Earlier this year it was making news for becoming New Zealand’s first science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM)-focused school, but this week Linwood College is in the media for all the wrong reasons.
The Press has reported that the decile two Christchurch secondary school appears to be in turmoil, owing to documents obtained under the Official Information Act.
The documents include a formal complaint made by the school's Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) staff to the board in August, expressing concerns about "institutional and personal bullying", communication, staff culture and a lack of faith in the senior leadership team.
The complaint echoes a Ministry of Education document which outlines a number of problems, most notably tensions between groups of staff, including between staff and management. It also noted a declining roll, even though it had extended to include year 7 and 8 pupils after the Ministry’s reorganisation of Christchurch schools.
The discord ultimately led to the school requesting statutory intervention. In September, principal Margaret Paiti and board of trustees chairman Dave Turnbull informed students’ families that they had requested Ministry support in the form of a limited statutory manager to take responsibility for employment-related matters. The board also engaged an external person to lead consultation with staff and families.
Paiti told The Press that they have now consulted with staff and now fully understand all their concerns.
In a letter posted on the school’s website on Monday, Paiti hit back against the “less than favourable publicity recently in The Press” and assured the school and community that they are working through concerns and “making clear steps toward positive gains”.
“Whilst the school has experienced rapid change, we continue to remain absolutely focussed on providing a high quality education for our students.
“I, the senior leadership team and staff are passionate about Linwood College and remain totally committed to the success of all our students in partnership with you.”
She pointed out a number of accolades achieved in recent weeks by staff and students including success at the Young Enterprise Scheme Awards and the selection of one of its students to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo International Science and Technology Forum next year.
The school is also focussed on its integrative STEM education initiative, which will see it collaborating with local tertiary institutions, government, businesses and community. The initiative aims to focus on project-based rather than subject-based learning and is all about making it relevant to the individual learner, so they are able to navigate a pathway to an exciting career.