Principal's Blog

2022

Week 4; Term 3

One of the most beautiful things about a Marsden education is the joy to behold when students are involved with the thing that makes their hearts sing. This week’s House Music competition was a joy to behold. The joyful abandon present in the Auditorium was a stark reminder that it has been far too long since we have gathered as a community, in celebration of a Marsden tradition going back generations. I am immensely proud of the student leaders in the way they have rallied the troops in preparation, and brought such talented and impressive musical arrangement to their performances. The shining glory was the absolute wonder of Jellicoe taking House Music honours for the first time since 1994; something that will be dined out upon by Jellicoe alumni far and wide. Congratulations to Jellicoe, and to all Houses and their leaders who demonstrated teamwork, dedication, determination and irrefutable talent to put together stunning performances for all to enjoy.

In a continuation of returning to life as we know it and love it, we have enjoyed welcoming parents and caregivers back to school for our legendary mother/daughter and father/daughter breakfasts. It is a delight to start the day with students and their nearest and dearest, to celebrate the joy of being together as a Marsden community, and to gather for nothing other than the delight of being in one another’s company; oh, and the lure of one of Elaine’s delicious breakfasts! Additionally, student dances are back on the agenda, and we were thrilled with the success of the Year 11 Cabaret (Cab) last Friday evening. I congratulate and thank Year 11 for living up to expectations with exceptionally high levels of compliance and behaviour, with students wholeheartedly enjoying the occasion. Thank you to Mrs Foster, Ms Molisa, Mrs Robertson, staff and parent helpers for contributing to a wonderful evening.

One of the things that hasn’t been so brilliant of late has been the lack of sound decision-making from a small sprinkling of our students who have been using social media platforms irresponsibly, and in some cases portraying the school, and those connected with it, in a negative light. Whilst we have been supporting our students in realising what it means to be a responsible digital citizen, it is important we reiterate the point that the impact of one’s digital imprint is indelible. Marsden maintains the highest standards of student behaviour, and this extends to the way in which we portray ourselves and our school online.

Next week we welcome new teacher of Year 4, Ms Belinda Evans, who comes to us from Redwood School in Tawa. We have been anticipating Ms Evans' arrival since the beginning of term, and I know that all at Marsden Primary are looking forward to welcoming her to our kura. Thank you to our new Head of Primary, Mrs Jo Burns, for ensuring a continuation of quality learning experiences in Year 4 for the first three weeks of this term, along with her trusty sidekick and number one reliever, Mr Cameron Burns. Year 4 have been incredibly fortunate to have been in such wonderfully experienced hands whilst awaiting the arrival of their new teacher.

The Ministry of Education has communicated that the wearing of facemasks indoors remains ‘strongly recommended’. Therefore our current mask-wearing protocols will remain for the foreseeable future. Students and families have continued to be understanding and supportive, and I express thanks and gratitude for the acceptance and willing compliance that has continued to be exhibited. Kia ora.

Week 3; Term 3

In welcome news this week, NZQA has announced an adjustment to credit requirements for NCEA in 2022, in response to the ongoing Covid-19 disruptions. Although we have done everything within our power to ensure that we have remained open for learning throughout, widespread sickness and absences across the first two terms of the year have inevitably been impacting.

Students will be entitled to one Learning Recognition Credit (LRC) for every five credits earned through assessment, up to a maximum of 10 LRCs for Level 1 and 8 LRCs for Levels 2 and 3. These LRCs will not come with a grade but will support the overall number of credits gained through assessment. The number of credits required to achieve each level remains the same: 80 credits for Level 1, 60 credits (on top of 20 Level 1 credits previously earned) for Level 2, 60 credits (on top of 20 Level 2 credits previously earned) for Level 3. There has also been a change to the number of credits required for an endorsement. A Merit or Excellence Endorsement at Levels 1, 2 and 3 will require 46 credits at Merit or Excellence level, instead of the usual 50 credits.

External examinations will run as scheduled, with senior classes finishing on Monday 31 October and examinations commencing on Monday 7 November. The submission dates for some externally assessed portfolios have been pushed back by a week, into early November. Affected senior students may choose to continue working on these once classes have finished, however, we would encourage them to complete portfolios by the end of October, leaving a clear run to focus on exams during study leave. We appreciate the adjustments made by NZQA in acknowledgement of a challenging year. With only nine weeks of term time remaining for our Year 11 – 13 students, we look forward to working with them to make the most of their time and build upon a solid set of internal assessment results. Our own in-school examinations are just six weeks away and students are now to be building study time into their homework routines as a matter of course.

Also on the horizon are Winter Tournament Week and AIMS Games. Having these annual sports tournaments back on the calendar following two years of cancellation is hugely exciting, and we are doing all we can to ensure that we can participate safely, for the benefit of all. We have been working on our risk-management plans, including careful consideration of how we will respond to various Covid-19 scenarios. Our sports department is working with team officials and will be communicating with parents to ensure we have a mutual understanding of our protocols and expectations.

