Part One of The Collegian’s interview with Principal Steven Hargreaves can be read here.

The Collegian: Interview with Principal Steven Hargreaves: Part 1, education reforms and the teachers shortage

Read on for the full part two of the interview where the principal discusses the government’s proposed draft changes to NCEA, the second hand uniform debacle and his autumn binge watch recommendations.


“In August 2018, yourself along with nearly 40 other principals purchased a full-page newspaper ad criticising some of the government’s proposed changes to NCEA. Critics describe the changes as radical.

Do you think NCEA even needs to change. And why have you chosen to take this action – dropping Level 1 and IGCSE – now before all other schools”

There are two separate things there really, because we made the decision as a school to drop NCEA Level 1 and IGCSE independent of the NCEA review.

My concerns with the NCEA review were that they had some proposals that were going to make the qualification worthless at Level 1 in particular. They were talking about project-based learning, 40 credits, having to go into the community and tee up practical work to go alongside the work in schools — incredibly difficult to administer, you’re going to get great variation up and down the country, and you know, a 40-credit qualification which you could get in so many different ways would mean it wasn’t a genuine national qualification.

They also had plans at the other levels to include things like citizenship and financial literacy and their definition of literacy, and I couldn’t see the value in that when I know that universities already have major concerns about English literacy.

Read more (article continues below):
NZ Herald: NCEA reforms: external exams in Year 11 go, ‘pathway’ courses required at Levels 2 and 3
Principals NCEA Coalition (Press Release):
 Secondary School Principals Challenge Minister Over NCEA
Stuff: A new approach to education consultation, and not everyone’s happy

Now, the other thing is – we spoke about was Macleans College not assessing Level 1 or IG, you said “before other schools”, quite a few schools, as it turns out, don’t do Level 1 already.

Anyway, we would’ve done it anyway, because we think that we can better prepare students for Year 12, by writing our own course.

We can get more teaching done, we can drop the curriculum material which doesn’t carry on into Year 12, we can avoid in the NCEA pathway, the continual internal assessment that puts workload on to teachers, which puts a lot of stress on to students.

I think we can do some deeper learning on the IG stuff, it seems to be a really jammed curriculum – a lot of superficial learning and we think we can get some good depth and better conceptual understanding of the material, and content that does carry into Year 12.

How can a Year 11 course properly prepare them for a multitude of different pathways? For instance, in English, it’s not just the Level 1 and Cambridge, but there’s AS Literature and AS Language.

So the courses do have to be cleverly written, but as you’ll know, a student can do IG English, Lit, and then pick up AS Language.

In fact, a student could do AS Language and then the next year they could do AS English Lit, so the skills in the Year 11 course that we provide will be applicable to both and then obviously the skills you need within AS Lit or AS Language can be taught during that year.

I don’t think you need to worry unnecessarily that students won’t be prepared. Most subjects provided have got good numeracy and good literacy skills and if you apply yourself, you can pick them up at AS level.

On another note, the last time… there was a Collegian interview, you said that you were watching Breaking Bad. Have you finished Breaking Bad? And if so, do you have any new recommendations?

Yes I did watch Breaking Bad and I’ve probably watched one that’s worse, I’ve been watching Ozark. It’s about a highly dysfunctional family, and there’s a theme here because Breaking Bad was a chemistry teacher gone wrong cooking P and Ozark of course is a businessman laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. So, there you go

Anyway, because of the straight-laced ordinary safe and secure lifestyle, I get a kick out of watching these sorts of dangerous programmes. I can’t recommend them to students!

So, what can I recommend what else have I been watching. I don’t watch very much TV at all really, other than sport, I did watch plenty of rugby and cricket and basketball, anything that’s going really.

So, people who want your recommendations should just watch some Sky Sport…


While we’re here, could you expand on the story in the NZ Herald which talked about the Jayson Fong and his second hand uniforms?

I mean, he’s a clever boy, and he manipulated that situation really really cleverly.

Was he really threatened with what he says he was threatened?

Look I’ve asked around the office here and over in the international department and nobody will own up to it, in fact, nobody can remember knows of anybody who said it.

This is my take on it – the phone call that he recorded of me telling him to stop spamming the system; I had told him, do you realise that you have stolen an email and are spamming the students, that’s liable to a fine of whatever it was, I just read the Department of Internal Affairs website. He said, don’t threaten me! and I said I’m not threatening you, I’m just telling you that you need to know the facts.

So I would imagine what happened is somebody in the department said to him, you can’t run a second-hand uniform business on a student visa, you could get deported and he’s taken that as a threat. That would be my view of it given how he responded to the quote that I read.

Look the whole thing was like I said, manipulated perfectly, he is not a poor student. Now he’s completely untrustworthy, dishonest — he recorded a phone call with me without telling me he was recording me,

I mean that’s an alarm bell straight away, people who do that.

This all started a year or so ago, when he setup a website that was using the Macleans logo and he was in the secondhand uniform shop handing out his business cards.

Like of course, we’re not going to have somebody coming to our second-hand uniform shop pretending to be a Macleans authorised dealer, when he’s not.

So of course, he got told to leave, but at the same time, he also had some other business going and he had ripped off another burger company’s logo and he was using that as well. So, he doesn’t deal in honest and upfront ways, which is the point I was making on the phone to him. That phone call that he recorded.

We ordered the accounts for a board meeting just to have a look at it, we made $2000 out of the second-hand uniform shop last year. So we’re not getting rich.

Nobody’s getting rich out of second hand uniforms and we’re not going to run our own uniform shop for new uniforms just because it’s a specialist business. And as you can see, there’s about 15 schools that have uniforms distributed by John Russell because we’ve tried to do it ourselves, you end up with odd sizes, obsolete items, out of stock pieces, and it gets expensive, so you just let the professionals do it.

I would dearly have loved to say he’s not poor, there’s no money in second-hand uniforms for school, he’s stolen an email and admitted to it, he’s illegally spammed students twice, he did rip off our logo, he’s ripped off a burger firm’s logo, but you know that’s just we’d look like the big [man against the machine]

Read more:
Stuff: Former Macleans College student accused of ‘spamming’ students over second-hand uniforms
NZ Herald: Ex-student scraps with school over uniforms

After the devastating events in Christchurch and other parts of the world, everyone’s looking for a way to feel better about what’s going on in our country, and the world. Do you have any advice?

I’d like to come up with some pearls of wisdom. I just want to say, let’s be grateful for what we have, actually just need to pause and look around us and think, we’re in a beautiful country, we’re in a wonderfully well-equipped school, we have shelter, we’re all clothed, we’re all well fed, we’ve got the world of the opportunity in front of us there for the taking, let’s just reflect on that and be grateful.

Interview by Grace Baylis and Justin Hu. Transcript lightly edited for enhanced clarity. Published on 30/04/2019. Header image courtesy Macleans College News Committee

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