Shirley Boys’ High School Principal Tim Grocott is focused on creating simplicity amidst the demands and pressures, in order to create space for teachers to get on with their jobs.
Tim Grocott had only been in his new job as principal of Shirley Boys’ High School for a few weeks, before the nation was sent into lockdown in 2020. Initially he found the experience exciting, being a first time principal and having the chance to step up and lead the school through a difficult time. “It didn’t make it easy but it was something to get your teeth into,” says Tim.
As the pandemic has progressed and the complexity of the challenges have increased, Tim’s current experience is more frequently that of frustration. He says tension arises when schools under the self-governing model are left to work through difficult situations due to the pandemic on their own, when they could have been better supported. This is in contrast to often being faced with limitations when schools should have been able to make their own decisions that best meet the needs of their communities. Tim is keen to keep his school developing and progressing forward, while also managing the ongoing challenges that arise from the pandemic.
The rebuilding of Shirley Boys’ High School (due to the Christchurch earthquakes) on a new site shared with Avonside Girls’ College was completed in 2019. Tim and his team are well on the journey of embedding a new approach to teaching and learning that is enabled by their new and modern facilities, modifying their school culture, and building strong connections with their new community.
With the school situated in a community that grapples with social and economic issues, Covid has made life more difficult for young people and their whānau. Unfortunately upon returning to school after lockdowns and other periods of absence, some students were unsettled and found it difficult to manage their behaviour appropriately. Tim says they are working hard to address this situation, but does question the school’s ongoing ability and available resources to be able to adequately deal with students who exhibit extreme behaviour.
One positive benefit that has occurred as a result of having to navigate the pandemic, has been the improvement in levels of efficiency across the school. Tim says that staff have been evaluating school practices and begun to look at different ways to do them and even questioning if they actually need them. An example of this is the reduction in the number of meetings and whether they need to be in-person meetings. “Staff are also beginning to reflect on their own teaching practice and asking why am I doing that? Perhaps I could do that digitally?”
Tim’s approach to his leadership has been to prioritise his staff’s needs and refers to them as being “the school’s best asset”. He is committed to make sure they are well supported with their teaching especially with the ongoing school development but also as a result of the pandemic. “Everyone is really tired and there is a lot going on, including the huge amount of work on the reviews and changes,” he says.
He holds the view that the education environment would benefit from being simplified and by narrowing the focus for schools there will be a greater chance of overall success. He is realistic though and knows that there are many workstreams that are requiring attention.
“That’s my job, to try and simplify things for the teachers so they can get on with their jobs.
The more that we can make it simpler for our teaching staff the better they can teach.”
About the school
Shirley Boys’ High School
Year 9-13 Boys’ State Secondary School