Staff at the Rotorua schools which are finalists in the 2018 Prime Minister's Education Excellence Awards say they feel honoured and privileged to be selected.

Rotorua Girls' High School is a finalist for the Excellence in Teaching and Learning/Atatū Award and John Paul College is a finalist for the 2018 Education Focus Prize/Takatū Prize.

John Paul College's special education needs co-ordinator Paulene Walsh said the school's selection was the result of a decade of hard work.

The theme of the Education Focus Prize this year is breaking down barriers to learning and showing inclusive practice.


Walsh said the school had been doing that through its learning support centre for students with additional learning needs.

"It's been a 10-year journey for us, looking at tracking our students from the moment they enter, to the moment they leave, academically, their emotional wellbeing, and through the NCEA years," she said.

Walsh said the school tried to develop programmes to suit the students, and ensure students, parents and teachers had a voice and were engaged and connected.

Paulene Walsh, John Paul College special education needs co-ordinator and Ally Gibbons, Rotorua Girls' High School principal. Photo/Ben Fraser
Paulene Walsh, John Paul College special education needs co-ordinator and Ally Gibbons, Rotorua Girls' High School principal. Photo/Ben Fraser

The school also did environmental projects to encourage students to take ownership of the school.

"We feel honoured and privileged. I'm honoured for my teacher aides because they are not always recognised and this is recognition for them, too. They are doing a lot of ground work."

Rotorua Girls' High School principal Ally Gibbons said addressing Māori achievement had been a "whole journey" and they were delighted to have been selected as a finalist for the school's work in raising Māori achievement.

"Having a strong moral purpose has helped us to raise Māori achievement as we have a huge responsibility to ensure equity and excellence in opportunity and outcomes for all of our students," Gibbons said.

"While it's this aspect we've been recognised for, this big picture is it has been a holistic approach to everything we've done."


Gibbons said raising Māori achievement, had a flow-on effect to the rest of the school.

"I just think it's a testament to the hard work that's been done by staff and by students and with whānau involvement."

Gibbons said the school had created an engaging environment for Māori students to learn and to celebrate their identities.

The Prime Minister's Education Excellence Awards celebrate outstanding education practices in New Zealand. This year 15 finalists have been selected from 127 entries.

Members of the judging panel are visiting the finalists during May and June to see their work and speak to those involved.

Winners from each category will receive $20,000 and a professional development opportunity.


The supreme award winner will receive an additional $30,000 and an opportunity to represent New Zealand in an international education conference.

The awards ceremony is in Wellington in July.