– Geoff Lovegrove
THE EARLY YEARS
Although the New Zealand Principals’ Federation was founded in 1981, it soon became clear that a publication was needed that was relevant to the needs of New Zealand school leaders. In the early years, a single sheet newsletter ‘Broadsheet’ brought news of a one-dollar annual subscription, and the need to have an annual meeting. This was replaced by an occasional newsletter, ‘The Federation Flyer’, that brought the most urgent matters to the attention of every principal, but something more was needed. Principals wanted a professional journal containing some informative, topical and useful articles.
Ken Morris, principal of Aberdeen School in Hamilton and an NZPF Executive member, was the founding editor of the magazine that has always been titled ‘New Zealand Principal’. Initially published twice each year, and only in black and white, it quickly became the ‘must read’ journal for primary principals. Ken set the standard that the Federation has tried to follow. The NZPF is made up of ‘Principals Representing Principals’, and that phrase appeared on the front cover of all of the early issues. The very first magazine (early 2004) invited principals to the Annual Meeting in Hamilton (total cost of $36.50 included Saturday afternoon tea, dinner followed by a western musical, and Sunday lunch!). Articles in that first edition included:
School Climate Computers in Primary & Intermediates
Stress The Role of The School Inspector
That first magazine was welcomed by principals, and provided the platform for the format that has been followed ever since. Advertisers came on board, and distribution was through the goodwill of the ten Education Boards. Successive issues in those early years included articles on:
‘From The Fence Posts’ (Bruce Adin, Acting Rural Adviser)
Phys.Ed, Maths and Timetabling Rugby in Schools
Kelvin Smyth on Social Studies Assessing Teacher Effectiveness
A Job Description for Principals Parent Interviews
Advertising is sometimes seen as the bugbear of professional publications, but someone must pay for the layout and printing, and the NZPF has had a faithful core of advertisers over the years. Every back cover in the early years had an ad for BBC computers, followed by Commodores (“Thanks for the memory – 128k!”). From the very beginning, Minolta (now Konica Minolta) has supported the Federation, and their early support was critical to the early success of the organisation and the magazine.
For a large number of principals, especially those in smaller and rural schools, the New Zealand Principal Magazine was their first introduction to the Principals’ Federation. Through the magazine, we got to know what others were coping with, and how they were dealing with the large and small issues encountered every day in their schools.
CHANGES AHEAD: THE LOVEGROVE YEARS
And then along came Tomorrow’s Schools! There are not too many serving principals who worked under the before- and after regimes. The changes wrought in 1989 were on a massive scale. The ten Education Boards disappeared, replaced by 2600 individual Boards of Trustees. The Department of Education, along with all of its inspectors, all went, replaced by a “Thin Ministry” and something initially called the “Review and Audit Team” (soon changed to Education Review Office. Perhaps ERO sounded better than RAT!). Fair to say that principals and their new Boards were floundering for some time. The scale of change, and the sudden loss of so many support systems, had a profound effect. Some questionable new businesses suddenly appeared, and just as quickly disappeared.
Principals were looking again for a professional group for collegial support. The NZPF became the ‘go to’ organisation, and the magazine was the figurehead journal that principals knew well and trusted.
The 1989 NZPF Conference, held in Auckland, attracted a record number of principals. It also coincided with the retirement of Ken Morris as founding editor of the magazine. Twelve issues over six years had provided a wealth of good advice and timely articles for school leaders. Times they were a changin’, Tomorrow’s Schools had arrived. And along came a new Editor, Geoff Lovegrove. Principal of Riverdale School in Palmerston North, and later Lytton Street School in Feilding, Geoff had had a long involvement in principal support, and although he admitted his ‘publishing experience’ was limited to the occasional Lions Club bulletin, he saw the New Zealand Principal as a vital link to principals at a critical time in their educational journey.
