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Photo by Nicole Cooney

Principal's Word

Jo Hunnikin —

From the Principal - Holiday wrap-up

Kia ora everybody,

I thought for my final (lengthy!) article of the year I would share my prizegiving speech with you all as this sums up the year nicely. 

I wish you all a wonderful festive season and am looking forward to doing it all again next year!

Have a lovely Christmas and New Year,


Junior Prizegiving 2022

Tēnā koutou katoa. A very warm welcome to you all.

On the last day of the year, as we acknowledge the success of our junior students, it’s important to take time and reflect on 2022. I was talking with some students only yesterday who said that they can’t believe how fast this year has gone! And I have to agree.

Right back in January, 5 days before we were due to start at school, the government announced that we were to move to the RED setting of the COVID protection framework. Omicron was in the community and we had to respond, fast! This meant that all of the usual Term 1 plans had to be revised with less than a week before students were arriving. To say we hit the ground running is an understatement - and we haven’t stopped!

It was important that we were still able to formally welcome our year 7’s to the school so we moved our pōwhiri outside, a feature that we are going to keep next year, weather permitting, and even though we couldn’t have parents on site, we were still able to hold Athletics Day and Swimming Sports albeit without the support of our community.

I became the self-appointed COVID minister for Waimate High School and found myself writing daily updates on the numbers of cases at school which I know was appreciated and at the end of Term 1 our attendance, which is normally a very healthy 90%, had dropped to 58%. The Ministry of Education sent us masks - lots and lots of masks, followed by RAT tests, air purifiers and carbon dioxide detectors and more masks! They sent us twice weekly updates and we had to adapt our rules on multiple occasions. But - we were lucky - we remained open every single day. We provided work for students who were at home and for those who came to school. We felt that routine was important, particularly for our junior students. On the very last day of Term 1 we moved to Orange and could choose whether or not to wear masks and it was only then, after 11 weeks, did I get to actually see our students' faces!

Terms 2 and 3 went by in a blur but we sensed a return to some sort of normality and we were ready for it. Sport resumed along with Sports exchanges, outdoor education camps along with some regular field trips. Every week there was something different happening. We even managed a production and a community market fair - both fantastic events, showcasing the many talents of our junior students.

Being new to the school, I took the opportunity to have a look at how the school operates. I was deliberately careful about ‘not throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ so I took time in term 1 to get to know our staff and watch the school ‘at work’. We have made some tweaks along the way, a new website, a new prospectus, as just a couple of examples, but we have also looked much wider at our strategic plan and our school values to make sure they are still fit for purpose. Our values of respect, responsibility and real honesty were reviewed and we, and our community, felt that resilience was an important value, particularly given our current climate, so this has replaced Real honesty - but please don't think we don’t expect our students to still be honest!

We have a new mission - instead of ‘Life-long learning’ we now have “Learn, Grow, Succeed”. This is what we want for every student. We recognise that every student's measure of success is unique to them; We have worked hard this year to make sure we know where each of our students are at and what the next steps are for them, and we will continue to ensure this is at the heart of what we do. Nothing gives teachers more satisfaction than seeing their students make progress.

Another change, and one that I think the students are most excited about, is that from Term 1 next year we will be making our own school lunches here on site. It is our hope that we can provide a healthy tasty lunch for every student. By making lunches in-house we can control what food is used and even start to produce our food. Our aim is to have students learn about food production in an authentic setting and even get to eat what they produce. Next year we are offering a horticulture module that will support that aim. Our agriculture programme will also be expanded and, in time, we should be able to produce our own beef for nachos and burgers.

We have also included “working with, and for, our community” as a strategic goal for the school. Waimate High School is a community school and we are exploring ways to develop and strengthen our community links. Already this year I have met with many of our community organisations to see how we can work together to both support our students and the wider community. I would like to thank those community groups who continue to support our school with either their time or generous donations. Thank you to our PTA who are active all year round fundraising on our behalf. Another acknowledgement goes to the Waimate Opportunities Project who have generously donated funds to help us with the many activities that we run throughout the year.

Running a school is not the job of one person alone. To all of our staff, both teaching and support staff, I have not met a more caring group of people. Your willingness to go above and beyond for our students is amazing. We should not take what we have here at Waimate High School for granted. We have a collegial staff and a family atmosphere and everyone is working towards a common goal - our students' success. Our staff kept the school running and did not flinch when asked to cover extra classes when colleagues were sick. You do a superb job and I am humbled by your dedication to our students and school. Thank you. I am really looking forward to 2023 when we can put some of our plans into action.

Finally to our students, boy, have I enjoyed getting to know you this year. You make me smile every single day and I am proud to be your Principal. You still have plenty of time left here at Waimate High School and I’m looking forward to getting to know you all even better, watching as you learn, grow and succeed. To those of you who are leaving us, best wishes at your new school and please be rest assured that you will always be welcome here at Waimate High School. To our prize winners today. Be proud of your achievements and hold your head high - you’ve earned it.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa