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John’s background and success stories are all about providing leadership to support organisations in strengthening, refreshing, and transforming performance across a range of sectors. With experiences across a wide range of settings including Government, NGOs and the Private sector, John has been responsible for a range of major innovations introducing business, technology and other changes that have spread to national and international adoption.
John has been involved with St Peter’s as a parent for over 12 years joining the board in late 2020.  In July 2021 John took over as the Chair.  With two children still at St Peter’s John and his wife Kerry see St Peter’s as providing one of the best modern well rounded educational experiences available in New Zealand.

John holds a range of governance and advisory roles supporting early start-ups in a range of sectors, through to large complex international systems in the health sector. These roles are complemented by experience in a number of Chief Executive roles across the health sector including his current leadership role with health startup Tend.
 
Tend is a combination of some of the very best talent from across the health, technology, commercial and entrepreneurial sectors in New Zealand to support the building of a unique network of high-quality health services. Unlike the current health experience, Tend is looking to offer fully integrated healthcare services nationwide with a stunning consumer online experience. The collective experience is diverse, stretching from public policy to clinical practice at the frontline, to years of building and running some of New Zealand’s most successful companies including Spark, Infratil, My Food Bag, PushPay, Labtests and Pinnacle Midlands Health Network.
Brad is a lawyer by trade and has been a partner at Chapman Tripp since 2008. In that capacity he advised ISNZ on its governance restructure, before joining the board in 2020.
 
Brad also served on the Hataitai School Board (2012-2016) and the Scots College Board (2014-2022).  He has a passion for the education sector and believes we are privileged in New Zealand to have both a well operating state education sector, complemented by a thriving independent alternative.
Brad is a proud Wellingtonian, although he spent many years relocating to various parts of New Zealand with his father’s job before settling there as a teenager. He attended Otago University, before starting his career in Wellington, followed by 4 years in London, then returning to Wellington in 2002.
 
Outside of professional life, Brad is a keen traveller and occasional (and slow) runner, but most of all enjoys spending time with family.
 
Brad is a long-time supporter of independent schools in New Zealand, and the important role they play in giving parents choice in the New Zealand education system.  He joined the ISNZ board because he shares ISNZ’s commitment to advise and support independent schools, and act as an advocate for them with government at a time when unity feels as important as ever.
I am pleased that police vetting is being considered for state school board election candidates.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced vetting is on the table as part of a review of the way school boards are constituted. However, the minister has said the proposal will be considered carefully to ensure any changes do not impact Kiwis’ democratic rights.

The issue arose after news broke that Philip Arps, a white supremacist imprisoned for sharing the livestream of the Christchurch mosque massacre, was standing for the board of Te Aratai College. He came last in the election and didn’t get onto the board, but he got 2% of the votes.

From my perspective at the Institute of Directors, I cannot think of many more destabilising situations for a school board than having a member who is an avowed neo-Nazi, who has a history of threatening behaviour and arrests, and is openly hostile to people in the community that the board is responsible for.

Pity the chair who tries to promote robust but respectful debate, to bring a board to agreement, and deliver good decisions for the school in that situation. Safety concerns would also arise, as the potential for violence should not be discounted. 

Diverging views are common on boards. In fact, diversity of thought and opinion are a plus as, when discussion is productive, they are known to lead to better decision making. They can also lead to conflict, which must be managed carefully.

The IoD provides guidance to help boards manage conflict. These are applicable to boards large and small, and worth reflecting on. The following points are drawn from our publication The Four Pillars of Governance Best Practice for New Zealand Directors:
  • Boards should welcome different views and robust, respectful debate.
  • Conflict is not inherently bad and the key to good directorship is the way it is dealt with.
  • A strong, inclusive and respectful board culture underpins the opportunity for thoughtful disagreement and constructive dissent.
  • Values are vital. Directors should share the values of the organisation they oversee. This will reduce the potential for serious conflict.

Values and board culture should be considered when directors are being appointed. It is best to bring people onto a board who are good fit, particularly if they bring new opinions to the table.

This is, perhaps, where the selection of board members through a democratic election raises challenges.
Let’s hope that any changes the government introduces help to ensure that elected state school boards are composed of loving, community-minded parents. Schools deserve boards that agree that schools are a place where all children must be welcome and safe, regardless of race, colour or creed.

I know that the vast majority of school trustees want what is best for children and their school – even though the specifics remain a topic for debate.

It’s from those people, people who share values of ethics, transparency and inclusion – values on which the success of modern governance is built – and who are prepared to discuss different perspectives in the right way, that school boards should be constituted.


Kirsten (KP) Patterson
Chief Executive, Institute of Directors
Ask Kirsten Patterson a question for the next issue...
Many strategic plans have failed to deliver because the Board has not established a monitoring process. This could be as simple as having each major action plan from the strategic plan as a standing item on the agenda of all Board meetings. It could be as complex as a specific review committee established to meet every three months with the mandate to review the progress and re-evaluate the strategic direction taken by the organization. Some organizations have every third or fourth Board meeting dedicated to strategic issues, and every other Board meeting dedicated to agreed operational issues. There is no “right” way, just one that works for your school.

