Heather McRae starts her new role as the head of Diocesan School tomorrow.

Moving to the private girls' school from Pakuranga College, Mrs McRae brings with her a wide knowledge of international teaching methods used in the state and private sectors.

After working on curriculum development in the Philippines, Indonesia and China, she was asked to help set up an international school in Beijing.

The school catered for the children of expatriates and government officials, and Mrs McRae helped it introduce the International Baccalaureate qualification.

Returning to New Zealand Mrs McRae joined Pakuranga College an equally diverse school with about 2100 students and 55 cultures and has worked there for the past five years, the final two as principal.

On top of her school duties she is now one of two school principals on the National Curriculum Advisory Group for the Ministry of Education.

She has also received a Sir Woolf Fisher Trust Scholarship enabling her to undertake the Hillary Leadership Programme run by the New Zealand Leadership Institute.

Mrs McRae said she was excited about leading Diocesan - a high-achieving school with about 16000 students on its roll.

She attended the small, country, co-educational Tararua College but her grandmother was one of Diocesan's earliest students and passed many warm memories of the school through the family.

A keen sportswoman who has run five marathons, Mrs McRae is interested in the sporting and other extra-curricular activities offered at Diocesan.

"I really love seeing students participate and grow in a range of activities. It really expands the way students think about the world," she said.

She also believes in a seamless, uninterrupted education and said many of Diocesan's girls are lucky to have that, having been through the school from Year 1.

"Research in education shows that the factors that most influence learning get messed up through child transitions, so where they have a seamless flow through the education system they don't have that learning disconnected," she said.

Mrs McRae sees the role of independent schools in being able to innovate and to offer parents choice as important though she realises the sector will be under pressure during the recession.