New head, new goals for Rocklands High School

Nigel Pelston is the new principal at Rocklands High School.

Rocklands High School has a new principal who has set the goal of a 100 percent matric pass rate for 2016.

Nigel Pelston was the deputy principal of Mondale High School in Portland before his new appointment.

The former Portland resident said he is honoured and humbled to be leading Rocklands High School.

Mr Pelston follows in the footsteps of principals M Anyster, George Strauss, Joseph Markgraaff, Mogamad Waheeb Gasant and Felicity Du Plooy Strauss. Ms Strauss died in January this year after losing her battle with cancer.

Since he started teaching at Mondale High in 1990, Mr Pelston, proficient in teaching geography, worked his way up to head of department for social sciences and to deputy principal, alongside fellow deputy principal Nigel Crowie and principal Owen Bridgens.

“I worked in the engine room of my school,” he said.

“I’ve dealt with discipline, administration, examinations, and interviews and interacted with parents, pupils and my colleagues.

“I’ve played a leadership role, which moulded me well to fit into this position,” he said.

He said leaving Mondale High School was breaking out of a comfort zone and an opportunity to dispel the perception that Rocklands High – one of the top performing schools in the area in its heyday – cannot be classed among high-ranked schools and who better to do that than someone who comes from the community.

Mr Pelston was born in Claremont, raised in Belhar, where he attended Belhar High School and lived in Portland during his youth, for more than 30 years. He now lives in Parow.

Mr Pelston completed a Bachelor of Education degree at the University of the Western Cape, after graduating from Hewat Training College, in Athlone.

He hopes to pursue studies in management, both for the staff and pupils of Rocklands in taking the school forward.

Two years ago, the National Senior Certificate examination results for Rocklands High showed an 11.5 percent increase in the pass rate – from 74.1 percent (146 pupils) in 2013 to 85.6 percent (173 pupils) in 2014 (“Matric result record,” Plainsman January 7, 2015).

That year, Spine Road High in Rocklands became the first Mitchell’s Plain school to attain a 100 percent pass rate.

At the time, Ms Strauss attributed Rocklands High’s success to focusing on the weaker pupils.

Ms Strauss credited the physical science teacher for teaching on a Sunday and the mathematics teachers coming after mosque on a Friday, assistance from the Western Cape Education Department, motivating the pupils and staying focused on their ultimate goal to ensure that every pupil passed.

Speaking to the Plainsman last week, Mr Pelston cited similar goals – motivating and letting the pupils know that someone believes in them and therefore they can attain good results.

They have introduced extra classes from Wednesday to Saturday.

While Rocklands is a Dinaledi mathematics and science focus school, it performed well in history and tourism, with pupils excelling at competitions, like the national Department of Eucation’s Heritage Competition last year.

Mr Pelston said they will be working hard to streamline subject choices with pupils from Grade 10, to get them to start thinking about their careers.

He said there were pupils doing eight subjects at the school, which could improve their point system for entry into university.

“The school’s success is (largely) due to staff – if the school fails it is because of the principal. I want to make the pupils aware that nothing is standing in their way, nothing is keeping them back, coming to this school they must believe they are at the best school.”

Mr Pelston said the pupils at Mondale and Rocklands are similar in terms of attitude, respect and academic aptitude.

“I have to motivate them. I believe in the team. This ship is being steered by a team.

“I love being at Rocklands High School. This is a challenge and who better to serve this community than someone who comes from it,” he said.