Baverstock Oaks Primary School

Genee Crowley
Baverstock Oaks Primary School principal Genee Crowley

Baverstock Oaks Primary School had a pandemic plan before COVID hit, but it wasn’t much help for the first lockdown, principal Genee Crowley says. Staff were still left with lots of uncertainty: “What did we need to pack up and for how long? What did we need etc?”

But they learned from the first lockdown and were much better prepared for whatever followed, thereby demonstrating lifelong learning in action.

Genee says staff put systems in place and worked hard together to develop hard packs and systems for distributing them along with devices. That distribution system also gave staff an opportunity to check in on families and identify any further support they needed.

Accessing wider support was important, and school staff reached out to local churches, businesses and external agencies whenever a need was identified, including for food parcels. Staff continued to visit families who were not connecting with the school and provided further support where needed.

If proof were needed, Genee says it showed that schools are about much more than just learning.

Communication was an essential part of leading through the pandemic. The Ministry of Education’s Bulletin updates and information, and support provided by the school’s Senior Advisor, helped the school meet the challenge of fielding requests from families who turned to the school for information, clarification and explanation. This was particularly so in Baverstock Oaks' community where 50 percent of learners are ESOL.

“As a leader, I worked with my leadership team to try and stay ahead of all the information and get clarification from the ministry, principal associations and other colleagues,” Genee says. “The leadership team, after every announcement, identified key messages, actions that were required and then shared this with staff and the Board of Trustees. We then provided clear, timely updates to our community.”

That communication was important for developing a system for students to return safely to school. Staff staggered students’ return using surnames to group each cohort, which ensured that families were not split and could all attend on the same days.

“This worked brilliantly, and parents knew what we were doing and why.” 

The pandemic has enabled the school to take advantage of developing its online learning environment. It already had a strong foundation, but staff were able to strengthen that with authentic learning opportunities, and used all the platforms available to keep their community connected. That also helped with students’ transitions back to school, and for those just starting school. The online environment has also changed the way staff share information with parents about their child’s learning, with online phone calls and Zooms to set goals and discuss progress becoming parents’ preferred option.

Other challenges the school has contended with include the need to reassure parents that school is a safe environment for children to return to; Genee says good communication has helped with that. The school has also had to strengthen its school entry programme, as the students who were starting school for the first time had missed early childhood environments and the opportunity to play with peers.

“Just teaching them to take turns is a big thing.”

The school has focused our Learning Assistants to work with these children as well as using Zooms to ensure they have met the principal and their teacher and seen the school environment before starting so it is not all new.

In addition, students with diverse needs have needed additional support – “they liked learning at home and have found the transition back into the big learning spaces at school challenging” – and teachers have found wearing masks makes it difficult at times, especially with ESOL learners. The Board has helped redirect additional support to help.

Genee says the staff and Board have been amazing, and there has been great support, resourcing, feedback and regular communication across all groups.

“While the last two years have been hugely demanding, and at times exhausting for staff, it is amazing to see that they have continued to engage in online PLD and to hold expectations that students will be supported in their learning as well as their wellbeing.”    

As a leader, she understands the need to provide a calm and informed presence that others find reassuring, and says knowing her staff as individuals helps her to personalise the way she shows appreciation for their contribution.

She says working with people to develop and problem solve solutions to issues and through that process identify and utilise the expertise of all in the school community, has proved vital.

“I am lucky to have such a great staff and Board and a fabulous community. We know there are challenges still to come but we have a strong community foundation to support each other and meet those challenges as they arise.”


About the school

Baverstock Oaks Primary School


Flat Bush, Auckland

School type

Y1-6 State Primary




Genee Crowley

School website

Baverstock Oaks School

Contact details