By Kate Pierson
Aside from the physical foundations which are required to build a school, an educational institution is also made up of fundamental values and principles. A holistic education is the product of these principles and values if they are honoured by teachers who support these philosophies.
Academic Colleges Group (ACG) Strathallan preschool, school and college in South Auckland is no exception to this constitutional structure. But while the school integrates the key ingredients for a systematically sound and nurturing environment, it pursues a refreshingly unique and pragmatic approach to educating pupils as a leading independent provider of educational services.
ACG Strathallan is part of the ACG family. With 10 schools in total – seven in New Zealand and three overseas in Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia – ACG embraces multi-culturalism and diversity.
Located on a 14 hectare site on the Hingaia Peninsula in Karaka near Papakura, ACG Strathallan opened its doors to 180 students in 2001. Eighty of the original pupils had attended Amworth private school which was absorbed by ACG at this time and 100 students were enrolled prior to the school opening.
Today the school role stands at 1200 and ACG Strathallan provides educational programmes ranging from pre-school through to primary school and college. ACG Strahallan, like a worldwide network of schools, is connected to the University of Cambridge through an international examination programme.
Principal, Clarence van der Wel, says the school works to cater for individual needs.
“I’ve always believed students have a tremendous capacity for learning and at ACG Stathallan, we work to unleash student potential and really engage them in learning. We help them to excel and give them the opportunity to achieve and succeed.”
Aside from its integration of an independent examination system, the school also favours longer lessons. “The main benefit of 80 to 85 minute lessons is that you can explore topics or concepts in depth and not just scratch the surface, meaning students understand these ideas more fully and deeply,” van der Wel explains.
“Also, the quality of time that teachers can dedicate to students is an advantage. At ACG Stathallan, our education is all about these relationships. Teacher and student relationships, school and family relationships – we place a real emphasis on this. As the principal, I have always personally met each family before the student is enrolled.
“We also have one tutor for every twenty students in the school and this tutor will attend regular meetings with parents and liaise via email contact.”
ACG Stathallan also offers a school intranet, MyACG, which grants parents offsite access to information regarding their child’s progress, assessment data, course outlines and academic programmes.
Having served the education sector in a principal capacity for the past 15 years, van der Wel says he has accumulated a first hand knowledge of student needs which he has channelled into all elements of his employment. He worked as principal of Tuakau College and as the associate deputy principal at Hillcrest High before dedicating his services to ACG.
Van der Wel is now looking forward to the opportunity to influence a wider group of schools when he assumes his role as deputy chief executive for ACG.
He says he will draw on his past experience to assist and support these schools – something he has been doing in a part time capacity for three years.
“I will be working closely with these schools and supporting them in their practise of our core philosophies and ethos.”
For more information on ACG Strathallan or ACG visit www.acdedu.com