The newly appointed Principal of Gulf Harbour School, Mel Crosbie, says that the school is on a very positive trajectory with roll growth, a review of its core values underway and the introduction of its own sports teams.
Mel is English and met her Kiwi husband Brian in the UK. They moved to NZ in 2015 when their daughters Sophia and Josie were seven and four years old respectively.
“We wanted our kids to enjoy a Kiwi lifestyle,” Mel says. “We came with nothing and chose to live here because we remembered Orewa from a holiday. We were won over by the Coast.”
Both children are now at Gulf Harbour School, where Mel initially took a job as Deputy Principal. She became Acting Principal last year when John Petrie left and was appointed Principal on April 6.
She says although her time as Principal of a Primary school in Manchester was valuable experience for the role, taking the reins at Gulf Harbour School has been a steep learning curve, largely because of differences in the curriculum.
“I’m not afraid to put up my hand and ask if I don’t know something,” Mel says. “There is a supportive team here, which includes 16 relatively new staff members, and we’re learning together.”
Next year the school will celebrate its 20th anniversary and with that in mind “a face lift” is taking place.
This includes a review of the school’s values – a process that is being guided by talking with the school community about the changes they’d like to see and what attributes they’d like their children to leave school with.
Mel says ‘high expectations’ is a key phrase that is coming through in many ways. She says it started “at grass roots level” with teaching the children about wearing their uniform with pride; each class is also discussing and setting expected standards.
Mel says this process has been led by students as well as teachers and is “working brilliantly”.
It’s an attitude that can now be taken into the sports arena. Sport Gulf Harbour, which had run the school’s sports, has disbanded and Mel says staff and parents are stepping up to fill the vacuum and ensure the children can participate in a range of sports. Ruth Taylor has been appointed sports leader and more than 300 children have signed up for netball, basketball, rugby, flipperball and hockey teams. For the first time, a school team of 68 took part in the recent Weet-bix TRYathlon.
“The children and the community wants this, and we are excited to be able to demonstrate ‘the GHS way’ on the sports field.”
In addition, there is the ongoing challenge of fundraising towards a much-needed school hall. The project is anticipated to cost more than $1 million, around half of which will be raised by the school and community. So far a floor plan and site for the building have been prepared and $400,000 raised.
Mel says as a mum, she knows that the move to NZ has been the right one. “I love seeing my kids taking their shoes off, splashing in puddles, getting grubby and running around,” she says. “In the UK there is a ‘claim culture’ that means that a lot of outdoor activities are not allowed because of the fear of accidents. Over here it’s more about being sensible, but seeing the potential that the outdoors has for learning as well as having fun.”