Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Latest Learning Matters

The new government has moved quite quickly on introducing some measures that are designed to improve educational outcomes for young people. One of their initiatives includes annual testing of primary age students in literacy and numeracy. I have made my views on this quite clear several times.

Another thing they have done is increase the fines for parents who do not make sure that their children attend school regularly. While I don't necessarily agree that fining parents is the way to go I do support their determination to make attendance at school a priority.

I have just completed an analysis of leavers and their achievement levels at Opotiki College. What I found was that regular attendance at school and the number of years spent at secondary school determine the chances a young person has of achieving qualifications.

What did we find? We found that every student who left Opotiki College after completing 5 years at secondary school left with national qualifications (at least NCEA Level 1). We also found that there were only 2 students who left after 4 years secondary education who did not have qualifications.

The simple message from this that if you attend for 4 or 5 years there is just about a cast iron guarantee that you will get national qualifications.

But what about those who do not complete 4 years of secondary education?

The statistics for these students are not as rosy. Unsurprisingly, all students who do not finish 3 years of secondary schooling fail to gain qualifications. We had 9 such students. We also found that 68% of those who left at the end of 3 full years failed to gain any qualifications. We had 11 such students. As well, 60% of those students who return for a 4th year, but fail to complete it do not gain any qualifications. Again, we had 11 such students.

This shows that 33 students left last year without qualifications and for 31 of these they did not finish 4 yers at secondary school. When we analyse further we find that the vast majority of those 31 devloped poor attendance patterns early in their schooling, beginning with lateness to school, missing the odd class and then missing full days.

This reinforces the need for whamau and schools to work together to prevent lateness and poor attendance leading to leaving school before 4 years of completion.

While it is disturbing to have 33 students leave without qualifications it is empowering to see that the solution is simple for both schools and families. Students must attend secondary school for at least 4 years and they must not develop punctuality and attendance issues in their early years.

At Opotiki College we are taking a strong stand on lateness which will see regular latecomers attending catch-up on Thursday afternoons and on Saturday morning and involving the police in visiting homes and warning parents of students that are failing to attend regularly that they are in breach of the law.

We are doing this because it is our duty to take all possible steps to ensure all of our students gain national qualifications. The learning from our analysis is that attendance each day at school for at least 4 years is necessary to guarantee national qualifications and this learning really matters.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Opotiki Blue Mountain Blast - Maurie Thrashes Hedley

I'm sitting here in severe pain wondering why I don't stop doing these crazy things. I didn't even know if I would do this event until Saturday when Leigh came home saying she had the cash for all 3 of us to enter the race.

This morning the bikes had a quick check over since Colville and I discovered my headset had seized and took a lot of encouragement to free up. All was well and we took off just after 11.00 and charged into the Blue Mountains. I really enjoyed the first half though it is mainly steep climbing. I found the climb to the skid and then on to Valley Station Rd not too bad - must be benefitting from Colville.

The dip was awesome (see previous posts on Blue Mountai rides) and it was quite a slog to the skid at the top. Once again the upper Military track was outstanding and I was pleased to navigate all but one of the washouts full of rocks without getting off. The descent down King Rd to the Three Sisters went well until I suddenly lost my front wheel traction charging down the slippery, gorse bit and I landed heavily and painfully on my right hip. I eventually got up, but only because I knew Brian and Hedley would ride straight over me if I was still there!

Because of the overnight rain the Three Sisters were impossible to ride normally, so I dropped my seat, hung off the back and slipped and slid and tumbled my way down - one fall ended up scraping my right lower leg on the chain ring. I felt like staying in the mud, crying and waiting to be rescued!

It was, however, awesome to ride the 30+ creek crossings and end up back at the skid. The bumping over the creeks was hard on the hip and the lower leg was starting to hurt a bit. It was disappointing to have to stop hurtling down the road and turn into the paddocks, but, apart from the bumping along the farm tracks it was a great way to finish (finally) with both Brian and Hedley behind me. Apparently Hedley has some excuses, but I was deaf to them.

I immediately collapsed and was grateful to recieve an iced chocolate from Cliff and his mobile coffee truck. After standing up I was dizzy and nauseous and had to sit down again. Most people were concerned, except for Lea (who did later ask if I was OK and explained it was not good form to express any concern while others were listening so tried the laughing and ridiculing approach instead.)

I think tomorrow is going to be a bit painful and I might need my zipper frame to get up the stage for assembly.

Hope I'll be OK for muddy 1/2 marathon this Sunday!

Don't listen to Hedley's excuses.

Colville Connection and Paul's 50th

I have no photos of the actual ride as it was too wet, slippery and tough to take a camera. The ride lived up to its reputation as a gruelling ride. All of us completed it well. My only incident was being t-boned by another rider going over his gandle bars and buckling my front wheel. Gareth rode awsomely to be 4th junior in the 72k and Lucy was 2nd in the hot chicks section. Gareth picked up 2 spot prizes, both sunglasses, Teleri got some sunglasses and Jared won a great coffee machine as a spot prize.

However, the real reason for going was to celebrate Paul's 50th. Delwyn prepared a great feed and we celebrated Paul's event at the Te Mata Lodge where we were staying. Paul, Delwyn, Kyle, Jared and Dana had their own cottage where we partied (in a quiet, knackered way), Leigh, I, Lucy and Marg occupied a cottage next door and the lost boys of Destry, George, Brian and another dude on the first night had very comfortable lodgings for lost boys. Hedley and Teleri and Karl and Jody had their own private chambers down the hill.

The photos show us enjoying a great breakfast.

Kururau Krusher Photos Found!

This photo reminds me of a couple of superheroes! Click here to see the other superheroes who took part in this year's Kururau Krusher in Paul's old stomping groung, Taumarunui.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Whitikau and Return

Hedley 110
Originally uploaded by
What a week!

Tuesday night was the final summer series race and I was pleased to PB! (and beat Lea V).

On Thursday night we had the summer series fancy dress ride and beers. I have a heap of photos from Hedley to put up but they are large format and I haven't enough time at the moment.

On Friday night we had the Round Taupo Relay debrief and BBQ which was abit of a late night.

On Saturday night we had the Cycle Series prizegiving at the Golf Club which was another late night, but mot too bad because of a big power cut. This was a great night with a great group of people. The cycle series has involved a diverse range of people in terms of age, occupation, fitness levels.

It's outstanding that 100 people can turn up each week and have everything organised for them. Thanks Jarrod!

Then there was today's ride. The wahine, Leigh, Shirley, Marg, Lucy and Samantha, rode to Meremere and back and climbed the fastest they have ever done.

In the meantime 12 of us (me, the Boss, Lea, Hedley, Teleri, Hilton, David, Roger, Gareth, Ben, Grant and Clark) headed off from Hanaia and aimed for the Whitikau stockyards (40k away).

All went well until Clark mentioned that last night he had put on the tyres that he rode the 1995 Motu Challenge in! We all made it to the top of Meremere and then flew on to Toatoa where we learned that Clark's tyre had exploded and would wait on the hill. Grant headed back with my pump to assist while the rest of us climbed the Papamoa and headed towards Whitikau.

At the ford in the photo above Ben got a puncture and we then discovered that not only had Ben not brought food, but that he didn't have a tube! We helped him out and finally got to Whitikau.Click here to see the photos that Hedley took of us on the way and at Whitikau. This photo shows Dave charging across the ford at base of Papamoa.

After lunch (thanks for the scone Lea) we aimed for home. We came across Grant at the ford who reported that my pump was useless and that Clark was still waiting. We then hoofed it back to the Meremere where the boss helped him rig up his tyre.

We then charged down the Meremere like a bunch of banshees and at the bottom we learned that not only had Clark's other tyre exploded, that after it was repaired it blew again. The priority was to race to Grant's at Tirohanga so he could go and get Clark while the rest of us returned to Hanaia for coffee and spa.

I was feeling the pressure on the coffee as at 7.00 am that morning Hedley arrived with his own cup of coffee (I didn't take too much offense), Hilton and Teleri poured their first cup out claiming the milk I had just had on my porridge was off, and then Lea scoffed at the strength of the coffee I had made. Boy, did I brew a strong one.

The day was rounded off nicely, lolloing around on the deck, in the spa, drinking beautiful coffee! and chatting with friends, while being absolutely wasted after an 80k ride!

Bring on next weekend - Colville Connection and Paul's 50th.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Latest Learning Matters

As a school leader it can become too easy to end up focusing on the administrative side of running a school. The job is complex and does involve filling in a myriad of forms, applying for contracts to support learning in the school, writing milestone reports for various agencies, complying with the dozens of laws around health and safety and employment and replying to the hundreds of letters and emails that come in weekly.

Very few of these activities have a direct impact on improving teaching and learning and the realisation of this can be very frustrating for school leaders.

The desire to have a more direct impact on student learning has led myself and my three Deputy Principals to dedicate a big chunk of our time to observing the teaching and learning that is happening in all of our teachers’ classes at least once per fortnight and then feeding back to the teachers on what we have observed.

The latest research both here and overseas has identified that the most significant action a school leader can take to improve student learning, when you consider that most school leaders no longer teach students, is to actively monitor and feedback on the teaching that they see occurring on a regular basis.

