter sports are finishing and seniors will be involved in school exams from today for a week. The school exams are very important for a number of reasons. Firstly, they provide students with important feedback / feed forward for external standards that they will be sitting in about 11 weeks’ time. Secondly, they provide derived grade evidence if a student is unable to do an exam at the end of the year because of illness or misfortune. Finally, they are great preparation for year 11 students, in particular, to get a taste of what the exam period will be like at the end of the year. Students in years 11 to 13 are only expected to be at school when their exams are scheduled. It is vitally important that students take these exams seriously and use the information that they will gain from them to formulate effective study programmes that will see them achieve to the best of their ability in the final exams.

For the first time since I arrived at Wellington High School at the end of 2005, we have had to enforce our enrolment zone at all years. Each year we get a number of students from outside our zone who apply to be at Wellington High School. Each year this is a fairly simple process because for many years we have allowed all students on the ballot. This year we have had to restrict the numbers from outside our zone wishing to enrol into year 9 next year and we will probably have to do the same for students outside our zone wishing to enrol in years 10 to 13. I have looked at the numbers across all schools in Wellington city since 2012 and the net growth in that period has been approximately 500 students. Incredibly, almost half that growth has been at Wellington High School taking us from around 970 in 2012 to 1200 last year. This year we peaked at 1270. It is a good problem to have and surely reflects our growing status amongst Wellington families and testament to the outstanding work that goes on here.

Winter sport will be mostly wrapped up this weekend. There was a large number of students and staff on hand to witness our junior basketballers take out their division last Tuesday evening. It would have been a nice experience for those junior players as the game progressed and they could feel and hear the crowd ever more vocal in their support for them. Well done to all the students who participated in sport this winter and a big thank you to all the teachers and volunteers who have coached and managed teams. I really appreciate the time you have taken and it makes a huge difference to the lives of our teenagers.

The remediation work on the music, drama and library blocks has been completed and these buildings are looking very impressive. This work also took in some of the western wall of our great hall and currently we are planning for more work on the rest of the hall, particularly the eastern side, around Christmas this year.

Friday 4 August saw us hosting our local political candidates in our wonderful library in what is becoming a tradition at Wellington High School. Candidates from National, Labour, the Greens and The Opportunities Party introduced themselves briefly then were grilled by our students. A fire alarm provided some respite for the candidates but only gave the students even more time to think of the hard questions to ask. All of the candidates acquitted themselves well, and our students spoke respectfully and thoughtfully to them. A particular thank you to Kate Mills-Workman (year 13) who organised and facilitated the event.

Friday 4 August was also the ‘junior ball’; really a junior dance but a chance for some to put on some special clothes and moves. Our senior ball committee led by Kitty Hollis and Ava Monro, organised this as a fund raising event for the senior ball and many of the seniors were there to help supervise and support what was a wonderful night for all. Sometimes I think that the seniors actually enjoy these events more than their own ball!

Wednesday 9 August should have been our sports exchange with Newlands College but the inclement weather put paid to that idea. We had high hopes for this exchange but we will try and set something up with Newlands for next year.

On Friday 18 August we said farewell to Matua Ben Tangaere, formerly our Head of Maori, who retired from teaching at the end of term 2 and who had been at High since 1997. Around 200 people from all over New Zealand were there to celebrate Ben’s career in teaching which had started at Mangere College in Auckland in 1977. The evening was a fitting tribute to Ben with korero, waiata and much aroha towards him. Ben kia pai o ra whakata!

Nga mihi nui

Dominic Killalea


It felt a little like Christmas last Friday when I drove into work to see the shrink wrap had been taken off our music and drama block revealing … our music and drama block, but with a beautiful new (and hopefully watertight) exterior. This building and the adjacent library have been a part of some leaky buildings remediation work that has presented challenges to us all. This has also revealed to us that we will need to do some similar work on our centrepiece hall in the very near future but it is nice to know that we will start term 3 free from the challenges of the previous two terms.

