Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Year @HPSS Starts With Focus on Manaakitanga and Whanaungatanga

We all know that effective teaching and learning (ako) is a relationship thing. In my last post I highlighted Russell Bishop's work in Teaching to the North East which steps you through the research that the only effective teaching is a combination of high teaching skills AND high relationships. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for those seeking a framework for a relationship-based pedagogy.



It is through our focus at HPSS on the concepts of manaakitanga and whanaungatanga, especially in those very important days at the start of the year, that we bring these concepts to life. While any of the one events I outline below would occur in most schools I'm proud of the complete, cohesive approach we follow.

It begins in August of the previous year when we hold individual 30 minute enrolment interviews with the whole family. I attempt to run the vast majority of these but my SLT support (especially over the first 3 days). The hui is centred entirely on getting to know each other and is guided by the following questions:

  • What is the student looking forward to about coming to our school?
  • What is the student most anxious about coming to our school?
  • What are the parents most looking forward to about their child coming to our school?
  • What are the parents most anxious about their child coming to our school?
  • What does the child enjoy learning the most? What do they least enjoy/find the most challenging?
  • What are the child's aspirations through  and beyond school?
  • What are the parents' expectations of us as a school.
All of the answers are shared with the student's Learning Coach so that the Coach has some key information about the student and their family before they even meet.

It continues in November when we bring Year 8 students into our school for half a day to participate in our Big Project Exhibition where  they interact with our students and their projects to whet their own appetite for such learning.

Then in late November we have an Orientation Day for all of our students who have chosen to enrol with us for the following year. This day is entirely focused on manaakitanga and begins with a mihi whakatau (my highlight is cooking the barbecue and serving the Year 8 students for lunch - though my PA is moving in on my place behind the BBQ so feeling a bit threatened!), and on whanaungatanga. Unlike in other schools there is absolutely no testing. Students are allocated to their Learning Communities and participate in a range of interactive and physical activities that get them to know each other, get to know their teachers and to be introduced into our design thinking approach to learning.



In the week before school starts we hold a full day of induction with our new staff. Once again the focus is on manaakitanga and whanaungatanga rather than overloading with information. We cover the key foundation frameworks in our school covered in a previous post and captured in the following visual.


They then complete a group exploration of our neighbourhood capturing photographic evidence of the Hobsonville Habits in action and then join us for lunch at a local cafe.

New staff induction


The following day we have a full Staff Only Day which begins with a powhiri for our new staff. We then gather and cycle through the pre-prepared slide capturing each staff member's (including all ancillary and support staff) pepeha, including visuals of importance to them. With more and more staff (about 70 now) this takes a bit of time, but it is vital if we are serious about whanaungatanga.


In the following Week 1 of school students and families attend an Individual Education Meeting (IEM) to connect with the Learning Coach before classes get under way. As well, during that week we hold an International Student Induction Day (supported by senior and ex students), Peer Mediation training day, and a day for seniors who wish to participate in leadership roles (totally self-selected). On that day they devote time to the planning for the Friday when Year 9s attend their first day. That day begins with a mihi whakatau then the senior students take over for the day supporting the Year 9 students through more in-depth workshops on how learning and relating operate in our school. No testing though!

Senior students supporting International Student Induction

Week 2 and still no timetabled classes yet. All students are together on the Monday for the first time and they spend all day in their Learning Hub and Learning Communities creating connections between each other. On the Tuesday students participate for the full day, in their Learning Communities, on a range of  challenges, both physical and academic, to build on the connections formed the previous day and to develop the spirit of collaboration (one of our school Values) while experiencing the full set of Hobsonville Habits.

It's not until we reach Wednesday of Week 2 that students begin timetabled classes. It's a special feature of our school that we dedicate the time, resource and kaha to the concentration on manaakitanga and whanaungatanga. Still no testing!

Then we cap it off on the Wednesday evening with a Waitangi Whanau Picnic in conjunction with HP Primary School as we extend our focus on Manaakitanga and Whanaungatanga to our parent community across both schools. The combination of food trucks, student music performances and whānau gathering on picnic blankets is a great way to cap off this very important focus.







It's Saturday at the end of Week 2 and because of this great work on this most important stuff led by our outstanding staff I'm really looking forward to Monday and the first full week of timetabled classes. I think we're now ready.


