St Ignatius of Loyola Catholic College – a new college for Franklin. A leadership team’s perspective around building partnerships

By Carolyn Marino

St Ignatius of Loyola Catholic College is a unique school, being both the first catholic secondary school to be built in South Auckland for over 20 years and the first New Zealand school built with a Jesuit charism. The school is ably lead by foundation principal, Dean Wearmouth, and deputy principals, Catherine Bamber-O’Malley, Kane Raukura and Fr Eka Tanaya SJ. We asked them to share their perspective on building partnerships during this establishment journey.

Building partnerships

Many people supported the work of creating this school. Can you tell us about some of the key groups that have influenced the school’s development.

The local community was formed with many Irish and Dutch Catholic settlers in the 19th century. The Mission Sisters opened Catholic schools and in the 1950s the idea for a Catholic college was first raised by local families with the Bishop of Auckland. In the late 1990s a group of local families, the next generation, came together to lobby the Diocese for a school. The families, in consultation with other stakeholders, wished for a Jesuit charism, and this was agreed and supported by the Society of Jesus; the Jesuits. In 2002, land was bought in Burtt Road Drury by the Diocese and a long planning process ensued. Eventually an integration agreement was signed in 2021 to establish the college. An establishment Board was formed in 2021 and the principal recruited in June 2022. St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Pukekohe agreed to the school using two of their classrooms as offices from October 2022, and staff were recruited from then on. Enrolment interviews took place in the office from this time and the school filled up very quickly to its maximum roll.

A new Catholic secondary school for Franklin district — Image by: St Ignatius of Loyola college

The school has made connection with local mana whenua and iwi. How has the relationship been initiated, and how have they influenced both the schools physical build/design and the development of the curriculum? What might partnership look like for you with them, moving forward? 

St Ignatius of Loyola Catholic College has collaborated with our local Iwi from the beginning of the school’s design process. Working closely with Ngāti Tamaoho, the College architects –  Jasmax, forged a robust relationship, consulting on land use, building design and placement, to honour the land’s mauri. This collaboration extended to the creation of a Kowhaiwhai design for one of the College’s exterior sun panels. 

Design gifted by mana whenua — Image by: St Ignatius of Loyola college

In regards to curriculum development, ongoing meetings with Ngāti Tamaoho in 2023 led to the College becoming signatories to their Educational Strategy, now integrated into our Māori Magis (Excellence) Plan and reflected across all college faculties’ Schemes of Learning. To further support Te Ao Maori, full staff professional development is scheduled for 2024, conducted in partnership with the Iwi and funded for over 80 hours through the assistance of the Ministry of Education (MoE).

Bringing on board a new staff from many workplaces can be challenging as you work to develop a shared vision, common language and shared way of working together. Can you tell us a bit about the journey of inducting the foundation staff? 

In our ongoing commitment to fostering a strong and cohesive team dedicated to upholding our college’s unique ethos, the process of selecting new staff members has been both thorough and thoughtful. We understand the importance of not only recruiting individuals with the necessary skills and experience, but also those who resonate with our institution’s special character and values. From our Heads of Faculty to our General Teaching Staff, every member undergoes a comprehensive induction program and receives ongoing support across pastoral, academic, and spiritual dimensions.

The St Ignatius foundation staff — Image by: St Ignatius of Loyola college

Included in this professional development has been extensive work around the ‘Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm’ and the use of external experts like Father Johnny Go from Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. We also embarked collaboratively in creating our curriculum vision and shared pedagogy.  This resulted in clear ‘Schemes of Learning’ for all faculties, and a unified approach in curriculum design and expectations.

St Ignatian pedagogy — Image by: St Ignatius of Loyola college

We are grateful for the invaluable contribution of external partners like Tārai Kura, whose involvement has enriched our preparation and strategic planning endeavours. Throughout the design cycle of our strategic plan and the formulation of our vision statement and academic/pastoral systems, a spirit of collaboration and mutual benefit has guided us, fostering reciprocity and shared growth. This nurturing environment instils confidence and enthusiasm as we embark on our journey ahead, united in our commitment to excellence and shared goals.

You celebrated a powhiri to welcome new students to your school. How have families and students been involved in the development of the school to date? 

The commencement of the college year was marked by a memorable powhiri event, hosted by Ngāti Ta Ata, which formally welcomed our ākonga on their first day. Following the karanga, a procession including dignitaries, esteemed guests, dedicated staff, and eager ākonga made its way to our central courtyard for a formal reception. Adorned in their splendid new uniforms, the ākonga exemplified grace and reverence as they embraced tikanga, participating in karakia and waiata.

Ākonga at powhiri on the first day of school — Image by: St Ignatius of Loyola college

To ensure seamless integration into college life, our families have been informed through newsletters and letters, covering all aspects from daily routines to expectations, transportation, stationery, and attire. Additionally, ākonga were empowered to select their co-curricular activities for Tuesdays and Thursdays, fostering personal interests and facilitating growth in a unique and enriching manner.

Multiple opportunities were provided throughout 2023 to our families and the community, to gather, listen and to ask questions at information evenings for our Year 7, 8 and 9. Each of these events were extremely well received by all that attended. A ‘Meet the Teacher’ event occurred in March and an ‘Open Community’ event is scheduled for early April.

Community tree planting — Image by: St Ignatius of Loyola college

What are the fundamental beliefs about community involvement and building partnerships that will underpin how you and the staff will work as the school develops?  How will community be involved in the life of the school?

At the heart of our Catholic Ignatian community is the belief in ‘Cura Personalis’ which literally means care for the person. We are committed to caring for and accompanying the whole person. That is, honouring and nourishing spiritual, cultural, social, academic, physical and emotional development. We recognise that we can only do this in partnership with our families/whānau and wider community.

We recognise that our school community extends well beyond our staff and ākonga – indeed our school history already is a story of community and partnerships that spans over 30 years. The local community have been welcomed and involved in the life of our college from the very first planting day held on the school site in 2022. Parental involvement is central to our work and we have worked closely with families throughout the transition process in 2023. Furthermore, we are encouraging our parents to be involved in the life of our school through Parent/Teacher Hui, Community Tours, and are also offering a series of workshops for parent information. We are working to establish our school within local networks (contributing primary, RTLB, Kootuitui, Iwi, Diocesan, Kāhui Ako, sporting, business), and also our international Jesuit Community. We are keen to learn and grow from networks already established within the local community and hope that we can work to contribute positively to the local area and its future growth.

Ākonga induction to school life — Image by: St Ignatius of Loyola college

We aim to create a strong and supportive network which enhances the learning experience for ākonga and promotes a sense of belonging and pride among all members of our community.