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Kristin in the Media

Revealed: Top NZ Schools for getting into the world's best universities

An Auckland private school has topped a list of New Zealand colleges ranked for student achievement.

Kristin School beat 50 schools assessed by private tutoring company Crimson Education for giving students the best shot into top universities such as Stanford and Harvard.

... Kristin’s senior school principal David Boardman said students had continued to excel despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are extremely proud of how many students have gained entry to top ranked universities including Harvard, Yale and Cambridge.”

He said the school has always placed as much importance on students’ wellbeing and social development as their academic achievement and credited staff, students and the school community for the results.

The school had a university entrance rate of 96%, and an NCEA excellence rate of 25%. Read more>>

Published: Sunday Star Times: 3 July 2022

Editorials written by Mark Wilson, Executive Principal

Mark has an impressive and successful educational background, coming from ten years as Principal of Cashmere High School in Christchurch, Deputy Principal at Hamilton Boys' High School, Head of Faculty and Boarding at St Peter's School in Cambridge, Head of Dept. at St Paul's Collegiate (Hamilton) and earlier teaching at Hamilton Girls' High and Matamata College.

What is the real value of school?

If you can read this article, you’ve already benefited the value of schooling. Although the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic are not the only value of schools.

As business people look for return on investment, young people could well pause to ask themselves the same question on schooling. There is plenty of research to reassure students that the longer they stay at school and better their qualifications – the greater access they have to employment opportunities and higher incomes. Such benefits lead to a more prosperous, healthy and happy life. The better educated a person becomes the more they can contribute to growing the country’s economy and resource public services like health care.

In addition, the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions confirmed for us the social benefits of school. Being at school is best for young people’s learning, social development, as well as their mental and physical wellbeing. Being part of a diverse school community develops social awareness and appreciation of human difference – making our society a more inclusive and friendlier place. These critically important social skills are part of the “hidden curriculum” schools provide.

When parents choose the best school for their child, research shows that the culture and values of the school are some of the critical key decision factors. This is because parents want to know how their school will shape and influence the character and the person their child will grow up to be. School culture includes not only what happens in the classroom, but the attitudes and behaviours in the playground, sports fields, and social groups. While schools may teach the same curriculum, how they teach and what is the school culture can significantly vary. Parents must align their values and beliefs with the school of their choice.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. said “intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education”.

The long-term value of schooling can be seen in the impact young people go on to have in wider society. Are they equipped to think beyond themselves, and have a sense of service and belonging? Does their school engage in community action projects and service leadership opportunities that allow students to learn to contribute and give to others? It is through living out such social actions of giving and sharing that people develop qualities like gratitude, generosity, and compassion.

So, why do we go to school? The real value is not only to become the best person we can be and to live the best life for oneself, but also, to develop the values and character to help ensure we connect and belong in a community, to ultimately help make a positive difference in our world.

Editorial: Mark Wilson, Executive Principal, Kristin School
Published: Channel Magazine, April 2022

Thinking beyond yourself

The younger generation can often be criticised by their elders for being selfish, disrespectful, unengaged, or entitled. While these may sound like modern day complaints, these same criticisms were allegedly made by the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates almost 3,000 years ago. Clearly the generational differences continue to exist.

Yet in every generation, young people need to be taught how to think beyond themselves. This is to ensure they do not remain egocentric, so they feel part of something bigger than themselves and have a sense of belonging in their community. This is critically important not only for a safe, healthy, and compassionate society, but it is also vital for a strong and positive wellbeing for us as individuals.

We are all created and survive as social creatures. The success of human beings is not just because of our superior problem-solving brain (neocortex) but also our remarkable ability to cooperate. Part of finding your purpose is connecting and contributing to something larger than yourself. Biologically, chemicals in our body are released to reward and encourage us to work together and develop feelings of trust and loyalty. For example, serotonin rewards us for making social connections, such as when we gain approval from others or feel valuable for doing good for others. While our body produces the feel-good chemical of oxytocin when we build bonds of trust, friendship, and love.

Teaching young people to think beyond themselves is a key focus of what we do at Kristin School. This aims to help teach our young people to see beyond themselves and start to create a sense of purpose, as the ability to think about other people is developmentally linked with a sense of purpose. This then creates the desire to seek to make a positive difference in the world. The social and community projects that form part of Kristin’s International Baccalaureate (IB) programme develops such international thinking and mindsets.

At Kristin this includes helping young people develop beyond their self-interests. Such as providing new experiences, like joining clubs, planting trees, caring for animals, or identifying causes they want to support. Providing a diverse range of co-curricular activities, like sports and the performing arts, to enable collaboration to achieve as a team. Promoting strong values to help shape good character. Providing a curriculum, such as IB, that fosters diverse perspectives. Then ultimately having a safe school environment that models empathy and positive social behaviours.

As many of our young people metaphorically stand at the foot of a mountain, they see what they want – the summit. Our challenge as a school is to help them also see the mountain and equip them with the skills to enable them to climb to that summit.

Editorial: Mark Wilson, Executive Principal, Kristin School
Published: Channel Magazine, October 2021

How much screen time is too much?

Should we be alarmed by recent media stories about the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) research report which shows New Zealand's 15-year-olds spend more time on the internet than their peers in other OECD countries? The 2018 PISA tests showed New Zealand teens were spending 42 hours per week online, well above the OECD average of 35 hours per week and 22 hours higher than in 2012 (source: John Gerritsen, Radio NZ).

