by Chris Tobin
Timaru Boys’ High School’s new rector, Dave Thorp, says a strong sense of community at the school is one reason he applied for the position.
“The school has a very engaged and helpful parent body and the boys have a pronounced sense of belonging. There’s a sense of brotherhood and they feel comfortable to be able to work to their potential.”
Mr Thorp (58) replaced Nick McIvor, who left last year after five years in the position to become rector at King’s High School in Dunedin.
He said South Canterbury had a range of “great” schools where people could choose the one that fitted their child, but he was an enthusiastic supporter of single-sex schools for boys, research showing they were successful.
“There’s a sense of shared purpose and it’s an important time for male friendships and bonding.
“We have many different branches of Timaru old boys around New Zealand.”
Mr Thorp did not at first pursue an academic path after leaving Waitaki Boys’ High School, and did a number of jobs.
“The longest period was in trains as a loco assistant for five years and I worked in the tannery section of the freezing works for a similar period.
“I went overseas then worked in a cable-making factory in Christchurch.”
Mr Thorp said that throughout these years he was an avid reader, and still was, and when he was growing up, politics and culture were regular topics around the family table.
“I was always interested in ideas.”
In his 30s he made a life-changing decision to go to university to study for an English degree. On graduating, he became an English teacher, and has been in education ever since.
Not going directly to university and into teaching has helped him, he believes.
“It opened my eyes to the psychological barrier some kids feel going through the education system.
“Schools need to be culturally responsive to all kids.”
He said that Timaru Boys’, while having a full academic programme with all the humanities and arts available, also had a successful Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) programme that provided dual pathways – to university or the trades.
“I also feel that students’ involvement in our extensive extracurricular programmes in sports, arts and culture really contributes to their overall success and wellbeing.”
Timaru was not unfamiliar territory for Mr Thorp. He was deputy rector at Timaru Boys’ from 2008-12, then went to Wellington College, where he had taught before, as deputy principal.
His wife, Suzanne Pidduck, has started at Geraldine High School as an assistant principal. They have 9-year-old twin girls and an 11-year-old son.
Making time for his family was a big priority for Mr Thorp.
He said as rector, he saw his main role as getting alongside the heads of departments and other teachers and doing the best for every pupil to reach their potential.
“There are big changes afoot with NCEA which will hopefully lead to less stress for students and teachers and less assessment and more learning.
“I’m looking forward to positioning the school to transition as seamlessly as possible.”