Hutt News : September 13th 2011
10 HUTT NEWS, SEPTEMBER 13, 2011 OPINION Better already. No contest. 5 BOU/26420/COMM NEWS/XRAY Ask patients which they appreciate more; their new metallic alloy hip components, or the ability to finally pick the remote off the floor again and there's quite a clear answer. We know and understand it's the small things that leave a lasting impression. Talk to your doctor about coming to Boulcott, call us on 569 7555 or visit www.boulcotthospital.co.nz. 3926157AA Ph: 04 569 3026 / Open 7.00am - 10pm HUTT CITY Proudly 100% New Zealand Owned & Operated 3626115AA Time for a satellite? An open letter to the Principal of Hutt Valley High School My name is Holly Walker. I attended Hutt Valley High School from 1996 to 2000, and I was deputy head girl in my final year. Members of my family cur- rently attend the school. I am also the Green party can- didate for Hutt South in the upcoming general election. I was pleased to see you issue a full apology for the series of violent incidents that took place in 2007. Like many others, I was appalled to read of these events, and grossly disappointed in the school's response. These have been well-documented in the Ombudsman's report on the events, and subsequent media coverage. The victims (and indeed the perpetrators) of these particular incidents and their families will no doubt be dealing with the consequences for some years to come. I suspect that there are many who experienced the culture of systemic violence, intimidation and abuse that has been ident- ified at the school at this time who have suffered long-term emotional and psychological effects. The apparently dismiss- ive response of the school to complaints will not have helped those in this category to recover from the experience. I am therefore pleased to see that the school has put anti- bullying policies and practices in place since 2007. The Ombudsman's report is clear that the school has been proactive about this. I hope that these changes allow HVHS to move on from this chapter with a renewed focus on safety, a respect for the rights of all students to an edu- cation, freedom from intimi- dation, and a strong commit- ment to non-violence. For this to happen will require a commitment to regularly and independently recording incidences of bullying and viol- ence in the school, including regularly surveying the experiences of pupils, teachers, and parents, to ensure that these policies actually translate into a decreased incidence of bullying and violence. In addition, programmes such as restorative justice need to be fully implemented, resourced, and committed to by board and staff to address the root causes of these behaviours. If such changes result in a decreased incidence of bullying and violence, HVHS could become a model for anti-bullying programmes in all schools around the country. If there is one thing that these sad events have highlighted, it is how important it is for schools to have robust and transparent policies and procedures to com- bat violence and intimidation, and for these to be actively managed and measured. I had a very positive experi- ence at HVHS. A large school like HVHS can offer a wider range of subjects and extra- curricular activities than many smaller schools, and I was the type of pupil to seize on these opportunities. I had some fantastic teachers, some of whom are still at the school, who challenged me and equipped me with the skills and passion to take me all the way to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. I will always be grateful for the fantastic public education I received. However, I am concerned that a big school does not work for all pupils. In such a large school, it is too easy for some pupils to fall through the cracks, to have their educational needs go unnoticed, or for dangerous and concerning behaviour to be overlooked. As someone who intends to raise a family in Lower Hutt and believes strongly in public edu- cation, I sometimes wonder whether my children will have access to the same high quality public education I had. HVHS is the only co-educational public school in the southern part of Lower Hutt. I'm not sure it can cater to the diversity of edu- cational needs of all pupils, or keep all pupils safe, as it con- tinues to grow. The old Petone College site has sat empty for many years, and was the subject of an arson attack earlier this year. Instead of sitting there unused perhaps it is time to revisit the programme piloted in the early 2000s which utilised the old Petone College site as a satellite to HVHS, providing an option for those pupils who are not well suited to the sink or swim'' life in a big school? IMPORTANT ISSUE Given the importance of the events that took place at Hutt Valley High School in 2007 and 2008, the Hutt News has decided to use the space that would normally run for letters to the editor, to give the issue further coverage. If you want to have a say on the events at Hutt Valley High School, send a letter to email@example.com Working hard for 'change' Principal's statement CONTINUED Page 11 Holly, thank you for your letter and for your service to the school in your time here. Yes, the Ombudsman does say a change of culture can only be addressed through comprehensive engagement at every level of the agency. The incidents at Hutt Valley High School in 2007 prompted that change of culture, and the school has since made a comprehensive effort to address the issues concerned.'' In preparing this response, I have consulted a representative of the parents' group of 2007, as we do not want to be perceived as in any way minimising our response to the com- munity. The reply was that they are happy to see a reply to you which describes the steps we have taken. We have done a great deal of work, beginning with the advisory group which ran in 2008, and included rep- resentatives of the parents of the victims, police, staff and students. That group made recommendations that provided a pathway that has since been followed and expanded. Templates and documentation were reviewed to ensure the mistakes of 2007 were not repeated. A series of anti-bullying work- shops for Year 10 were run through 2008. Curriculum work around health and relationships was added to the core junior programme, and is the reason we now run a 26-spell junior programme alongside a 25-spell senior one. Year 9 students receive training in the Rock and Water programme, which works on inter-relationships, including bullying; what it is and how to deal with it. We work closely with the Lower Hutt police, with liaison aimed at allowing us to inter- cept potential wrongdoers at an early age so that we can teach the skills and decision-making needed to avoid them becoming of interest to police in their post-school lives. This is proactive work which aims to direct some students' pathways in life-changing directions and is the very heart of a true'' education. Guidance staffing was increased beyond the MOE funded levels to add more support for students, and a meeting room Te Manawa'' was equipped for longer family/whanau meetings. Some students with behavioural or other issues are offered small group guidance programmes specially designed to cater for their needs. Others are provided with mentors both from within and outside the school as is appropriate. A Youth Worker operates to offer leadership opportunities to small groups of students. Lunchtime sports activities have, until recently, been offered by a group whose funding has just been cut by their external funders and we are currently trying to arrange for another source of volunteers to run those sessions. A Code of Conduct has been intro- duced to spell out what we expect of students. The school is reaching the end of a Ministry-funded programme which offers training in restorative practices, and the Board of Trustees -- which has had a full presentation on the subject -- is supporting our continuation and extension of the programme by the appointment of a restorative practices co-ordinator and assistant. These teachers lead the 30-plus staff who have volun- teered to be the driving group who work to extend restorative practices throughout the school, not just in disciplinary matters. Staff have had three full days of work on the area during this year. We are in the second year of a literacy project that we will also con- tinue funding, in order to increase junior student engagement and suc- cess. Year 9 hub meetings have been established this year, where teachers of core classes discuss individual students, comparing their infor- mation on learning styles to share their knowledge of what works for students. A cluster of programmes -- Awhina, Success, and Victoria Out- reach -- are programmes that work to lift academic/science/tertiary study aspirations in students whose backgrounds may not have included the university/polytech environment. A minimum 85 per cent attendance has been required in 2011 for students to represent the school in sports, cultural or other activities.
September 6th 2011
September 20th 2011