Further on the sporting front, this week principals across the greater Wellington region received communication from College Sport Wellington pointing to a noticeable increase in instances of poor participant and spectator behaviour in the past few weeks. In contrast, I can unreservedly vouch for the impeccable standards of behaviour exhibited by Marsden teams and congratulate participants on readily living up to expectations. By example, we received positive feedback from Year 7 and 8 students of Roseneath School, who were ‘touched and amazed’ by our basketball team’s ‘strong courage, efforts and sportsmanship’. They went on to speak of their appreciation that Marsden ‘kept on striving and had a positive attitude throughout the whole game’. It is also worth mentioning the tenacious fighting spirit of our 1st X1 Football team who fell ever so slightly short of a final spot in a hard-fought semi-final match that was ultimately decided by a penalty shoot-out. Your courage and determination, and the exceptional way that you conducted yourselves in your disappointment defines you as real champions. Tino pai!

The Swainson Memorial Music Competition exceeded expectations with three sessions featuring outstanding performances across a variety of instruments and genres. The exceptionally high standard challenged our adjudicator and wowed audience members who were treated to such a special showcase featuring incredible talent. Congratulations to all participants, and warm congratulations to our award-winners: Freya McKeich who won the Betty Swainson Memorial Prize, Rose Peddie-Burch who is the recipient of the Marian Campbell Cup, Karen Yui who won the Middle School Prize, Carina Gunchenko who won the Nell Clere Scholarship. Bravo!

Week 2; Term 3

Of late, I have been experiencing the privilege of meeting families and interviewing students who are seeking enrolment at Marsden for 2023. I have been humbled on a number of occasions by parents expressing unsolicited positive bouquets regarding their experience of feeling warmly welcomed in our environment by genuinely kind folk. This culture of care has a palpability about it, and is noticed and felt from the moment the next generation of Marsden students and their families walk through our doors. It is evident that Marsden’s reputation of being welcoming, encouraging, inclusive and kind is alive and well and I am proud that guests are so readily able to discern the Marsden way. Humility and good manners are never out of date. Our next Open Day is next week, Friday 12 August.

The Marsden Mission is to lay the foundations for lives of meaning, accomplishment and genuine happiness. Individual gifts and talents are encouraged, nourished and celebrated, and a quick scan of our Facebook or Instagram pages reinforces the inspiring achievements of our rangitahi. Congratulations to Yuki Man who received wonderful, well-deserved accolades in the recent Hokonui Fashion Design Awards by highly influential industry leaders. Yuki won the Macca Lodge School UPCYCLED Award with her stunning creation, and the Bernina School of Excellence Award. Congratulations also to Sarah Guiney who has been named in the NZ Secondary Schools Netball Squad of 24, who come together for a final trial camp in October. This is an incredible achievement, and testament to Sarah’s talent, hard work and dedication, and to an outstanding Marsden netball development programme. Well done Sarah. In exciting news, for the first time in five years, our 1st X1 Football team have made it through to a semi-final spot following a 3-2 victory over QMC in a hard-fought match. Well done to our footballers and all the best as you advance in your campaign. 

The Swainson Music Competition has attracted massive interest, and we are delighted to have extended the programme to allow for many more performers to showcase their talents on Tuesday afternoon and evening. This is a pinnacle Marsden festival event that we are all looking forward to with great anticipation. Equally, Altissime are working exceptionally hard to prepare themselves for the upcoming Big Sing Finale in Christchurch, with spine-tinglingly stunning sound filling Te Manawa o Te Kura as they rehearse and refine their performance. Students are equally committed to their rehearsals for our annual House Music competition, another much-loved and highly anticipated Marsden tradition that we are happy to have been able to re-instigate this year following last year’s hiatus.

This week, Marsden Primary welcomed their new Head of Primary, Jo Burns, at Mihi Whakatau and at an afternoon tea for parents. We have very much enjoyed welcoming Jo to Marsden, and we are excited at the prospect of her leadership contribution to our kura. Marsden Primary is in exceptionally capable and safe hands with Jo at the helm and we are proud and pleased that she is now a member of our whānau.

Thank you for the way in which a return to mask-wearing at school has been widely accepted and understood. It does appear as though the school holiday break has served as the wellness circuit-breaker we were seeking, with a resumption of high levels of attendance across both our student and staff communities presently. Unsurprisingly, students have met expectations and have been incredibly cooperative and obliging. Ka rawe.

Week 1; Term 3

Welcome to Term 3.  I hope that the holidays have been a restful and rejuvinating time, and that students have fully recharged their batteries and are prepared for an energetic and enthusiastic return to school on Monday.  We are delighted that Marsden is open for all learners every day of the week, and are excited at the prospect of welcoming learners back into classrooms for engaging learning experiences, charged with healthy measures of academic rigour and verve.
 
As we are returning to school in the depths of winter with colds, flu and Covid-19 circulating, mask-wearing at school is back on the agenda for students and staff Year 4 +, for at least the first three weeks of term.  The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health have strongly recommended the return to mask wearing in all indoor settings in schools for Year 4 +, however the recommendation does not extend to situations where mask wearing might not be practical and where it will have a significant impact on teaching and learning, such as singing and drama performances, and in physical education.  We will continue with our common-sense approach in such circumstances, such as encouraging distancing, utilising well-ventilated spaces, and the ongoing use of CO2 monitors.  Please ensure that students are aware that they will be required to wear a mask at school, and that mask-wearing remains essential at school and on public transport.  Those students who are mask exempt are to return to wearing the lanyards previously provided.  Please don’t hesitate to communicate with us if circumstances have changed for your child.
 