This has been my first term as Principal and I have really enjoyed a busy, sometimes hectic but ultimately satisfying 10 weeks. Term 2 started with about a third of our students becoming engaged in a wide range of winter sports. I would love to see more students involved in sport in general but I have had the pleasure of watching some highly engaging and competitive sport so far. It’s exciting to see that around 120 students are engaged in badminton which must be our fastest growing sport, and I must mention our senior A netballers in particular who play heart stoppingly close games each week, wonderfully coached by Kendra Blackburn and Tash Wilson, two of our many volunteer coaches who we depend on so much.

Term 2 also started with the Shakespeare Society’s popular version of Romeo and Juliet which was a credit to the ongoing leadership and skills of our many students involved in this student led society. It is wonderful to see the number of past society members who also still engage by attending the annual production. This society is one of the jewels of the school.

Term 2 has also seen feeder school visits and our annual open evening as we make preparations for 2018. We enjoy promoting ourselves to our community and beyond. Enrolments for year 9 close on 31 July 2017 so please encourage anyone intending on enrolling, to get their paperwork in promptly.

We also started the term with trips returning from Japan, Nepal and China and we have just farewelled students heading to Europe and Samoa. These trips are fantastic learning opportunities for all involved.

The final week of term has been an interesting reflection of the many, varied opportunities that we offer our students. Firstly, a group of our science students flew to China to compete in a Young Naturalists competition where they were required to solve challenging science problems. They qualified for the final against Switzerland and China and in a very close competition emerged as world champions! Congratulations to Zuni, Tristan, Anna, Sai, Luke and Ethan and to their endlessly devoted teacher, Murray Chisholm. At the same time Otis Rea, one of our brilliant year 13 Physicists is currently captaining the New Zealand Young Physicists team as they compete internationally in Singapore.

Tuesday this week showcased our musicians with music evening. This event is always a highlight of the year for the eclectic mix of musical styles on display. A parent said to me that this was the best music evening he’d been to in eight years and it was hard to disagree but to me that is like trying to name my favourite Beatles song. There have been so many good ones and this continued the high standard of performance. I particularly enjoyed listening to our two wonderful violinists Cassandra Bahr and Lauren Jack, both in year 13, and I try to imagine life at Wellington High music evenings without them – it will never be the same. Other particular highlights for me were Jarad Brown’s beatbox, a smooth version of Johnny B Goode by some of our year 11s, and of course our recent Rockquest participants, year 12 band Retriever. In a way, it doesn’t feel right to single out a few acts because the overall standard was quite outstanding and another reflection of the fine work being done in our music programmes. There was also a nice surprise before the music evening with an exhibition of year 10 Art in the foyer. The quality of the work on display was again outstanding.

Finally, this week also saw our kapahaka group perform at the regional kapahaka championships in Otaki. The students involved have put in an immense amount of work spending long weekends in practice. Their performance on Wednesday was probably my favourite moment of the term. They made the many parents, supporters, tutors and teachers there very proud to be associated with them and the way they have conducted themselves and performed.

Learning profiles were posted on the portal last week and this is an opportunity for you to have a conversation with your student about how their learning is tracking at this mid-point of the year. Please take some time to check out the appropriate links to assessment, attendance and reports to get an idea of how your student is progressing.Don’t forget to book in your parent-teacher interview for early next term.

Finally, our kaumatua Ben Tangaere has announced that he will retire on Friday 7 July. This will reach you on his last day in teaching. Ben has been a teacher for 40 years starting at Mangere College in 1977 and arriving at High in 1997. Ben’s tribal affiliations are Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu and Ben has been devoted to kaupapa maori education his whole career. Ben was our Head of Maori language for many years and he has also taught in the Social Sciences faculty. He oversaw the establishment of kapahaka at Wellington High School and at a regional level and he was involved in basketball and volleyball coaching earlier in his career. Ben’s warmth and care for all students has made a profound contribution to the atmosphere at Wellington High School. We wish him well in his retirement and he will be greatly missed.

I hope you are able to spend some good time with your teenager over the coming break and we look forward to seeing you again in term 3.

Nga mihi nui.

Dominic Killalea