Reflections 2013

Celebration Day Speech 2013

Kia ora tatou

Welcome everyone to our Celebration Day.  It’s great to have you all join us to reflect on a very busy 2013.  Soon we will be celebrating the very wide range of achievements of many of our students this year,but I wanted to also talk this morning about our achievements as a school, which I think sometimes we don’t publicise enough!

Last year I spoke about  the government’s pressure on schools to conform to a one-size-fits-all framework –  which treats our children as consumers, schools as businesses, learning as pass rates and percentages,  and which has never worked for our Maori and Pasifika learners.  This year the situation is actually worse.  New research  has confirmed the damage done by the government’s National Standards which force schools to teach to the standards and leave out other important curriculum areas, and which label children as failures.

We also face other pressures in our community.  The most serious for us, across all Otara schools, is a drop in roll numbers – which means a drop in our staffing and the loss of staff, some who have been here for a long time.

Yesterday we farewelled Whaea Haley, who has been here for 17 years and who is off to study to finish her masters degree.  At the beginning of next year we will be saying goodbye to Matua Rihari – also taking on further study, and we farewell Mr Piho who has taught in this school for 30 years and is due for his well-deserved retirement!  We wish all of those staff members the very best in their future pathways – but the fact remains we need to focus on recruiting and retaining our student numbers.

So, against all of that background that is going on “out there” we continue to make a difference, not just to our own students, but to an ever widening network of other schools and communties who are interested in what we do and how we do it.

This year we have hosted visitors from Vietnam, Australia, several different universities in the United States, New Caledonia,  Hawaii, the Cook Islands, and teachers from a Samoan Language Centre based in Hawaii.

We have been visited by school architects and planners from across NZ, as well as groups of teachers from several other schools, some as far away as Christchurch.   I have been invited to speak to audiences in Parliament Buildings, to National Maori ERO reviewers, to principals’ associations in Otago, to the Ministry of Education and local iwi in Christchurch, to teachers groups, teacher trainees, and to indigenous educators in Hawaii.

Why are all of these people interested in Kia Aroha College?  Because we are already doing what they want to learn how to doand all this interest is an indicator of the importance and unique nature of our programme and philosophy. We believe our young people have the right to learn about their cultural languages, knowledge and identity as well as achieve academic success.  It doesn’t sound all that unusual to us, because it’s just what we always do – but to all those other people, it’s different, and sometimes I think we forget to celebrate that difference and to pat ourselves on the back!

This year it was a real privilege to complete my doctoral thesisbecause it tells the story of our struggle as a community to stand up for what we believe works best for our kids.  I was lucky enough to be the storyteller, but it’s our story and we are all in the text.  I want to thank everyone at Kia Aroha for their amazing support of this achievement, but the achievement belongs to all of us.

This year Kia Aroha College students participated in the ASB Polyfest and Tongan speech competitions, in the Ahurea Kapa Haka competition, Nga Manu Korero, the Youth Parliament Speech Contest, the Mana Party’s Feed the Kids initiative, we hosted the Auckland Samoan speech competitions and six of our students travelled to Wellington to the National Samoan speech contest.  We held our first School Ball, and have been involved on the sports field in soccer, netball, rugby, and rugby league, as well as other sports.

Through our partnership with Studio 274 – two of our students were selected to attend the Adobe Youth Voices Summit in Boston, USA.

All of these great opportunities happen alongside what happens in class, and again I want to thank our teachers, all our support staff and our Board of Trustees  for the incredible hard work they do in support of our school and our programme.  It’s great to be able to report that we have just been told that our students’ NCEA work,which is sent away for check marking by national moderators, has reached an all time high of 93% agreement between  our teachers’ and the moderators’ marking.  The national average agreement is 84%. That is a major achievement.

Our Whanau Centre now includes our Youth Health Nurse, two social workers, a youth worker, as well as counselling and the Mana Kidz rheumatic fever and skin infections programme.  Our students are very lucky to have this level of support available right here at school.

So let’s remember all these collective achievements today as we enjoy the many successes of our students.

My congratulations to all of our young people who we will honour and celebrate today and my special thanks and best wishes to all of our graduating Year 13 Warrior Scholars who will now be joining us on the stage. 

I wish all of you – and all families – best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Kia ora tatou