Friday, January 31, 2020

From Founding Documents to Guiding Frameworks: Innovation at HPSS (Part 2)

In last week's post I described 2 of the main frameworks, supported by our 'founding documents', that have driven innovation at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. Those frameworks were the Te Kotahitanga change model of GPILSEO and Carol Dweck's concept of Growth Mindset.

In this post I will discuss a series of matrices that supports teacher mindset and drives relationship management and pedagogy at our school.

RESTORATIVE PRACTICE
The first matrix is from the work I have been exposed to by Margaret Thorsborne in exploring the principles of restorative practice as the foundations of how we deal with behaviour issues in our school.


We have used this matrix to guide our development of processes and procedures when dealing with the inevitable 'bad behaviour' that young people will get up to from time to time. Our aspiration is to be always operating in the green quadrant in the top right. When you are operating there you are displaying a strong sense of care for the learner (warm) while maintaining high expectations for the learner in both learning and behaviour (demanding). This concept of warm and demanding is pervasive throughout our school.

In my experience in working in the restorative practice area many teachers believe they are being called upon to operate in the bottom right. They become very successful at being warm, but don't combine that with high expectations of the learner and of themselves. A teacher who operates in the Permissive quadrant is just as ineffective in managing classroom relationships and promoting learning as is a teacher in the Punitive or Neglectful quadrants. It is the combination of both warm AND demanding which brings about successful behaviour management and engaged learners.

TEACHING TO THE NORTH EAST


I have just finished reading Russell Bishop's (of Te Kotahitanga fame) book, Teaching to the North East and I had the privilege of hearing him talk about the concepts covered in the book at the start of 2019.

Russell's matrix has really resonated with me. In the above version of the matrix I have overlayed the concepts of warm and demanding as I believe they are a strong fit. This matrix captures the essence of the Thorsborne one above (which has a focus on relationship management) with the elements of High/Low Relationships and incorporates the pedagogical elements of High/Low Teaching Skills. Once again we are aspiring to the top right or the North East. It is here that we are the most effective as a teacher. As in the previous matrix it is only here in the North East that we have a true impact on student engagement and achievement. Once again, if we remain in the bottom right quadrant (South East) with High Relationships and Low Teaching Skills we are as ineffective as if we are operating in the North West/South West.

I love his summary of create a family-like context (warm/relationships), interact within the family-like context in ways we know promote learning (demanding/pedagogy) and monitor progress and the process of learning (demanding/pedagogy).

This year we will continue to spend some of our professional learning time on building strong, positive relationships (warm) but will unpack and explore what is meant by High Teaching Skills (demanding) in our context.

We have already done some work on exploring what it means to be a warm and demanding teacher:


what it means to be a warm and demanding colleague:


and a warm and demanding leader:


SUMMARY
It is the combination of a suite of a strong, visible and shared vision, set of values, principles, dispositions and twin pathways of excellence (founding documents) and frameworks that drive our teaching practice which is driving innovation at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

From Founding Documents to Guiding Frameworks: Innovation at HPSS (Part 1)

In my last post I talked about the 'Founding Documents' (Vision, Pathways to Excellence, Mission, Principles, Values and Dispositions) which drive innovation at our school. These are the 'Big Rocks' of our organisation's foundations upon which we build our practices and processes. To ensure these elements are alive and strongly present in our school we have adopted, adapted and/or created a number of frameworks to operate within.

GPILSEO



The GPILSEO Model, which has emerged from Russell Bishop and his team's work with Te Kotahitanga, has become my go-to Change Leadership model. This particular visual captures the importance of the flow of ripples from the original goal to ensure spread and ownership.

Goal setting means that you are aspiring for things to be different and, hopefully, improved. What this model says to me is that if you have a goal about improving teaching and learning (can't think of any other focus for a school) then you need to investigate and plan for changes in the P, I and L ripples. When you set a goal for improving learning one of the first things you need to establish is what changes to pedagogy are going to be required. Too many goals have floundered because there hasn't been a realisation by leaders and teachers that this requires a change in the way we teach.