Firstly, we need to appreciate that our current generation of students are the first to have grown up with the Internet, smart phones, and social media. We should not be surprised with these new findings around increased time online, as digital technologies are now an integral part of modern living, with youth expecting to be digitally connected anytime and anywhere. In other words, it is not going away. Just as the inventions of the printing press, radio and television were all disruptive to society, so too is digital technology.
Research also shows positive educational outcomes with gains in student engagement and achievement when digital technologies are used effectively in teaching and learning. However, such technology must be thoughtfully integrated into our teaching and learning through purposeful and supportive teaching practices.

Digital technologies enabled schools to operate with remote learning under the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown conditions. Students were able to connect online with teachers and other students using video conferencing with tools such as Zoom and Teams, and also continued their learning via online learning platforms like Canvas and Google Classroom. While many students enjoyed the flexibility of the school day, many students were also keen to return on campus for the socialisation with peers, engaging with the wide range of co-curricular offerings and more personal nature of learning face-to-face with teachers and with peers.

At Kristin School, we seek to support our young people through age and stage appropriate access and use. We support our students in developing their social and emotional wellbeing on and offline by ensuring there are dedicated times when digital devices are not available, including during our school camps. From our youngest year levels we engage our students in learning the foundations of digital wellbeing, learning to develop a balanced relationship with technology, while advancing the skills needed to manage themselves online in a safe, mindful, and principled manner.

Families can support their students by implementing a range of strategies around creating digital-free times at home, including eating at the dinner table without gadgets, WIFI passwords provided after homework and chores are done, and not allowing devices in bedrooms at bedtime. We encourage families to talk with their children about what apps they are using, and what they are doing online and to collaboratively develop a plan for device use.

Screen time and digital devices is simply now part of our world, and we have the responsibility to equip our young people to be able to control and manage this, not to become slaves to them.

* Radio NZ, John Gerritsen, NZ teens among world's biggest internet users.

Editorial: Mark Wilson, Executive Principal, Kristin School
Published: Channel Magazine, June 2021

The future of schooling post COVID-19

“History never looks like history when you are living through it. It always looks confusing and messy, and it always feels uncomfortable.” (John W Gardner)

This quote is highly relevant as we navigate our way through the global COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has forced rapid change to the way we work and do business. As the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, said back in April of 2020: “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”. Our teachers certainly experienced this, as the new urgency for home-based learning triggered the increased use of various digital tools to deliver their teaching programmes.

While most senior students enjoyed some of the flexibility and independence of this new remote learning, they and their teachers also expressed how they missed the social and collaborative elements of traditional learning. Schooling will always be much more than its core business of educational outcomes around qualifications; schools are highly social and relational places. Humans are created for social relationships, a sense of belonging and a need to love and be loved. This is why meeting up with friends, being part of a sports team, performing with others on stage and engaging in service projects are all critically important aspects of schooling; they develop the whole young person and their character.

Most people recognise that these times will herald a profound period of change. However, the future of schooling will not permanently move to remote online learning – this would be detrimental for young people’s social skills, mental wellbeing, breadth of experiences and quality of learning and achievement.

We need to leverage technology in pursuit of genuine teaching practices that will prepare our young people for their future. This will not see the end of classroom learning; people will continue to seek out opportunities to connect and learn in person. However, learning experiences will need to be immersive, personalised, deeply relevant and engaging. This is where technology can help teachers to accomplish what they couldn’t do before.

As students gain access to knowledge through a few clicks on their personal device, the role of the teacher becomes redefined to guiding students understanding and application of their knowledge. COVID-19 has illustrated how globally interconnected we are, and here at Kristin our International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes position us to prepare our young people for this global world. These difficult times also highlight the need to develop wider character skills such as resilience, adaptability and emotional intelligence. Such life skills are not learnt in front of a digital screen, but through working with others in the classroom, on the sports fields and in the performing arts.

While this period of history is very confusing, messy and uncomfortable, I am ever so hopeful. This will be a critical moment in our history that positively transforms; and strengthens what schooling will be. Together, we can and will emerge from this better and stronger.

Editorial: Mark Wilson, Executive Principal, Kristin School
Published: Channel Magazine, February 2021

Editorials written by Jayne de la Haye, Junior School Principal

Jayne de la Haye is the Principal of Junior School and Early Learning at Kristin. She has spent over two decades teaching and leading in a variety of top-tier schools around the globe.

A Balanced Approach to Life

The idea of balance is one which is very much at the heart of our approach to learning in Kristin’s Junior School. It’s increasingly common for adults to reflect on the importance of balance in their lives; often relating to work-life balance, but less discussed is how this same concept applies to the wellbeing of children. As educators of young children, we are keenly aware of the benefits a balanced approach to learning has on their wellbeing.

One way we achieve balance is through the curriculum, which for us, is underpinned by the IB Primary Years Programme. This unique international curriculum enhances the essential educational elements: Physical, Social and Personal Education, Language, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science and Arts.

Language includes not only a structured approach to literacy in English, but also acknowledges the significant benefits of speaking more than one language. Exposure to Mandarin Chinese and te reo Māori ensures our students develop their linguistic skills whilst also opening a window into understanding of other cultures.