One of the most effective tools to assist the Board to be more strategic is the design of the Board agenda. In general, the more strategic items should be at the beginning of the agenda.

The Principal’s report is a key Board document that should succinctly highlight key issues in a way that provides focus for the Board. A section of the Principal’s report should always be focused on looking to the future. Some of the best discussions in Board meetings have been catalysed by Principal reports that have highlighted potential opportunities, strategic issues raised by key risks, and what is keeping the Principal awake at night.

An annual review of the strategic plan is also a must, where the plan is reviewed by the Board and senior executive for what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what was missed, and the plan amended accordingly.

The strategic plan is the Board’s greatest accountability tool, and monitoring, changing and communicating the key elements of the strategic plan are critical for external accountability.

Next issue: Structuring the Strategic Board Agenda

Steven Bowman
MD, Conscious Governance


 
Read more about Conscious Governance
Conscious Governance TV
“Wellbeing” and “Mental Health'' are terms becoming increasingly discussed and understood within the education sector. Whilst this often results in the spotlight being on improving student wellbeing and providing skills for them to manage, it is equally as important to dedicate time and resources to equipping educational leaders with their own tools for wellbeing and self-care success.
 
Stress within the role
The role of the educator and academic leader has drastically changed in the past 20 years. We see increases in: expectations, variation within roles, technology shifts, and new mental health and pastoral care elements; all occurring within the school day, often with no or limited extra time to account for these additional responsibilities.
 
Taking this into consideration, it is understandable that reported stress levels of school leaders are increasing, as expectations continue to escalate, with no evidence of slowing down. The research highlights that 89% of school leaders report experiencing stress at work, and within this, teaching professionals are much more likely to experience symptoms of depression, compared to the general population (32% vs 19%). In the modern world, workplace stress is inevitable as professional role requirements evolve and expand, but we can learn to minimise its impact on wellbeing by focussing on beneficial self-care strategies.
 
What is wellbeing?
At its core, wellbeing is defined by two factors, how you feel, and how you function. When we feel good we tend to function well. When we function well we are better teachers, leaders, friends, or parents. Conversely, when we are stressed, overwhelmed, or exhausted, our functioning and wellbeing suffers.
 
Difficulties that arise
As beneficial as it is to have increased communication and understanding of wellbeing and mental health, the spotlight on these terms can also act as a barrier for people to gain relevant support. This is due to instances where the terms are overused or misused, and recommendations for individuals may appear “tokenistic” as they do not align with the individual’s needs for improving their health. This may result in feelings of apathy or frustration towards skills or activities suggested, as they do not feel individualised or considerate of one's own definitions of wellbeing. Frequently it is observed that when self-care and wellbeing support is discussed, it is rarely actioned or prioritised for leaders.   
 
When in a leadership role, often others look to you for guidance and support, but also to “set the tone” for workplace expectations and processes. What is practised on a leadership level can be more easily translated and executed across various departments, affecting each individual staff member. However, in environments where self-care and wellbeing may not be viewed as a priority, competitive culture may become the default.
 
Self-care
As posited earlier in the piece, the realm of wellbeing is expanding, and with it are general strategies to encourage wellness and self-care. However, prior to utilising strategies, it is pertinent to have a thorough understanding of what wellbeing looks and feels like for each professional. This begins by individually identifying clues which may indicate changes in wellbeing. There may be difficulties concentrating on problem-solving or planning tasks, regularly feeling overwhelmed or anxious about upcoming tasks/events/responsibilities, difficulties with sleep, reduced appetite, low energy, isolation from social interactions, or feeling tearful or emotional. Additionally, it is crucial to identify triggers which may negatively impact wellbeing; increasing awareness to employ strategies prior to significant decrease in wellbeing. These may be taking on too many responsibilities, not scheduling time for recuperation, feeling loss of control with work output, etc. 
 
Ultimately, the self-care journey begins with the individual, but is maintained and supported by the policies and processes surrounding the professional within the workplace. When wellbeing is prioritised, synergy occurs, as leaders have space to flourish and sustain professional output, whilst feeling backed and encouraged to utilise self-care tools when needed.    
 
What happens when wellbeing and self-care are not prioritised?
Acts of self–care often involve identifying what improves your wellbeing, and putting steps in place to achieve this. Often this may be taking necessary breaks to recharge, putting aside a brief break before starting a new task, identifying boundaries for both work and home life, and increasing awareness of emotional states and adjusting behaviours/approaches accordingly. In environments where there is an absence of commitment to leader wellbeing and self-care within the professional team, there is the opportunity for an increase in a “competitive culture” which often negatively impacts the wellbeing of professionals. For example, in these environments, leaders can experience feelings of shame or guilt for taking a break, they may compare themselves with colleague’s work output, and feel unable to request sick leave when needed. This culture encourages busier professionals, who experience daily stressors and reduced opportunities for restorative activities, who are more likely to reach burnout as a result of reduced support and mental wellbeing.
 