The next ripple requires us to look at the Institutions we have in our school (the way we do things around here) and see what changes have to be made to them to achieve the goal. There is little point in declaring a particular goal to improve teaching and learning without checking whether the way we do things around here (timetable, class composition, time allocation, meeting structures and timetables, responsibility allocation, communication methods etc) are suitable for the changed state we wish to be in. If I had a $ for every time I've heard over the last 4 decades, "We'd love to do that but our timetable won't allow it."........

As well we need to investigate whether the ways we lead, who leads and the structures we have in our school that drive leadership are the most appropriate to achieve our goal. If they're not, then if we don't change them then we will not be able to achieve our goal.

Then the resourcing and the professional learning needs to be planned for and delivered so that the support for and the implementation of the new pedagogies, new institutions and new leadership structures can spread thoughout the school.

All of these ripples, along with the collection of evidence to show progress towards achieving the goal, then move us to the state of full ownership of the goal and commitment to its achievement.

A recent example for us has been our goal to support the achievement of Maori as Maori. This required us to investigate and research culturally sustainable practices to incorporate within our pedagogy (this is an on-going journey over many months and years and certainly not the result of one or two professional learning sessions), modifying our spirals of inquiry processes (institutions) to focus on culturally sustainable practices, amending our programme planning practices (institutions) to include aspects of Te Ao Maori, embedding the promotion of culturally sustainable practices as an SLT leadership responsibility, forming a staff leadership group

GROWTH MINDSET


Carol Dweck's work on Growth Mindset has been an important framework for us in recruiting and developing staff. As well, we use the simple continuum's below for staff to self-assess and then know which element to focus on. We'll often ask staff to share their lowest score to see if there is a common element. This year the favourite is "ignores useful negative feedback/learns from criticism"!


Next post I will focus on some frameworks that build on Restorative Practice/Warm and Demanding/Teaching to the North East.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Coherence and Cohesion: Driving Innovation at HPSS

I don't know why I was a bit nervous prior to our ERO visit near the end of last year. I think it was down to me not being confident that a team of people with little knowledge of what we were trying to do would be able to "get us". Would they be able to accept that there's more than one way to skin the NZC cat? Would they really understand our determination to broaden the definition of success for a school well beyond academic measures?

At their final meeting with us they stated that when they first arrived and met with us they struggled with the seeming complexity of our approach but that they very quickly realised there was a strong thread of coherence and cohesion throughout; that all participants in our school were strongly aware of the key frameworks that supported our learning design and our pedagogy. They referred to what they called our 'Founding Documents' as underpinning and driving learning design at our school. After seeking clarification from them we realised that they meant the Vision, Pathways of Excellence, Mission, Principles, Values and Dispositions, which are perpetually visible throughout our school (both on walls and embedded within planning documents and a wide range of templates).

It was hugely affirming to be told that these key frameworks, which we had all help create and to which we are all committed, were clearly the drivers of effective innovation at our school. See our ERO Report here.

HPSS 'Founding Documents'
Our Vision


Like a lot of statements like this it could also be seen as just a bunch of words with little actual meaning and I agree that you have to work hard to ensure such statements are continually brought to life in a school. I love this statement because the last bit describes the graduate we wish to aspire to. For us to achieve our vision we need to develop and support young people to be true life-long learners and who have the dispositions and skills to make the world a better place and to thrive in the rapidly changing environment ("to contribute confidently and responsibly in our changing world.")

Two Pathways to Excellence
As soon as we commit to the above vision we need to move beyond just academic excellence as our sole major focus. The best academic students in the country would not help us achieve our vision if they did not know how to, or even want to, contribute to a world in which everyone of us can thrive. This is why, early on, we settled on 2 Pathways to Excellence.


While there exists some strong frameworks for Academic Excellence (NZC and NCEA), we could not discover any such frameworks for what we meant by Personal Excellence.We have spent 7 years progressing this work and, while we still have much to do, we are proud of the work we have done so far in building these frameworks.

I used to profess that the development in the areas of Personal Excellence was as important as in the areas of Academic Excellence. I now firmly believe that they are more important.

Hobsonville Habits


We settled on the above 10 dispositions, known as the Hobsonville Habits, to be the core elements of Personal Excellence in much the same way Learning Areas are the core elements of Academic Excellence.

It is our view that if young people are strong in these dispositions, as well as developing their Academic Excellence, then they are more likely to be empowered learners who "contribute confidently and responsibly in a changing world."

