Ministry of Education secretary Gail Townsend said this year’s conference was focused on pastoral care for school students.
Last year, the conference was centred on teacher development and this year the format of the conference was altered slightly for a different subject.
“This is not so much the academic wellbeing of students, but their emotional, physical, cultural and spiritual well-being. It is all the things that happen outside the delivery of the curriculum” Townsend said.
With pastoral care being a first-time focus for the ministry, Townsend said it’s about giving principals strategies, processes and ideas to help build pastoral care in their school.
“Building student characteristics like resilience, managing peer pressure, making good decisions, setting goals for themselves, having self-confidence and self-esteem and knowing self-management,” she said.
The theme for the conference was instigated through feedback that the ministry was receiving from schools and it was discovered that pastoral care needed to be embraced.
Townsend says pastoral care isn’t something that an individual school, an individual teacher, or the education ministry can do by themselves.
“It is something that involves a whole lot of agencies, families and the community.
“Developing a child holistically is not something the ministry can do alone. It’s engaging everybody,” she said.
The conference began with two young mothers sharing their experiences and outlining what they wanted for their children. The principals then discussed issues, shared ideas and identified areas that needed more attention.
Townsend said they would also be hearing from two university students who have returned home to Rarotonga to work.
“We have got people from Internal Affairs, the police department and non-government organisations who will be sharing their ideas and concepts.”
Townsend said hearing from people in the community would give the principals a broader perspective and help them develop ideas from other people on how to engage with their students.
“It is about hearing from the community and getting other agencies in to help us address areas we need to work on,” she said.
Principals from early childhood education (ECE), primary, secondary and tertiary schools are attending the conference.
Townsend said it was vitally important to bring the principals together.
“Even principals on Rarotonga can be professionally isolated from each other. So having the chance to talk, share and even just laugh is important.”