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Sunday, 26 January 2014

A Change Principal

Harvey Rees-Thomas, principal of HIBS 1999 - 2001
National's recently announced education policy has announced the creation of the "Change Principal":
Change Principals will be top principals who are paid an additional allowance of $50,000 a year to go to a struggling school and turn it around.
Around 20 Change Principals will be appointed each year, for up to five years.
At the moment, the incentive is for principals to go to larger schools, where the salary is higher, rather than to schools that are the most challenging.
We are going to change that.

Someone I'd call a definite "Change Principal" was Harvey Rees-Thomas, principal of my old high school HIBS from 1999 - 2001. Mr Rees-Thomas turned the school around after it found itself in a pretty dire financial state, and the continued existence of the school owes much to the board and Mr Rees-Thomas.

At the time most of the students weren't even aware of the problems the school faced, and it was only a few years after leaving HIBS that more of the details of how dire things were became known. There's plenty of stories around, so I won't add to them. But the dire state of the school only makes Mr Rees-Thomas time at HIBS even more remarkable.

To myself and schoolmates at the time, Mr Rees-Thomas made huge improvements to the school's culture and character. He referred to us as men and challenged us to raise our own standards, not just in education but in our attitudes to the school and each other. Even though he was there for three years, he made a lasting impact on the school.

So like the Prime Minister, I think good principals matter - and they can make a huge difference to struggling schools. Mr Rees-Thomas certainly did. To raise New Zealand's quality of education, we need change principals like Mr Rees-Thomas.