Q+A with Pam Quirke

The Chronicle chats with Te Mata School principal Pam Quirke who finished her role at the school last week.

What changes have you seen at Te Mata over the last five years?

Educational change in schools is frequent and fast paced. Effective schools are always in a constant state of change and innovation. More complex initiatives that have a major impact on student learning take approximately three years to research and study before the implementation process becomes evident in the school. For example, we began researching three years ago the most effective way of ensuring our Year 8 students leave Te Mata School self-regulated and digitally fluent.

Together we developed a financially sustainable solution for our school and now all our Year 5-8 students have one-to-one access on a Chromebook. Kathy Briant and Haylee Moeke who are leading the implementation of this initiative have been overwhelmed by the positive impact it is having on student engagement and student self regulation. The Minister of Education, the Hon Nikki Kaye, explained at the recent Cross-Sector Forum that our curriculum needs to keep pace with this fast-changing world.

The new curriculum content, titled Digital Technologies, sets out what students need to learn to become not just fluent users of digital technologies but also skilled creators of digital innovations and inventions. Te Mata School is in a perfect position to begin exploring ways of implementing this new curriculum content that becomes mandatory in 2020.

However, the change that I am most proud of is the change to Te Mata School’s leadership structure. The research into leadership structures, from education models, business models, international influences, and gender and cultural influences, started in 2011.

Evidence of implementation started in 2014 and it has gained strength and become more dynamic over the past three years. We have a fully inclusive leadership structure that includes all employees and the board. We lead from a non-hierarchical position valuing individual autonomy and authentic leadership.

We are fully committed to uplifting the individual capacity and capability of each other through explicit and purposeful interactions between each person. The collective intelligence of all Te Mata’s people creates a strong cohesive team who are solution and learning focused. It strongly supports our Whakataukī (Māori proverb).

‘Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini’

My success should not be bestowed onto me alone,

as it was not individual success but success of a collective

What in your mind makes a great school?

First and foremost a school that loves children! A school that puts the students at the centre of all decisions that are made.

A school that respects the students for who they are and allows and assists them to make sense of themselves – to teach them to have the ‘courage to be yourself’.

A school that focuses on building and nurturing sincere relationships with a focus on personalised learning and health and wellbeing.

A school that is fun, happy, dynamic, inspirational and forever changing.

Pam’s last words as Te Mata School’s principal:

Being principal of Te Mata School has always been such a privilege. I have thoroughly enjoyed the learning that I have so proudly been part of. I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with so many amazing people who share the importance of Te Mata School being the success that it is today. The success of a school is never about one person, it takes a TEAM!

Early in my career as principal I was told that schools and in particular rural communities are like long-standing soap operas … I became an extra in this soap opera 29 years ago, featuring as a rousie in many of Te Mata’s woolsheds.

Te Mata School’s impact in this soap opera is 138 years old and still going strong. I became a new main character, as Te Mata School’s principal, in 2006, and now hopefully I exit the soap opera leaving it in a better place than when I arrived, allowing new characters to feature.

In the past 11½ years in Te Mata School’s soap opera I have met so many people who have contributed so much, in so many ways! I sincerely thank you all and look forward to watching the rest of the soap opera continue to unfold as an extra, still as a member of Te Mata’s community.