It is a very exciting time for Marsden Primary, with our new Head of Primary, Mrs Joanna (Jo) Burns, being welcomed on Day 1.  The Primary School will welcome Jo with a Mihi Whakatau on their first morning together, and parents & caregivers have been invited to a meet and greet afternoon tea in the Primary School Library on our first day, from 2.30pm.  We warmly welcome Jo to Marsden, and we wish her every happiness and success in her new role.  In other positive Primary School news, we have appointed a new permanent teacher of Year 4, following Beth Deakin’s return to the UK.  Belinda Evans is able to join us at Marsden Primary from Week 4.  In the interim, Mrs Burns has the pleasure of teaching and caring for all in Year 4.  She is very much looking forward to meeting our wonderful students and their families. In the senior school, I am pleased to inform you that Sarah Molisa is set to continue in the role of Year 11 Dean for the remainder of the year, with Carolyn Towell concentrating energies on her new role as school timetabler.
 
We are pleased to once again be involved in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).  PISA measures 15-year-olds’ abilities to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.  As with previous opportunities for involvement in PISA, we will ultimately be provided with Marsden results which will be incredibly useful in comparing and analysing our students’ results against national and international data.  Historically, Marsden students have performed ahead of their peers, and our NCEA data proves that we are consistently bucking worldwide trends with Marsden girls choosing, and performing exceptionally well in STEM subjects, and are equally over-represented in accelerated literacy statistics.  Caregivers of students invited to participate in the PISA study will receive detailed information regarding their involvement.
 
Participation in school sport is part and parcel of the quintessential Kiwi experience, and having quality sporting opportunities at Marsden is incredibly important to us too, most especially for all of the benefits that involvement in school sport, and the donning of one’s school Colours, brings to rangitahi.  We are now due for a strategic review of our sporting offering at Marsden and I am delighted to have engaged with the highly credentialled and experienced Garry Carnachan (ONZM) of GKC Management, who will be conducting the external review with us. We are currently in the preliminary stages of establishing terms of reference and framing the shape of the strategic review.  I will be back in touch as the work progresses, including inviting both student and caregiver voice into shaping the potential future state of sport at Marsden.
 
I look forward to welcoming students to school on Monday, organised and well-equipped to be fully engaged with a rich and full school curriculum from Day 1.  Don’t forget your mask!

Week 10; Term 2

Welcome to the final newsletter of Term 2. Students are doing a remarkable job of remaining focused on their learning and assessment tasks with the run-in to the end of the term presenting pressure points for some. Students are being well-supported and have been assisted with self-management strategies, including finding time for personal wellbeing and self-care. In chaplain’s assembly this week we reminded ourselves of the benefits of singing, and the scientifically-proven feel-good factor that singing our hearts out brings. Singing and performance are an integral part of the culture at Marsden, and it has been wonderful to once again be filling the Auditorium with beautiful sound. The Itinerant Music Soirée was another opportunity for our talented students to have their moment in the spotlight this week, showcasing their musical gifts and dedicated commitment to polishing performances. Thank you to our Itinerant Music teachers for their hard work and expertise, and in preparing our students so thoroughly well; it was absolutely delightful.

Mid-year formal written reports are currently being finalised and will be with caregivers mid-way through the final week of term. The reports are testament to a school community who have applied themselves with determination and rigour, despite the interruptions that the Omicron wave has presented with hybrid offerings continuing for those unable to be physically at school. Staffing has been particularly affected again in recent weeks, however, we have been determined to continually be flexible and creative with how we have staffed the school in order that students’ routines have not been interrupted. Remaining open for business to all learners who are well enough to attend has been a deliberate priority throughout, and we will continue to do all we can to ensure that continues. I had the pleasure of supervising a Year 11 Mathematics class this week, who were deeply engaged with their classroom teacher (who happened to be at home) on GoogleMeet, and making excellent progress in Geometry. I observed whole-class instruction, independent differentiated task completion and individual student/teacher conferencing with a good measure of Q & A thrown into the mix; everything one would expect to see in a vibrant classroom setting. It was a timely reminder of the incredible commitment of our teachers to their learners, and the adaptability of our students who now demonstrate real flexibility in how they access their learning, with increased autonomy and responsibility, which in turn has contributed to the building of resilience.

All the best to everyone involved in weekend events and activities, with a special mention of our Underwater Hockey teams who are competing in their Regional Championships at the Wellington Aquatic Centre in Kilbirnie. We are also excited to be hosting the annual Pentangular Tournament (PENT) at Marsden this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, with visitors from Iona College, St Matthew’s, Nga Tawa and Woodford House competing in junior football, netball and hockey. Together they pledge to enjoy themselves, respect the officials, respect the opposition and their supporters, be gracious winners and dignified losers, and play hard but play fair. May sport be the winner on the day!

At the end of this term we farewell Year 4 teacher, Beth Deakin and our Director of Primary, Jennifer Ioannou. We are thrilled for both Beth and Jennifer who have secured wonderful new professional opportunities, even though we are definitely sad to see them go. We look forward to our Primary School end-of-term church service at St Mary’s next Friday morning, which will also serve as a community farewell. We welcome your attendance. Jennifer will begin her tenure as Principal of St Brigid’s School, Johnsonville on the 25th of July with a Marsden contingent to support her transition to her new kura at the pōwhiri. We wish Jennifer, and Beth, all the very best for their new and exciting challenges ahead.

I wish students and whānau a fabulous, well-deserved school holiday break. May you take time for rest and rejuvenation, and for special together time with loved ones. Thank you for your wonderful support this first half of the year. God Bless.

