We are more than halfway through the final term for the year. Some of our seniors have left us already and some are involved in NCEA examinations. Traditionally when our seniors leave we have run a senior prizegiving for our years 11 to 13 which is normally quite a long affair but a chance to recognise those that have performed well across the wide variety of subjects on offer and in other areas of the school. This year we made changes to this format and created separate prizegivings for the different senior years (11, 12 and 13) including a year 13 ‘celebration’ evening. These changes were precipitated by conversations with our leaving class of 2021, and others, who felt that our notion of success was quite traditional and a little narrow.
I think we would all agree that it is important to acknowledge those that achieve to the highest level academically but it is also important to recognise those that have made other positive contributions to school life. Although we have recognised the positive non-academic contributions that students make in our prizegivings in the past, that recognition has obviously not been as explicit as it could be, and the leaving class of 2021 and this year’s year 13 were keen for this to change.
I speak relatively frequently about our priority areas of Whānau, Excellence, Respect and Ora and we believe strongly that these areas are a good template for success at our kura. If we take each of these individually, then firstly, we want our students to build their connections to whānau – in other words, family and community matter and being a part of that family and community and negotiating the relationships to do that is a measure of success.
Secondly, we want our students to be seeking personal excellence – we want them trying to be the best version of themselves. That doesn’t mean they have to come first – that is definitely easier for some. But we do want them to try their best either individually or in a group situation. In a group, that person giving their all will help lift the others in the group. And we need to remember that personal excellence looks completely different for each individual.
Thirdly, we want our students to build respectful relationships that will enable them to have success. That means building relationships with peers, teachers, parents, whānau and the wider community.
Finally we want our students to value Ora – the emotional and physical wellbeing that allows them to find work-life balance. Success should never be at any cost and it’s important for all of our young people to build strategies and interests that will help them protect their wellbeing throughout their life.
The notion of success at our kura is also a strong element of the work we are doing currently with the Education Review Office (ERO). We are working with ERO to better understand how well our school creates the conditions that contribute to effective, sufficient and equitable opportunities to learn. Creating the correct conditions is the first step towards providing a successful pathway for our young people. When they have success it is also important that we recognise this appropriately and proportionately.