On Friday 16 August many of our students will join their international counterparts in a Day of Silence anti-bullying campaign. This is where students are silent for the day - many with tape across their mouths to reinforce their action, designed as a way of highlighting how issues of gender identity can cause people to be fearful and silent.
Since the campaign was launched in 2014, more than 85 schools have taken part and we are one of those. Our school values are about being kind and welcoming. We believe there is room for all of our students to be proud to be who they are, proud of their ancestry and proud of the belief system present in their lives. Each has the right to travel as who they are and as a school we celebrate that difference and see that celebration as a part of our country’s identity. The Day of Silence is a way of reminding us all that across our country there remains work to be done if we are all to be able to express our identity without fear or concern.
The wider engagement with our community links with our wellness goals as a school. Helping others is part of who we are, and it’s worth noting the efforts of a group of our Year 12 students in this respect. They have been volunteering in support of the Volunteer Hutt group. 11 of our students spend the period after school on Tuesday and Wednesday working with residents at the Woburn Apartments. The students chat, read, or just spend time with their elders in a pattern that helps the residents to feel more engaged with their community. It’s a lovely thing for the students to be doing.
That same group, with others, have also organised two balls for the residents; one at the end of last term for Alzheimer’s patients and one a little over a week ago for the general residents. That latter event - The Woburn Winter Ball - had a 1920’s theme, with students and residents dressing up, dancing and having a great time. We continue to read of todays’ teenagers as social media- obsessed individuals concerned with their latest digital postings and their number of “likes”. Those individuals do exist of course, but there are also many whose impulses are attuned to making things better for others and who are willing to make major efforts towards that goal. It’s helping to respond to the sociability needs that every human being has, and it’s brilliant.
As a school we have many visitors and last Thursday we hosted a new policy announcement for vocational education, with Year 12 as the audience. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, the Director of Education for Wellington Erika Ross and members of their staff visited the school. It was a chance to discuss vocational issues, and the pending rebuild of Technology’s W Block to a more versatile and modern space was covered, as well as work we will do shortly to rehouse our Pathways team in the ground floor of D Block, right in the middle of the school. That is part of our message that Pathways - which we treat as a ninth curriculum area - is fundamental to all our students’ schooling, as it deals so much with planning for the transition to post-school programmes, whether they be in the workplace, at Polytechs, private providers or university.
Our guests were received with a powhiri in the hall, made the announcement of the new Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Award, and had the opportunity to speak to a group of senior students whose programmes are in the vocational area of the curriculum, with programmes like Gateway and Trades Academy. Inevitably, many of those who might have been part of that conversation were off-site engaged in their wider curriculum work, but those present had the chance to chat with the Prime Minister, who was also very accommodating of their desire to shake her hand and take photographs. While the Minister of Education was here I also took the opportunity to point out to him that we have not been awarded a Ministry building project for many years. We live in hope...