Sabbatical Sojourn

Sabbaticals are a time for learning and research, refreshment and travel. My original intention when applying in 2019 for a sabbatical, based on Increasing Wellbeing in the Teaching Profession, was to travel to the South of France and enjoy the sights and food. Life doesn’t always work out the way you expect.

The topic that got my application over the line was developing ‘Networks of Expertise’ within the Teaching Profession. For the past ten weeks I have been meeting with leaders of schools and researching the benefits and expectation outcomes of setting up a network.

A Network of Expertise is a professional development opportunity for teachers to take control of their learning. The main message in the application is that a network will enhance teaching and learning in the classrooms. The adopted mantra is “For Teachers By Teachers”. Teachers develop a learning strategy that allows them to use their knowledge and work with other teachers to share this knowledge. There are many of these groups already operational. One established network supports the teaching of mathematics in the greater Auckland area with monthly meetings and concludes its work each year with an annual Math competition for students aged 9 to 13.

I spent a lot of time with the Rural Principals Network as it fits with what I know and understand about Wairakei Primary School and because I can contribute to the group as a professional.

Part of my work took me to Wellington to work with the Curriculum and Assessment team. Teachers and leaders from around the country, including Jenna Foley, took part in a fast paced two day introduction to the upcoming curriculum review and how it will impact what we currently do at Wairakei. 

I enjoyed being able to re-read some of the books that have influenced my thinking across the years.  Todd Whittaker, Andy Hardgrave’s and Julie Atkin took pride of place on my reading list. As did the NZ Herald. As part of my self-learning project, I undertook completing the crossword everyday as a personal challenge—starting at no answers correct in the first few attempts to now being able to go through all the clues and have at least half of the answers in place. I used a system of doing all the across clues first then the down clues—my personal assessment is that I have improved.

My family took me to the Hawkes Bay on a food and wine tour to compensate for missing out on my dream of going to the South of France and my ‘Miss Marple’ village experience. It was affectionately referred to as the “HB Riviera Tour”.  As wonderful as the experience was, I am disappointed we did not completely manage all the venues available. I guess I’ve got some new goals.

I also returned to something I had not done in a long while—ride a bike. Some agapanthus are still trying to recover from that experience!


I actually managed to get a “South” into my experience. We moved down the country to the top of the South Island. It amazes me how beautiful our country is. The best food of the whole trip was in a Greymouth restaurant.


The pancake rocks were breathtaking. And the fact that astounded me the most—there is better Wi-Fi in the mountains and gorges enroute from Murchison to Buller than there is in my Taupō house. Someone from a telco may need to explain that to me.


Thankfully the Interislander Ferry treated me well with two smooth crossings.  

My self-learning journey took me in places I did not expect. For half of my sabbatical I have been working on making sourdough and have still yet to eat a loaf. Having a floating starter of the bread is in fact the most critical part. It turns out measuring accurately and breathing are also quite important aspects.

I have watched YouTube videos explaining the art of crochet and have made four blankets for my family. I really enjoyed sitting still and making and creating.



Time has been the most important part of my sabbatical. Time with my family, friends and especially my grandson. No alarms to wake up to. Time to reflect, time to anticipate coming back to school after a recharge.

I think that I met the brief of learning, refreshment and travel. Now I just have to work for another five years to be eligible for my next sabbatical.

Thank you to everyone who looked after the school—I hope you all enjoyed your term as much as I did.

2024 Farquhar

Paula Farquhar

The long snaking line of students at the skipping rope. Jump in, jump out and off they go, happy and excited. Some still have to "Learn It". Others have reached the "Prove it" stage. Many will remain, comforted to be in a safe inclusive group.

Since 2010, I have been the passionate Principal of this vibrant, successful, and innovative school. It's without hesitation, I say I'm focused on "accelerating growth for student learning outcomes".

My style is fostering a culture of professionalism formed on a solid foundation of critical reflection. My own professionalism is expanded through a network of advanced educational practitioners. Practitioners who extend my theoretical, philosophical and pedagogical base. Fundamental in my belief, is strategic dialogue will map learning and teaching so innovation and creativity can flow into an innovative curriculum.

From considerable leadership experience, I know the school's vision has to be "crafted collaboratively". The adaptive vision must be student driven with ambitious academic goals. Raising success hinges on repeatedly asking: "does this decision help realise the vision?"

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