Wellington, New Zealand Report of what it's like to live there - 11/16/18

Personal Experiences from Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand 11/16/18

School Name:

Queen Margaret College

Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?


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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

My older daughter attended 4th grade, younger daughter attended 3rd, 4th, 5th grade.

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3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

US State Dept

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4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

Marsden, Chilton for girls. Local public schools can be very good. This school is next door to the US Embassy, so it is appealing in that way.

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Admissions & Welcome:

1. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

Poor. It took us months to get added to the school database and receive class emails. One of my children was left off the class emails for an entire year.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

In our experience, communication was very poor the first year. They've since got a new app and updated their procedures and I think they're doing a much better job. Unlike the US, the teacher doesn't regularly communicate with parents. No weekly roundup, no email reminders. All communication is through the school, and you have to wade through preschool, lower school, upper school updates to get the info you need. It's very different than what I had been used to.

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2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?

Expensive uniforms, purchase your own laptop starting in grade 5, a few hundred dollars in field trips in upper elementary.

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Academics & Resources:

1. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

Yes, it's nice.

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2. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?

Share school iPads in lower elementary, purchase own laptops starting 5th grade.

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3. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

Gym, and use outdoor park next door for PE. About once a year they walk to the swimming pool nearby. Twice a year they have recreation days at local parks.

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4. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

For elementary, piano, guitar, violin, speech, drama, choir...

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5. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

The gifted program is a field trip and discussion once every couple of months.

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6. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

None. No evaluations offered, no services provided from what I could see.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?

This would probably be a good city to be a young LGBT+ person. People seem progressive and inclusive.

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2. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

Yes. No problem with that.

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3. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.

No bullying according to my daughters. The students are generally really nice to each other. Unfortunately, the older girls use a lot of profanity, and my daughters have mentioned that any time you're near them, you'll hear swearing. This seems to be a NZ-wide problem with teenagers and young adults not curbing their language around children.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?

C. Definitely not.

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2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!

We had two very different experiences at this school. One daughter joined a lovely class of girls (invited to 20 birthday parties the first year), made so many good friends, and generally liked school and did well.

The other daughter was completely left out all year (invited to 0 parties), mainly ignored by her classmates, had a lovely teacher who left halfway through the year and was replaced by an unkind and rude teacher according to my daughter. This daughter had been doing well, was happy and well-liked in the Virginia public schools all-day gifted program, but basically fell apart here. Anxiety spiraled over the year until she completely refused to go to school. It was dramatic and upsetting, and we ended up having to pull her out and homeschool for the rest of our tour.

If you have a child who is really well adjusted, likes rules, and isn't stressed out easily by school or adults--adapts easily, makes friends easily, is an athlete-- s/he will probably do fine at QMC and be happy.

If you have a child with any kind of quirks -- gifted, 2e, ADHD -- these are terms that QMC doesn't even hear (this seems to be a NZ-wide problem), and they won't make accommodations or suggestions or try to work with you.

In our experience, NZ seems decades behind the US in terms of special needs in the classroom. Talk to the Regional Education Officer and try to see if updates have been made or if any school is leading in approaching different types of learners with flexibility.

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