Southland Girls’ High School

Yvonne Browning
Southland Girls’ High School Principal Yvonne Browning

Yvonne Browning, principal of Southland Girls’ High School, is a very accomplished leader with 19 years’ experience.  She says, “As principals we are not unaccustomed to change and we are not unaccustomed to dealing with the dramatic side of something like a pandemic,” but she also acknowledges the intense pressure and stress that principals were under especially in the earlier and uncharted times of the pandemic.

It was a time that Yvonne remembers very well and was characterised by a constant pressure that enveloped leadership of her staff, students and school community who were anxious and unsure about what was going to happen next. 

When everyone was trying to gain certainty within an environment that was fast changing and very uncertain, Yvonne recalls that it was disappointing that there were requests made by external government agencies to provide information and data that were unreasonable and did little, if anything, to support schools during their difficult time. 

In 2018, Southland Girls’ High School had shifted their operations online and into the Cloud. At the time of the first lockdown, they were already utilising digital platforms for teaching and learning which was supported by a BYOD programme for students. It was a curious and disappointing situation when the laptops issued by the Ministry of Education arrived after the lockdown had ended, especially when a large amount of time and effort had been invested into completing the requested data spreadsheets. 

Yvonne reflects that, “what we have learnt from dealing with the pandemic is that communication is key”. The steady stream of information received from the Health and Education authorities was a lot to process – especially when the rules and regulations required immediate action. It was therefore important to be selective and discerning with how information was applied and communicated. She wanted to make sure that only relevant information was communicated to staff that would help them complete their jobs, rather than being burdened with information overload. The Senior Leadership Team met online daily to manage the school and review progress, with a full staff meeting online being held once a week, when the relevant and necessary messages would be communicated. 

While the regular bulletins have been a source of key information throughout the pandemic, Yvonne believes that because there is still a continuous flow of information being directed at principals, it would be beneficial to streamline the process, so that any new information that requires a response is more effectively actioned by schools. The use of notifications for any modifications and updates on existing and previously communicated information, would mean that only the changes require attention. There is also an opportunity for the development of an “attractive and easy to access library of resources” that would be a central location for key documents, legislation and regulations, etc, that would be utilised by leaders, suggests Yvonne.

As a result of the many challenges that Yvonne and her team have navigated throughout the pandemic, she says the school has become more resilient and “grown in strength and capability within the staff”. She is quick to sing the praises of her senior leaders for their hard work, expertise and having been her key source of support. 

Her concern for the immediate future for schools in general is the ability to manage the increased workload, not just for leaders but for all staff who work with young people. The education landscape has changed as a result of the pandemic and therefore requires a careful well-resourced approach in order to sustain the wellbeing of teachers. Taking a cautious and more considered approach with regards to the introduction of the Education Conversation Kōrero Mātauranga initiatives and programmes that have already begun to reshape the education system, would also be sensible.


About the school

Southland Girls’ High School



School type

Y9-13 Girls State Secondary School

Approximate roll



Yvonne Browning

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