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John Laurenson
Photo by K Casey

Headmaster's Message

John Laurenson —

Dear Parents and Caregivers

I recently returned from a successful trip to Thailand. The trip was aimed at resurrecting International at Shirley, a timely task, now that we are well past the earthquake of 2011, and also that we have a planned rebuild as a major focus for our school.

I was accompanied by three other principals (Sue Hume from Avonside Girls’, Neill O’Reilly from Waitakiri Primary and Justin Fields from Chisnallwood), and the immediate past principal of Chisnallwood, Richard Paton. Here is a report on the trip:

Thailand International Student Marketing Excursion 2016


The four schools are working to re-build their international student programs.

With the help of Richard Paton the group agreed to work collaboratively and strategically.

The excursion was planned to build contacts and relationships, meet with agents and school leaders and ultimately obtain bookings over the longer term

Thailand was selected due to the long history of success Chisnallwood has had under the leadership of Richard Patton (who has now retired from principalship) and the opportunities that are still known to exist in Thailand

Executive Summary

The results of the excursion were:

Significantly enhanced professional working relationship between the four principals and a greater understanding of the strengths of each school.

The creation of, ‘North East International.’ A collaborative approach to marketing a one stop international opportunity for families seeking Year 1-13 international experience for their child.

Contact made with (and presentation to) 23 agents, five schools, a mayor and a deputy mayor of two different municipalities.

Some immediate inquiries for potential short term and long term bookings.

An opportunity for the four principals to plan long term marketing strategies including aligned goals, a five minute promotional video and promotional print and digital material.

The opportunity to discuss in detail the proposed next step for the Ōtākaro Cluster to become a CoL (Community of Learning), the challenges and opportunities and some proposed next steps.

Time spent travelling, working and presenting together allowed the principals to deepen their professional relationship and enhanced understandings each school has to offer as part of a strategic alliance to market internationally.

A marketing strategy and agreed strategic alliance emerged as needs of the international market were identified.

North East International

Four schools working strategically and collaboratively to provide a “one stop’ international student destination for Years 1-13.

Enhanced by a strong professional relationship between the principals and the schools.

Aligned by shared principles, values and goals.

Meeting a need and creating an opportunity through establishing an innovative solution of “Four schools in one”.

Opening the door for further collaborative marketing, management and administration of international programmes for North East International.

The four principals have agreed to promote and market as a group and to share contacts and students across the North East International Group.

Thailand International Student Results

After presenting to 23 agents, five schools and representative from two municipalities over the seven working days, many enquiries were received and these are being pursued.

The contacts (30 in total) will be followed up by each school’s international school representative.

And the four schools have agreed to ‘share’ future contacts and referrals.

Marketing Strategy

The excursion highlighted the need for a joint marketing strategy, so on the excursion a five minute video was mapped out to communicate the key messages of North East International, print material was planned and agreed to and arrangements were made for the international marketing co-ordinators from each school to meet to further the plans. Each school will add the ‘North East International’ concept to their own promotional material

Potential Opportunity

While there is significant potential to gain international students from Thailand the excursion also affirmed to the four principal’s opportunity exists to give to Thailand as well. Giving could be in the form of scholarships, giving opportunity for teachers to do holiday exchanges and for our students to travel to Thailand to learn about the culture and do some community service work.

Community of Learners (CoL)

Current members of Otakaro Cluster, (Marion College, Shirley Boys’ High School Avonside Girls’ HIgh School, Banks Avenue, Waitakiri Primary, Chisnallwood Intermediate, Shirley Primary and Shirley Intermediate), and a number of ECE’s have begun the process of setting up a CoL

North East CoL Challenges

  • Bringing several (it could be as many as 14) schools together, so they have the same vision, values and principles.
  • Finding two principals willing to be CoL leader.
  • Finding staff willing to be across school leaders.
  • Determining how to get a CoL to work without adding more work for staff.
  • Resolving historical competition between Primary and Intermediate schools and Secondary schools as well.

North East CoL Opportunities

  • Opportunity to create a new NE Community of Learners.
  • The development is timely given the current resurrection of the East.
  • Having a range of schools in the east provides a unique opportunity for educators
  • The CoL provides for collaborative leadership with a primary and secondary Principal alignment.

Overall Conclusions

The Thailand excursion was a very valuable experience, it generated face to face contact with 30 agents/representatives and immediate interest was evident from these people in addition there will be follow up opportunities that will yield benefits in the future.

In addition the benefit of the four principals spending time together was invaluable especially given the new strategic alliance that was formed through “North East International” that will boost potential for the four schools to attract international students and potentially reduce marketing and administrative costs for each school.

An additional and unexpected benefit was the opportunity to discuss the CoL proposal in depth and without distraction and this has allowed opportunity for objective and strategic thinking to maximise the benefit to Ōtākaro Cluster members. The enhanced professional relationship between the four principals will be of benefit to all of the students and families in our collective community.

The rebuild of our school is now in sharp focus, and the development of closer relationships with our primary school colleagues as well as our soon to be co-located Avonside Girls’ has been a real boost for Shirley.


John Laurenson