Week 9; Term 2

With the world now opening up to New Zealanders, there are many in our community who are now taking advantage of international travel that has been delayed for some time. For some, this means reconnecting with loved ones on the other side of the world, and for others it means that long-awaited adventures are finally coming to fruition. One such person is longstanding Science teacher and Careers Adviser, Sue Binns, who has taken a sabbatical in order to fulfil her lifelong dream of visiting the Galapagos Islands and other exotic equatorial locations. We are delighted that this much-awaited opportunity has come about for Sue, and are equally pleased that former loyal Marsden employee Jen Stacey has agreed to teach Sue’s classes in her absence.

The easing of international travel requirements has come just in time for two of our Senior Management Team, who are taking up a wonderful but long-delayed professional development opportunity in the USA. Academic Director Margaret Adeane and Head of Senior School Caroline Robertson are now on their way to Boston for the Global Forum on Girls’ Education. For Margaret, this opportunity came through a research fellowship awarded in 2020, where she participated in the Global Action Research Collaborative on Girls’ Education, a world first action research programme that engaged girls’ school educators from around the world in collaborative, disciplined, and sustained action research. The research grant included conference travel. Finally, she gets to meet the educators with whom she collaborated, during 18 months of research. Caroline’s grant came about in a different way. In 2020 she was one of six recipients nationwide honoured with a New Zealand National Excellence in Teaching Award, which came with a significant grant for professional development. The Global Forum on Girls’ Education offered an ideal opportunity to use this grant in an exciting way. Margaret and Caroline are joining girls’ school educators from around the world in finding ways to educate and empower the next generation of global changemakers.

Margaret and Caroline will be back in school on Tuesday 5 July. If you need to contact someone at school in the interim, please direct enquiries to the year-level Dean in the first instance. At Year 11, the contact person is Sarah Molisa, and across Years 12 and 13 Michelle Ferris will be fulfilling that responsibility. Thank you.

On a musical note, there is much to celebrate with news just to hand of our Altissime Choir having been successful in being chosen for The Big Sing Finale to be held at the Christchurch Town Hall in August. A total of 24 choirs, as judged best from all of the regions around the motu, have been chosen to perform at the finale and we are thrilled that Altissime have been included.  This is the second year straight that this auditioned choir, under the directorship of Maaike Christie-Beekman, has qualified for the finale, and this time we hope and pray that the event will proceed. Congratulations to all involved; bravo indeed! We were also treated to a musical extravaganza with the Primary School Soirée this week, featuring stunning musical performances from our incredibly talented students. Thank you to the wonderful Jenny Gould for all her hard work in preparing students for the programme, to Marian Campbell for her accompaniment and contribution, and to all our wonderful music tutors for their tutelage, expertise and encouragement of our youngest performers. It was a joy to have the Soirée back on the calendar and to share in the gifts and talents of our wāhine toa. Ka rawe!

Thank you to Year 3 for inviting me to the classroom this Thursday to learn all about Matariki. Year 3 taught me that this Friday is the very first public holiday celebrating Matakiri in Aotearoa. They shared with me their learning about Matariki, including that it is a time to remember those who have recently passed away, to spend time with family and whānau and share kai together, and to look forward, with optimism, to the year ahead. They even set me a homework task, a reflection of how my family and I celebrated this inaugural holiday. Preschool also celebrated Matariki with caregivers joining for a start of day celebration with karakia, waiata and kai. Our new public holiday has dovetailed beautifully with the new Aotearoa New Zealand histories curriculum providing rich contextual learning for all of our tamariki.

Have a lovely long weekend whānau.

Week 8; Term 2

Marsden was honoured to be invited to the official reception for visiting Samoan Prime Minister, and Marsden Old Girl, the Right Honourable Fiame Naomi Mata'afa during her first state visit to New Zealand this week. Marsden students joined with St Patrick’s College Wellington in the welcome chant written especially for Prime Minister Mata’afa as she arrived at the reception, which was attended by more than 500 people. Later in the ceremony, Deputy Head Girl Eva Whitfield and student Tamari Peseta made a presentation on behalf of the school, speaking in both English and Samoan, to acknowledge our pride in our first Old Girl Prime Minister.
 
Eva Whitfield reflected on meeting Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, once a Marsden Deputy Head Girl herself, as being a once-in-a-lifetime experience that she will never forget. Eva commented that for Samoan students at Marsden, it was an honour to be able to meet and spend time with not only the Prime Minister of Samoa, but our very own Samuel Marsden Old Girl who had been where they are now. Eva stated that being in her presence was captivating, she was both strong and gracious, and sets an inspiring example for young Pasifika women in encouraging them to unleash the potential they possess.
 
Prime Minister Mata'afa attended Marsden from 1969–1975 and is one of the school’s honoured Hall of Fame Laureates in recognition of her public service to her people, particularly women and children in Samoa, in promoting and advocating socio-economic and political equality. Born into a family of political and ‘ethnic’ leaders, Fiame has used her traditional status, her education and political position to help bridge the gap between the traditional and modern way of life for Samoan people. She was the first female Cabinet Minister of Samoa and is currently one of the longest serving Members of Parliament.
 
