Category Archives: Principal’s Blog

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) at MHJC

One of the responsibilities of a Board of Trustees is to provide for the special needs of gifted and talented students. Recently I asked two members of our senior leadership team, Mrs Lal and Mrs Kilpatrick to attend a conference which provided new perspectives on this important area of our curriculum. As a result we will be reviewing our existing programmes in 2019 and introducing some modifications which will be trialled early next year.


The review will include:

  1. A shared definition and understanding of the phrase “gifted and talented”;
  2. A clear and comprehensive identification process of gifted and talented students;
  3. The modification of curriculum opportunities for gifted and talented students.


It is pleasing to note that we already have a well established programme for GATE students which include the accelerate class in year 9 and 10, a large number of extra curricular activities (4 Cornerstones) and a number of Extension courses within the DEEP programme which give students the opportunity to develop their gifts and talent in a number of areas.


I wish to signal a trial for Year 8 students next year. Current Year 7 students who will be identified as gifted or talented by teachers, themselves and parents will remain in their whānau in 2019 but come together for inquiry learning in 2 hour sessions with specially selected teachers. We wish to see the benefits of this model compared to our traditional model of moving identified students into one class within a whānau in Year 9 and 10.


Invitations to be considered for the 2019 Year 9 accelerate class have been sent to parents and this class will proceed as before. The class is rotated around the school and it will be Forest Whānau’s turn to accommodate the class next year. The Year 10 class will continue as before in Water Whānau.


Our gifted and talented students already enjoy a great deal of support and success at the school in a variety of ways ranging from Academic Competitions, STEM related challenges, cultural performances, sporting activities and leadership forums. Our intention is to broaden these opportunities so that even more students are able to experience this level of performance and involvement.


Growing greatness/Kia mana ake!


School haka – Kia mana ake

We are very excited about an important event at the school which will take place on Friday, 7 September at 2 o’clock on the tennis courts. For several weeks staff and students have been learning the school haka – Kia Mana Ake and it will be performed by each whānau and as a whole school on that day.

I have been delighted with the energy and enthusiasm the school has shown during the learning process. It was emphasised that the performances would not be a competition but a celebration and the spirit of the haka has shone through as a result. I have also been impressed by the leadership shown by our Māori students who have led the learning of the haka within their whānau.

It will be a most enjoyable and heart-warming celebration of Ti Kanga Māori; whānau and school unity and an excellent way to reinforce our commitment to and promotion of our bi-cultural heritage.

My thanks goes to Mr Jason Tuhaka, author of the school haka who has, along with his whānau, done so much to promote both Māori language and culture at our school and to our new Te Reo Māori teacher, Mr Brent Dunn who has worked tirelessly to teach the haka to our students.

For your interest the words and English translation appear below:

Kaea Kia rite, Kia rite, Kia mau Get ready!
Katoa Hi!
Kaea Torona Titaha Arms ready!
Katoa Titaha!
Kaea Ko wai e tū ake nei? Who is standing here?
Katoa Ngā taonga o tātou tipuna

E tū ana tātou i raro i te maru o Puke Ariki

Me te mana o Ngāi Tai e!

The treasures of our ancestors

We are standing under the protection/shelter of Puke Ariki and

The prestige of the people and land of the Ngāi Tai iwi!

Kaea Toia mai! Pull!
Katoa I Te waka The waka!
Kaea Toia mai! Pull!
Katoa I Te waka!

He waka takohanga

He waka matauranga e

He waka eke noa aue hi!

The waka!

A waka of responsibility

A waka of education

We are all in this together

Kaea Me takatū tātou So let us ready ourselves!
Katoa Me takatū tātou kia puāwai kia whakapakiri e

He waka kore hoe he tangata kore huarahi

Let us ready ourselves to blossom and mature

A waka without a paddle is like a person without purpose

Kaea Aue Kia kaha! Be strong
Katoa Hi!
Kaea Aue Kia māia! Be brave
Katoa Ha!

Aue Kia manawanui

I tēnei ao hurihuri

Ahakoa ngā tūātea, ngā paraawa

Koinei te ope haere ki Tawhiti

We will be courageous

In this ever changing world

No matter the challenges we face

We will go above and beyond

Kaea Kia mana ake Growing greatness
Katoa Aue hi!


What a week!!

Last week was one which highlighted so much of what we strive for at MHJC – providing opportunities for our students to display their talents, to compete against others or simply be the best they can be.


Finalists for the school Public Speaking competition impressed me with their confidence and assured delivery of a wide range of topics. How courageous to talk of issues which directly affect them commenting on issues ranging from race, religion, gender, sexual and cultural identity to genocide and the personal impact of civil war. The external judges reinforced the generally held view that our students show a maturity and honesty beyond their years.


Then passionate Mathematicians showed off their skill at our annual Mathex Competition. What an exciting evening this was as the energy built to a crescendo before the final buzzer sounded and put the cream on the top of Maths Week.


