Flaxmere principal on button from day one

By Sam Hurley

Flaxmere College principal Louise Anaru, who last week was presented with a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award, has transformed the once under-achieving decile one school into an educational leader.

A first-time principal in 2010, Mrs Anaru became Flaxmere head after working in the health sector and beginning her education career as a youth tutor at Te Whanau o Waipareira and Poutama 12 years ago.

She trained at Western Springs College, Avondale College and Otahuhu College in Auckland.

She then taught at Waitakere College for five years as head of health and co-facilitator of te hiringa i te mahara and te kotahitanga (professional learning for teachers to improve relationships and the quality of teaching and learning and achievement outcomes for Maori).

She was Taipa Area School deputy principal for the last five and a half years.

When the 39-year-old joined Flaxmere College she found the achievement results disappointing, but saw a challenge and an opportunity.

"Having a sound philosophy and a strong moral compass has helped us develop the school the way we wanted - all of our students have huge potential and can be capable leaders," she said. "When there are issues or problems, we see it as our responsibility to take that on board and improve the situation.

"First thing was we thoroughly researched what challenges the college faced, and with educational research and what we needed to do to change."

This led to a series of changes and an approach to leadership that resulted in a dramatic culture change within the school's management team.

"The results were quite quick because once we realised what needed to be done and what the vision of the school was, we were able to go about making changes straight away," she said.

"The goals that we set out were to increase leadership capacity, sustainability, so that if someone left it would not leave a leadership void, and we understood that leadership has a huge influence on student achievement."

Flaxmere College board of trustees member Murray Ward said Mrs Anaru had a positive influence from day one.

"Her process has been brilliant, she knew exactly what she was doing from day one - she had done her research and knew exactly what type of school it was," he said.

"She's done wonders and taken a lot of steps and helped staff out a lot."

Her change in philosophy came from believing that improving the overall achievement results would come from helping and raising the achievement standards of each child. Positive results were almost instant.

Achievement levels doubled, and students began achieving at the national average, while attendance levels improved 20 per cent.

"We want to improve student outcomes, engagement and participation," she said. "We've had lots to celebrate but still have a way to go - we want all the students leaving the school to be well qualified and prepared."

At times Flaxmere College has proved to be challenging workplace for a principal, however Mrs Anaru showed the ability to take on a strong leadership role amongst her staff and students, which ultimately earned her the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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