To be true to this aspiration we have been determined to devote the same commitment and rigour to the exploration of each of these dispositions as we do to the Learning Areas of the NZC.

Mission and Principles
We have also worked hard to bring our Mission Statement Innovate  Engage  Inspire to life as well, as we didn't want it to be just a collection of words that fade into the background. We did this by fleshing them out to a set of Principles; principles that drive all decision-making in our school.


For a secondary school, which is largely a one-size-fits-all, to always be looking to personalise learning then, in our view, that would be innovative. So we continually test that aspect of our Mission by checking how personalised learning is.

As well, we believe that students become more engaged if their learning is as authentic, to them, as possible. We find a great way to do this is to continually seek partners beyond the school for students to connect their learning with. I have certainly seen levels of engagement and accountability rise when others, in the real world, are relying on learners for their learning.

In reflecting on the 3rd aspect of our Mission, Inspire, it wasn't difficult to flesh that out into the principle of deep challenge and inquiry. In my 39 years in the profession I haven't seen many young people truly inspired by surface learning and chasing credits. However, every young person I have come across has been truly inspired when they have the opportunity, and the skills, to delve deeply into issues of relevance and concern to them.

Values
Once you pronounce a set of Values it is vital that they become the most important thing you focus on as you are declaring them to be the most valuable thing. Too often institutions profess a set of values that are not evident in the operation of that institution. We were and are determined to keep our values at front and centre.


Because we say we value these we have included them in some key elements of our school. First of all, they are the means by which we assess our Big and Impact Projects. We have developed rubrics for students and teachers to use to see how strongly the values are developed in their project learning. Secondly, the top level of awards at our annual prizegiving are awarded to those who have developed these values the most throughout the year. And thirdly, in the development of our Graduate Profile we have decided that our Values will be the key elements of that Profile.

Our current work on Graduate Profile with Values at the centre
And of course none of this is rocket science. Research around effective schools and effective leadership talks about the importance of a strong, clear and shared vision. Bit it's been real affirming to see that the elements captured in the first visual are driving the innovation at our school and resulting in a strong and effective learning and teaching environment.

Where, I think, our school has been quite unique is with our strong focus on the dispositional curriculum (Hobsonville Habits) and our Values. Our experience has convinced me that if our graduates develop strength in our Habits and Values then the Academics largely look after themselves.

I hope this is useful in your thinking about how to drive innovation and disruption in your own setting.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

What will replace secondary schools?


Ka pū te ruha ka hao te rangatahi

What will replace secondary schools?

We've long past the time when we can still be asking if secondary schools need to change.

"There's no longer a good fit between the education we are currently providing and the education we need" MOE 2012! As well, we need only to look at the transformational change that is sweeping through every industry and profession at an accelerating rate (music production, newspaper and the media, health care, public transport, private transport, retail, finance and banking, service provision etc). Why would we think secondary schooling will be bypassed?

As well, we have no excuse to be unaware of what skills seem increasingly necessary for people to thrive in not only the working world, but the world itself.
This graphic shows the top 10 skills important in the workforce. While the two groupings are quite similar, which you would expect as they are only 5 years apart, it’s interesting to note that Complex Problem Solving remains at the top but big movers are Critical Thinking from 4th to 2nd and Creativity from 10th to 3rd. And new entrants on the list are Emotional Intelligence racing into 6th and Cognitive Flexibility moving onto the list at 10th.

Are our schools consciously developing these skills within our learners or are we still putting all of our eggs in one basket - academic qualifications?

I've been hugely motivated by Valerie Hanon's book, Thrive, which sets out a blueprint for how secondary schools could adapt and respond to the pressures for change. Her vision for schools is to have a vision which focuses on students learning to thrive in a transforming world.

Students need to be able to thrive at 4 levels:
Thrive as a planet
Our young people need to know how to live sustainably, how to protect earth's biodiversity and to develop respect for and empathy of other cultures. This needs to be at the centre of our curriculum.

Thrive at societal level
She notes that in the most equitable countries of the world there is a higher level of thriving. Our young people need to be equipped to navigate in a fast changing job landscape, to learn and unlearn, and they must love learning. How can democratic values and values of equity be explored in our schools

Thrive at interpersonal level
Schools need to be places where young people can explore how to have and create great relationships. Schools must create learning environments where young people can develop respectful and caring relationships.