On the same evening and following day several groups competed in a technology competition, hosted at the school – EPro8 Challenge which presents groups with a series of tasks to complete within a time limit. Again our students stepped up and showed how well equipped they are to take on the technological challenges of the future.

Early on Thursday morning our guest speaker at the Man Up breakfast spoke of the importance of finding a sense of purpose and living a life of integrity to our boys accompanied by significant male role models in their lives.

And on the sporting front, our senior boys competed in the Auckland Regional Basketball Championship, top Cross Country runners qualified for Auckland Championships and our weekend warriors – senior netball and football teams emerged victorious in their league games.


Then on Friday I witnessed something magical. At the end of the day during Learning Advisor time, one whānau rehearsed the school haka under the bike shelter, another heard it and could not resist responding and before we knew it, student led renditions were threatening to cause structural damage to the buildings!


On Wednesday I met graduating teachers who are interested in teaching at MHJC – none of them could believe what we do and the opportunities we provide our students to grow their greatness. None of this would have been possible though without passionate, committed teachers and parents – thank you for your continued support.


Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!

Back to the 80’s

Once again Ms Shields and her team have produced a musical of outstanding quality. I am sure you have read publicity surrounding the event but I wanted to encourage you all to take a trip down memory lane and join us next week to celebrate the wonderful singing, dancing and acting students of our talented students (and staff!)

Here is the You Tube link for the show:

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!


Please be advised of some changes to Prize Giving 2018 which will give more formal recognition of participation, improvement and our values but continue to acknowledge academic excellence:

Academic improvement

2 awards per year level per whānau (8 per Year Level).

Qualities and values (Kia Mana Ake Award)

 One extra award per year level per whānau (total 8 per Year Level)

Participation – 4 cornerstones

The top 10 students in every year level based on e-badges (across all four cornerstones)

In order to keep the Prize Giving to a reasonable time the Academic Achievement Awards (excellence in individual subjects) will be presented at whānau assemblies however Academic Excellence (the top 10%) will still be recognised at Prize Givings.

As can be seen the Prize Givings will provide a more balanced and holistic forum for recognition.

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!


During term 3 students will be learning about the risks and benefits associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV radiation). In New Zealand the peak summer ultraviolet radiation (UV radiation) levels are 40% higher compared with corresponding latitudes in the northern hemisphere (eg. Southern Europe, mid USA). Excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun can cause sunburn, skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. Skin cancers are the most common cancers in New Zealand, and there is evidence they are increasing in incidence. With these sobering facts we feel it is important that our students are both protected and well informed about this danger. The threat is made more difficult because UV radiation is invisible and the impact on a person’s health relatively slow to manifest.


We are working within guidelines recommended by the SunSmart Schools Accreditation Programme which is run by the Cancer Society of New Zealand and our intention is to become an accredited school which has developed and implemented a sun protection policy for Terms 1 and 4. The policy must meet minimum criteria that ensure students and teachers are protected in a sun-safe environment.


I wish to signal that we have started working with staff and students, and Mission Heights Primary School. The Board of Trustees supports this important initiative as one of its responsibilities to maintain and promote a culture of health and safety. Some progress has been made already:


  • Students have given feedback about the hats or caps they would like to wear which will be available at John Russell the official uniform stockist. It must be noted that while caps are not ideal they are a step in the right direction and students will  be required to wear either caps or hats in term 1 or 4 during any outdoor activity starting in term 4 this year;
  • Sunblock stations have been placed in whanau for students to use if they do not bring their own to school;
  • The provision of shade is being included in the school’s long term property plan.


I trust that the conversation about sun safety is reinforced at home and thank our community in advance for their support. The following web site can give you more information:


Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!


The right way to compete and looking ahead to term 3

With the start of another exciting term I wish to reflect on one of many outstanding achievements last term. At our Champions’ Assembly we acknowledged the remarkable achievement of our athletes who attended a Sports Camp in Matamata. For the first time in the history of the camp one school received unanimous votes for the Sportsmanship Trophy. That school was MHJC and we bask in the reflected honour the trophy brings to us. Credit to the students, their parents, coaches and managers who have shown the right reasons for playing sport – to develop resilience, win with grace, lose with dignity, compete with all we have got to give and enjoy the game.


I am sure the athletes competing at AIMS Games later this term will bring similar honour to the school and we look forward to their achievements as have the many winter sports teams who have represented the school so well.


We are also very excited to present the musical “Back to the 80’s” in week 3 this term. Cast, crew and staff have been working hard since the start of the year to produce a polished and professional performance which will showcase the acting, singing and dancing talents of our students.


Inter Whanau Cross Country, Mathex and the first MHJC School Haka Performance (by each whanau) plus many other activities along with engaging learning contexts will all make for a busy term.


Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!

Travelwise – safety around schools

There has been some publicity recently about safety concerns relating to parents dropping and picking up their children at local schools. While we appreciate the high number of our parents who ensure their and other children are safe during these busy times it is worth reminding everyone of some basic advice and road traffic laws. While we seek to educate and inform parents and students, at times the police may have to enforce road rules and we will cooperate with them should the need arise.