For 15 years Fiame was the Minister of Education where she aimed to implement many of UNESCO’s Education for All (EFA) goals, working across all levels of education from early childhood education to mentoring and training young women in IT and business skills. In her role as Minister, she sat on many international boards including UNESCO, The World Meteorological Organization, and the YWCA, as well as local organisations such as the Samoan National Council of Women and the Inailau Women’s Leadership Network. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
 
We know that one of the greatest benefits of attending an all-girls’ school is the fact that the lack of societal gendered norms and stereotypes is liberating for students and that female leadership, such as the trailblazing example of Fiame, ignites in young women the determination, inspiration and motivation to lead, giving them the courage and grit to be change-makers in the world. We are both grateful and proud to have been given the opportunity to support the Right Honourable Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, Prime Minister of Samoa, at her first official reception in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
 
In another celebration this week, we were delighted to launch the new Marsden Foundation. Foundation Board Chair Rob Everett and Board Chairperson Juliet Dobson hosted the launch event, which highlighted the aspirations of the Foundation and celebrated Marsden supporters and generous benefactors who have contributed to enabling high-quality education and educational facilities to past, present and future generations of Marsden students through their philanthropy.
 
The Foundation’s initial focus has been attributing funding to scholarships that enable a Marsden education for those who might otherwise not have access to such, with a deliberate intention to grow a more widely diverse and inclusive school community. Whilst Foundations have traditionally been present in the arena of patriarchal giving through established alumni that exits in boys’ schools, we are thrilled that we now have systems and a structure that will enable ongoing philanthropy, and the associated benefits and opportunities to students, at Marsden. To learn more about the Marsden Foundation, visit our website here.

Week 7; Term 2

Despite the eventuality that is the arrival of wild winter weather, the overriding atmosphere at Marsden is nothing other than joyful. It is so uplifting to share in the exuberance of young people engaged in doing the things that make their hearts sing. I am, and will continue to be, a fierce advocate of youth. Whilst their adolescent brains don’t always permit them to make magnificent choices on absolutely every occasion, their talent and capability never cease to amaze me. It is good to remember that children are children and it is our job to set expectations and boundaries, and to encourage and support the young person in finding their own way to a future of limitless possibility. It’s a privilege that we at Marsden take seriously and I am ever so grateful to caregivers for entrusting us to walk with you in the shaping of your daughter’s life and, in doing so, helping her to become the best version of herself she can possibly be. Kia ora.
 
I had the privilege of being an audience member at the gala performance of The Big Sing this week. Our two choirs performed magnificently. Ad Summa performed Lay All Your Love On Me (Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andresson) and Kawea (Maimoa). Huge congratulations to Music Directors Ella Robertson and Francesca Lynch, leading Ad Summa to winning the award for the best student-led choir. Our audition choir, Altissime, under the directorship of the talented Maaike Christie-Beekman, performed Dominus Vobiscum (Jacob Narverud) and One from A Chorus Line (Marvin Hamlisch), the latter winning Altissime the Dorothy Buchanan Cup. By no means an aficionado, I was captivated by our performances, in awe of the talent on display and beyond proud of Marsden on and off stage. Ka rawe! We are yet to learn whether we will advance to the national finale, however, will keep you posted. The most uplifting moments of the evening were observing students in their element. Excitement, nerves, thrilling anticipation and thunderous encouragement and support of other choirs, and a collective sense of belonging. Truly nourishment for the soul.
 
Congratulations to Marsden Primary on their student-initiated fun-filled book character day and act of service that raised $1250 to buy books for our local Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The children and staff had a wonderful day celebrating their love of books and reading whilst keeping the needs of the vulnerable at the forefront of their minds. Thank you for your selfless acts of service and for living our special character in putting the needs of others before self.
 
Thank you to caregivers who were able to attend our first parent gathering of the year. Given the Covid restrictions and shifting goalposts of the past two and a half years, for some it was the first time they had gathered with others at school. Te Manawa o te Kura was once again filled with the joy of people coming together, sharing in the tradition of Marsden community and enjoying one another’s company. Thank you to Board Chair, Juliet Dobson, for the hospitality and to Chaplain Sarah King, for her blessing.
 
Have a wonderful weekend whānau. Wrap up warm for winter sports and activities and celebrate the joyfulness that is young people gathering together, gleeful in their collective endeavour and enjoying accomplishing things with their friends. Let’s be grateful for that freedom and opportunity, and for the fact that young people are shining beacons of optimism and hope in our world.

Week 6; Term 2

Happy Queen’s Birthday weekend, all the more significant with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations having begun. Royalist or not, Queen Elizabeth has been, and is, an indomitable matriarch. Unexpectedly thrust into the demands of leadership of church, country and Commonwealth at a tender age brought enormous responsibility, with the Queen consistently demonstrating unwavering understanding of duty and service. As the longest serving monarch in British history, she has brought a steadying hand of leadership and has been a well-considered, yet courageous, decision-maker with a sincere and empathetic heart. She has not been immune from trials and tribulations both on the throne and at home, all played out under intense public scrutiny. It was my privilege to attend the Service of Celebration for the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, accompanied by Head Girl, Shenaya Rajasekera, resplendently representative of Marsden, cloaked in the Marsden korowai.

I am sure students won’t need me to remind them that they have an additional day’s holiday on Tuesday 7 June due to Staff Only Day. Our state and state-integrated counterparts have been afforded additional Teacher Only Days to prepare for the new NCEA, and it is prudent that we take the opportunity to thoroughly prepare ourselves also. There are a number of activities planned for staff to strengthen their understanding of school-wide priorities and initiatives, all led by our talented in-house experts.