The contribution that a strong Arts education makes to wellbeing has long been recognised and we are fortunate to have a passionate team of specialist teachers whose expertise ensures learners also become confident at expressing themselves through a variety of creative and performing arts: Music - vocal and instrumental, Drama and Visual Arts.

Knowing that physical development supports personal social and emotional development, our specialist PE classes enable our students to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to participate in a whole variety of games and sports. This starts a journey that includes finding the spark for exercise that will keep them literally “moving” for life.

Our commitment to explicitly teaching social and personal development as a core curriculum area, rounds out the programme. We are focussed on ensuring that the essential skills of social interactions are broken down, practised and reinforced. Taking time to equip children with the fundamental skills of self-awareness, self-management and emotional literacy also enhances their personal development which allows them to reach their potential. Our values based approach, reinforced through Chapel, assemblies and student leadership opportunities sets the tone for a positive, supportive and healthy culture that is fundamental to supporting wellbeing for all our students.

However, it is through the outdoor education, co-curricular clubs, music and sport opportunities, outside of the regular programme that we are able to elevate the experience of our students to ensure the element of balance in their lives. Being able to stimulate intellectual curiosity during the school day and then participate in choir, sports, or a fun club such as cooking, art or technology, gives everyone the balance in their lives that is such an important protective factor to life’s stresses and strains.

The focus of our children’s Junior School experience is to embrace the diverse opportunities available, be open-minded to new ideas and skills and have multiple opportunities to shine. As a result, we see well-balanced individuals prepared to take their next steps.

Editorial: Jayne de la Haye, BSC (HONS), PGCE, MSC, Principal of Kristin Junior School and Early Learning
Published: Channel Magazine, June 2022

If the last two years have taught us anything...

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that we can never be sure quite what’s around the next corner. Restrictions to our normal everyday activities have highlighted that we cannot take such simple pleasures as meeting with friends, or even going to school or workplaces, for granted. And it’s difficult to know when and if these restrictions will occur and even the exact nature of what they will be.

Such unpredictability and sense of loss can be difficult to manage and lead to feelings such as helplessness, anxiety, anger and sadness. Yet, as with all disruptions, along with these challenges comes opportunities.

The opportunity here is to learn the skills and mindsets that develop resilience. As the author Amanda Ripley found from her research: “Resilience is a precious skill. People who have it tend to also have three underlying advantages: a belief that they can influence life events; a tendency to find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil; and a conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences.”

One way we have found helpful for children (and adults!) to retain a positive outlook through our recent challenging times has been to role-model that; while we may not have the power to change the external events creating these disruptions to our lives, we are able to exert some control over how we respond to it.

We did this by promoting the message “make the most of every day”, and working with children to identify how they could do this.

Spending a few moments towards the end of each day reflecting on what you are grateful for, and identifying things you have enjoyed about the day is a great strategy for getting the brain to focus on positive emotions. Sharing this with each other can spark ideas and remind each other of things that are good about the day. Practising gratitude helps us focus on what we do have, rather than what we don’t. An easy way to start this process is by simply taking it in turns to complete the phrase “My favourite part of the day was…”

Another way to reflect on the day, is to think about how other people have contributed to helping your day go well. Being mindful of how the actions of others has impacted on your day, makes you realise how your actions can be equally impactful on others. Creating a culture where people take the time to be appreciative of each other with “thank-you”s and complements builds a positive atmosphere.

Being Proactive:
One way to feel more in control is to set small achievable goals. If something hasn’t gone so well in the day, think about what you might be able to do to change things the next day. Or if you might need some help, who could you go to for support. Likewise, if everything did go well, what could you do to build on your success? Rather than dwelling on what didn’t go so well, working out a next step can gives us something to focus on and look forward.

The year ahead may still be uncertain, but what we have learned is that by using these strategies to take each day at a time, before you know it, you’ll be amazed when you look back and see how far you’ve come!

Editorial: Jayne de la Haye, BSC (HONS), PGCE, MSC, Principal of Kristin Junior School and Early Learning
Published: Channel Magazine, January 2022

Positive Parenting

There can’t be a parent who hasn’t at some time wished for an instruction manual on how to “operate” their child. Whether it be seeking advice on how to get them to sleep through the night, toilet training, dealing with anxiety, helping them make friends and then navigate the increasing complexities of social interactions, or gaining some control over screen time. There’s a whole industry dedicated to supporting parents on these, and a multitude of other issues, through books, webinars, podcasts, blogs, and workshops.

However, as anyone who has a relationship with more than one child can attest; children come in many different “models” and the operating tricks that successfully work with one, often fail to work with another!

Once your children start at an Early Learning Centre, or school, you are also able to access the insight of teachers, who can offer additional words of wisdom gained from their years of experience working with this wonderful variety of children. At Kristin, we know how valuable parents find the support systems a school can provide. We actively seek to build strong relationships both between teachers and parents, but also between parents. We also know that having Specialist Teachers for subjects such as PE, Music, Art, Languages and Drama allows us to gain insight into what might make your child tick outside of the regular classroom.

The main message I would give any parent is that the positive approach that we use towards getting the best out of your child at school, is also the most effective approach to parenting. It allows you to tailor your approach to each individual child, and stay true to your own values, while staying committed to your child’s success.

Children always do better when we frame our parenting around positive, strengths-based approaches. This means focussing on our excitement about the people we want to help them become, and not on our fears about the bad qualities we feel we must protect them from developing.