It is important for me to remind parents that students are expected to be at school at 8.15 and interestingly this is not a busy time for students to be dropped if they have to be.


  1. Encourage your child to walk, cycle or scooter to school – this is a healthy option and would reduce the traffic congestion currently experienced around the school (remember helmets!);
  2. If the walk to and from home is too far, try dropping or picking up your child a few minutes away from the school – this will have a similar positive benefit. There are several viable options for you to drop off: along Norwood Drive on the approach to Jeffs Road, in access roads to Valderama Drive or along Valderama Drive near the Staff Entrance (not at the crossing!);
  3. Try a lift club with a friend – that would halve the number of vehicles at peak times;
  4. Respect and exercise extreme caution near the level crossing – our students and duty staff as well as the students and parents crossing are at risk here and need your complete focus and attention;
  5. Do not worry about your child being late – it is better s/he arrives safely than being involved in or causing an accident.


During one week earlier this term teachers provided me with photographic evidence of some parents transgressing road traffic laws and putting their and other children in danger. Examples are including in this list:

  1. Stop or park illegally – stopping in the bus bay and over the no-stopping yellow lines is illegal;
  2. Let your child out of the car in the middle of the road (on any side of the car);
  3. Double park;
  4. Drive over the speed limit – particularly between 8.15 – 8.40 a.m. and 3 – 3.30 p.m.

I would also advise that you work with your child regarding punctuality which is an important life-skill and indicates a high degree of self-management necessary for success. In most cases the excuse we are given for students being late to school is that they overslept or the traffic was heavy that morning. Tough love and an alarm clock in the first instance as well as sorting out what is needed the night before and leaving a few minutes early to arrive at 8.15 is my quick and easy advice.

Our Travelwise team will continue its positive work with students regarding exercising safe and healthy choices about travelling to and from school. It will also be working with the local police when necessary to ensure that everyone contributes to a safe environment for our students.

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!

Collaboration in Flat Bush

Tuesday 5 June, 2018 was an important day in the history of the seven schools that serve the Flat Bush Community. The Principals agreed to the day being an opportunity for the teaching and support staff to come together and share their journeys, innovative practice and inquiry. We started the day with an inspiring speaker – Kaila Colbin who spoke about the new educational landscape we are entering which fitted well with the rest of the day as we presented or attended presentations from every school which reflected the future-focused ethos we all share.

This was an important opportunity for us to learn more about how we all  deliver the curriculum in exciting ways which engage the students in our care. Importantly an insight into our contributing schools’ programmes will help us to transition students into MHJC as well as support students as they transition to Ormiston Senior College.

We return to our schools with new learning, new connections and new commitment to our vision: “Growing greatness through innovative, constantly evolving personalised learning”.

Wellbeing@MHJC – PBS

Forgive the acronym, PBS stands for “Pause, Breathe, Smile” and as I have indicated in a previous blog, I accompanied four of our teachers to a training day in term 1. Following the training it is our intention to introduce important lessons and practices from the course to our daily practice. It is hoped that our students will feel greater sense of wellbeing as a result which in turn will strengthen relationships and promote a safe, kind and courteous learning environment.

We have already successfully introduced mindfulness classes during DEEP which students have enjoyed and indicated that they had felt calmer and more focused which has improved their learning. Teachers have also offered calming techniques during lunch time last year during exams when students were feeling anxious, again with very positive results.

We feel that students (and staff) increasingly need to be taught tools which will enable them to cope within a complex, digital and “noisy” world. The increasing number of reported cases of anxiety and depression have been widely reported and are linked to our wired existence where we find it difficult to switch off and live in the moment. PBS or mindfulness techniques have been proven to have a positive impact on our ability to cope and indeed flourish. Relationships improve, thinking becomes clearer, concentration sharper and generally feelings of being in control of our lives strengthened. By focusing on the present moment mindfulness is able to enhance awareness and enrich the human experience

Mindfulness is not linked to any religion, it is not meditation and so students and parents should not feel threatened by the practices. Indeed I was first informed of the idea at a conference which showed the science behind the practice and I enjoyed a very interesting discussion with the head of Catholic schools in Tasmania who had been running a similar course for several years.  I am aware that Baverstock Oaks School has already started to implement PBS practices into its daily classroom practice and also report very positive results.

However should anyone have any concerns I welcome open and constructive communication about this practice and should you wish to research the PBS programme please visit:

Examples of our plan include:

  • offering students a chance to access the full course on a voluntary basis during DEEP;
  • training our teachers to lead a “ready to learn” type of activity before and after class;
  • providing students with mindfulness activities during Learning Adviser Time;
  • holding special exam time sessions;
  • continuing to offer “active” mindfulness opportunities by exploring nature on trips outside the classroom

We firmly believe that PBS will help to equip our students to meet their personal challenges and opportunities of the future, and thank you in advance for your support as we roll out the plan.

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake