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.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Tomorrow's Schools Review: Winner vs Loser Schools!

It was at a recent Roadshow hui hosted by Bali Haque and fellow members of his Tomorrow's Schools Review team with a group of fellow secondary school principals that the stark difference between my view of school leadership and that of some of my colleagues was made very clear.

We had just listened to Bali take us through, step by step, the key points of their recommendations during which he addressed the points of criticism they had received during this period of consultation. I had arrived with my copy of the document in which I had annotated my main concerns and questions. As he spoke I crossed them off one by one and by the end of his korero was much more open to what was being suggested.

As well, what had impressed me the most was the outlining by Bali, and supported by Mere Berryman, Cathy Wylie and John O'Neill, of a rallying vision for an education system in which we all, as leaders, took responsibility for the quality of the system and all schools within it, not just our own school. This is the sort of vision I got into school leadership for, especially after reading Andy Hargreaves book, Sustainable Leadership, and its chapter of Ethical Leadership, in which he claims you are not an ethical leader if you promote your school at the expense of another school.

I sat there and listened to principal after principal who, even after hearing this vision, responded time and time again with lines like; "I'm lucky to have a good BOT so I'm OK....", "the current model works well for us, why not just focus on the underperforming schools(!)". Several times, other principals in the room applauded after these comments. I seethed and felt lonely!

The difference between myself and that particular group was hammered home when I made my opening comment: "In my 26 years of being involved in BOTs I have not come across one BOT member who was there because they were motivated by dealing with finance, property, human resources and health and safety." I was going to go on to say that they were all motivated by making sure that their kids and their neighbours' kids would have an engaging, meaningful and successful schooling experience. However, my opening statement was met with multiple calls of "Oh, yes they are etc". As I regathered myself (I find it quite nerve-wracking speaking in this forum because the voice seems to be captured by a strong-voiced and strong minded group) I said something like: "I'm sorry but I can only speak about my own experience", and continued with my comment about wanting the best for their kids.

The need and desire to have accountants, lawyers, HR, property and H&S experts on the BOT vs the need and desire to have a diverse group of people who have voices to bring to the table on learning is the difference. This captures our differences on school leadership, this captures our difference on what schooling and teaching and learning should be like and what governance should focus on.

I finished by outlining the things I saw Hubs would take from my school and its BOT (total responsibility for finance, property, health and safety and human resources) and what it would give to my school (an advisory service to provide advice and support on curriculum, resources and pedagogy to teachers and leadership advisors to support me in my role as a leader). I said "Thank You"!

There was no smattering of applause for my comments (but several principals approached me after to thank me for my views and putting them out there as they agreed). My mission is to now encourage disruptive, innovative thinkers to applaud and not leave it to the more conservative thinkers amongst us to own the noise!

As Mere Berryman said, "Schools move in and out of good circumstances," so to retain a system and to not be open to thinking about improvements because you and your school is currently "in with good circumstances", usually (in their own words) "by luck or fortune", does not seem like a good basis for thinking across our whole system. If we believe in winner and loser schools and we are currently a winner school, then, apparently, there will be lots of things we don't want to change or give up.

I have been emotionally shaken by what I heard about the willingness of some school leaders to adopt the position that everything is OK for us so leave it as it is! So much so that I carefully chose the discussion tables I went to so that I could avoid hearing this position being promoted. I failed!

Yet, despite that experience I still feel optimistic. The generational shift occurring across many professions and institutions will not bypass education and school leadership.

PS
I'm still cringing and wondering how my colleagues in the room who are leading schools that aren't seen as "top" or are seen as "underperforming" felt when their colleagues told Bali to only concentrate on the underperformimg schools. That says it all!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

DisruptedNZ has arrived

It's been an interesting week for the education sector, with most of the focus on teacher industrial action. It's disappointing the Coalition Government is dealing with the grief but that's the nature of politics. There does seem to be quite a nice shift in overwhelming community support for teachers, which is cool.

My week started with a bit of nervousness around the RNZ Insight programme which was aired last Sunday morning. Education Reporter, John Gerritsen, had spent some time in our school talking with me and some of our students. You always get a bit nervous about how balanced such an article might be, especially since I knew John was speaking with a range of principals to get a range of views.
Lots of people told me how balanced they thought it was. I must admit I was once again frustrated with the situation those of us who are trying to innovate and transform the secondary school experience for our students. Despite the couple of hours of recording at our school it seemed that the article focused on the fact that 8 - 10 families left our school at the end of our first year and then once again when we introduced our NCEA model. Te Haeata in Christchurch was given the same treatment with the focus on the number of exclusions they experienced in their first year.

What impression of the schools are the listeners left with?

But the most disappointing aspect was that while I, Andy or Claire did not criticise what other schools were doing (which we had some authority to do as we have all taught in such schools) 2 other principals spoke ignorantly about MLEs (carpeted barns), why integrated learning didn't work (using as evidence an ill-advised model they had experienced which had one teacher attempting to cover a range of specialised subjects - thereby consigning more well-researched and rigorous models to the same discard pile) and, most offensively, the claim that project-based learning or inquiry learning was a primary school approach and had no place in a secondary school where students need to do well in things like Physics etc (I advise him to visit our school where students are excelling in these specialist subjects through an inquiry, cross-curricula approach).

Why do principals who have no knowledge or understanding of the approaches used by HPSS, ASHS and Te Haeata believe they can go about panning them?

