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Message from the Headmaster – June 2023

Dear Parents,

Through the media, you will be aware of the considerable pressures currently facing the secondary education sector.  Through the pressures, proposed changes and disruptions, it is the School’s intention to continue implementing its Charter, which reinforces:

 “Auckland Grammar School is committed to maintaining and building on the general objectives that have formed the foundation of the School and guided the quality of education that has been provided to generations of Grammar men.”

These objectives include, but are not limited to, respect for knowledge in a variety of disciplines, enabling students to master the skills to acquire and apply knowledge, teaching the value of hard work and the importance of healthy competition. 

I want to reinforce the School’s commitment to meeting its general objectives as we manage external change and disruption. In brief, committing to meeting our Charter’s objectives provides the best opportunity for all young men to earn qualifications that support their pathways beyond their secondary schooling.

As a self-governing school our commitment is unwavering amongst the current and proposed educational changes or disruptions. These include:

  • The New Zealand Curriculum Refresh, which the Ministry of Education is in year two of a six-year programme. The School has grave concerns about the draft subject documentation that is being disseminated, as to date there is little evidence that the content aligns with our objectives and aspirations
  • The curriculum that our School teaches will remain rigorous, and it will enable students to acquire and apply knowledge across subjects
  • NCEA – the national qualification – is also undergoing a change programme. Revised Achievement Standards are being introduced at NCEA Level 1 in 2024. Changes to NCEA Levels 2 and 3 have been paused and there will not be any changes for Level 2 until 2026 and Level 3 in 2027. The School will continue to challenge NZQA on the academic rigour required in its assessments so that our national qualification does have credibility
  • The School’s Form 5 curriculum and assessment system – Pre-Q – is in its fifth year and will continue to be our primary preparatory programme for students the year prior to completing an external qualification (whether on the NCEA or Cambridge pathway) in Forms 6 and 7
  • NCEA Level 1 will continue to be offered to students for whom such a programme is deemed most appropriate
  • The School will provide further relevant information about NCEA when the Course Handbook for 2024 is issued to students in Term 3, ahead of our annual Options Evening on Tuesday 8 August
  • The strike action from the secondary teachers’ union over recent weeks has meant that, on a cohort-by-cohort basis, students have not always had access to their regular timetabled teacher. It has been important to the School that we provide supervised study for students, when affected, as this not only provides stability, it endorses a commitment to our Charter
  • As strike action continues, our expectations remain unchanged – students are expected to attend School and be committed to their studies on a daily basis. Be assured, we will do the very best we can with the circumstances we face

I share these changes or disruptions, not to alarm you, but rather to provide you with reassurance. Over the 154 years that the School has been educating young men, we have successfully navigated change and managed disruptions. We have also balanced holding firm to what we know works, with implementing evidenced based change that will help improve outcomes for young men.

Finally, in the first Bulletin of the year, I shared a segment from Owen Eastwood’s book, Belonging, with you. I have recently reminded your sons of this quote because of its relevance right now: “Belonging is never a state that is permanently achieved. Consistency in environment and the behaviour of those around us are key. Ambiguity or mixed signalling seriously elevate anxiety. In any inspiring group with strong standards and lived values, the line is high. Together we take great pride in living above it.”

As we face external changes and disruptions, we are fortunate to have a clearly defined culture that has strong standards and lived values to support and guide the School’s direction. We also know that a united community with clear guidelines and goals can get stronger when faced with external challenges. Owen Eastwood described this as: “Success is dependent on the strength of the group under pressure.”  

Per Angusta Ad Augusta

Tim O’Connor