Week 6; Term 4

Sometime around the middle of November every year our campus becomes a whole lot quieter as our Year 11 – 13 students relocate to their home study spaces to prepare for their NCEA examinations.  But they always go out in a flurry of noise and colour, and this year was no different.  In fact, this year the noise and colour were amplified when we packed extra events into Monday and Tuesday, as delayed examinations left no available timeslots for our seniors to be together for events in the traditional December final week.
 
In an intense and emotional two days our Year 13s had their last communion service, last assembly, last party in the common room, last singing practice, and last Prizegiving, and they were formally welcomed into the Marsden Old Girls’ Association. They paid tribute to one of their staunchest supporters, Anne Field, in their final assembly with heartfelt speeches and a rousing rendition of ‘Sweet Mrs Field’ to the tune of ‘Sweet Caroline’. 
 
Our senior Prizegiving on Tuesday night was an intimate event for the Year 13 cohort present in the Auditorium, and also an event that we were able to share with our community more widely than ever before due to the livestream. The livestream analytics were fascinating… as well as nearly 500 viewers in New Zealand, we were joined from Australia, Japan, Cambodia and France.  I would like to thank Marsden parent Scott George for his outstanding work on bringing the technical side of this event together for us in a short period of time. His calm professionalism gave us all confidence as we once again stepped into new territory thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. I would also like to thank the staff involved (there are way too many to list here) for their heroic efforts in meeting deadlines that were brought forward by 3 weeks. While I am so sorry that our parents and Year 11 and 12 prize winners were unable to be there in person, my abiding memory of the event will be of smiling faces… I just couldn’t stop smiling watching it!
 
Let’s hope next year we can have the best of both worlds, a full live event, and a quality livestream for friends and whānau to enjoy.
 
Congratulations to all of our prize winners, especially to: Cassia Percival-Day (recipient of the Blundell Cup), Paige Martin (recipient of the Kindness Cup and the Alice Bowater Award), Keisha Wong (Proxime Accessit) and our supreme award winner Ruby Barton, Dux of Samuel Marsden Collegiate School for 2021.

Week 5; Term 4

Warmest congratulations to all of our current Year 12 students who have been elected to the Head Girls' Committee for 2022. The school will be led by Head Girl Shenaya Rajasekera and Deputy Head Girl Eva Whitfield. As usual, the handover assembly, one of Marsden’s wonderful rites of passage, was full of mixed emotions as the changing of the guard was signalled so clearly.  Our new Head Girls' Committee did a wonderful job in their first official role on Wednesday as they welcomed the large group of students joining Marsden in Years 7 and 9 next year on their Orientation Day.  We look forward to welcoming our new Primary students for their Orientation Day on 24 November.
 
We are also delighted to announce our newest Corporate Sponsor Rutherford & Bond Toyota, who have donated the use of a ute to Marsden School's Rowing Club for the season ahead. Our students are just delighted to have your support. Thank you!
If your company would like to discuss supporting Marsden please contact Bridget Child on bridget.child@marsden.school.nz or 04 476 8707 ext 811 for a confidential chat. 
 
Prizegiving Livestream – Tuesday 16 November at 7.30pm
Preparations for our prizegiving next Tuesday are well underway.  Although it will not be taking place in its traditional form, we are delighted that we will be able to share performances, announcements of prize-winners in Year 11 and 12, and live presentations to all of our Year 13s with our students and their parents via livestream.  You will receive details about how you can tune in to the prizegiving in the next few days. Although prizes for students in Years 7 – 10 are not being presented until later in the year, I know that our Year 13s are hoping for full (virtual) attendance from all school students and families to support them as they farewell Marsden.
 
Management Board update
After six years of service to the Marsden Board of Management, Cheryl Middelkoop is moving to a role on the Marsden Trust Board and Juliet Dobson has been elected as the new Chair of Board of Management.  Juliet has been on the Board for the past four years and has been the Chair of the HR committee for most of that time.  She is also an Old Girl and a member of the Marsden Old Girls' committee.   Juliet is an experienced lawyer, specialising in employment law.  She has worked in private practice for over 12 years and in the public sector for almost 10 years. 