A third issue was published in November 1989, containing a report on that year’s NZPF Conference, and especially the keynote speech from Dr Hedley Beare, Professor of Education, University of Melbourne. Some quotes from that article are pertinent today:
“In order to run their schools and to ensure that children are taught, principals are forced to subvert the rules”
“Schools must be given greater responsibility to order their own affairs”
“The role of the principal as an effective leader must be emphasised”
The new editor made some significant changes in his first year, including:
A move to three issues per year (one per term)
A gradual move to colour. Only 8 pages initially, but then full colour throughout
A focus on helpful articles relevant to the changing needs of Tomorrow’s Schools
Inclusion of articles pertinent to school leadership across the sectors, and including secondary-focused articles ( the magazine was also being sent to all secondary principals)
Reports on Executive meetings, and useful links with colleagues overseas
Extension of the “Regional Roundups” with reports from Executive members on activities in the regions (this in response to the call from then president John Boyens to extend activities nationwide)
A more commercial operation for the magazine. Publishers Snedden & Cervin (now Cervin Publishing) came on board and brought a professionalism to the whole publishing process. Cervins have remained our publishers for over 25 years, and the NZPF enjoys an excellent relationship with this very supportive company.
A common theme at principal association and cluster meetings was the increased stress on principals with their increased workloads, and the magazine commissioned a survey with follow-up articles to help.
Geoff remained Editor for eight years. With the advent of the 4-term school year, the magazine became a quarterly journal, and it remained high on every principal’s “must read” list. The New Zealand Principal has always been one that principals share with their staff, using articles to promote discussion and debate at staff meetings, and keeping for later reference. Some of Geoff’s time-appropriate articles included:
Crisis Time – Can We Manage today’s Schools?
The Need for Sabbaticals for Principals
Better Staffing Ratios for Primary Schools
What happens when the goodwill runs out?
The Loneliness of the Teaching Principal
New Zealand’s Mainstreaming Crisis
Just Let Me Teach! Challenges facing teaching principals
Bulk Funding: Why Don’t We Trust Them?
Just Let Me Lead!
In 1997, Martin Bate, who had served on the editorial team, stepped up to become Editor when Geoff Lovegrove was elected NZPF Vice President. Martin brought an incisive and passionate approach to the role, and his all-too-short tenure brought some of the finest writing to the magazine. Principal of Milson School in Palmerston North, Martin also had extensive experience in smaller schools in the North and South Islands. Martin’s acute sense of social justice showed through in his writing, and he delivered several excellent articles on Special Education, Principal Stress, Support Services and Relationships. Martin’s first editorial, ‘A Time Bomb Rolled Into My School’ covered the arrival of a pupil with high special needs, and the lack of adequate support for schools. Just as that first magazine was being delivered to schools, Martin suffered a brain tumour. His next editorial included a piece ‘A Time Bomb Rolled Into My Head’. Martin continued as Editor for two years, his last (June 1999) issue arriving in schools as Martin’s family and friends prepared for his funeral. Martin’s tenure might have been far too short, but he left a lasting legacy for so many principals and teachers throughout New Zealand. An excerpt from the obituary in the August magazine:
“Visit any of Martin’s schools, and the locals will point out features initiated, instigated or installed by him. Not monuments, but testaments to his drive, his supercharged ideas generated to involve students and their communities in improving their environment.
His colleagues quickly recognised his ability and his enthusiasm. He played a major role in professional development for teachers and school leaders. He wrote for the paper, he wrote novelettes for his nieces, he reviewed theatre productions, he designed and built a second story on two of his homes. He ran unique school assemblies, he hugged people, he ran a conference for over 600 principals – nine months after the tumour was diagnosed. He planted hundreds of trees, he kept in touch with people, he challenged, he reflected, he mentored, he acted. He sang, he gave interesting awards, he wrote songs, poems and epics. He spotted talent and nurtured it, he saw the NZPF as the ideal professional group for himself and his colleagues. He thrived on the challenges and opportunities brought by Tomorrow’s Schools, but he agonised for the principals in conflict, in doubt or simply struggling with their complex workload. He loved the role of Editor. At last, the prolific writer could now publish! He made a massive contribution, in sickness and in health.”
Marion was brought on to the editorial committee by Martin Bate. Marion stepped up in 1999 and quickly became an authoritative and successful editor of the magazine. Her experience as a teacher, a College lecturer and a school principal in Wellington and Palmerston North, provided her with an insight to the rigours of school leadership at the approach of the new millennium. Marion’s editorials are collectors’ pieces. She wrote with a keen sense of the reality of teaching and leading in New Zealand schools, and added her special academic flavour to give credibility to her writing. Marion’s recent involvement with the Principal and Leadership Centre (A joint venture between NZPF and Massey University) brought a depth of understanding of the need for principals to receive adequate preparation for their leadership role, and she wrote several excellent editorials on the topic.