“Defensive parenting”, where energy is used to monitor children for signs of weakness or faults, is also best avoided. When children sense that we have fears about them turning out badly, they start to believe that’s a possibility. Ironically, our anxiety can fuel their self-doubt, and set off a chain of undesirable behaviours. Alternatively, if we show we have faith in them; and believe they have the capacity to make good choices, they in turn will develop confidence in their ability and move in a positive direction.

Like every skill, parenting takes practise. I urge you to practise positive parenting, and encourage you to share with your child, whatever their age, your belief that they are full of wonderful qualities. Remember too, to celebrate your achievements as parents and move forward together as a family.

Hurihia to aroaro ti te ra tukuna to atarangi kia taka ki muri i a koe
Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you - Maori Proverb

Editorial: Jayne de la Haye, BSC (HONS), PGCE, MSC, Principal of Kristin Junior School and Early Learning
Published: Channel Magazine, July 2021

The Freedom to Leverage our Expertise and Deliver Effective Programmes

One of the big advantages of teaching and learning in an independent school is freedom - the freedom to create an educational experience that truly aligns with our beliefs about what learners need. Independent schools are required by the Ministry of Education to demonstrate that they are safe places for children, but they are not required to follow the Government’s National Education Guidelines. Instead they can work with their parent community to deliver a curriculum that meets the values and expectations of those who have chosen the school. At Kristin, commitment to EOTC (Education outside of the Classroom) experiences such as forest learning in the Junior School, and Camp Week for the entire Middle and Senior School (Years 7-13), are two examples of this, while another is selecting the delivery and content of the curriculum.

Recently the media has shown renewed interest in some approaches to teaching and learning advocated by the Ministry of Education. Debate around how best to teach students is a worthwhile discussion, but it reminded me of the fatigue that many experienced teachers endure as a result of the introduction of a succession of initiatives. Even more disheartening is when teachers experience ideas going full circle and techniques that they used in the past, and were then told to disregard, are reintroduced; often under the guise of a snappy new title. This is the reality faced by many who work within national education systems and it also accounts for huge amounts of investment of both time and money in updating resources, providing training and reworking planning and assessment.

Many educators who prefer to work within the independent sector are attracted by the freedom to develop a curriculum and teaching style that is grounded in evidence-based experience and best practice. It allows schools such as Kristin to attract teachers who are passionate about doing everything they can to meet the needs of individual students. The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum that underpins much of our curriculum is the result of years of collaboration and research from dedicated teachers with real-life experience, from around the globe. This is unique among educational systems and explains why the IB retains its reputation for rigor and excellence.

In the Middle School, the IB Middle Years Programme encourages academic excellence alongside a truly broad range of learning experiences to ensure well-rounded students with academic, social and study skills are ready to meet the challenges of Senior School and beyond. In Senior School our students have the freedom of a dual pathway that allows them to choose between NCEA and the IB Diploma programme, depending on their individual needs and preferences.

In the Junior School, our independence guarantees that our approaches to the basics of literacy and numeracy are always balanced. A ‘structured literacy’ approach, which has received much support in the press recently, is about ensuring our youngest learners are explicitly taught phonics, and the essential foundation of phonological awareness. Phonics has always been a part of Kristin’s Junior School literacy programme as our experienced teachers understand how important a sequential approach to learning sound and letter relationships is to mastering literacy skills. They draw on the best of both a phonics approach, alongside an understanding of how to develop children’s love of books and a ‘can do’ attitude to reading and writing.

For teachers who truly love seeing the difference they make, there is no more rewarding place to work, than an environment that has the freedom to embrace their expertise and empowers them to use it in the most effective ways.

Editorial: Jayne de la Haye, BSC (HONS), PGCE, MSC, Principal of Kristin Junior School and Early Learning
Published: Channel Magazine, June 2021

Editorials written by Dave Scott, Middle School Principal

Dave is an experienced and innovative educator, passionate about the learning and well-being of young people. He has a proven track record of providing leadership and excellence in teaching and learning, pastoral care, boarding, service learning and co-curricular activities within a variety of independent schools in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. 

Tracking Education

In these pandemic times, we are questioning things much more than we ever used to before. This questioning is especially true for education and, in particular, schools. Schools have always used data to track students' educational improvement. The problem is how to use this data and what does it tell us? For example, many people fixate on the headline figures of NCEA attainment. Schools are then judged by the percentage of students achieving at the various levels and how many students performed academically with excellence. The problem is that there are many other measures and ways to show the value added to a student's journey through school.

If we think about change and improvement in our education system, it would seem an ideal time to consider what types of data we should be looking at to assess student progress. At Kristin, we have always believed in and promoted a comprehensive, holistic education to get the best from students and prepare them for the world they will face after school. This belief means taking an approach that recognises a broader curriculum as essential to development. Academic excellence and achievement are only one part of a student's school experience. In addition, being involved in cultural activities, the arts, sport and recreation, service and leadership are all hugely important to the development of the all-around student.