Some of the professional learning that staff will be involved with include the strengthening of our bi-cultural responsiveness with Te Reo Māori language learning and the expansion of our repertoire of waiata. We will also be concentrating on future-focused learning with staff collaboration of the potential future state of curriculum, including workshopping the new Literacy and Numeracy aspects of the NCEA, which are expected to be mandated by the Ministry of Education in 2023/2024. We will be increasing wider staff understanding of adolescent health and learning more about the work of our development team and our soon to be launched Marsden Foundation. We will close our day with a blessing of the newly refurbished Food Technology room, remembering and acknowledging the generous contribution of the former Marsden Parents' Association who generously donated funds to enable the project to come to fruition.

We have recently held online webinars to share information about joining Marsden at Year 7 and Year 9 in 2023. These have been well-attended by both current and prospective families and we have enjoyed the opportunity to continue to use technology to connect with folk in the comfort of their own homes. Our Experience Marsden days are approaching on 15 June (Year 7) and 22 June (Year 9). There is nothing like spending a day at Marsden to gain a full sense of our programmes, ethos and values. We are looking forward to welcoming our visitors and encourage anyone who has not yet registered to do so. Register here

I am looking forward to hosting those caregivers who can make it to our social event on Wednesday 8 June. It has been an unusual introduction to Marsden in that I have had limited opportunity to get to know families. It seems a get-together is well overdue.  Thank you to those caregivers who have been so welcoming and introduced themselves on the sports sidelines, swimming sports, school production and on the footpath awaiting the return of somewhat disappointed, but pleased to be home, Tongariro adventurers. I have appreciated your warm and encouraging welcome to the Marsden family and the strong sense of community that is steeped in whakawhanaunatanga. Kia ora.

Have a lovely and safe long weekend.

Week 5; Term 2

This week I was pleased to be able to congratulate the students on a fabulous Marsden swimming sports last Friday. It is incredible to think that not so many weeks ago, the thought of gathering as a school to participate in one of our signature Marsden experiences would have been unfathomable. It is good to take stock and to think about just how far we have come in terms of regaining normality by doing the things that we love to do. Let us be glad, and let us be grateful that we are reclaiming life.

In order to fully reclaim life, occasionally we need to step outside our comfort zones to re-engage with the things that we haven’t done for a while, which can feel foreign and could bring a sense of uncertainty or nervousness. That’s perfectly natural. One response could be not to re-engage, especially if that feels like it is the path of least resistance. However, taking a big breath and stepping towards a challenge, even if it is to make a first tentative step, will bring a sense of momentum and, ultimately, success and achievement. 

We opened the curtain on our school production this week with a brilliantly clever and hilarious one-act play followed by a variety show that enabled our performers an opportunity to shine. The talent on display at Marsden is phenomenal. No doubt stepping onto the stage for opening night was simultaneously scary and thrilling for our performers. Our wāhine toa were well-rehearsed, and they stepped towards the challenge, channelled their nerves and used that energy to be magnificent. Bravo!

Senior students are in the season of managing workload, with many engaged with internal assessment whilst balancing co-curricular activities and busy lives outside school. Sometimes simply the thought of a looming academic workload can bring worry and cause students to fret, which in turn can bring a paralysis of sorts. Students have been reminded this week to re-visit their work habits and to dedicate time to planning and scheduling. Equally, they have been challenged to step towards challenge, to take a leap of faith that is getting started, whilst pushing through feelings of reluctance and hesitation and recognising them as natural human reactions too. There is a lot to be learned about oneself in the process, and a healthy measure of satisfaction to be had in accomplishment too.

The Marsden role model of the week has to be Head of Technology, Sarah Wirth, who has recently had a Masters of Education conferred. Additionally, she has been invited to present at the International Federal for Home Economics World Congress in Atlanta, Georgia in September, and has recently been awarded Life Membership of the Home Economics and Technology Teachers Association of New Zealand. Congratulations Sarah for your achievements and well-deserved recognition as a leading innovator in your field. 

Week 4; Term 2

We were delighted with the attendance at Open Day last Sunday. The school was a hive of activity with visitors gathering to learn of Marsden’s offering prior to being treated to personalised tours, expertly led by our wonderful senior tour guides. Who better to share in their experience of Marsden than those who currently enjoy all that a Marsden education has to offer! We look forward to offering webinars for those looking to join us at Year 7 and at Year 9 in 2023 on 23 May and 1 June respectively. The webinar links will also be shared with those existing Marsden families to aid in planning for approaching transitional years from within our Marsden community. We look forward to seeing you online.

This week we have enjoyed Careers Week, with a number of events and activities to support students in both thinking about life beyond the school gates and in practically equipping them with strategies and tools to assist with transition. It has been a privilege to welcome guest speakers, including Marsden Old Girls, who have generously shared their stories, which contained striking similarity. The consistent messaging from the incredibly candid and illuminating accounts, was the need for graduates not to be too singularly focused and to liberate oneself from the self-imposed pressure that comes with being so in deciding upon career pathways early. The excellent advice from the exceptionally talented Wāhine Toa from across wide-ranging vocations and professions, spoke of being open to opportunity and in following one’s heart with decision-making, whilst not shirking from hard work and determination in making dreams come true. The Marsden spirit and a healthy measure of grit and grace in carving out one’s future were commonly alluded to. Ka pai.

