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Student stories - School's life

Meet our new Principal, Russell Brooke

A warm welcome to our new Principal, Mr Russell Brooke who joins us today from his role as Principal of Long Bay College where he enjoyed a successful nine-year tenure. Married with two adult sons and a greyhound called Wild, he is a passionate boatie and a gifted musician. Mr Brooke believes a strong culture and family values are at the heart of any great school.

What made you choose to come to ACG Parnell College?

It was about timing and opportunity and the chance to do something a bit different. In saying that, I was equally attracted to its similarities with Long Bay College. At both schools parents care about their children and about education, the school has family values and respect, and students and staff enjoy working hard and learning and teaching.

How would you describe your educational philosophy?

Learning and teaching are essentially very simple. They’re about building strong relationships, about working and about practice. It doesn’t have to be complicated to do it well. Great teachers are essential, as are great families. When you put those together, you have something brilliant.

What makes a great school?

A strong culture, values and work ethic. You can feel the culture of a school very quickly when you walk into it. I could feel the energy, dynamism, enthusiasm and love here when I visited.

The staff and students want to be there, they enjoy learning and teaching. When you are growing children and young people into magnificent young people by the end of Year 13, you need everyone working together to help them move through adolescence.

What excites you about education?

The students. The fact that you’re making a difference and working for the future. Making great people and watching them go off to do amazing things.

It’s never been more important than now to build on the future. Today’s students will need to make incredibly important decisions about sustainability, artificial intelligence, work and careers. They need to address the question of what it means to be a human in a changing world.

Right now, education is at a crossroads. As educators we need to think about how we produce students who can create, think and adapt to the future.

What does a holistic education mean to you?

In the modern world, there’s no point in producing children that are all the same – the old-fashioned sausage factory – because there will be no jobs for them. We need creative, independent people that are all different. Those people are created through opportunities that we tailor make for them –helping them play to their strengths to develop into whoever they can be.

This means teaching resilience, helping children deal with blows and getting things wrong, helping them ask for help. All activities can teach skills like teamwork, sharing loss, winning humbly. These are vital skills in the modern world, which help to open pathways to success alongside high personal academic achievement.

Do you have any immediate plans for the school?

I’d like to settle in, get to know the school, meet people. I’d like to always be moving forwards – it’s important not to rest on our laurels.

What are your thoughts on the educational landscape in NZ?

To be honest, I’m worried that state sector education is in trouble. Funding is going down and NCEA is losing its integrity and has become distorted. It has loaded students up to an unbelievable level, so they’re under stress all year with no time to recover. I’m incredibly pleased to be at a Cambridge school now.

Worldwide, there is a tension between teaching students to get excellent exam results and teaching students who can create, think and do stuff. NZ is in a dilemma about where it sits. In my opinion it is possible to have an awesome school that does both.