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Photo by Lorraine Schofield

Principal's Message

AC —

Tēnā koutou kātoa ngā whānau o te kura

Incredibly, we are approaching the end of Term 2. While the ongoing pandemic continues to challenge us, I am grateful that this term has been closer to normal after a tremendously challenging first term. Please accept our apologies for the delayed publication of this newsletter, but Mrs Schofield and I were hit with COVID-19 simultaneously! Typically our newsletters are published in Week 5 and Week 10 of each term.

Since my last update, we still see less than two cases per day of COIVD-19 reported on average weekly. In acknowledging this, there are a couple of nasty viruses circulating in our school community, which have impacted student attendance dramatically in the past few weeks. Please continue to remain vigilant for illness with your child(ren).

The impact of Omicron on teaching, learning and assessment has been different from the previous two years of the pandemic. The considerable disruption caused in Term 1 means many of our learning programmes have had to be modified. NZQA's advice to date has been that there is sufficient time in the year to manage the effects of Term 1's disruption within the parameters of NCEA's structures. If mitigation measures are required later in the year, NZQA and the Ministry of Education will work with the sector to develop an appropriate response. Compelling feedback from schools to NZQA and the Ministry of Education about the unprecedented level of disruption Omicron caused has been conveyed. I hope the principals' voices will be heard and an appropriate response is established.

2021 National NCEA Results Released

National NCEA statistics were released in May and demonstrated the excellent achievement of Aquinas College students. The data highlights Aquinas' incredible achievement rates since 2017 compared to similar schools and the national average. Our continued success is humbling, and we again credit our committed students and staff. View the results here: NCEA – 2021 Results

Student Honours and Contribution Awards

In line with the aspirations of our Graduate Profile and guided by our Touchstones, the College wishes to recognise its students' outstanding contribution and exceptional achievement in Academic, Arts, Cultural and Sporting endeavours - to confirm the pursuit of excellence in a holistic model of education, the value of commitment and building self-esteem in students. Students can be awarded Contribution and Honours awards in the Middle School and Contribution, Colours, Honours and High Honours awards in the Senior School for their achievements.

The College seeks to intentionally grow servant leaders who positively influence others through their actions by using their God given gifts and talents for the common good of society. Students who provide selfless service and ministry in our community as they grow in their knowledge to belong, believe, become in a Catholic community of faith will be recognised through Service badges (Middle School) and Mission and Ministry badges (Senior School).

The Oceania Evangelisation Leaders Programme

Mrs Susan van Zyl and Mr Leon Roberson were invited to represent New Zealand at the Oceania Evangelisation Leaders Programme in Canberra. This was a Spirit-filled experience held at Pentecost and saw over 600 Church, youth and school leaders attend from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Samoa. The programme explored the experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit, bringing about an intensified awareness of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and its pivotal role in mission and ministry.

As part of the experience, Mrs van Zyl gave a missionary impulse testimony to the participants, from the New Zealand perspective, on the current of grace flowing through Aquinas College with our intentional Discipleship Pathway that is now beginning to move across New Zealand. It was an honour to share the Aquinas College vision of ‘Belong, Believe, Become,’ which underpins our Graduate Profile, with the Oceania community. Also, our call to mission of being the first pilot school in New Zealand to develop a peer with peer ministry pathway under the guidance of Peter Woods (Australian Catholic University). Our intentional Discipleship Pathway is paving the way for other schools to develop and grow their own programme. There was inspiring interest in how we have implemented our pathway. The testimony of Aquinas College’s living example has allowed us to connect with other communities across Oceania to share our vision and be open for mission too.

A shared highlight of the programme was Father Ken Barker, who helped the group to grow in its understanding of the Holy Spirit in such a profoundly human and humble way. The leaders were encouraged through the grace of God to open themselves up to how the Spirit was moving for the mission and vision of evangelisation. This has challenged the Aquinas College vision and will propel us forward as we reflect on our call to mission at home and across the Oceania region as a sign of solidarity. It was a privilege to have our College represented as an outstanding model of evangelisation and peer with peer ministry across these leaders. Through this experience, Mrs van Zyl and Mr Roberson have both returned feeling renewed in the Spirit and equipped for mission.

Battle of Te Ranga Commemorations and Matariki

On Tuesday, June 21, staff, students and their whānau attended the Battle of Te Ranga commemorations. The commemorations began at the site (corner of Pyes Pa Road and Joyce Road) at 7:15am followed by refreshments in our staffroom.

Given where our College sits - mere metres from this historical battleground - it is appropriate that we reflect on our local history. Fought on June 21st, the shortest day of 1864, the battle of Te Ranga was the sequel to the battle of Pukehinahina (Gate Pā) eight weeks earlier.

The College also held a Matariki inspired assembly this same day. As we know, Matariki signals the Māori New Year. It is a time of renewal and celebration in New Zealand that begins with the rising of the Matariki star cluster. As part of this special assembly, we recognised our Cultural, Arts and Sport Honours students under our new awards system.

Academic Honours

Our annual Academic Honours assembly was held on Thursday, 9 June. We celebrated the 44 Year 12 and Year 13 students who met the Academic Honours criteria through the NCEA pathway. To achieve Academic Honours, students must attain NCEA Level 1 or Level 2 with an Excellence Endorsement and at least two Excellence Course Endorsements or have attained 60+ Excellence credits.

As part of this celebration, we reflected on our Touchstone of Scholarship. Our Touchstone of Scholarship is very much in the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas Aquinas had an extraordinary mind. He was curious and determined, and he had a relentless pursuit of Truth in the Glory of God. Following the Touchstone of Scholarship means to do our best with our gifts and talents, to grow and improve, not to compare to others. It's the pursuit of personal excellence. Excellence is not stumbled upon. It is a prevailing attitude. As JK Rowling eloquently wrote, our choices show who we are, not our abilities. I acknowledge our 44 recipients of Academic Honours for their example of Scholarship to us all!

Refreshing the New Zealand Curriculum

'The New Zealand Curriculum' is being refreshed to ensure every child experiences success in their learning and that their progress and achievement is responded to and celebrated. To create this future, the goals for 'The New Zealand Curriculum' refresh and for teaching and learning are to:

  1. Honour our mutual obligations to and through Te Tiriti o Waitangi

  2. Create curriculum that is inclusive so that all ākonga see themselves and succeed in their learning

  3. Make sure 'The New Zealand Curriculum' is clear about the learning that matters

  4. Make sure 'The New Zealand Curriculum' is easy to use for teachers

The refresh is being phased in until the end of 2025 to help make it more manageable for schools to implement. We look forward to engaging in this exciting space and will keep you abreast of these changes in due course. In the meantime, I encourage you to read this leaflet for a quick overview.

Three-Way Learning Conversations – June 30th

The next round of progress reports will be issued at the end of this week, following which we will hold this term's three-way learning conversations. These will take place from 8:30am-7:00pm on Thursday, June 30th. Appointments are ten minutes long with the exception of Year 7 & 8 Homeroom bookings which are for 15 minutes. There will be no classes for students on this day. You are encouraged to book a meeting with your child's teachers through SchoolBridge. You will receive a booking link with your child's report. Parents and whānau are encouraged to attend with their children and engage their teachers in learning-focused conversations.

Thank you to all of you for your continued support of your child(ren)'s education this term. Education is a partnership; we are all enriched by your active participation.

Ma te Atua tātou e manaaki – May God's blessings be upon us all.

Matt Dalton