Tinwald School principal Peter Livingstone is revving up his Suzuki Boulevard M90 and hitting the highway.
He has been awarded a Teach NZ 2024 Primary Principals’ Sabbatical, which will take him out of school next year for terms 1 and 2.
The 55-year-old will be relying on his bike as he tours thousands of kilometres around the country visiting schools in an effort to streamline programmes for employing and mentoring beginner teachers.
In anticipation of his trip, Livingstone has ordered two new tyres for his trusty 1500cc motorcycle.
‘‘I will be thrashing the bike. It will be a road trip,’’ he said.
Livingstone applied for a sabbatical available to principals and teachers through StudyNZ, one of 20 nationwide.
He said he was very much looking forward to the opportunity.
The 20-week study leave is double the length of time requested in his initial application.
‘‘My application was for successful practice in employing and mentoring beginning teacher programmes in schools.
‘‘That’s me going around bringing together what has worked in schools when you employ, and have first and second year teachers.’’
His application stemmed from taking on four beginning teachers in 2021.
They are all now due to get their full registration.
‘‘I looked at how much work was involved in our school and there seems to be no nationwide consistency,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s a very good document (Learning to Teach) that was produced by the New Zealand Teachers Council in three parts. I don’t think anyone’s ever read it, bothered to read it, or look at it,’’ he said.
One of Livingstone’s tasks will be to go through the document, with its many hundreds of pages dating back to 2007, and confirm its worth.
‘‘I will see if it has actually translated into practice in a school.’’
Livingstone said school leaders were ‘‘bombarded with a lot of information’’.
‘‘It’s knowing what is the good stuff, what is the stuff that is going to make a difference.’’
His plan is to condense it down to a concise, step-by-step guide for principals considering employing beginning teachers.
He said teachers out of learning institutes leave with a provisional registration and need eight school terms (the equivalent of two years) in a role being mentored for full registration.
‘‘If we don’t mentor and properly start off our teachers, we will lose them. They will get disillusioned.’’
Livingstone has been in education for the past 28 years; 22 years as a principal.
His only break from his role was in 2021 following a scooter accident.
He broke his thumb and ankle and was off work for eight weeks.
The school’s Board of Trustees got final approval of his sabbatical leave application, especially as it involved considering staffing issues.
Deputy principal Sue Wakefield will step in as acting principal during his time away.
Livingstone said the leave releases him from the job, allows someone to step into the role and covers any classroom teacher need. There is no travel or mileage costs included.
However, Livingstone is prepared to put in the hard yards, or in this case, kilometres, to visit schools regarding their practices.
‘‘The biggest perk, or what I will be looking forward to most, will be doing some form of principal work that will be uninterrupted, that will not have so much time pressure on it. I can do it at my own pace.
‘‘The formatting of the report is (at my discretion) and has a single focus.’’
It’s a big change from his day to day role, he said.
‘‘The pressures that you face in a job here include multiple demands on multiple levels.’’
A day could include pupil celebrations or behaviour incidents, a parent query, staffing shortages or pressures to administration, dealing with contractors, Ministry of Education or reporting from or to Board of Trustees, he said.
‘‘At any one point, I could be interrupted in any of that work. (For this leave) I set the work and when I choose to do it.
“And if that means I have to ride 400km to the next school to visit, that’s a bit sad. It is what it is,’’ he said, with a big grin.