Hero photograph
John Laurenson
Photo by Sandra McKernan

Headmaster's Message

John Laurenson —

Dear Parent and Caregivers

Greetings, tena koutou katoa, talofa lava

This is my penultimate message for 2015 and the first for the parents of next year’s intake of 280 Year 9 students.  May I therefore take a moment to welcome all the newcomers to the Shirley Family and to thank you all for your continued support and belief in our school.

There is much to report.  Far too much for one simple newsletter, but I will do my best to give you an overview of what has been happening and what is still to happen.

The Rebuild

The good news is that the completion of our new school by 2018 is still on track. Ongoing meetings are occurring now with the Ministry of Education, the Christchurch City Council and with the Avonside Girls’ High School Board and senior staff. By the end of this year we will have gone a long way to working out what the shape of our school of the future will look like. While much is subject to a degree of commercial sensitivity, I can report that the planned location will work out just fine. The willingness of the City Council to work with us to allow access to the Eastern Sports and Recreation Centre, as well as the prospect of rebuilding a brand new school in an area with huge open space and established trees and natural fauna, is exciting to say the least.

I expect that, early in the New Year, I will be able to give specific details about the new school and be able to invite parental input into some of the decisions that will still need to be made.  After that architectural input will be required and, before the end of next year, we should see site works begin.

Last year, I worked through a Term 3 sabbatical focussed on newly built schools in New Zealand and in Australia. Over the ten week sabbatical, I visited and/or researched schools and educational authorities in New York, Washington, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as schools in Auckland and Wellington and finally the new school Pegasus Bay, just thirty kilometres north of Christchurch. On the basis of this extended research, I make the following observations:

Our new school will reflect flexible learning options where traditional teaching co-exists with arrangements that are far more flexible, period length will grow, so that small teams of teachers can address the needs of individual students to a greater degree than what is currently possible.

Teaching will reflect the latest 21st Century expectations of academic and business leaders:

19th Century                                                21st Century

Discipline                                                         Critical Thinking

Repetition                                                        Co-operation

Reading                                                            Communication, includes                                       


Writing                                                             Connectivity Across all Disciplines

Arithmetic                                                       Creativity

Punctuality                                                      Compassion/Caring

Since the end of Term 3, the old L Block has been demolished and a new Mega-Com centre has been dropped onto the Football Field. This centre will replace L Block in a new arrangement after foundations are laid in the next couple of weeks.

If I was asked what the aim of the school is, from now, through 2017, I would say it involves identifying everything we currently do well and what defines us as a school. This will allow us to preserve these things in our new school. We must also identify practice that we no longer feel is relevant for teaching and learning in the 21st century. We will eliminate these from the way we do things. Finally, we must identify new practices that promote 21st century teaching and learning and build these into a Shirley Way that will feature prominently in the new school.

When we achieve these things, we will be able to transition successfully into a new school, ready to begin a new phase in our schoo'ls illustrious history.


We are in discussion with the Ministry on the establishment of a new zone and on maximum roll numbers for the new school. I will keep you informed about this, but I can say that the Board of Trustees has discussed the matter and has agreed to limit our roll to between 1200 and 1250. This is in line with our current roll, allowing us the economies of scale that maximise resources for students, while keeping us small enough to ensure we avoid the problems associated with larger institutions.


The national examination season is upon us. All students need to be fully into examination mode, with a minimum of two hours revision a day, six days a week. Any concerns must be addressed immediately by approaching your son’s teacher or form teacher.

Best Wishes

John Laurenson