At Kristin, we have devised a range of innovative ways of placing wider achievement at the heart of our curriculum. An example is our Dove Award, a three-tier programme that encourages students to be involved in the full range of activities offered inside and outside the academic programme. Students work towards the gold award, which requires them to participate in music, art, drama, dance, sport, community service, outdoor education, leadership and much more. Furthermore, in Year 10, all students participate in the Community Project. The project is a year-long process completed individually or in small groups that sees students taking action to make a positive change in their local community. They have a staff advisor who tracks their progress, and they also need to maintain a process journal, take action and then present their reflections on the impact their project has had on themselves and their target group. The community project teaches many different skills and neatly links with our Altruistic Leadership Programme. This programme sees over 20 leadership teams working with various organisations such as Ronald MacDonald House, The Salvation Army, Starship Hospital, Lady Allum House, and Mercy Hospice. As a result, our students learn that leadership is all about service and giving your time to others; it's not about position, title, or wearing a badge.

These types of opportunities heighten the school experience and allow those students whose strengths do not lie solely in the classroom the opportunity to excel. We know and are constantly reminded that the skills required for success in the 21st Century are those of critical thinking, collaboration and creativity. Alongside these, our students need to learn relationship-building, strengths awareness, and self-efficacy. I would argue that these skills are best understood in the broader curriculum. At Kristin, we have shown that the opportunities mentioned above and others like community service and the Duke of Edinburgh Award can be essential for a holistic 21st-century educational programme. 

However, to return to my starting point, a similar vision from those responsible for education at the higher level is required to acknowledge the importance and value-added of the broader curriculum and ensure parity of esteem with academic achievement.

Editorial: Dave Scott MEd (Hons), BSc (Hons), PGDipEDLEAD, PGCE, Middle School Principal, Kristin School
Published: Channel Magazine, July 2022

Authenticity – Being your true self

I often speak to students and parents about authenticity and how a vital aim of a Middle School education at Kristin is to develop our students in ways that allow them to be their authentic selves. To do this, they must learn many things: speaking opinions honestly in healthy and constructive ways, making decisions that align with their values and beliefs, pursuing their passions, listening to their inner voice guiding them forward and finally allowing themselves to be vulnerable and open-hearted. Perhaps the most important of these is to learn how to be vulnerable and open-hearted. I believe in leadership by example and that by demonstrating vulnerability to students, they will learn and understand the power of this trait.

Last term, I firmly grasped the vulnerability nettle by performing a traditional Morris Dance along with several colleagues at Kristin's International Peace Night as part of our International Week. I think the students appreciated seeing their teachers join them and participate in this event, and it helped to remove the mask that all of us can sometimes wear.

I think that society sometimes tells us that we need to wear a mask, act a certain way, and say certain things to be accepted. So, a question I often ask students is, are you wearing a mask? Are you just playing a role to fit in or impress others?

As adults, most of us have gone through times like this. Instead of behaving genuinely, we tell people what we think they want to hear and act in ways that go against our true nature. The problem is that living and working like this is limiting and holds us back from reaching our true potential. Instead, we should strive to live and work authentically, to permit ourselves to be ourselves. That way, we can choose our life course and not be tied to others’ expectations. I love this quote from Roy T. Bennett.

"You were born to stand out; stop trying to fit in."

What this says to me is, in simple terms, authenticity means being true to your personality, values, and spirit, regardless of the pressure you're under to act otherwise. If you're honest with yourself and with others, and you take responsibility for your mistakes, then your values, ideals, and actions align. The result is, you come across as genuine, and you're willing to accept the consequences of being true to what you consider to be right.

At Kristin, we believe that for our students living an authentic life is infinitely more rewarding than hiding your true self. When you live authentically, you don't have to worry about what you said (or didn't say), how you acted, or whether you did the right thing. Living authentically means you can trust yourself and your motivations implicitly.

In short, you can be your true self.

Editorial: Dave Scott, MEd (Hons), BSc (Hons), PGDipEDLEAD, PGCE, Middle School Principal, Kristin School
Published: Channel Magazine, September 2021

Inquiry-Based Learning

In my job as Middle School Principal at Kristin, I interview a lot of prospective students. I always ask them what their experience of school and learning is like and what kind of learning excites them. Usually, they talk about ''inquiry'', something they get to do rarely but something they would like to do more often.

There's a lot of talk about the importance of inquiry-based learning in education. Yet, despite all the hype, there is often a lack of clarity around what, precisely, inquiry-based learning is. The origin of the word "educate", the Latin word educo, means to bring out or pull from, and develop from within. Inquiry-based learning does just that. While there is no one correct, all-encompassing definition, in general, inquiry-based learning refers to a set of active approaches that encourage students to engage with new ideas through curiosity and exploration. As protagonists of their own learning process, students develop new knowledge and skills while charting their own course. And therefore, develop longer-lasting competencies and critical skills such as self-efficacy, critical thinking, problem-solving and relationship building in the process.

As an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, Kristin offers the IB curriculum to all of our students from Junior to Senior School. Importantly the IB curriculum is grounded in an inquiry approach to learning. Kristin has been following the IB inquiry-based curriculum for over 30 years now, and yet inquiry remains something that many schools are only still dabbling in today. Inquiry learning improves performance in all subjects, from arts to science. To truly establish a culture of inquiry-based learning, it is vital to have talented and trained teachers who can move beyond merely asking questions. At Kristin, we are fortunate to have such teachers who are mindful that every type of question they ask gives students a different kind of opportunity to demonstrate their learning. Our teachers also understand that an inquiry approach goes beyond asking students to connect to the text or imagine what might happen next. It means asking questions that demand students use evidence from the text to support their thinking. It means challenging students to respond to the differing ideas of their classmates. And it means pushing students to further their thinking; it is about developing self-reliant thinkers. At Kristin, we ask our students' curiosity-driven questions, where teachers are genuinely searching for meaning right alongside their students, co-creating the content as they progress.

