Wellington, New Zealand Real School Experiences

Personal Experiences from Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand 11/16/18

Queen Margaret College

School Website

http://www.qmc.school.nz/


Background Information:

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

Parent.

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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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Wellington, New Zealand 05/09/13

Queen Margaret College

School Website

http://www.qmc.school.nz


Background Information:

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

Parent.

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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?

Oldest daughter- equivalent of grades 11 and 12 (officially years 12 and 13)

Youngest daughter - equivalent of grades 6,7,8 (officially years 7, 8 and 9)

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3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?

2010 - 2013

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

We are part of the US Embassy community.

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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?

My girls fit in fairly quickly. No one made me feel silly for not knowing how things work, and I was always made to feel welcome.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:

The school is for girls only, and while I was afraid that would be a problem (mine are pretty tom-boyish and have coed friends) they integrated fairly quickly and had a great time. The school seems to laud good academic performance without putting too much pressure on the girls. There are plenty of sports and extra curricular activities on offer, too. There are very few international kids, but this didn't seem to be a problem. The IB system is new to the school (my oldest's graduating class was only the second year to take the IB exams) and the main reason we chose it over other schools that offered only the NZ system at the time. I felt the girls got a good education in a supportive learning environment and made very close connections with their classmates. The Year 13's (seniors) were especially close. I couldn't be more happy with both girls' experiences during this posting.

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2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:

I felt all students were treated fairly equally by the administration and teachers. I had no complaints and even found communication to be much better than at any of the other international schools we've attended.

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

EXCELLENT!

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4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:

For minor learning difficulties they will work with the parents and students to get them extra help. I don't know about more severe problems.

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5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:

There are quite a few different sports for the the girls to sign up for (soccer, netball, basketball, badminton, dragon boating, sailing, water polo, underwater hockey, swimming, etc.). You can also sign up for music lessons (whatever you want to play or sing, you can find a teacher here), drama groups, and singing groups. My youngest took voice for two years outside of the school and then joined the barbershop group for the last year. There are community groups all over that offer drama classes and put on plays. Art lessons are harder to come by but are out there, as are cooking classes.

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6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

Every student is expected to maintain a high level of decorum while in the QMC uniform, even when off campus. They are expected to take their studies seriously and perform to the best of their abilities. They take great pride in the reputation of their schools in NZ.

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7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

Reasonable.

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8. Administration-parent communication:

Very good.

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9. Teacher-student communication:

Very good.

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10. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?

Each year there is a required EOTC trip (Education Outside the Classroom) for every grade. These range from activities around the city to weeklong excursions. My oldest did an outward-bound type of trip at Mt. Ruapehu during her junior year and a week in Napier/Hastings in her senior year. The youngest went on a camping trip near Nelson on the South Island the first year and took excursions around the city the second year. During the third year the girls spent a few days with some Maori hosts at a Marae not too far away.

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11. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:

Yes.

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12. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?

Yes.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

US students need to be pro-active about their college application process. QMC doesn't know much about it. The ACT and SAT are offered in Wellington and Auckland. Check the websites for these two exams for dates early!

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

There is a decent library at the school, and access can be gained to a very good library system in Wellington and its suburbs.

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3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

Starting in Year 7 (Grade 6), all students must buy the laptops that the school determines they will have.

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

The oldest didn't have to take PE, but for the younger grades they have PE two or three times a week.

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5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

Typically about 20 to 1 or less.

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6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?

They have had the IB diploma courses since 2010. The first graduating class for IB was in 2011.

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7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

It is to me.

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

The IB students can choose a track in Drama/Theatre, Film Studies, or Visual Arts. The younger grades have art, materials technology (I can only describe this as something akin to home economics, but I still don't fully understand it), music, and drama classes.
There are community groups all over that do drama classes and put on plays, art lessons (harder to come by but still out there), and music lessons of all kinds all over the city. My youngest took voice lessons but not through the school.

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9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

Yes - this is NZ. And they are accommodating to my daughters pronouncing or spelling things differently.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

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

Yes.

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2. 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.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

The comraderie of the students. They see someone in a QMC uniform and feel an instant connection. And all the girls have each other's backs.

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2. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Yes. It fit our needs academically and socially and was located right next to the embassy. The teachers and administrators are extremely nice and helpful and quick to respond to any questions or concerns you may have.

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