Guiding hand for Fairfield College

Last updated 13:08 18/12/2008

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A specialist adviser has been appointed to Fairfield College in Hamilton to help the board of trustees sort out problems at the school.

The move comes after about 80 per cent of staff, all members of teachers' union the PPTA, last week passed a vote of no confidence in principal Julie Small, her senior management team and the board. The board yesterday said it had adopted an action plan that had been agreed to with staff and the senior leadership team.

Board chairwoman Anne Pouwels said the plan would provide specific steps "to ensure our students receive a quality education for the 2009 year and beyond". The decision was made at a board meeting on Tuesday to approach a specialist adviser to assist with implementing the plan and to advise on employment issues.

"This adviser is seen as someone who has a background and experience in working with boards in these areas," Ms Pouwels said. "Due to the dedication of committed staff we are continuing to raise student achievement and have already shown a substantial improvement in this area.

"We are also heartened by our ERO report of May 2008 which clearly mandates the direction we have set as being educationally sound for taking our college forward." The board supported the principal and remained confident it could provide a safe and happy learning environment for all students and staff.

Supporters of Ms Small said she should be congratulated for trying to raise student achievement.

Beverley Parlane, a staff member at Ms Small's previous school, north Auckland's Rodney College, said the welfare and achievement of the students had always been paramount. "Julie was genuine and caring, and her knowledge of the pupils as learners and individuals was excellent."

During her time at Rodney the roll grew, "not only because of the reputation the school started to get for what was happening here and student achievement, but because of the work Julie did building a relationship with the community".

Ms Parlane said Ms Small consulted well with staff and led by example.

"She asked the tough questions of staff and expected us to step up to the mark for the students. We were supported in many ways but particularly by a very comprehensive professional development programme."

The Waikato Times has made Official Information Act requests for roll statistics, statistics on the number of staff members currently under investigation and statistics on staff turnover, but has yet to hear back. The Education Ministry has appointed John Carlyon to facilitate a working party to address any problems. The ministry yesterday declined to comment further on the situation at the college.

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- Waikato Times

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