Because of this approach to inquiry-based learning at Kristin, the process clicks, the students thrive, and the sense of achievement is palpable. Students love participating and expressing their thoughts, and when the bell rings, you can hear the discussion of great ideas continue down the hallway. With the guidance of their teachers, students can build the critical thinking, reading comprehension, empathic speaking, listening, and problem-solving skills they need to carry beyond the classroom and into the rest of their lives.

Editorial: Dave Scott MEd (Hons), BSc (Hons), PGDipEDLEAD, PGCE, Middle School Principal, Kristin School
Published: Channel Magazine, April 2021

A vaping time-bomb

I was 14 years old when I was first offered a cigarette. It was during a school ski trip in the French Alps. I took a drag in the cable car on the way up the mountain, thought it was horrible and never touched a cigarette again. I told my Mum about it when I got home. I think, being a realist who had been a social smoker herself growing up in the '60s, she'd accepted that I would try smoking at some point but would hopefully find it too unpleasant to continue, luckily she was right!

The digital age has its benefits and there is certainly an argument that some social media use is positive.  However, what concerns me are platforms like TikTok and Instagram advertising and pushing vaping as a cool, almost healthy normal activity.  It has become a big problem in New Zealand schools.  Online vape sellers boast of no ID verification and even offer ‘discreet packaging’ disguising vapes among things like beauty products to help teens hide them from their parents.  I shouldn't be shocked. After all, social media, like the internet, simply provides a new forum for the kind of behaviours that have long been normal behaviour. Growing up, there was always someone with a big sister who knew someone who knew someone happy to buy you whatever you wanted. Is it any worse if similar things are happening online now instead? 

When I was growing up, my parents generally knew where I was at any given time, who I was with and what I was doing. Today, when our children are online in their bedroom, do we know what they are looking at? Do we always know whom they are talking to? Or do we assume they are safe simply because they're at home? Vaping companies are not stupid, they know that our tamariki provide a vast market for their products. All the more frustrating, when you consider the positive strides taken towards making tobacco and cigarettes less accessible and aspirational. Indeed, the percentage of 15-year-old smokers in New Zealand has fallen from 14 per cent in 2007 to 1.4 per cent in 2021, according to Whilst these smoking statistics are encouraging, unfortunately, vaping is promoted as less harmful than cigarettes whereas, in reality, vaping is very harmful to our young people.  In the United States, the Centres for Disease Control warns vaping is "unsafe for children, teens, and young adults"; that nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.  

So whilst New Zealand’s smoke-free objective for 2025 is admirable, I contend that we are facing a vaping time-bomb among our children, fuelled by a dangerously unregulated promotion of vapes on a variety of digital platforms that most parents have no idea about. The problem with screens and platforms like TikTok is it's easy to grow complacent about our children's use of them because it can make our own lives so much easier when they are seemingly innocently engaged. The vaping time bomb that social media may have in store for our tamariki should serve as a warning of the harms that lurk in the dark corners of these popular sites.

Editorial: Dave Scott MEd (Hons), BSc (Hons), PGDipEDLEAD, PGCE, Middle School Principal, Kristin School
Published: Channel Magazine, February 2022

Editorials written by David Boardman, Senior School Principal

David’s passions lie in the importance of strong positive relationships, international curriculum development and helping students build resilience. David has been involved with the International Baccalaureate Organisation for nearly 20 years, initially as a teacher, senior examiner and senior moderator in biology and chemistry. Currently, he Chairs both the NZ IB Heads Caucus and IB Schools Australasia.

School Sports in Decline

While many of us are aware of the impact that the past two years has had on schools and the academic achievement of some students, an area often overlooked is how sport and participation in sport has been affected.

School Sport New Zealand reported in 2020 that the overall number of students participating in school sport declined to 48%, the first time it had dropped below 50% in over a decade. Teacher participation had dropped to 29%.

Many students, staff and volunteers persevered though, and ensured that sport continued as best as possible during this time. While traditional team sports show a decrease in participation, these are being replaced by newer disciplines, such as skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and snowsports. As the sports that students are exposed to in events such as the Olympics change, their interests also change. Regardless of this change, the important thing is to get students and teachers supporting sport wherever and whenever they can.

Sport not only enables students to build fitness and maintain their health, but also to develop skills, establish identity and provide balance to the demands of academic work. Sports help teach various skills such as leadership, patience, team working and social skills. They encourage students to drive themselves to not only improve and chase the win, but also to be humble and accepting when they lose.

Sports and the interaction between player and coaches or parents, encourage students to develop a positive mindset. This in turn boosts emotional fitness, as players enjoy the interaction with others, celebrate their successes and get a feeling of happiness, reducing stress and maintaining mental health.

Regular exercise and having a routine assists in developing focus, which supports the academic studies of students and combining this with being able to see the improvement that comes with regular training, boosts self-esteem and confidence.

Students in Auckland have access to a wide range of sports, with our easy access to the water, mountain biking trails, well supported sports centres, Snowplanet, a growing range of climbing and bouldering centres and skateparks, all of which supplement the parks where it is possible to practise touch, football and often basketball or netball.