Early next week we will be engaging with our emergency management provider in testing our responsiveness to a range of potential emergency situations, including lockdown procedures. In order to properly test our ability to manage such, we will be running a lockdown drill on Tuesday. We will be replicating how we would respond to a live event, including sending test communications. All communications will reference that we are in a lockdown drill situation. Please do not be alarmed.

As I write, the Marsden community has gathered for our annual swimming sports, ironically on a day that the motu is besieged with the first winter storms of the season. I can reassure you that despite the appalling conditions outside, the Marsden spirit is alive and well at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre. There is simply nothing more uplifting than immersing oneself in a carnival event in which Marsden students experience a strong sense of belonging in being a parochial member of a house, and the noise that they make is testament to their joy! Let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Week 3; Term 2

This Sunday we host our Open Day between 2pm and 4pm for prospective Marsden students and their families. We are delighted with the high number of registrations which will no doubt continue to increase right up to the event itself.  We are looking forward to welcoming guests to the school and have a full programme planned including a welcome in Sheppard/Wake, student-led tours, and hospitality hosted by some of our dedicated Board members. Please extend the invitation to anyone who might be interested in learning more about a Marsden education and all we have to offer in our warm and welcoming environment set amongst our park-like expansive grounds.  Allcomers welcome.

The Open Day will be followed up with Year 7 and Year 9 Webinars and Experience Marsden days, where prospective students can spend a day in class to experience how we do things at Marsden first-hand. Additionally, 2023 Scholarship applications are open.  Visit our website for details.

You may also have noticed that we are currently advertising for Marsden’s next Head of Primary following Jennifer Ioannou’s appointment to the Principal position at St Brigid’s, Johnsonville. We are confident that the position will attract great interest from applicants of a high calibre and are excited to engage with the recruitment process throughout May and early June.  We will keep you posted with developments. Meanwhile, Marsden Primary is in exceptionally safe hands with Jennifer remaining with us for the remainder of the term, supported by an experienced and passionate team.

More and more we have been able to reintroduce aspects of school life that have been missing for some time with reintroduction bringing great joy. The winter sports season is now in full swing, the sounds of school production rehearsals are reverberating through Te Manawa o Te Kura, arrangements for Years 10-13 Careers Evening are well under way and we’re excited for our annual swimming sports carnival at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre, Kilbirnie next Friday.  Students are encouraged to don their House colours and embrace the opportunity to enthusiastically contribute to a wonderfully high spirited Marsden tradition that has been alive and well for generations. Supporters are welcome and will be required to follow the venue COVID-19 protocols.

Our Year 10 Tongariro adventurers enjoyed three nights and two full days at OPC before returning earlier than expected due to being impacted by COVID-19.  Thank you to the teachers and the parent helpers who did a magnificent job caring for students and in managing an unfolding situation exceptionally well. Students managed themselves impeccably and were understanding and accepting of the situation.  They returned to Marsden on Wednesday afternoon carrying with them packs of wet clothing and understandably equal measures of sadness and gladness. Thank you for demonstrating old-fashioned, yet never out of date, Marsden grit, grace and fortitude.

I wish all Marsden students and families who are unwell and/or isolating with COVID-19 the very best and ask that time is taken for adequate rest and rejuvenation in order to recover fully. A reminder that any student unable to attend school can access learning tasks on Hāpara if they are well enough to do so. Individual teachers can be communicated with via school email. Take good care.

Week 2; Term 2

This term is very much a fresh start. A renaissance of sorts. It is fair to say that last term was fairly tumultuous to say the least. Despite the disruption and having to manage hybrid learning for a while, students continued to amaze me with their strength, tenacity, and resilience. Pushing through and doing school anyway, regardless of circumstance, is the epitome of the Marsden spirit; trailblazing Wāhine Toa who courageously ride the rollercoaster we call life with a healthy measure of fortitude, grit and grace tucked into their back pockets.

I have asked students to focus on being the very best version of themselves they can possibly be, and that they re-visit their Visible Wellbeing character strengths, reminding them of the tools they already possess, stored in their personal kete for safe keeping; present, providing reassurance, and able to be accessed and utilised at a moment’s notice. Students’ individual character strengths provide them with a stable foundation from which they can, and will, launch into the new term with courage and confidence.

It is hugely reassuring to know that every individual possesses a bundle of God-given gifts and talents that enable them to flourish and thrive, and in doing so, without even thinking about it, positively and proactively influence and support others in being their best selves too. Understanding and recognising one’s own character strengths builds self-confidence and a positive mindset. This is relevant to all aspects of school life, such as when performing on the stage or being an integral member of a sports team.

The winter sports season begins this weekend in earnest making it timely to remind folk of the highest standards of behaviour and the expectation of being ‘a good sport’. A keen sportsperson myself, with a natural competitive spirit, I applaud and encourage healthy competition and striving to succeed. However, learning to both win and lose with dignity and acknowledging competitors’ and teammates' skills and successes is also an important skill, and an expectation I hold for all Marsden participants and supporters. The highest respect for officials and volunteers is an absolute non-negotiable. Thank you for your support in this.
 
