by ROWENA OREJANA
Newly appointed St Peter’s College principal James Bentley is intent on reaching new heights for the school following the path carved out by former principal Keiran Fouhy in the preceding 27 years.

James Bentley
James Bentley

“It’s important to emphasise the fact that St Peter’s is in a very good place. My goal is not to take it in an entirely new direction at all. I want to keep it on the same path, but I want to make some improvements around the areas of university scholarship, around our music and [put] a bit more emphasis on some of the smaller sports in the school,” said Mr Bentley.
Although new in the position, Mr Bentley is familiar to students and the staff, having worked there as deputy headmaster for pastoral care for five years and associate headmaster for the past three years.
“I was acting headmaster for some time, as well, which gave me some experience of the role over a significant period of time. I felt I was ready to take on the principal’s role and I was very humbled to be appointed headmaster at St Peter’s,” he said.
Among Mr Bentley’s goals is to ensure that St Peter’s boys do well in New Zealand Scholarship exams. “[It] is the pinnacle of academic exams here in New Zealand; we have some ground to make up in terms of our students being recognised nationally on that stage,” he said.
At the same time, he would like to see the school’s university entrance rate for NCEA boys to increase from the current 65 per cent to more than 80 per cent.
“We can do this by targeting the students more. We can work with their families. We can provide mentors from our teaching staff and ensure more accountability from the students for their academic success,” he said.
“Some of these boys think passing their exams will just happen. Of course, they have to put a lot of work in it.”
Mr Bentley said he plans to retain the outstanding teaching staff.
Another goal is to expand the school’s implementation of the diocesan plan, Fit for Mission.
“Our boys come from a variety of parishes across Auckland; we want to get them more involved in outreach programmes. One of our major emphases this year is the refugee crisis and how we as a school can make a difference,” he said.
One of the first initiatives towards this goal is the setting up of a “homework club” where the St Peter’s students help refugee students do their homework.
Mr Bentley acknowledged the new role would put additional stress in his personal life. He has two children, Elizabeth, 11 and Harry, 9.
“My wife, Victoria, is very supportive. Certainly, the work life balance is going to be a challenge and I just need to ensure that I make time for that,” he said.
Mr Bentley said he is grateful to Fr Peter Tipene, Msgr Paul Farmer as well as the head of the SPC Board of Trustees, Nick Kumarich, for their support and guidance.
He added that his parish, Christ the King, Owairaka, had also been very supportive. Mr Bentley assured parents that the boys will have access to high quality sports, music and cultural programmes.
The school will also equip the boys with a strong faith, academic qualifications, “a service heart” to enable them to make a difference in other people’s lives, and an appreciation of diversity.
“Our aim is to build the Catholic leaders of tomorrow,” he said.

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