Schools join forces to help teachers, pupils
Te Puke’s schools and its early learning centres are working collaboratively for the good of all learners.
The Community of Learning (COL), Te Kahui Ako o¯ Te Puke, involving 11 schools and 22 early learning centres, was created under the previous government’s Investing in Educational Success policy.
The thinking behind the COL is to collaborate and develop teacher knowledge and practice across the whole district.
Te Puke Intermediate School principal Jill Weldon is the lead principal.
She says last year’s change of government caused a little uncertainty, but it now seems the programme will continue.
“COL is an opportunity to look collectively at what we can all have an impact on around the achievement of students,” says Jill.
The first steps involved discovering what challenges the schools had in common.
“There were the usual things such as maths and writing and there was also the significant issue with the number of students who require learning and behaviour support.
“But the fourth challenge was the retention of Ma¯ori and Pacific Island students beyond Year 11.”
She says that isn’t simply a high school issue, as it could be at any point in their schooling that they become disengaged in education.
“There’s a collective ownership now over the common thread of the disparity of Ma¯ori achievement compared to non Ma¯ori achievement and that translates across to Pacific Island student achievement. As educators, we are looking at how we can better meet the needs of our learners”.
The next 12 months of the programme will focus on forming strong cultural relationships with learners, parents, wha¯nau, hapu¯ and iwi.
“It’s about to go to the next level,” says Jill.
Part of that next level is the opportunity for students, teachers and family/wha¯nau to have a say — with an extensive consultation exercise between now and the end of term 2 in July.
“Every teacher, learner and their wha¯nau gets invited to share about their own personal experience in their current school, so we can get a picture of the community of 11 schools with each school getting an individual breakdown of its own situation too. Then we will make a plan collectively to improve practice, share expertise and grow capacity across all schools and within individual schools.”
The survey will be distributed over the next few weeks and there will be workshops to help speakers of other languages understand the survey and some door knocking.
“We want to get as rich a selection of responses as possible.”
An executive steering group has been meeting for the past 12 months and teachers have been appointed to lead roles to work across all schools and within their own school as experts to assist their colleagues to strengthen their practise in better connecting with our community.
Four Across School Lead experts have been appointed, Tatai TakuiraMita, Ange Mcallister, Robyn Reid and Olivia Parata, and each school has at least one teacher on the lead team.
Te Kahui Ako o¯ Te Puke has engaged the Waikato University’s Poutama Pounamu team for teacher development, with the respected and acclaimed Mere Berryman leading this team.
All the work undertaken with this team is backed by 25 years of research in New Zealand from Mere with both Russell Bishop and Sir Mason Durie.
“Mere talks about Ma¯ori students leaving Ma¯oridom at the school gate, or having to in order to achieve in the current paradigm,” says Jill.
Already, consultation has started with iwi and kauma¯tua.
It is envisaged there will be a year and a half of professional development for teachers.
“It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint — there’s no fast fix.”
Professional development will look at values and beliefs of teachers and where they come from, unconscious bias as well as knowledge of the historical significance of places, people and events in the district.
“Teachers need to have an understanding of culture, starting with the meaning of their school’s name, mana whenua of the land where their school sits and an understanding of what’s important here for the wha¯nau of Te Arawa.”