Sports play a central role in student life at Kristin and their benefits stretch far beyond the enjoyment of competing with friends and colleagues. These benefits can be seen in the classroom and will help support and provide our students with skills needed to make the most of their abilities after they leave Kristin. I implore any student who is not currently involved in a sport to talk to their sports department or investigate what is available to them locally, find out what is available, get out there and have some fun. It’s definitely worth it.

Editorial: David Boardman, Bsc (Hons), PGCE MIBiol CBiol, Kristin Senior School
Published: Channel Magazine, Septembe 2022

Planning for post-covid teaching

While New Zealand Aotearoa has been in a very enviable position over the past 18 months regarding the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on society, many countries have, and are still, needing to reassess how they approach tasks. One area that has been notably impacted in many countries is education, both how it is delivered during lockdowns and in considering what is delivered.

New Zealand has a very solid New Zealand Curriculum and NCEA is currently being reviewed and adjusted to meet the changing needs of our students. Some schools also choose to offer alternative pathways alongside NCEA, such as Cambridge International or International Baccalaureate options. All of these strengthen the offerings and opportunities for our students, but they also have one thing in common. They were all designed in a pre-COVID environment. So why change if New Zealand has a solid foundation? Because many other countries are looking at what is best for students, both now and in the future, and we need to ensure that New Zealand continues to offer our students a world-class education, preparing them for lives both here and potentially overseas. So how is this done?

Professor Robin Alexander carried out the most extensive review of primary education for 40 years and highlighted the need to not only embed literacy and numeracy in the curriculum, but also curiosity, joy, interpersonal skills and enthusiasm. These ‘whole child’ attributes were seen as critical in laying a solid foundation, meeting the purpose and values which primary education should espouse. The culture also needs to be right, setting up ‘enabling spaces’ that allow for development of the three most critical threads, binding the curriculum together. These are ‘playful enquiry’, ‘habits of the mind’ (self-regulation) and ‘oracy and dialogue’.

Once these aspects are in place, planning can start on what you will teach. Again, this on the surface seems simple, but the needs of students and how they learn has changed considerably over the past two decades and none more than in the last 18 months. Just like many workplaces have adapted to flexible working patterns, students have adjusted their learning styles and there is no reason why this should not move to what we teach them and how this is delivered. Micro-credentialing is on the rise and similar approaches could be adopted for students, focusing on the topics they need to complete an inquiry-based project, when they are needed. This approach could provide greater student agency and teacher autonomy, moving to a skills-based curriculum and away from content heavy, knowledge-based ones.

This would, however, require new thinking around assessment and that is still currently driven to a larger degree by what universities around the world accept and recognise. Without greater flexibility here, schools are to some degree tied to an existing model.

There are still learning points that we can focus on and should be ensuring are in place:
Better support – a coherent and sharing approach where teachers can share resources openly and collaborate in their planning. Embedding values – assisting students in developing empathy and awareness of global issues. Promoting autonomy – essentially learning how to learn, as this is the basis for all future learning and skills development after school when facing new challenges. Physical and emotional health – there are clear links between physical and emotional health and life satisfaction, and as such these should be critical parts of any curriculum and in some countries are built into the daily school timetable. Look towards the future – we must remember that what and how we are teaching students is not to prepare them for today’s challenges, rather to provide them with the skills to tackle tomorrow’s challenges. This needs to remain as a clear vision and focus from which everything else then grows.

A daunting challenge, but one that educational leaders and policy makers need to recognise and accept that initially we may not get it right, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try and that this is a time when many will be reviewing how to best serve our students into the future.

Editorial: David Boardman, Bsc (Hons), PGCE MIBiol CBiol, Kristin Senior School
Published: Channel Magazine, June 2022

Catering for neurodiversity

At Kristin we are very aware that our students are not all the same. There is diversity amongst our students in terms of their first language, their cultural background, subject preferences, and an almost limitless list of other factors that can be used to compare them.

An area that we have been focusing on over the past few years, and will do into the future is neurodiversity. This term, first coined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer in 1998, refers to natural variations in the human brain, both in terms of structure, and how it functions. As a biologist, this does not surprise me considering that the human brain is one of the most complex found in nature, and is constantly developing and changing throughout life.

This variation clearly has an impact on how each of us perceives the world and also how we learn. What works for one individual will not necessarily work for others. Again, this is not news, but is something that education has been increasingly focused on over the past 10-15 years, recognising that differentiation in the classroom is critical.

I was reminded of this recently when reading about Aphantasia, an inability for some people to voluntarily create a mental image of things. We assume that when we explain or describe something to somebody, they will visualise what we see. This is not always the case. Although first described in 2015, this has been recognised since the 1880s when psychologist Francis Galton asked his subjects, including one Charles Darwin, to visualise themselves at a breakfast table, only to find that some found this impossible.

What does this mean for us as teachers and parents? This goes beyond talking about learning styles and identifies that each of us is different, each will perceive the world differently, and each of us will learn in different ways. As teachers, we need to provide students with a wide variety of learning opportunities, so that we cater for as many as possible, preferably getting to know our students and what works for them. As parents, we need to recognise that what worked for us, does not necessarily work for our children and we need to be cognisant of this.

Kristin students are in a strong position with this. They have small classes where the teachers can get to know students as individuals, and they also have teachers who care for then as individuals and have a desire to enable each and every one of them to achieve at the best of their potential.

