By: Claire Amos

In November last year I was lucky enough to attend the SingularityU Summit in Christchurch. It was an awesome three days. It reignited my love of futures thinking and served as a swift kick in the pants.

I wrote this blogpost.

I went back to school.

I felt unsettled.

I needed someone to help me process my thinking.

So a week or so later I called up my friend and now business partner and co-founder Brett O’Riley. I knew Brett had attended the SingularityU Executive Training in the US and I also knew he shared my frustration at the seemingly glacial pace of change in education. I shared my thinking and a vision for a school that was part school and part innovation co-working space. I wanted to know why we weren’t leveraging digital technology to support more self-directed study in a social learning environment. I wanted to know why schools weren’t more like GridAKL? Why are young people still in uniforms ‘PAC-MANing’ their way through disconnected and fragmented timetables of learning? Why? Why? Why?

It was over an afternoon of discussion that we landed at an idea – why don’t we open a school? It was a throwaway comment at the time. But it also planted a seed.

So this is how it all started.

Then, suddenly it seemed to make a whole lot of sense. We (Brett and I) share a passion for digital technology and innovation. Brett has massive amounts of experience and expertise in the business innovation sphere, I had a whole lot of passion for leading educational change and fair amount of experience in setting up a school – thanks to what I thought was a once in a lifetime experience with Maurie Abraham and the team at HPSS. And with that, and a dash of “Screw it, let’s do it!”, City Senior School at The Launching Pad was born. Okay, there might also have been about six months of massive amounts of planning and application forms and generally burning the midnight oil with Brett and others to get this thing across the line.

So, what is City Senior School?

City Senior School will be an urban inner city STEAM school with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and maths. It was also have a ‘green’ sustainability philosophy which will focus on Green Innovation Projects. City Senior School will be a school that is characterised by its student’s partnership with business and industry, and the employment pathways it creates.

Our vision

Innovate. Connect. Contribute.

The mission of our school is to nurture and support our young people with a particular focus on becoming agentic, innovative and creative global citizens who can confidently contribute in our rapidly changing world.

Our values and principles

We Innovate

  • Online learning
  • Self-directed learning
  • Experiential learning

We Connect

  • Social learning environment
  • Building partnerships
  • Connected learning

We Contribute

  • Community connection
  • Sustainability focus
  • Service learning

Our curriculum

Students will experience three curriculum foci:

  • STEAM curriculum, delivered through a mixture of online modules and face-to-face teaching.
  • Green Innovation Projects and workplace engagements with local technology businesses both onsite and in Wynyard Quarter and the CBD.
  • Whānau mentoring, which will focus on te reo, tikanga, communication skills, self-management, wellbeing, ethics and futures thinking.

Our (draft) year 11 timetable 

N.B. Students will move to an increasingly fluid and flexible timetable as they develop their abilities to engage in self-directed learning.

City Senior School at The Launching Pad

City Senior School will be located within The Launching Pad which will also be a co-working space for startup companies in the tech and innovation sector. By co-locating students and industry, we will be able to support to students to work alongside and with their business partners and mentors.
There are hundreds of companies, organisations and NGOs within walking distance, requiring workers with STEAM skills that will be engaged by the school to provide project and career pathway opportunities for students. Our foundation partners include Auckland Theatre Company, Datacom, Microsoft, Media Design School and IBM, who are all in close proximity.

City Senior School as an innovation hub

The City Senior School Innovation Hub will be a multi-purpose space that will be dedicated to bringing together educators and students to explore innovative practice.

This may include:

  • pop-up workshops designed and facilitated by City Senior School staff and students
  • industry and School Educator connection events
  • a space available for teachers and students to come work alongside City Senior School staff and students
  • a space for educator meet-ups and TeachMeets
  • a space for third-party professional development providers.

And yes, City Senior School is a partnership school.

Partnership schools (sometimes also referred to as charter schools), I know, are a point of contention for some. In fact, even I have struggled with charter schools in the past, and if I am honest I still believe they could be conflated with character schools. However, it is nigh on impossible to open a character school and as one who steadfastly refuses to be binary about these kind of things, I have come to believe that partnership schools are an opportunity for innovation that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else. Yes, of course we should be investing in evolving existing schools, and innovation is happening all over the place. However, I strongly believe there is also space within the education landscape for small prototype schools that are free from the constraints of existing structures – small schools that can be agile and can share their learning with everyone. I believe that education should be free, it should be taught by highly skilled registered teachers and that we should, as New Zealand schools, be using The New Zealand Curriculum and National Certificate of Educational Achievement. So that is what will happen at City Senior School. Yes we are a partnership school, we are a partnership school that will have 100% skilled and registered teachers teaching the NZC to work towards NCEA… plus a wide range of other carefully curated international microcredentials.

And while we are on the topic, we don’t get 2-5 times the amount of funding of a state school. We are funded at the same rate as a Decile 5 school, just simply bulk funded.

So now what?

Lots of excitement, planning and preparation! I will start full-time as Principal from Term 2 2018, along with a fellow senior leader, with a view to appointing our first contingent of teachers who will begin in Term 4. City Senior School will open with up to 100 year 11 students in 2019, building up to a roll of 300 year 11-13s by 2021. Enrolments will open in mid 2018.


  1. Sounds like something with amazing potential. Initially baulked at the idea of being a partnership but you do make some really valid points about the flexibility and agility it will allow- I certainly couldn’t see a similar school being created under the state system. Good luck Claire.


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