Concerns about staff wellbeing at an exclusive private school, which were raised by complaints of bullying, have now been addressed, according to Worksafe.
Speaking to the Herald about his recent appointment, St Peter's Trust Board chairman John Macaskill-Smith says the Cambridge-based school had since been focused on improving support for staff, updating policies and being more open about decisions.
Bullying complaints relating to St Peter's School in Cambridge were made to workplace bullying watchdog WorkSafe in term 1, prompting the school to launch an independent investigation.
WorkSafe's health and technical services manager Api Poutasi today told the Herald it had completed its work with the school after six months of involvement.
"The school's Board of Trustees has implemented a number of improvements, including new policies and procedures relating to staff wellbeing. These improvements have satisfied WorkSafe that staff wellbeing will be looked after, and no further action or involvement is needed from WorkSafe," he said.
He said the organisation's team of specialist health inspectors had been involved with the school after receiving an initial complaint and spoke with current and former staff about their experiences; reviewed documents, policies and procedures; and worked with the board.
"WorkSafe would like to commend the workers who raised concerns and acknowledge how their actions have led St Peter's School Cambridge to recognise an issue and take positive steps to look after the health and safety of their staff," Poutasi said.
Macaskill-Smith, who was appointed to the board in December and took the reins as chairman at the end of last term, described his first few months of involvement as a "rollercoaster".
"St Peter's is really heavily built around people and I think any organisation with lots of people in it will have periods of time where sometimes things get a little bit out of sync and it gets a bit gritty and I know that's a bit of the period we've just gone through," he said.
"The issues that may have contributed to that, there was a range of them from policies through to systems through to people, and all of those have really, really deeply been addressed."
Macaskill-Smith said they had found areas that needed to be improved and they were actively doing so.
Macaskill-Smith said they were still waiting on the report and recommendations from former chief judge of the Employment Court Graeme Colgan who had been appointed to head the investigation, but expected to receive them next month.
In the meantime, the board and senior management had been making changes, including improving the employment environment.
"We need to make sure we've got the culture right and humming, that we've got it as grit-free as we can, and that people feel well supported, safe and also supported to continue their own learning so that they can continue to contribute to the kids' learning and ensure that it's a great environment."
He said changes included looking at ways to support and equip staff to teach the next generation and making sure there was "a lot more openness".
The board and senior management were now talking much more openly with staff in order to have them more involved in key decision-making, he said.
A permanent staff representative had also been appointed to the trust board.
On top of that the board was becoming more active and directly involved in a number of areas.
The school had also reviewed many of its policies and processes to make sure they were "fit for purpose".
The health and safety policies had been updated to make sure that where people had concerns they could be raised effectively and taken right through the organisation if required, Macaskill-Smith said.
He said the board and senior management were trying to make themselves more transparent and available to staff and parents.
As for the appointment of a new principal, he said it was unlikely there would be anyone in the post until well into next year as they considered whether the current model of an executive principal, campus principal and chief operating officer was right for the school.
"It's not just a traditional school environment, so the kinds of leadership that we're going to need to glue all those bits together for today and for tomorrow might fall outside the traditional remit of traditional school principals. We're going to take a little bit of time to work this out because it's really important that we get the right person," Macaskill-Smith said.
In the meantime, campus principal Julie Small and chief operating officer Rob Campbell were doing a stunning job of running the school, he said.
While feedback so far had been positive, Macaskill-Smith said it was what happens next that he was most excited about.
The school was looking to work more closely with industry to get students the skills and hands-on experience needed to set them up for a career, change the way the school engaged with its community in the Waikato and around New Zealand and make the schools facilities, which included a working dairy farm, more accessible to the community.
• Appointed to St Peter's Trust Board in December 2020 and made chairman in July 2021.
• Has two children at St Peter's and one who graduated from the school in 2019.
• Has worked in the health sector for 20 years at the Health Funding Authority, Pinnacle Incorporated and Pinnacle Midlands Health Network - where he was chief executive, heading up health innovation company Ventures, as a health adviser to PwC in the Middle East and most recently with a number of start-ups including being head of strategy for Tend Health which was started by My Foodbag founders James and Cecilia Robinson.