Thrive at intrapersonal level
Schools need to create environments where young people can discover who they are. Students must be able to explore their identity, find personal meaning and be valued for whom they are.

What will replace secondary schools?
Right now I'm thinking we could start with a vision similar to:
Learn to thrive in a transforming world
and then develop a curriculum focusing on the 4 levels of Thrive outlined above.

My view of what secondary schools of the future need to concentrate on is as follows:

  • Secondary schools must place student well-being at front and centre of every thing they do
    • This means the end of billboards skiting about achievement and attendance rates (imagine how this feels for those students who, despite their best efforts, can't achieve or attend at that level who see that reminder every day)
    • This means the end to archaic rules and punishments, including those in relation to personal appearance
    • This means an end to assessment and homework practices that detract from deep learning and lead to distress
  • Secondary schools of the future must reject being institutions of measurement and embrace being institutions of engagement and deep learning
  • Secondary schools of the future must embrace new definitions of success for them as an institution, for their staff and for their students.
    • Ask parents to describe the graduate they want from your school! Their answers won’t surprise you. Does your school really focus on these things? How much does the front half of the NZC feature in how your school goes about its business and considers its effectiveness?
  • Secondary schools of the future will invite students to be partners in the learning design process.
    • Own the important bits of content, knowledge, concepts and skills of your specialist subject but relinquish control over the context for the learning to occur in and even how students might evidence their understanding.

At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we're trying to explore these ideas. Our foundation principles of:
  • personalised learning
  • powerful partnerships
  • deep challenge and inquiry
are driving our practices in these areas.

Our focus at the moment is on exploring different definitions of success which has resulted in the work we are doing on developing a graduate profile. The current prototype has our school values of innovation, inquiry, collaboration and connectedness as the key elements of this graduate profile. Sally gives a full description of this work in the last section of her latest post

We're looking forward to discussing this work with ERO in Week 8.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Reflections for DisruptedNZ - What Can I Do With My Emerging Learnings?

Where do we start with the transformation of our schools and our system?
We start changing the parts over which we have some control.

How do I start? Settle on a set of key principles that capture what relevant, effective learning and schooling should be built on and then be guided by them.

I am guided by multiple sets of principles determined by the area of focus but largely, in relation to learning, my key guiding principles are Connections, Co-construction and Collaboration.

Here is a brief example of how each principle could change practice in your classroom/syndicate/department/kura tomorrow.

Connections
My experience and all reading in relation to modern learning tells me there must be connections between what is learned.
What to do
Unschedule department meetings (this structure supports siloed and disconnected learning)  and schedule meetings of common teachers of the same class  to explore connections, effective learning strategies for that particular group,  and to efficiently share out the teaching of common skills.
Advantages
You get to know your learners better, you get a greater understanding of other Learning Areas, you come across some cool teaching strategies used by your colleagues and you help students make sense of their learning. No extra work as it merely replaces an existing, but past its use-by date, structure. As well, meetings are more productive.
Disadvantages
None, apart from grumpy HODs.

Co-construction
My experience and all reading in relation to modern learning tells me students need a say, some choice, a feeling of contribution in their learning. This is student agency. It does not mean the abdication of teacher responsibility. In fact, it requires the teacher to be fully aware of the key concepts, skills and content of their learning area and to hold on to them tightly.
What to do
Really question the contexts in which you teach the important concepts, skills and content (most of them have been decided upon by a teacher and can tend to live on in perpetuity). Could the context be different and could there be multiple contexts? I think of the years I taught the same social studies topic on migration (Victorian England Migration to NZ) and am mortified. Those key concepts that fall out of the study of the mass movement of people,  over time and throughout the world could be studied through multiple contexts. I could have had students determining their own context (meeting a set of criteria) which may have included Syrian refugees, black American slaves heading north, Dalmatian gum diggers, East Coast Maori to Hutt Valley etc etc and then they could have agreed with me how they would evidence their understanding of my die-in-the-ditch learning objectives (my subjects key concepts, skills and content).
Advantages
Students engaged in learning that they have co-constructed. Promotion of self-regulation within a rigorous framework. Variety for student and teacher.
Disadvantages
Adapting to a different way of working and viewing the role of the teacher - viewing yourself not so much as a teacher but as a learning designer. No more rolling out the same unit of learning!

