College ready for challenges


It’s been his most challenging year as a school leader and 2022 is set to be just as tough, Ashburton College principal Ross Preece says.

A principal for 16 years, Mr Preece said a second covid lockdown earlier this year and new vaccine mandates in the education sector had presented some tough challenges for him and his staff.

The school typically lost between 10 and 12 teachers each year through retirement and moves to other schools and replacements were usually found and lined up by the Christmas break.

“We’re four or five short at present and if we can’t recruit we may need to consider bigger class sizes and even the possibility of not being able to offer some subjects.”

Mr Preece said all schools were “scrambling” for staff and few teachers were coming in from overseas.

“It’s a very competitive marketplace and especially tough to find teachers of subjects like physics, te Reo, hard materials and computing.”

Long-serving staff soon to retire from Ashburton College include Karen McKenzie (35 years), Ron Cresswell (25 years) and Bernadette Thompson (20 years).

Another long-server, Stephen Millichamp (25 years), is moving to Mount Hutt College.

Pukekohe High School acting deputy principal Hannibal Ikahihifo has been recruited and will be a new deputy principal next year.

Mr Preece said another challenge this year was finalising the master plan for the $60 million college rebuild project.

Funding had been announced three years ago and the plan was originally scheduled to be signed off in March.

Covid had been a major cause of the delay and now the plan was expected to get the final tick in February.

Mr Preece said the plans for block one of the project had been finalised and building consents would soon be lodged.

Block one will feature 34 classrooms and teaching spaces for science, maths, art, drama and the special needs unit.

It will be built on the former community pool site and space created by the demolition of other buildings including the Phoenix Preschool and horticulture block.

Mr Preece said the cost of the rebuild project was also being looked at and could increase.

“If all goes to plan, block one could be ready by the end of Term 1 2023.”

With the new Covid-19 traffic light system in place, Ashburton College is also planning for red light scenarios for a number of events.

Mr Preece said an example of future planning was the leadership camp scheduled at the Mt Hutt Retreat in the new year.

“If we’re in a red light situation there won’t be an overnight camp and course facilitators will need to come to us to deliver the course.”

Mr Preece said the school needed to consider and manage vaccine rules for sport and for visits to all off-site venues.

“The challenges are not over next year, but we’ll take them in our stride.”

Ashburton College employs 90 teachers and expects a roll of 1250 next year.

The school rebuild is based on a future roll of 1600.

-By Mick Jensen