Breakout Session 7 - 17th September at 2:45 - 3:25

Leading shifts in school culture, challenges and progress

Presenter/s: Samantha Mortimer, Rowan Haigh
Type: Leadership story
Keywords: Relational, restorative, reflective
Room: Ngā Purapura


Samantha and Rowan are relational practitioners who believe that to have a great school culture, positive relationships across the whole school community are paramount. At the heart of this is restorative practices (RP) in its true sense as not just “something we do” but “something we are”.

When Samantha joined Rowan (DP) as principal at Greymouth High School (GHS) they both recognised that RP in its true sense was missing from the school culture and they were eager to rectify this. However, as they were already focussing on cultural capabilities with their local hapu (Māori family group), as pragmatic leaders, they didn’t want to overload the staff with another initiative. Therefore, they, along with the rest of the SLT, decided to bring everything together under one clear and cohesive overarching framework which they called Relational Learning Culture. Covid slowed the development of this framework but as practised optimists they took the wins where they could. This included Rowan guiding the pastoral team as leaders in RP across the school.

In this leadership story Samantha and Rowan will share GHS’ journey towards developing Relational Learning Culture. Including, how values drive their work; supporting literature; the changes in GHS school practices and their next steps.


Samantha Mortimer, Rowan Haigh

Samantha Mortimer has been principal at Greymouth High School since 2021. She completed a BA at Radford University, Virginia, and an MA and PGCE at Exeter University before becoming a high school teacher in Manchester, UK. Samantha returned to NZ and joined Te Aroha College in 2008 and while there became DP and completed her MEd Leadership at Waikato. Samantha is passionate about educational leadership, supporting the growth of staff and students and embedding a relational learning culture.
Rowan Haigh has been Deputy Principal at Greymouth High School since 2020. He grew up on West Coast and has been working in education there for the past decade. Prior to this, Rowan completed his Postgraduate Diploma Education (Distinction) from the University of Canterbury after returning from four years teaching in London. Rowan believes in a holistic view of education, one that encourages all to achieve success in whatever pathway they choose.