Collaboration
My experience and all reading in relation to modern learning tells me learning is a social experience (OECD), that students need to develop skills of teamwork and interpersonal skills, and that teachers flourish when their practice in its entirety is privatised and it becomes largely a collaborative, social activity.
What to do
The previous 2 examples above are great examples. Another great thing to do is to get rid of the single desks and chairs in your classroom and create a collaborative environment (think beanbags[cheap], old whiteboards screwed to plastic milk crates [cheap and awesome write on collaborative desks], etc). And in your planning, make your go-to, how could students do this as a group, rather than the setting of individual work. Note don't accept the claim that group work is messy, noisy, hard to do, lowest common denominator - you just need to Google 'Effective classroom group work' and you'll find heaps of user friendly models that any teacher committed to lifelong learning and effective practice can apply to their practice.
Advantages
Students use and develop those important skills of collaboration their work world requires. Tuakana/trina (learning wise not age wise) allows all learners to flourish.
Disadvantages
Adapting to a different way of working and viewing the role of the teacher - viewing yourself not so much as a teacher but as a learning designer. No more rolling out the same unit of learning! That's right same as above.

And none of these create extra workload.

Our school is living ( or trying to) these principles. I hope this brief post might help other teachers realise what they can do to be part of the transformation in the areas they have influence.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Choice vs Equity: A Personal Response to Tomorrows' Schools Review


While there are a lot of questions around some detail and some implementation wonderings, it’s important to look at the Tomorrow’s Schools Review Report through the lens of what opportunities it may be making possible.

I have started looking at what I believe are the principles evident in its recommendations to see if they resonate with me. I have identified the following:
      Collaboration
      Collective Responsibility
      Shared Accountability
      Partnership (Te Tiriti)
      Efficiency

I have been quite surprised to see the response from some to “Say no to the Haque Plan”. First of all, it is not the Haque Plan, rather it is the Tomorrow’s Schools Review Report and should be referred to as such.

Secondly, it contains many recommendations falling under 8 key issues, making it very difficult to give the whole report a blanket ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Anyone with an open-minded approach would find favour with some of the recommendations, would be unsure about some and would want to explore further, and would be quite opposed to others. A consultation process allows such a range of responses to be submitted and considered.

The Community Schools Alliance has been formed to Say No To The Haque Plan. A brochure that group has produced and circulated to principals to encourage them to “sign up” contains claims that must be challenged as they can be described as inaccurate, misleading or plain false:

      Schools will no longer be community-led.
      Myth: Boards of Trustees will be replaced by education “Hubs” appointed in Wellington
      Fact: Hubs will take over administration tasks currently carried out by Boards, leaving Boards to concentrate on strategic planning, school culture, student wellbeing and success, localised curriculum and assessment  practice.
      Boards of Trustees will lose all governance responsibilities
      Myth: Hubs will directly employ principals and teachers
      Fact:  Boards will be involved in the appointment of their principal and have a veto over any decision made by the Hub.
      Fact: Principals will have full control of their staffing appointments and appoint their own teachers (FAQs, Review Report p2)
      Myth: Hubs will decide the culture and approach of each school
      Fact: Boards will still determine the culture, character and nature of their school
      Fact: Boards will focus on learning and teaching decisions for their schools
      Students may not be able to attend their local school
      Myth: Hubs will control enrolment processes
      Fact: “Children and young people will have a right to attend their local school” (FAQs, Review Report p3)
      Principals will be shifted around schools every 5 years
      Fact: Principals will be appointed on 5 year contracts and will have rights of renewal. Principals would not be forced to shift.
      School structures will change dramatically
      Myth: All current high schools will be replaced with an “American” model of Senior and Middle schools
      Fact: Intermediates will be phased out in the long term and the the proposed model could be:
      Primary schools (years 1 - 6), middle schools (years 7 - 10), and senior college (years 11 - 13)
      OR full primary schools (years 1 - 8) and secondary schools (years 9 - 13)
      OR composite (Y1 - 13) schools, particularly in rural areas
      Teachers could be shifted around schools on a whim
      Fact: Principals will have full control of their staffing entitlements and appoint their own teachers
      Parents lose choices
      Myth: The Plan discourages schools from focusing on different approaches that give parents options for their children’s education
      Fact: Boards “will focus on learning and teaching decisions for their schools which directly affects the welfare of students, localised curriculum and assessment, student success and wellbeing” (FAQs, Review Report p2)
      Schools will have less control over their finances
      Fact: Principals will control and have full discretion of the use of their operational grants (FAQs: Review Report p2)
      Fact: Boards will have full control of all locally raised funds (FAQs, Review Report p1)

