Introducing City Senior School at The Launching Pad

GreenSTEAM Curriculum Diagram (1).png

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 throw away 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 “green” sustainability philosophy which will focused on through 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,
  • Whanau Mentoring (which will focus on Te Reo, tikanga, communication skills, self-management, well-being, ethics and futures thinking)
Our (draft) Year 11 Timetable 

NB. Students will move to an increasingly fluid and flexible timetable as they develop their ability 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

City Senior School is a Partnership School (sometimes also referred to as a charter school), which I know will be a point of contention for some. 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 which 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 registered teachers teaching the NZC to work towards 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 Two 2018 along with a fellow senior leader with a view to appointing our first contingent of teachers who will begin in Term Four. 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. 

If you are interested in joining our mailing list, feel free to sign up here!


  1. Wow! That looks really exciting and a potentially profound step in the experiences that learners can have.

    Go well! I will watch with real interest :-)

  2. Great post Claire. Busting assumptions and constraints!
    Go well mate!

  3. As an opposer of Charter Schools I love this...what frustrates me is that this should be happening mainstream. Build an epic school, I'll be visiting to learn kaha, I'm a semi-convert

  4. Awesomeness. Walking the walk, that’s what I love about you Amos!

  5. Nice work! Was just discussing with a colleague last week how we would like to do a similar thing in Napier. Poor kids only have traditional schools to go to.

  6. Bold, brave and a great idea. I will watch with interest and I wish you every success in this exciting venture.

  7. A brave move for so many, but just another step for you Claire Amos! You are such a mover and shaker, well done, this is just what we need to be doing, shaking up the system and prototyping a brand new model. Yes! I am keen to keep in touch and hear more and support where I can!

  8. Inspiring Claire, as usual. Every success to you guys in the new venture.

  9. Great to read Claire - follow your beliefs and passion and share it further (disrupt plenty of assumptions and beliefs along the way)! This will be an exciting venture and I look forward to following your journey.

  10. This is very interesting Claire. To me this is the future of education - strong, contextualised, authentic industry education partnerships. Love it. Like you, I have struggled with the whole partnership school concept, but you are right, I just can't see this sort of thing happening within our current educational environment. The reality is that this could be one hub of a central education community that operates in various different contexts - but connects these contexts as well. It challenges the very notion of a 'school'.

    My only question is around how you ensure learners receive a holistic experience that also prepares them as global citizens. What about understanding of culture and language (both crucial aspects for me)? What about exposing students to philosophy or ways of thinking?

    And what about no timetable at all? And re-thinking organisational leadership - does there need to be a principal?

    Love to know what the "online" aspect will look like as well.

    Good job tho :-)

    1. Hi Darren,

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! Philosophy and Futures Thinking well and truly embedded in the whanau mentoring curriculum - agree this is soooo important.

      I can share the fuller curriculum draft if you like, you will see that it evolves to pretty much 100% self-directed by Year 13. I didn't want to scare the horses and I want to be confident the students develop the skills before being going completely free-range. If they demonstrate the desire and capacity to thrive with more ownership of time, they will get it!

      We will be breaking down some of the structures - at this stage thinking Principal, Associate and a Lead Learning Designer (who will have expertise around developing powerful e-learning platforms and practices). Aside from that we will just be excellent (appropriately remunerated) educators. I agree we might even challenge this structure, but I also know from experience that strong leadership is key.

      Looking forward to continuing this conversation ;)

    2. Interesting. Yep. Love to see the curriculum draft.

    3. Oh and you might want to start talking about this with Chris Hipkins ;-). Although it wouldn't surprise me if you already have.

  11. Wow Claire thats a brave and exciting journey ahead. If only more of us were this willing to walk the talk. Cant wait to see it in action.

  12. WOW! How many of us teachers have said 'lets just start our own school' and now you have! Congrats on taking this mammoth step and best wishes for the journey, I too will be watching with great interest. (and would love a visit down the track)

  13. Envious that yours got across the line and ours didn't. Never mind, though. Congratulations!!! I'll be in touch to see if I can help/participate. You're pioneering where New Zealand needs to go. Thank you.

  14. Hi Claire, all power to you! It's an innovative idea and combination of expertise that is blindingly obvious to tap into when you're in a big city. Drawing on those will be massively interesting to watch as it unfolds.

    Well Done
    and Best Wishes
    if we can ever help in any way
    email text or call me
    all we have is yours

  16. A bold and inspiring move. Congratulations...will be following your progress with much interest.

  17. I love how you have taken a bias for action and are getting this off the ground Claire. I really look forward to seeing the success of this school with you at the helm.

  18. I'm drawing a blank googling Auckland launching pad. Any info on this?

    1. It will open next year as a co-working space! Hence a bit hard to find at the moment. If you sign up to the newsletter on the blogpost we can keep you updated. Drop me a line, am keen to hear what you had planned.

  19. Congratulations to you and Brett. I know this has required spades of work and bravery! I look forward to sheering from the sidelines.

  20. Fantastic!! Looking forward to finding out more!! Kia Kaha

  21. This is very exciting! Nobody knows what's possible until you try, so kudos to you for getting this off the ground. The approach to dove tail all that is unique about NZ education, in terms of curriculum and aspirations for equity, into the innovation is also great to see. Look forward to hearing more.

  22. Wow, Claire. Inspiring and exciting. Love the vision!!! As a charter school, I'm assuming enrolment is open to anyone? How will you manage selection if you surpass enrolment number cap? Also, what would need to be happening at the junior school level to prepare students for this type of approach to education?

    1. That last question is Gold, Eunice!

      It still amazes and delights me that an action for authentic change always draws a crowd of wise, passionate folks who want to support and enhance that first bold step :-)

      Network effects ...

    2. I agree, that last question is great and not one I have an answer to. But what we are doing is providing an ease in to our self-directed learning. From Yr11-13 they transition through Foundation > Incubation > Innovation with Yr 11 being about laying down the foundational skills needed to become an increasing independent learner. The quicker students demonstrate the ability the self-manage, the more freedoms they will have.

      In terms of selection. That will be a bridge we will cross if and when we become over subscribed. I personally like the idea of students applying with a portfolio sharing a project or cause they have been involved in with a focus on demonstrating their desire to innovate, connect and contribute.

  23. We need more of this type of thinking in education in NZ. And we also need more doers than talkers. Well done on walking the talk!

  24. Love this. I'm a tertiary educator, we need change in our School and I am one of our change leaders. Will follow this with interest - we can learn from looking at your vision and how you implement - thank you and good luck!

  25. Nice one Claire! I admire your audacity and commitment to get your school off the ground -
    impressive. The Launch Pad collaboration is a brilliant idea. There are many untapped opportunities - we just need to open up to the possibilities and be prepared to explore the options. I too attended Singularity last year - absolutely loved it, I returned to school buzzing with ideas. If you're open to some future collaboration let me know - we may be able to help each other.

  26. Truly amazing post. When it comes to host the parties for business events, one should always look for good venues that offer all facilities. We recently attended a business seminar at one of the local corporate events Chicago venue we also had great time. The venue had a large meeting hall and a separate dining hall as well.


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