Juliet is passionate about Marsden, the opportunities it offers, its culture, its future as a high performing educational institution, and the wider Marsden community.  She is particularly looking forward to working alongside and supporting Paula Wells when she commences as Principal next year. 

Juliet and her husband Nick have two daughters, both of whom recently attended Marsden. They both loved their Marsden experience and are now enjoying life as students at Otago University. Juliet and Nick also have a son at Wellington College.

For a year our Management Board has benefited from the addition of a number of new members, adding further diversity of skills and thinking. One of those is Jamie Fitzgerald, now stepping into the new role of Deputy Chair. 
 
Jamie has two daughters at Marsden, and alongside his volunteered time on the Board, is a keen supporter of Marsden sport (his wife Kate also works within Marsden’s Learning Support team). 
 
Jamie has held professional roles covering strategy, change, cultural alignment and performance over the last two decades in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. In his current management consultancy role, he has helped hundreds of aspirational businesses and government agencies grow bigger, better, faster. 
 
Jamie is also a career adventurer! He has walked unaided to the South Pole, holds the world record for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, is a double New Zealand representative, and has fronted various TV documentary series. His enthusiasm for helping Marsden and our students be the best they can be has had a real impact.
Vaccine register for students
The Ministry of Education requires schools to maintain an up-to-date register to capture the vaccination status of eligible students - that is, students aged 12 and over.  The requirement to maintain the register is through a Direction issued by the Secretary for Education under the Education and Training Act 2020 Schedule 25, Clause 3.  

We are currently working on the creation of such a register and ask for your cooperation in supplying the vaccination information required.

In the next two weeks you will receive an eform which will enable you to provide details of the vaccination status of your daughter and to upload evidence of vaccination, if applicable. This evidence could include:
  • a screenshot of their vaccination record on My Covid Record (for those 16 and over)
  • a vaccination certificate (which can be requested from the Ministry of Health)
  • a letter from their GP.
If you choose not to provide this information we are required to record students' vaccination status as "unvaccinated".
 
We would like to assure you again that any information provided by you will be subject, as usual, to the same stringent privacy constraints. Marsden views the privacy and safety of our students and families as of paramount importance. If you have any questions in respect of the process, or the details required, please contact Hilary Fiennes, COO.

Week 4; Term 4

It has been another busy week. One highlight was our Primary Athletics Day on Tuesday where there was lots of House Spirit, encouragement, competition and fun! The students were well supported by our Year 10 girls who helped run each of the track and field events and were wonderful role models to our younger students. 

Another highlight was the assembly yesterday morning where the senior students were privileged to hear speeches by those putting themselves forward for the positions of Head Girl and Deputy Head Girl for 2022. This is an option offered to those who have been elected into roles on the Head Girls’ Committee for 2022. It is a brave thing to do … nine applicants and only two positions, so they stand up knowing the odds aren’t good, but they also stand up with confidence as the students have already endorsed their leadership and recognised that they are people who will get things done and embody the Marsden spirit. The full student leadership team for 2022 will be announced on Monday.

Introducing Paula Wells – Marsden’s 13th Principal
As we seem to be very quickly approaching the end of the year, I am delighted to be able to share this short introductory video with you. Paula is keen for the Marsden community to start to get to know her and is very much looking forward to taking up her new role. We are meeting regularly at the moment and will continue to do so through to her arrival at Marsden in January, and I am enjoying sharing the Marsden story with her.

House Music 2021
If you missed the social media posts this week, you can catch up on the highlights of 2021 House Music here.  In spite of the long delay due to the August lockdown (which hit less than 24 hours before House Music was to go ahead), the standard of performance was high and the level of enthusiasm was higher.  Like all House events, this one requires a huge amount of effort from the House Leaders, and I congratulate them on what they were able to pull off under difficult conditions.

