School pupils buck national trend

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2014
Roskill students
Rose Cawley

AIMING HIGH: Mt Roskill Grammar has been singled out by the Education Review Office as a school that is achieving better than expected for its decile. From left are students Praveen Krishna, Hayden Couper, Junior Kasiano, Tangiia Enjoy, Theodore Loretz, Solomon Penny, Hanna Davidson and Mildred Wong.

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The Education Review Office visited seven schools across New Zealand that draw students from poor areas but achieve better than average academic results. These kids are bucking the trend regardless of their background. One of them is Mt Roskill Grammar. Reporter Rose Cawley finds out what the school of 2200 students is doing right.

Students at Mt Roskill Grammar know that success is expected of them.

Principal Greg Watson and his team make sure of it.

"The single most important factor is belief, belief that we all can learn," he says. "That has to come from the teachers and the students so that achievement is possible and attainable for all."

Last year 82 per cent of students who left Mt Roskill Grammar had at least NCEA level 2. The national average was 73 per cent.

Year 13 student Hayden Couper says the support system for Maori and Pacific Island students has helped put him on the path to fulfilling his goal of studying law next year.

"It is not singling us out and saying ‘this is the worst kids, we have to give them the most attention'," he says.

"It is just a helping hand, they make it known that they want us to achieve."

Watson says the school has structures in place to enable success.

"These are in respect to goal setting, counting credits and knowing where we are up to.

"We expect each student to take ownership of where they are up to and our job is to support them in that thinking."

Solomon Penny, 17, says the teachers care and they carefully track every student's learning outcomes.

"It is a place that you can do well and where a lot of people have done well."

He is proud to be a Mt Roskill student.

"We are punching well above our weight."

Deputy principal John Wilkinson has been at the decile four school for 19 years. He says its success is no overnight wonder.

"We have always been an improving school," he says.

"We are reflecting and reviewing all elements. We are constantly in a cycle of ‘what are we doing, how can we do it better?' "

Year 13 student Theodore Loretz says the school fosters an environment where everyone can be happy in their own skin.

"The best thing about Roskill is that the greatest sin you can commit is to not be yourself," he says.

"Embracing yourself and diversity is a big thing here."

Education Review Office evaluation services manager Stephanie Greaney says the schools involved in the report show that success can happen anywhere.

"Despite wider challenges, when schools and communities have a vision for success and work together to keep every student engaged and achieving, it can happen."

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