It is crucial to prioritise self-care and wellbeing, to protect the leaders and staff within the team, to enable positive output, a sense of workplace support, and positively prime everyone to do their best work.
 
Practical strategy to improve self-care and wellbeing
Once leaders have an understanding of their own wellbeing clues and triggers which negatively impact them, they can begin to identify different areas that require support; tailoring self–care strategies to reinforce their wellbeing. This can be done by a simple exercise which invites you to reflect on different areas of your life and what you can do within these areas to support wellness. Take a moment to list these six core areas: professional, spiritual, relational, physical, psychological, and emotional. Then, proceed to rank these in order as to what domains are more impacted when wellbeing is compromised and self-care is not prioritised. The second step is to look at each category and list strategies that can support improvements in these areas. For example, for professional health, reaching out for support or taking micro-breaks may improve overall wellbeing at work. For psychological health, it may help to go for a walk in the fresh air, talk with a friend, or connect with a healthcare professional. For spiritual health, it may help to connect with communities or groups which foster positive relationships and opportunities for self-expression.  By the end of this task, you are left with awareness of what can cause a decline in your wellbeing and you have ideas for how to improve your wellbeing should this occur.
 
Laying a strong foundation for success
As leaders it is important that personal wellbeing is prioritised. As mentioned, the increase in demands of these roles within education has come often without any additional time or resources. We cannot pour from an empty cup and if we want the best for our staff and students we need to first look within and improve and maintain our own wellness. If you want to be a strong leader who leads a consistently high performing team, it all starts with laying a strong foundation of resilience which comes first and foremost from a priority of wellbeing. 

Abby Dale-Bates and Ilia Lindsay
Komodo Psychology Team

 
Read more about wellbeing for you and your school:
New Mental Health Education guidance launched - A guide for teachers, leaders, and school boards. 
The past two years have for us been challenging, we lost focus on the people and the connections that make organisations high performing. On top of that, we had the challenges of COVID.   
 
We also took time to pause and reach out to our Alumni, to aplogise and provide support for those that we had failed in our duty of care in the past. 
 
Out of all this discomfort, we have emerged stronger, with a clearer understanding of the importance of knowing who we are and what we are about. We have taken time to reconnect and reconfirm – to redraft our strategy and reconfigure ourselves and we have found new partners and leaders to take us forward.
 
As you enter St Peter’s Cambridge you cannot help but be confronted by the beauty of the physical setting of the rolling countryside on the banks of the Waikato River – the green open space.
 
But within this physical space lies the secret, a deep and passionate partnership between:
  • our whanau/families who all have made a very deliberate decision to join the St Peter’s community and entrust the education of their young people,
  • our staff who do the magic but also choose to work and, in many cases also play and live as part of the community,
  • our young people who spend up to seven key years as the focus of what we do! 
The future of New Zealand and our place in the world is in the hands of the current education system.  Aotearoa is unique and we need to continue to celebrate and grow our own personality and place in the world. But we also need to understand how rapidly an education based on measures of success of the past will not prepare our young people for the needs of tomorrow.
 
The exciting space that independent schools in New Zealand occupy allows us the opportunity not to be constrained by the standard national curriculum in either delivery, content, or experience.

Young and old need to not only be able to read and write, to count and understand the world around them but also be able to harvest, process, and critically appraise the vast flowing information that forms part of our everyday lives. But most importantly we need to be able to build, maintain and grow effective relationships. The riches of the future will not be the factories of the past but rather the enhancements we make and how we shape the future in how we live, work, and play in partnership with each other and the environment. 

At St Peter’s Cambridge school our community holds a common belief and focus – we want to provide the very best, well-rounded education for our young people based on four core elements:
  1. Celebration of culture – St Peter’s must be a place that celebrates growth in all aspects of the educational experience: mind, body, and spirit.
  2. Risk-taking - We must empower young people to take risks and be rewarded by experiencing the positive difference they can make when they do so.
  3. Aspirational learning - We must provide a wide range of high-quality learning opportunities so that young people can discover their strengths, passions and pursue their aspirations.
  4. Connection to place - We must engage with the history and significance of our place in Waikato, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the world.
 
As the spring of 2022 heads towards summer, we look to celebrate the next steps for all our people, enjoying the return of freedom of movement, coming to the end of a less disrupted year for our students, and feeling very confident about our future. We look forward to our new Head of School joining us at the beginning of 2023 and to the benefit and growth of our intergenerational endowment fund. The strength of our partnerships alongside a very clear strategy with newfound transparency in how we go about our governance role gives us the confidence to build on our proud history and really strive to help support the growth of the future.

John Macaskill-Smith
Board Chairman
St Peter's Cambridge
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