School Insight: Mount Albert Grammar School


#1

Is there anyone who has had personal experience with Mount Albert Grammar School either in the capacity of student, parent, or staff member?
I’m interested in learning more about the school and its culture, in particular:

-Extracurriculars available
-Leadership and volunteer opportunities
-Academic structure (curriculum / how are classes categorised/streamed
-School tradition and culture
-Social aspect / inclusivity
-Facilities
-Anything else applicable/useful

What are the best parts about attending Mount Albert Grammar School? In addition, what are some of the weaknesses (if any).

What are some of the reasons for me to choose Mount Albert Grammar School over other top Auckland schools?


#2

Hello, I am a former student of Mount Albert Grammar and these are my thoughts on each question:

-Extracurriculars available
There are clubs for sports, dance cultural groups, debating, robotics, welfare committee, chess club, creative writing and more; there is a huge range of extra-curricular activities available and the majority of them are free for anybody to join (sports, for example, will cost money for uniforms, equipment etc). Any clubs that are not pre-existing could be created if there is proven sufficient interest from the student body and a teacher is able to supervise or represent the club (there must always be a teacher representative for every club).

-Leadership and volunteer opportunities
There is Peer Mediation for resolving student conflict, Peer Support for looking after the junior students as year 13s. In your final year of high school, you may also be chosen to be a prefect if a student has done many extra-curricular activities throughout their high school life and has been recognised to possess leadership potential in some form or another (generally they look for leaders in each of the categories for arts, sports, service and academic). Prefects tend to run the large clubs in the school, such as the Student Action Group (where students raise concerns about the school and any changes that they would like to be made), Academic Council, INTERACT, Amnesty International and the like. The prefects then have weekly meetings throughout the year, where they project the student voice to the principal and main staff members.
Volunteering and leadership opportunities are also open within clubs – for example, the environmental committee has hosted a few tree-planting volunteering events at Motutapu Island. With regards to academics, there is also a free tutoring service that you may take up. You may also be a librarian for the school and help out during lunchtimes (this particular opportunity should be taken up early on as a year 9 or 10, as older year newbies are generally not accepted). All service done for the school as collated to contribute towards a potential service lion award.
Speaking of lion awards, there are 4 lions or badges that may be awarded – arts, sports, scholar and service.

-Academic structure (curriculum / how are classes categorised/streamed
In year 9 and 10, the classes are streamed – top 3, and the rest are mixed classes.
There is a great academic structure and there are many opportunities to develop and challenge one’s capabilities if they would like to; there is the MAX programme that can be taken, which is a university course for excelling mathematics high school students. My mathematics has been built extremely well by the fantastic teachers and accelerated math courses. I was given the option to sit scholarship calculus in Year 11, which I would never have expected to get the award for had I never been given the chance to recognise that potential to. This goes the same for the sciences, although only one paper was a year higher in level. Scholarship classes also run for the scholarship examinations at the end of the year. MAGS sits NCEA papers.

-School tradition and culture
There are Interform class competitions for junior years to encourage teamwork and school tradition. The school culture is hard to miss as “The MAGS Way” is pasted all around the walls of the school. There are values such as “aim for excellence,” “value education,” “respect oneself” and the like. Uniform is also heavily weighted in the school, and there are detentions handed out if a student is not properly dressed or not punctual when attending class.
Every week, there is an assembly which always involves everybody standing up and singing the national anthem and school song – then bowing their heads for the principal or a prefect to say the school prayer.

-Social aspect / inclusivity
The school is multicultural and welcomes diversity through cultural clubs and events hosted specially for international students. Exchange students are also always given a buddy to improve their visit experience. There is the ball in Year 13, which costs just over $100 to attend. Many music and social events are also hosted; there have been quad concerts within the school for music students and dance groups, bake sales to fundraise for different clubs and charities, as well as the prefect slave auction day.

-Facilities
Counselling area, workshop area for tech students, auditorium with a mezzanine floor, dance rooms, sports fields and tuck shop. There is also the learning centre for those who have special needs during examinations. The library is the best place for studying as classes are usually locked during lunchtimes unless there is a club event or meeting going on, or it is a wet lunch. One weakness while I was there was that the toilets were not the best, however they were renovated since then and it does not seem to be a problem anymore. There is still a lack of shelter for students during days of light rain. There is a school house for male students, and currently they are building another for female students. There is also a farm.

-Anything else applicable/useful
The school last I have checked valued sports greatly, and much more over anything else. Arts achievements were poorly recognised, however it has been said by current students that this is changing.

What are the best parts about attending Mount Albert Grammar School? In addition, what are some of the weaknesses (if any).
Best parts are the academic structure and volunteering + club opportunities available for students to grow. Compared to private schools, there is also a smaller pressure on students to compete with others as there is a great social focus within the school alongside everything else.
One weakness that I had felt, however, was the hierarchy that was unintentionally built up from the ranking systems. For example, although a prefect’s sole position was meant to be taking up different school responsibilities, they were also given many privileges, such as their own microwave and kettle and set of lockers etc. This led a few complaints from students who found it unfair that they were deemed ‘better’ than any other student in the school when they should be viewed as equal. Another weakness could also have been the injustice experienced by many arts students, whose voice was often almost deliberately not heard by the main heads of the school.