My wish is that we explore the report’s recommendations in an open manner so that we can strengthen the system to support all schools to be successful. In my mind it comes down to whether we support a winners/losers school model which has principals concentrating only on maximising their own school or a model which is based on the principles of collective responsibility and shared accountability.

On my deathbed I don't want to remember or be remembered for dying in the ditch for the right or value of Choice. I'd rather die in the ditch for Equity.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Tomorrow's Schools Review - Alternative Facts

I was pretty down after the recent ASSPA hui and wrote about that in my last post. I have been heartened by the comments on the post and the many emails and korero I received. Two colleagues from other areas in NZ had attended regional principal hui and were heartened by the responses which were generally much more open to exploring the recommendations than the crew at ASSPA were. There was also, apparently, concern expressed how "the Auckland principals" were responding.

A number of things have caused me concern in the 10 days since. The first was a radio bulletin on the morning of 7 March when one of the Auckland principals who had spoken against the review and its recommendations (to have most of the expressed concerns, in my view, alleviated by the Review Team). In the broadcast he was denying that he was spreading misinformation and in doing so was spreading disinformation by claiming that 90% of principals at the meeting were opposed to the review recommendations. I was at that meeting and no vote was taken on our response to the review. There was no doubt that most speakers spoke loudly and forcibly (often accompanied by applause) against the review recommendations. Three of us spoke more openly about the possibilities about improvement for our sector. Several others approached me afterwards and since to express support for what I had expressed. I have no idea of the % of actual views across the 50 - 60 principals who were there but it was certainly not 90/10%.

Throughout the week I received information on what some principals were sending to their school communities to encourage them to oppose the review recommendations. I was horrified by the level of misinformation and my level of alarm was increasing. I suspect most teachers in those schools, who most probably do not have the time to gain a full understanding of the Review recommendations will be receiving similar views from their principal.

I then found myself in receipt of a draft pamphlet shared with a group of principals that a group known as, Community Schools Alliance, had produced apparently as part of a launch to oppose the review recommendations. I can identify the logos of Auckland Grammar, Rangitoto College, Westlake Boys and Massey High School (of course this may only be a draft mock up and may not reflect the views of these schools.) In fact, I hope it is a draft mock-up as I am sure that the Rototuna Senior High School Kapa Haka Roopu would be stunned to find themselves featuring on the front of this pamphlet!


Why would they be stunned? Because it is so full of misleading information that it is hard to believe that there have been simple errors rather that the intent is to mislead. I can only hazard a guess as to the motivation for such practice.
The section headed 17 Problems with the Haque Plan begins with a common tactic to promote propaganda - don't give the report it's correct title, but personalise it so that opposition can be rallied around a person.

In 30 minutes I was able to find so many examples of inaccuracies and misleading information which I have summarised:

  • Schools will no longer be community-led.
    • Myth: Boards of Trustees will be replaced by education “Hubs” appointed in Wellington
    • Fact: Hubs will take over administration tasks currently carried out by Boards, leaving Boards to concentrate on strategic planning, school culture, student wellbeing and success, localised curriculum and assessment  prectice.
  • Boards of Trustees will lose all governance responsibilities
    • Myth: Hubs will directly employ principals and teachers
    • Fact:  Boards will be involved in the appointment of their principal and have a veto over any decision made by the Hub.
    • Fact: Principals will have full control of their staffing appointments and appoint their own teachers (FAQs, Review Report p2)
    • Myth: Hubs will decide the culture and approach of each school
    • Fact: Boards will still determine the culture, character and nature of their school
    • Fact: Boards will focus on learning and teaching decisions for their schools
  • Students may not be able to attend their local school
    • Myth: Hubs will control enrolment processes
    • Fact: “Children and young people will have a right to attend their local school” (FAQs, Review Report p3)
  • Principals will be shifted around schools every 5 years
    • Fact: Principals will be appointed on 5 year contracts and will have rights of renewal
  • School structures will change dramatically
    • Myth: All current high schools will be replaced with an “American” model of Senior and Middle schools
    • Fact: Intermediates will be phased out in the long term and the the proposed model could be:
      • Primary schools (years 1 - 6), middle schools (years 7 - 10), and senior college (years 11 - 13)
      • OR full primary schools (years 1 - 8) and secondary schools (years 9 - 13)
      • OR composite (Y1 - 13) schools, particularly in rural areas
  • Teachers could be shifted around schools on a whim
    • Fact: Principals will have full control of their staffing entitlements and appoint their own teachers
  • Parents lose choices
    • Myth: The Plan discourages schools from focusing on different approaches that give parents options for their children’s education
    • Fact: Boards “will focus on learning and teaching decisions for their schools which directly affects the welfare of students, localised curriculum and assessment, student success and wellbeing” (FAQs, Review Report p2)
  • Schools will have less control over their finances
    • Fact: Principals will control and have full discretion of the use of their operational grants (FAQs: Review Report p2)
    • Fact: Boards will have full control of all locally raised funds (FAQs, Review Report p1)

I have also had a local principal contact me because he has felt uncomfortable being contacted by a principal in this Community Schools Alliance to sign up to their cause.

One principal communicated with me last week and I thought the following point he made was quite poignant:

"the gap between haves and have nots has widened in my perception. That alone concerns me, and what concerns me more is that there seems a significant portion of the population that either does not know and/or does not care. In an education context, that manifests itself easily in the competitive model that principals and schools have created - the rich continue to get richer and so on. I totally get why some schools are very anti some of the proposals in the Taskforce Report - it threatens the foundation on which their strengths are built."

Another principal contributed a view which highlights this new culture of consultation being so important so that all views are heard (unlike in the past) and this is making some uncomfortable:

"The current MOE has recognised that there my be something that can be reviewed and altered to support our current system as the inequity and disparity between schools is a divide that only continues to grow. Gathering a range of work groups to investigate the system including NCEA and tomorrows schools allow all that have access to the system an opportunity to have a voice. This includes schools, students, whanau, iwi etc and it is important that the whole of the communities are afforded the opportunity to receive clarity and contribute to really important decisions that will impact on our society.  No one group is more important than the other as we are all stakeholders in our education system."

Another contacted with:

"My 10 years as a Principal has taught me that we have a growing gap between the haves and have nots and we have to be big and bold and challenge this reality rather than continue to perpetuate this within our education system"

And another shared this view around what could be achieved if we were open to exploring the recommendations rather than outright opposition driven by inaccurate information:

"I believe that one of the most significant obstacles that we face as educators is that this powerful relationship that exists within schools is not present between schools. Schools exist in a competitive almost combative environment that is totally appropriate on the sports field but detrimental in the education arena. Schools compete for pupils, they compete for media space and proclaim exam results like trophies. 

What this does is set up a fragmented series of islands that rarely share, rarely, collaborate in any meaningful way and rarely fully trust each other. This is holding back the ability to grow as a collective and unified force. The countries that are often seen as International successes, like Singapore and Finland, are successful partly because they have reduced this artificial sense of competition between schools. 

One of the potential advantages of the HUB concept is that is will give us a chance, an opportunity [should we decide to take it] to break down these artificial and inhibiting barriers and start to come together as a collective working together for the improvement of all, not just our immediate pupils. In that way we may be able to reflect and emulate the relationships that are so powerful in individual schools across a region and across Aotearoa."

The brochure finishes with this:
I suggest that, rather than believing all of the information on this brochure and automatically saying 'No' to The Haque Plan?! (the website referenced on the brochure doesn't seem to be live yet), that you join the conversation at conversation.education.govt,nz,,read the Our Schooling Futures: Stronger Together Whiria Nga Kura Tuatinitini, attend any of the community workshops being run by the Review Team and make a meaningful submission.

There is no simple Yes or No response. Like me, you will find some of the recommendations exciting and aspirational, others you will not be so certain about.