This question leads me to the second frustration of the week. A couple of primary schools were reported as stopping having prizegiving ceremonies. Whether you agree with their decision or not, my view would be that they gave it careful consideration and made what they thought was the best decision for their school.

But then what happens?

We get another RNZ report!

I wonder why some school leaders feel the need to comment on these types of decisions made by other schools. Those other schools will now, no doubt, have to deal with some pushback from their community based on the views published in the article.

Anyway, the week ended well. #DisruptedNZ was launched!

We've had enough of fighting the types of pushback outlined above by ourselves so have come together to support each other and also to reach out and support those teachers trying to push innovation in their own schools, sometimes in the face of several barriers.

We've launched a Facebook Group, DisruptED and we're also on Twitter @DisruptedNZ. And last Friday we launched our first of a fortnightly series of podcasts where we want to reach out to teachers throughout NZ and help connect the innovators that are in all schools. The first podcast was a conversation amongst ourselves sharing our thoughts on leading in this space and in the future we'll be talking with people like you. We want to encourage teachers to share with us their stories of innovation and disruption, so please use the various platforms to share your stories.

Here's the link to our first podcast on SoundCloud.

We finished off the day on Friday by being a panel for Kāhui Ako Across School Leads:

When running along the beautiful Te Henga trail this afternoon and struggling with the distance, hills, heat and ageing body I felt less alone and more connected as a school leader than ever before!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

NCEA Review - Let's have one qualification, not 3.

Like a lot of education people I've thought deeply about the opportunity we have had to contribute to the review of NCEA. I have included in this post the submission I ended up making.

NCEA Submission
I submit that NCEA needs to be looked at as a single qualification, not three, which has three levels of attainment. I also submit that we have to move away from looking at NCEA qualifications as calendar year events that have to be achieved within the calendar year of Years 11, 12 and 13.


This can be achieved by thinking of Years 11, 12 and 13 as a 2 or 3 year journey to a quality qualification. For some this will be the equivalent of the current L3 and for some the equivalent of the current L2. I submit that results should only be uploaded at the point of leaving secondary schooling and mid year in Year 13 (for those still at school if universities still require to use our qualification for entry).
  • A person leaving school mid-year 12 would have their results submitted at that point and the level of qualification achieved awarded.
  • This would be the same for any student leaving during Year 13.
  • All students enrolled in Year 13 would have their results submitted at a point in the year required by universities for pre-enrolment and then on completion of their Year 13 year.


This breaks the calendar-year mindset and prevents the creation and publishing of calendar year, qualification level league tables. The only league tables that could be produced would be in relation to qualifications gained by all leavers in any one year.


This raises the question of what to provide for those who leave school before achieving the equivalent of the current L2. These students typically move into further training or employment. These students should graduate with a personal Statement of Capabilities which provides a summary of evidence of important capabilities. These capabilities would emerge from exploring the ‘soft skills’ from the front of the New Zealand Curriculum and be informed by input from the employer community. A template to be used by all schools across the country could easily be created with guidelines on how to summarise the evidence for each element. Students would collate the evidence over their total secondary school journey and have it finalised on graduation. Such a ‘document’ would be beneficial for all graduates, but for the 10 - 15% who currently leave without L2 it would have even more value and definitely more value than a completed or partially completed L1.


I also submit that it is important not to require the achievement of any literacy and numeracy requirement (either foundation or academic) in a single calendar year. Students should be free to collect the evidence of their level of literacy and numeracy throughout their qualification journey, however long that may be. As well, there should be no exclusions between Unit and Achievement Standards for the achievement of Literacy and Numeracy - eg students should be able to achieve the literacy requirements with a combination of Unit and Achievement Standards.


Rather than making project-based learning a compulsory requirement I submit that there be created a suite of standards (inquiry, collaborative problem-solving, communication etc) that could be used in a cross-curricula, authentic project for those schools who are well-placed to use such an approach. Digital, cultural and financial literacies could be incorporated in such a suite of standards.


I submit that subject endorsement be removed as it supports the siloisation of Learning Areas. The endorsement of qualifications at Merit or Excellence is sufficient to acknowledge deeper levels of learning and higher achievement.


I submit that all state schools should have to provide access for all students to NCEA and that for those schools who do not to be considered not as state schools and have their funding affected accordingly. State schools should not be allowed to opt out of providing our national qualification.

Further Discussion
I think there is much value in moving to one qualification to be awarded on graduation which is the point at which results would be uploaded to NZQA (obviously they will already have records of any externals).

The single qualification could have a range of levels of endorsement which would reflect the level of the NZC at which the learning is evidenced. Such a mechanism would recognise student performance at Levels 7 and 8 (+) and also incorporate the concepts of Merit and Excellence as the present system does.

Schools, obviously, would be tracking learners' achievements as they do now for Years 9 and 10 learners and would be required to report such information to parents and BOT. By not reporting qualification assessments to NZQA until graduation then we move away from the "league tables" issue where schools and communities freak out about how their school will rank against other schools in relation to how their 15 year olds were going, a full 2 years before they graduate! I know for a fact that some of my colleagues show reluctance to bring about teaching, learning and assessment changes in their schools which they know will benefit deeper learning and reduce student stress and teacher workload simply because of league tables. That tail should definitely not be wagging the dog.

I also think there is huge value in creating a national "Statement of Capabilities" (needs another name) for each learner. This will enable schools to embrace the powerful dispositions, principles and values from the front end of the NZC.

Interested in any thoughts.