Vaccinations for school volunteers
Yesterday I wrote to many of our parent volunteers  to acknowledge the valuable support they provide to Marsden and to let them know about how the mandatory vaccination requirements for schools will impact their volunteer roles at the school. The governance of our school and many of our programmes, sporting, cultural and academic, rely on volunteers, and their participation in the life of the school contributes significantly to our strong community culture.

As a school at Alert Level 2, all of our staff are all required to have received their first COVID-19 vaccination by 15 November 2021 and we all need to be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.

The scope of this requirement is broad and includes all of the people who work at our school, such as teachers, support staff, contractors, visiting Ministry staff and volunteers. This breadth of coverage is intended to afford the greatest possible protection to our students, ourselves, and communities.

The vaccination requirements do not apply to those who are performing services remotely, or who are onsite only when children and students are not present (such as a contractor who is performing maintenance during the weekend or over a term break). The requirements also do not apply to people who are visiting our school such as for a learning conference or a parent, whānau and community evening.

If you undertake a voluntary role for the school and we have missed sending you the letter, or if you have any questions, please contact my Executive Assistant, Alison McManus.

Week 3; Term 4

There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about the upcoming changes to the NCEA qualification and the decisions schools are taking regarding their NCEA offering when these changes are implemented in 2023.

Why NCEA?
It is nearly 20 years since NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) became the national qualification and our qualification of choice at Marsden. It has served us extremely well in that time. Our students have benefited from its flexibility, its combination of internal and external assessment and the cumulative awarding of credits throughout the year. 

Our students are motivated to reach beyond the achieved grades and openly strive for Merit and Excellence awards. The breadth of assessment styles tells us much more about our students than their ability to sit exams. Research, report writing and summative testing, oral and visual presentations, performance and practical activities all have a place in NCEA assessment.  By earning credits towards their overall achievement as the year progresses, students know how they are tracking. This transparency places less pressure on them when it comes to external exams; it rewards work completed during the year and validates a breadth of skills.

Learning programmes have the potential to be personalised to support an individual student’s circumstances, interests and capabilities. NCEA has global portability and is recognised internationally.

Changes to NCEA
NCEA is about to undergo change, commencing in 2023. The aim is to strengthen a robust assessment system and we look forward to the potential that it offers us to further customise learning at Marsden. Each subject will consist of fewer standards, with more holistic assessment. Standards will be both internal and external but larger chunks of learning will mean that ongoing assessment does not drive our academic calendar. We see opportunities to go beyond the baseline of the standard, to make connections within contexts, across skills and even across subjects. In its current format, the modularisation of NCEA into many small and discrete standards has been its weakness, at times placing emphasis on assessment over learning. An example might be in English – where the study of a novel is currently assessed separately. With the new standards, the ideas of the novel might be connected thematically to a film or short story and promote a broader discussion of text.  The changes to NCEA allow us to focus on depth of learning and thinking while delivering programmes that are relevant and engaging to our community. Changes will be staged, with the first modifications for Level 1 coming in 2023. NZQA has engaged with subject specialists to produce resources and guidelines to support the changes. Marsden will be on board with Level 1 in 2023.

Level 1 NCEA (Year 11)
At our Term 4 Teacher Only Day, we spent time discussing the value of Level 1 NCEA and have made the commitment to continuing with this foundation course in the foreseeable future. Level 1 has always been optional, but we see it as having many benefits for our students.

One of its most valued functions is easing pressure on high stakes assessment encountered in the senior years.  Results at Levels 2 and 3 (ie Years 12 and 13) determine access to university halls of residence, limited entry course and tertiary scholarships.  We want students to commence studying at those levels with experience, confidence and an awareness of how to maximise their own achievement. NCEA at Year 11 helps students build an understanding of time management, learn how to focus on defined criteria and develop study skills. 

Year 11 students are seeking a step up. At the age of 15, they are maturing and looking for tangible, recognised outcomes that go beyond the value of learning for its own sake. A national qualification with clearly laid out criteria provides benchmarks, and aspirational goals and tells them their learning is being taken seriously.

