Dunstan High School

Principal Reece Goldsmith
Dunstan High School Principal Reece Goldsmith

Principal of Dunstan High School, Reece Goldsmith talks about his experience of the pandemic in two contrasting parts. The first being the years 2020 and 2021, which were characterised by being in and out of lockdowns and when Covid was somewhere else. The second part began in 2022, when Covid had arrived in the Alexandra community and leading the school became more about managing uncertainty and the need to quickly adapt to new ways of doing things. 

Maintaining strong connections and communicating effectively with students and families became very important.  They quickly learnt that when providing too much information it became overwhelming for some people. “We had to balance what we communicated, to give out enough information that would provide enough support, but being careful without giving too much,” says Reece. 

All families were contacted directly by phone to touch base with them, to see how they were coping, answer any questions they had and to provide support as needed.  This was very well received and appreciated by the community. 

At the time of the initial lockdown there was a sense of trepidation and not really knowing whether students would be able to continue with their learning, given that it was uncertain how long everyone was going to be in lockdown. Reece was pleased that overall “the students coped quite well and the vast majority were able to continue with their learning”. 

Effective communication with staff also became a key function for the leadership. The senior leadership team introduced a weekly bulletin which contained all the necessary information and updates.  “In fact, this bulletin still continues to be sent out,” says Reece. “The temptation is to push the send button on an email out to staff…and so we don’t do that anymore unless it’s absolutely necessary. Everything is in the bulletin.” 

Reece describes the school’s navigation through the pandemic as being a learning experience for everyone.  Although there were difficult times that his senior leadership team had to deal with, “pulling together and being shoulder to shoulder, was quite powerful”.

He remembers that when the Omicron cases began to appear for students and staff, it was a very stressful situation. “Perhaps there was a bit of perceived stress, but as more and more cases created a new norm, you approached it differently…Okay we’ve got this problem to solve, we don’t quite know what the answer is yet, so what are we going to do to work through this?”

When faced with a problem, it was generally best to make a decision earlier rather than later.  This was especially the case when staff absences were high and it became very difficult to operate all learning programmes at school.  Rostering home of students was used sparingly. “We were responding to the situation in the best possible way and at the same time trying to anticipate what might be coming next. It became more about our ability to respond to situations, to be really flexible and agile,” says Reece. 

Keeping a strategic focus throughout the pandemic has been difficult, however over this time the school has developed its learning curriculum that has included the introduction of 90-minute periods, a shift to semesters and applying critical success factors. “It has been a bit of a challenge, and we’ve had to put the brakes on sometimes, but we will be coming out of it stronger, because we know what’s important, and we know what to focus on.”

Reece has appreciated the connection and strengthened relationship the school has with the Ministry of Education.  “They have been supportive and genuine in their desire to help.”

As the principal of Dunstan High School, Reece has grown as a leader, and recognises the influence he has on those around him.  “We know we have got an important job and we do it because we are passionate about what we do.  Sometimes at times like this, you are just reminded that we are privileged, we have the ability to make a difference and positively influence our community.”

When Reece drove around the streets in his community and delivered digital devices that were wrapped in plastic bags, placing them on his car bonnet, with students and parents then coming outside to collect them, it would be realistic to think that they too felt a sense of privilege, for having their principal lead them and support them well through these difficult times.


About the school

Dunstan High School



School type

Y9-13 co-educational state secondary school

Approximate roll



Reece Goldsmith

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