All the very best to our Year 10 students, staff and parent helpers who head to Tongariro this weekend for their week-long adventure at OPC. No doubt the experience will provide an opportunity to display individual character strengths in an entirely different context and they will learn new things about themselves when encouraged to step outside their comfort zones. Year 10 have been well-prepared for the exciting adventure that awaits and have been challenged to be proud Marsden Wāhine Toa, positive, respectful, resourceful, courageous and kind. Have a wonderful time.

Week 1; Term 2

I hope the school holiday break has been a welcome change of pace following the relentlessness of the first term and the challenges it has posed to students, staff and households alike.  We were seriously in need of refreshment and rejuvenation, and the public holidays that aligned with the school break will have provided welcome respite for many families.

We commence Term 2 at the Orange setting of the Covid Protection Framework (CPF).  Whilst rules around mask-wearing and indoor gatherings have shifted, in reality things will remain largely unchanged from an operational perspective.  It is recommended that students and staff continue to wear masks and we will exercise caution with gatherings and undertake case by case risk analysis. Students Year 4+ must bring a mask to school with them daily, and students 12yrs+ must wear a mask when utilising school and public bus services.  There will be opportunities for us to invite caregivers to school events again, where safe and appropriate to do so, and in these instances we will be requiring mask-wearing indoors.  Thank you for understanding our cautious, staged approach as we remain ever-mindful that we continue to live in a pandemic-affected landscape that is constantly changing.  Please keep unwell students home from school, and communicate with us via our absence line in order that we can continue to support absent students in their learning.

For the majority, Term 2 will be a fresh start as we leave the upheaval of Term 1 behind.  The school holidays has provided the space required to catch up on deferred internal assessment tasks, and we envisage a much cleaner start to this term with very little need for extensions, except instances  where there are extenuating circumstances. Open communication with teachers and lead pastoral carers at school remains critical in maintaining shared understanding and in supporting a successful school experience.  We also look forward to engaging with co-curricular activities and in participating more freely with less restrictions. 
 
Throughout the holiday break our grounds and maintenance staff have been hard at work and the grounds are looking lovely.  I encourage students to continue to enjoy our beautiful outdoor spaces at break times and hope for a continuation of this beautiful spell of balmy autumn weather.  I wish our senior girls and all Relay For Life participants all the very best for their carnival event at Marsden this Saturday, which runs from 7am until 7pm.   Thank you for your service, and for supporting the Cancer Society and the wonderful work they do in our communities.  
 
We are delighted that our Food Technology classroom has been refurbished during the break, with the facility being modernised and fitted with new appliances.  We are so pleased to be able to continue to offer Food Technology in fit for purpose facilities, and acknowledge the generous contribution of our former Parents Association for funding that has assisted with enabling the project in reaching fruition.
 
In closing, I acknowledge the tremendous commitment to Marsden, and to education, of the recently retired Adair Grant who has cumulatively served Marsden for more than 20 years.  Adair was farewelled at the end of last term with tributes from colleagues and her family, and was fittingly made an Honorary Old Girl, presented by MOGA President Jo Prescott, and was also presented with a Marsden long service medal.  We wish Adair all the very best for life beyond the school gates and the exciting adventures that await.

Week 11; Term 1

Welcome to the final newsletter of Term 1.  My first term at Marsden has brought great satisfaction, despite the obvious disruption of continually being challenged in new and unexpected ways as we have navigated the impacts of Omicron. The Marsden family whanaungatanga has seen me enthusiastically welcomed into this community and I am deeply appreciative of the genuine warmth and kindness I have experienced. Thank you.

Our complement of students and teachers has been largely restored this week with a return to the regular timetable for most.  The majority of students managed Hybrid Learning incredibly well with senior students candidly relaying positive accounts of their ability to be self-directed and independent in managing their time and their learning.  Always one to seek a silver lining, I can’t help but reflect upon the increased autonomy and flexibility that our students now possess as a result of their being continuously asked to do things differently, thereby building resilience - a factor that had previously identified as  deficient in this generation. They have certainly responded to the challenge.

Students have returned to Marsden with an enthusiasm to be back amongst their peer group and in their classrooms engaging with their learning.  Those who have been attending in person throughout Hybrid Learning are delighted to have classrooms and hallways busy and bustling once again. Although we remain in the recently revised Red setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF), events and activities have continued wherever possible and where safe to do so. This week alone, we have had winter sports team trials taking place, production and music rehearsals, Easter liturgical observances, Relay for Life and Winter Project fundraising activities and Learning Progress Interviews via Zoom with caregivers.  We are also very excited to be welcoming some guests to Scholars' Assembly on Monday, a rare opportunity to finally have visitors on site to share in the Marsden tradition. There is much to be grateful for.

For those members of our Marsden community who have been affected by COVID-19, I urge a measured return.  Taking the time now to fully recover and rejuvenate will pay dividends later. We will continue to provide support and flexibility in return to school and return to activities in order to avoid fatigue and further unwellness.  Please don’t hesitate to talk with us regarding ways we can support your daughter’s return to full health. The forthcoming school holiday break is a perfect time to rest and recuperate completely, ready for full reintegration from the beginning of Term 2. 

May the renewal of life at Easter bring new blessings of love, hope, peace, good health and happiness to you and your loved ones.  We give thanks for our freedom and for our safety and pray for those less fortunate than ourselves, especially those whose lives are affected by conflict and injustice. As we approach ANZAC Day it is a timely reminder of the sacrifices of those exposed to the wanton waste of human life in war and the wide-reaching toll on humanity. Lest we forget.