What are some of the reasons for me to choose Mount Albert Grammar School over other top Auckland schools?
Academic structure enables growth, there are many clubs of all shapes and sizes. On top of that, there are great teachers that shape the school and there is a great mags spirit involved.
With most of the teachers I have encountered at school, potential is very easily recognised and changes may be made if a student is persistent and able to push an idea through. If there is a club that does not exist and that you would like to create, it is possible to raise that with teachers or departments.

Hope this helps!


#4

I left MAGS at the end of last year and, in my opinion, MAGS is the top school in Auckland. I know many of my peers look back fondly on their time at MAGS, and I’m sure that if I hadn’t attended MAGS I wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful.
When I attended in year 9, boys and girls were separately placed into streams, however, I think that this may now have changed that only the top 4 or so classes are streamed, and the rest are then mixed. Boys and girls remain in separate classes (for most courses) until year 11. I think that this system is much better. I was placed in stream one and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I did know some people that did not do well from the streaming, and in fact suffered quite significantly from being placed in a low stream, where the class environment may not have been as focussed. But I do also know another boy from the same class who achieved extremely well in that environment. MAGS is all about individual drive. If you want to achieve and work hard, MAGS provides the perfect platform for this. There are also numerous accelerated options that you can choose from, and if a student is determined enough and talented enough, he or she can be accelerated as far as they need. In my experience, I could really take control of my own learning, and in year 12 I took an extra subject, and in year 13 I again took an extra subject, picking up something I’d never taken before. I also was able to take courses without attending classes. The school was more than happy to support me to do this. The most notable accelerated courses at MAGS are maths classes. In year 9, if you are deemed to be talented enough and driven enough you can be accelerated two years ahead, or one year ahead. The quality of teaching which I experienced was generally exceptional, particularly in the accelerated courses which I took. There are also scholarship classes as well. The school’s large size means there are a huge number of subjects on offer, with some quite unique opportunities like agriculture or horticulture. There’s a little bit of limitation in the languages on offer- French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Maori are the options I think. There’s a lot of support on offer as well if needed- homework centre, and free tutoring is offered by senior students.
In terms of extracurricular activities, there is a huge variety of sports on offer, with teams for any level of competition. The sports academies are also a really good way of incorporating sports amongst your studies and will put you in a good position to make the top-level teams if you wish. In terms of the arts, I personally don’t have any experience with arts at MAGS, but I know that the dance department is extremely good, and has recently produced multiple world champions. There are many music options as well- orchestra, choir, bands. The school will mostly be able to accommodate any of your interests. Drama is also growing more popular at MAGS and from the students who I knew that took it, they really seemed to enjoy it. There are also a huge number of clubs and groups, that provide good opportunities for meeting people and improving leadership qualities and they also provide a platform for volunteer work. There really are countless opportunities. Duke of Edinburgh is also really pushed at MAGS so that provides another platform for volunteering and leadership opportunities.
The school tradition and culture has changed quite a lot in recent time. In year 9 when I began back in 2012, school tradition was a big part of the school, but that is starting to be scaled back a bit I believe. It still remains a big part of the school, however. The schools sporting and academic history to me were actually really motivating and getting your name engraved in the school hall is something special.
The facilities are fairly good. There are two gyms, the top fields are really good quality (these are for the top-level sports teams). The music facilities and dance and drama studios are also pretty good, but I think they are starting to strain in terms of the demand. The science block is old but that is in the process of being replaced, along with the creation of new dance and drama facilities. I also think there are plans to create artificial turf on the bottom fields, and for the school’s centenary in 2022 a new auditorium is said to be opening- work is planning being done to the current hall. I think that the school will see quite a lot of change in the coming years. In the meantime, due to the huge size, there are some fairly old classrooms. The library and ICT facilities are pretty good as well, but I didn’t have much experience with them.
Overall the best part of MAGS for me is the fact that it really does support you to do anything and everything. There are countless opportunities. The school also provides a huge mix of cultures that I really think helped give me a well-rounded view of society and develop some good values. With any high school, there will be some level of bullying, but I really think that MAGS was an inclusive school that allowed students to truly express themselves. I think that MAGS is a really good choice if you are willing to take control of your own learning. If you put in the effort, I think you will do well. There are some negatives in that when I was there the school was quite strict on some things, particularly uniform. The first few years may not be as enjoyable socially but by year 12 everyone seemed to have matured a lot and it was an enjoyable time. I made friends across a wide array of social groups which is what MAGS really allows you to do. There are so many opportunities that you can really meet a huge range of different people. I only left MAGS at the end of last year, but I think there has been quite a bit of change over this year, so some things may have changed. All the best with your decision!