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Five minutes with Andrew McGregor


Five minutes with Andrew McGregor

When Andrew McGregor took over the reins of Haileybury Rendall School (HRS), the foundations to build a quality teaching and learning environment were already in place, but he knew there was still much more work to be done.

Since McGregor became the school’s founding Principal in January 2021, student numbers at the school have more than doubled – from 426 in 2018 to 1,032 enrolments this year. HRS has achieved top Primary School NAPLAN results in the Territory for three years running. More than one-third (37%) of students attained an ATAR over 90 last year, and the median ATAR result has jumped about six points in just one year to almost 86.

Despite this success, McGregor strongly believed HRS could do more to improve educational outcomes for the Northern Territory’s indigenous students, seeking to bring more remote Indigenous students into the school and to create a safe place where they felt heard, recognised and supported to achieve inside and outside the classroom.

Below, The Educator speaks to McGregor about his leadership of the school, his formula for academic success, attracting new teachers into the profession, and how he plans on continuing the school’s growth into the future.

TE: What has it taken to build a school like HRS from the ground up?

Building Haileybury Rendall School from the ground up has required unwavering commitment, strategic planning, and strong community input and engagement. When I arrived in 2020, there were about 600 students. This year, we have more than 1,000 students and will reach our capacity of 1,130 students in the next year or two. We began with a clear vision and a dedicated team focused on providing exceptional education tailored to every student’s needs. We’ve had a strong focus on wellbeing, not just on great academic results, and we’re really proud of that. We’ve fostered a positive, inclusive school culture, have continuously invested in our facilities, and we’ve employed passionate and talented academic staff. We’ve actively sought feedback from parents, students, and staff to guide our development and ensure that we meet evolving educational standards and community expectations. Our success stems from a collaborative approach—every person feels valued and invested in our shared mission.

TE: What do you feel are the secrets to creating a successful school in the Northern Territory – how does that differ from elsewhere across the country?

Understanding and embracing the unique cultural and geographical context is key. We prioritise cultural inclusivity and recognise the rich Indigenous heritage and diverse backgrounds of our students. Our boarding school is home to over 100 students, mostly Indigenous students from remote communities, and we focus heavily on remote community involvement to ensure local values and traditions are integrated into our curriculum and school activities. We also acknowledge the specific challenges faced by boarders who live away from their homes and families and we have specific programs to support their wellbeing. We’ve just launched our 5th Reconciliation Action Plan and now, more than ever, the deliverables within that plan are being owned and actioned by our students. Our approach is to foster a sense of belonging, which is crucial for student engagement and success in this region.

TE: How is the school attracting high-quality teachers to Darwin at a time when teacher attraction and retention is an industry-wide challenge – what’s the secret?

Attracting high-quality teachers to Darwin hinges on offering a supportive, rewarding work environment. We provide competitive salaries, personalised professional development opportunities, and a strong sense of community within our school. Having fun and getting involved are encouraged! Emphasising work-life balance and the unique lifestyle benefits of Darwin helps us appeal to educators seeking professional and personal fulfillment. We also highlight our commitment to innovative teaching practices and an incredibly collegial and collaborative culture—this makes HRS an attractive place for passionate educators. Our retention strategy includes ongoing coaching and mentorship programs, recognising teacher achievements, and ensuring staff feel valued and empowered. Many teachers know about the acclaimed Haileybury Melbourne education and our reputation and outcomes are aligned. Fulfilment of our Indigenous Employment Strategy is also pivotal in the Territory.

TE: What do you think the next seven years hold for the school, and how do you plan to continue the school’s growth?

Our basic principles and beliefs will stay the same with students at the center of our important decisions. We will continue to invest in attracting and developing great staff. We will determinedly work to develop our reputation as a Centre for Excellence in Indigenous education, and we will continue to develop cultural awareness and true steps to reconciliation. Our boarding footprint will grow with more international students from Asia and domestic students from across Australia, and we’ll see more entrepreneurial and innovative learning studies for students. We’ll continue to expand our facilities and introduce more options in STEM, arts, and vocational training to cater to the evolving interests of our students, and we’ll strengthen our partnerships with local industries and higher education institutions to enhance our students’ career readiness. Additionally, we will focus on integrating cutting-edge educational technologies and personalised learning approaches to further improve academic outcomes. This will be supported by detailed real-time student data and easily accessible dashboards. Our commitment to fostering a supportive, inclusive, and safe environment will remain steadfast, ensuring that every student thrives in a nurturing and dynamic setting.

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