As we go into exam season, our Year 11 students are appreciative of a year where their learning has been formally assessed. During the year, most of them will have experienced a moment of pride and achievement, when particular skills or strengths have been rewarded. They will also have experienced disappointment when things didn’t go as planned. Managing disappointment and learning from mistakes are crucial life skills and are important in developing resilience and enhancing wellbeing. Our teachers are experienced in working with students to help them set personal academic goals within the NCEA framework, that both challenge and reward.

Most of our students are unlikely to require their Level 1 results to access career opportunities or study beyond school. Nevertheless, by working through a formalised, nationally recognised qualification, they have laid a solid foundation for the next stage of their learning and their personal growth.

Week 2; Term 4

It has been great to welcome six new students and their families to Marsden this week for the beginning of Term 4, from Preschool through to Year 10. I hope that all of our new students and their families have had the opportunity to experience the warmth of our community this week.

We have also been delighted to welcome our Director of Pastoral Care, Anne Field, back on a part-time basis.  The staffing changes that we made to cover for Anne during Term 3 will all remain in place for the term, and Anne will primarily focus on working with the seniors on the major end of year activities and events. So, the key contacts for pastoral care remain Caroline Robertson for Years 9 – 13 and Jennifer Ioannou for Years 1 – 8.

On her return, Anne was very impressed with the impact that the internal painting of Marsden House has had.  The first part of this refresh was completed in the July holidays, with more completed during the recent break.  This was made possible by the fund-raising from the Marsden Gala earlier this year.  Thank you to every member of our community who worked so hard to make our ‘Pop Up’ Gala a big success.

We are hoping that today’s announcement from the government will allow us to plan the remainder of Term 4 with a bit more certainty, particularly regarding our major events. We are, of course, hoping that parents and our wider community will be able to join us for celebrations.

I am keeping this brief today because I would like to invite you to spend some time reading our 2021 ‘Word from Marsden’ available in digital form here and distributed in hard copy today to the eldest child in each family. I am thrilled with the quality of the publication and how beautifully it captures the Marsden spirit. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Week 1; Term 4

We are looking forward to welcoming all of our students back for Term 4 on Tuesday.  The pace of Term 3 was a little different to usual due to the unexpected period of lockdown. But the break was needed as much as it always is following the challenges presented by maintaining learning and social connections through a term when we spent time in all four Covid-19 alert levels. I hope that the holidays have given students an opportunity for fresh air, relaxation and a chance to catch up on sleep, time with family and friends, as well as some schoolwork for our seniors. 
 
Our final term is a short one, and it tends to gallop away. Senior students have only four weeks of lessons before they are on exam leave.  We are currently developing a ‘Plan B’ for each of our major end of year events as most of them will be unable to run in their normal form in Alert Level 2.  The first event impacted will be the Sports and Cultural Awards, scheduled for Thursday 21 October at 7pm. This will be an online awards ceremony. RSVP’s will be required to access the link to the event.  Please see the details below.
 
Regretfully we have made the decision to cancel Old Girls’ Day this year.  We know this will be sad for so many of our Old Girls who look forward to this day of reconnection with others in their cohort and community.  Our students will also miss seeing our Old Girls enjoy this special occasion.  You will not be surprised to learn that, because of our long history, there is precedent for this.  The Te Kura of 1948 states "our service on All Saints Day was very different this year as no Old Girls were able to be present through the poliomyelitis epidemic.” For next year our plan is to combine our 2021 and 2022 Old Girls celebrations here at Marsden on 28 October 2022. The Old Girls AGM will go ahead as an online meeting on Friday 29 October.
 
We look forward to announcing our senior student leadership team for 2022 within the next few weeks and know that this signals a changing of the guard. Meanwhile, the staff are busy looking at learning programmes and timetabling for next year.  There is so much for us all to look forward to as we start to think about 2022, and celebrate the achievements of 2021.