Editorial: David Boardman, Bsc (Hons), PGCE MIBiol CBiol, Kristin Senior School
Published: Channel Magazine, March 2021

Extracurricular activities and EOTC

At the time of writing this piece, looking out of my window with students back on campus, making their way to end of year assessments and the summer break quickly approaching, it is very easy to focus entirely on the impending examination period. However, what the past 18 months has reinforced for schools across the globe is the importance of extracurricular activities and education outside of the classroom (EOTC).

Extracurricular activities are a fun and very effective way of combining academic and pastoral strands of a school’s offering, while aiding students and staff a return to a feeling of normality. Holistically, they assist in offering students opportunities to develop collaboration, leadership, communication, confidence, resilience, engagement, decision making and creativity. At Kristin we have included all of these in our programmes, and here is a brief overview of a few key areas of focus:

Sport and physical extracurricular activities are an excellent opportunity for students to show leadership. This is not just about selecting “captains”, but also showing and developing organisational skills and coordination, especially with older students assisting younger ones. These activities enable students to take ownership and lead others. They also enable students to see how every member of a team is critical to its success, whether the team captain, the coach or the kit person.

Decision making
Learning how to make decisions under pressure and at times when the outcome rests on your decision is something that needs to be practiced. Being able to place students in positions where they will need to quickly change their strategies, adapt to situations, and quickly make judgement calls helps prepare them for similar challenges in later life, while also giving them ownership over those decisions and taking responsibility for the outcomes.

Effective communication in a large team, when under pressure is not an easy task. By getting students to evaluate different methods of communication, they can start to understand what works best in different situations and this also highlights that the needs will change in different situations. Challenging them by limiting communication opportunities can help ensure that the opportunities they do have are more effective and start to focus in on the key factors that lead to good, effective communication.

Through challenging students in a variety of activities, it shows how different leadership styles and approaches are more, or less effective in a range of situations. It can be quite easy to look out onto a sports field and spot the natural leaders but place the same students in a different environment and ask if those people are still seen as the leaders in the group. Through offering a range of activities in which students need to collaborate, we can show how different leadership styles are required and how these need to be combined with decision making and effective communication to ensure success.

We also need to remember that extracurricular activities are also a chance to come together, have fun, engage with new experiences, and strengthen the feeling of belonging that should exist in a school. No matter how a school has adapted and catered for the academic needs of students over the past few months, the social and emotional needs are just, if not more important, and we should never lose sight of how to meet these developmental needs.

Editorial: David Boardman, Bsc (Hons), PGCE MIBiol CBiol, Kristin Senior School
Published: Channel Magazine, November 2021

How do we equip our graduates to 'live in and with' the world?

Right from its inception in 1973, Kristin has had a vision to prepare our students to move out into the World and make a difference wherever they go. This in turn led to decisions around the curriculum offered and the philosophic direction of the school, developing international mindedness and ensuring that Kristin graduates are Future Ready.
This aligns closely with a lot of the research undertaken by the late Sir Ken Robinson, and has led me, more recently, to read work by Professor Gert Biesta who is working with educators across the globe.
Professor Biesta discusses how many countries still focus on a curriculum-centred education where emphasis is placed on transferring knowledge to the student and then measuring their understanding of this. While there are slightly different methods for this, and ways of measuring progress, the end goal is always very similar. Alternatively, there is child-centred education where the focus is on the child, the talents they have and the benefits of play-based education. One of these is very popular in earlier education and we all recognise that there is a shift towards the other as students progress through school.
He goes on to suggest a third option that to some extent combines the two in a relationship, but most importantly includes how to equip the next generation to live ‘in and with’ the world. This world-centred approach considers not only the student, but also how they do and will fit into the world and to recognise its limits. It hopes to make students aware and prepared to address issues that we are currently facing, such as the ecological crisis, the democratic crisis and the ego-logical crisis, where individuals place too much emphasis on themselves and forget the wider impact their lives have.
The past two years have shown us the need for people to identify how their actions can have a wide-ranging and sometime international impact. Our students may be facing challenges that require them to form global links, consider the impact of their decisions, not only on their own lives, but also potentially on those in countries they have never visited. Relationships, travel, economies, all aspects of life are becoming increasingly global and inter-twined. How do we prepare our students for this? How do we ensure that their focus is outward looking, rather than inward?
Many of the questions that education asks are existential questions and here at Kristin education is first and foremost a verb: something we do. Kristin students are being exposed to global issues, they are using inquiry-based learning to look at big issues, they are developing their cultural awareness and I believe they are being prepared to tackle some of these crises that are currently facing the world.  Kristin students get involved in service activities, sustainability programmes, leadership, and cultural activities. Our students are Future Ready, and this increasingly means being prepared to take on the challenges of being a global citizen and recognising the importance of doing so. 
As has often been stated when looking at global issues like climate change, the time to make change is now, before it is too late. This means that a lot may rest on their shoulders, and it is our responsibility to provide them with the skills and perspectives to meet these.

Editorial: David Boardman, Bsc (Hons), PGCE MIBiol CBiol, Kristin Senior School
Published: Channel Magazine, May 2022

Come and visit Kristin

Step inside our gates and see for yourself what makes Kristin so unique. We invite you to take a tour and observe a typical school day. Take the opportunity to engage personally with student guides and staff.