The new principal of Queenstown Primary School says she
wants to consult parents about introducing boys-only writing
Fiona Cavanagh has been appointed by the board of trustees to
head the Queenstown school of more than 600 pupils and 60
staff in term two on May 5.
Ms Cavanagh has been the principal of Sutton Park School,
which serves the Mangere community in Auckland.
''I completed my master's in leadership and management a
couple of years ago and my thesis was on the problem of boys'
underachievement in writing in New Zealand primary schools,''
''After surveying schools, I concluded boys actually do
achieve better in writing when they are separated from girls
and in my previous school I introduced a boys' class at years
5 and 6 level.''
Ms Cavanagh also started a boys' class at Sutton Park School
in years 5 and 6, then in years 7 and 8.
''Our achievement data which we've just sent through to the
ministry [of Education] with our charter proves that the
writing level of the boys in the boys' class came in at a
higher level, but wasn't as much in a co-ed class,'' she
''That proves boys are not feeling threatened with their
writing. When they are in co-ed class, they tend to feel that
girls present their work far better and they don't want to
verbalise what they are going to write about.
''The teachers I put into those boys' classes here had a lot
of professional development about the way boys learn, what
their needs are, how they like choice, how they like to lie
on the floor or stand when writing and so a boys' classroom
looks different from a co-ed class and we've got a parents'
waiting list for the boys to get into those boys-only
Ms Cavanagh said she wanted to discuss and share her research
with Wakatipu parents before considering introducing a
boys-only class in Queenstown Primary.
''You've got to trial it in different communities and it's if
the boys and parents are keen and if we find the right
teacher,'' she said.
Sutton Park School is rated decile one, indicating it has the
highest proportion of pupils from low socio-economic
communities based on Census data, which means it receives the
maximum amount of funding and grants.
Queenstown Primary and all the schools in the Wakatipu Basin
are rated decile 10 and receive the least funding and grants,
meaning parent-teacher associations work hard to raise funds
to meet the shortfall for resources.
''I think it will take a bit of adapting. However, I have
received a copy of the charter from Queenstown Primary School
and their draft budget and I think there are a variety of
ways we can build our resources,'' Ms Cavanagh said.
''I left a decile one school to work as deputy principal at a
decile 10 school in Devonport in the 1990s, so I am
experienced in going from a decile one to decile 10.''
The mother of two adult daughters and grandmother to a
granddaughter said she was looking forward to the ''new
adventure'' of leading Queenstown Primary.
''I'm really keen to build on the successes that the previous
principal introduced and developed,'' Ms Cavanagh said.
''I feel like I could be heading in the same direction as the
board, the staff and the parent community are in terms of
their school vision.
''I feel that I can contribute to introducing a variety of
ways of engaging the parent community and I'm also interested
in perhaps setting up a buddy system with the current school
to open them to learning about the South Island and introduce
the schools to each other.''