These were also the years of closer links and a greater awareness of overseas systems. New Zealand had had several years in the limelight with its unique self-managing schools model, and no other country has attempted to emulate the degree of self governance still operating here. Marion travelled and established contact with renowned educators worldwide, and developed some powerful articles covering other solutions to common challenges. At the same time, the Principal & Leadership Centre, under David Stewart’s guidance, was offering greater access to quality professional learning for school leaders, and several articles appeared outlining opportunities here in New Zealand.
As principals grappled with the increased government and ministry demands for more rigorous assessment processes, Marion sought out best practice and presented several articles that proved invaluable for school leaders.
At the same time, some old, and some new challenges were facing principals, and the magazine included articles on litigation, transience, severe student behaviour and area reviews. Minister Trevor Mallard had commenced a programme of “EDIs” (Education Development Initiatives: government speak for closing schools). Many communities struggled with the threat of having their schools closed, and principals bore the brunt of the emotional pressure. The NZPF instigated the notion of formal support groups to help stressed colleagues.
The Ministry was also beginning to introduce a series of new initiatives, all with optimistic names, and all requiring schools to apply for funding to implement programmes to assist pupils with learning needs, or cluster-wide ICT projects; the magazine responded with articles that helped unravel some of the processes.
The November 2002 magazine included a hard-hitting article The Great Parity Con Job, that outlined many of the inequities still very evident in the New Zealand school sector. Although a salary parity structure of sorts had been successfully negotiated, there remained many areas where children with “little feet” were given second-class treatment and resourcing.
In 2003 a record number of kiwi principals attended the International Principals Convention in Edinburgh, supporting Nola Hambleton as International President-Elect. The March 2004 issue of the magazine included extensive coverage of this special event (Nola was the first woman, the first primary principal and the first from “down-under” to serve as International President).
The need for a little humour in a magazine for principals can be risky. If it is on a topic-of-the-day, it may well be stale news by the time the mag arrives in schools. If it is too edgy, if may offend some. The New Zealand Principal has, over the years, included some light hearted articles, often by nom de plume authors. Tonto Papadopolous, Lydia Saucepan and Delia Cardswright (probably the same person) contributed tongue-in-cheek articles to provide a little light entertainment, including:
“In The Out Door” – a fictitious exchange of emails within a school
Most capable principals – based on dubious overseas research
“Cars Principals Drive” – memories of first cars
In Box / Outbox – highs and lows of current educational issues
Rural Ramblings – a popular column by Helen Kinsey-Wightman, under the nom de plume of Baaarbara Ramsbottom
Marion moved to a senior position with the Ministry of Education at the beginning of 2008 and stepped down from the position of Editor. Preparing four issues of New Zealand Principal each year is a huge undertaking, especially for a person who is already totally consumed with school principalship. It is estimated that each issue takes 250-350 hours of the editor’s time, and this is mainly in the evenings, weekends and holidays. Although various editors have had excellent assistance from their editorial support teams, the load could not continue to be carried by voluntary amateurs forever. The NZPF had been considering ways and means of appointing a professional to do the job. In the meantime, Geoff Lovegrove stepped into the role again, and held the reins for a further two years 2008-2010. Geoff brought in Lester Flockton as a regular contributor, and Lester’s columns have become essential reading for all principals. The spectre of National Standards became a reality in 2009 with a change of government, and each magazine contained many articles exhorting principals to carefully consider the ramifications of such a move. The NZPF Executive took the moral high ground and campaigned vigorously against the model proposed, and the magazine presented a series of arguments to inform principals and boards.
THE NEXT STEP: PROFESSIONAL EDITOR
During 2010, the Executive appointed Liz Hawes as its first Executive Support Manager. Liz’ duties included the editorship of the magazine, and she has continued to improve and sharpen the mag as the preferred professional journal for all school principals. Liz brought her extensive experience in the tertiary education sector. A gifted writer and an admirer of the quality learning programmes in New Zealand schools, Liz has profiled many principals in their schools, and shared stories of people who love their leadership role.
CONCLUSION: The New Zealand Principal has always been the leadership journal for kiwi principals. It is the one they keep beside their bed until they’ve read every page. Its articles serve as motivation for staff meetings and leadership team professional learning. It continues to be there to guide and to inform, and to celebrate our unique school system. Our thanks to our editors and their teams, our publishers and advertisers, who have helped make the magazine something special for principals in New Zealand