After the first four weeks of this year this has been a rewarding experience for us as the school leaders. We have a much clearer picture of the actual teaching and learning that is occurring in our schools. We have been able to identify some top class practice which we have begun sharing with the whole staff. As well, we have observed some aspects where improvement is necessary and we share this with the teachers concerned.

Another neat thing is that it gives us a new way to link with some of the students. It is now not uncommon for me to pass students in the corridor or come across them in the playground and talk with them about the learning I have just seen them taking part in. I am also able to thank them for adding to my learning as they explain concepts that they understand but which have been difficult for me to grasp.

Some of the great things I have seen include a teacher providing art materials to a student who has difficulty explaining science concepts in writing but who has an artistic flair and can explain in graphic form. I have seen teachers explaining carefully to students what they will learn that period and how they will know that they have learnt it. I have seen teachers linking the learning that will occur today with previous learning.

As well, I have questioned many students and asked them what they are learning and why they are learning that. Invariably, they have been able to explain all of this to me.

Two things have impressed me the most. The first is the very high levels of engagement from the students that I have seen. The vast majority of students in all classes are focused on their work and attempting to do the best.

The second is the atmosphere of respect that exists in the classrooms. Teachers are showing, by their encouraging words and supportive actions, that they really care for the learning of their students. Students are repaying this feeling of care with an attitude of mutual respect.

Sure, we still have students who misbehave and sometimes not all teachers are on top of their game, but by the senior leaders in our school focusing on observing and feeding back on what is occurring in the classroom we are all learning and learning matters.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Kururau Krusher Success!

The bad news is that somehow I've lost my photos, and there was a very good one of me finishing my run too!

The good news is that Opotiki did awesomely well.

Jim Robinson: 2nd Veteran Mens Individual.
John Rollo, James Crosswell (is he a council employee?), Vaughan Payne and Mike Houghton: 1st Corporate Team.
Paul Owen, Maurie Abraham, George Teddy and Destry Hart (Opotiki Opossums): 3rd Veteran Men Team.
And the icing on the cake ....

Kyle Owen, Jared Owen, Braden Gedson, Gareth Owen: 2nd Secondary School Team. This may be the beginning of a school multi-sport dynasty. We are after some nice philanthropist wanting to donate a downriver kayak or two to support these guys!

We had a great time and enjoyed Chick's hospitality.

The race went a bit like this:

John finished about 15 seconds in front of Paul and Kyle all in about 1hr 25 on the road bike. Maurie and Jared took off a few seconds after James. Jared ran well for 1hr 21 for 16k and James pulled about another minute out of me, but he did know the way and I got a bit lost. He did about 1hr 9 and I did 1hr 10. George took off shortly after Vaughan on the paddle and hung on well to do 1hr 38 whileVaughan did 1 hr 34. Braden, after paddling for only a week to practice in my boat did a great 1hr 48 after stopping to empty water out of the boat because George forgot to tell him to wear the skirt high (good tactic, George). Mike took off on the steep and slippery mtb about 5 minutes in front of Destry who was about 20 minutes in front of Gareth. Destry pulled back 2 minutes on Mike but Mike held on for line honours with them coming in in about 1 hr 30. Gareth had an awesome ride to be the 3rd fastest ride in the whole event to move into 2nd school.

We were pretty knackered but all the talk was how everyone could improve next year. Things are looking good for our high school team who have now set their sights on Kaimai Classic and Motu Challenge. We plan to take out the Motu in 2011 so watch out.

It was great to miss out on the worst of the weather as well.

I'll see if I can find the photos, but I'm not confident.

Round Taupo Photos

Originally uploaded by
Don't you think this is a great photo of Aaron racing in the middle of the night. Check out the other photos here.

Round Taupo Relay

When life is so full it's difficult to find time to keep up with the blog posts. This relay was over a week ago and I haven't had time to post and since then I've been to the Kururau Krusher so have even more to tell.

Got back knackered from Taupo on Sunday and was still wasted on Monday night. On Tuesday night I had a BOT meeting, Wednesday night we went to the movies to watch Klunkerz, a cool movie about the beginning of mountain biking and on Thursday we had the local fun duathlon. On Friday I took off to Taumarunui for the Kururau.

Anyway, what happened at Taupo? We came second in our grade and were third over the line which is the best ever cellar rats result. Everyone did their very best with records being set by Rachael, AAron, Jarrod, Scooter, Maurie, and James.

The highlights were Aaron's awesome effort to smash James' long-standing record, the new fullas Scooter and Steve giving it all, bus number one picking up a woman whose car had broken down and introducing her to their reading material, Shane's farting and Baabara with an inserted glow stick, the awesome finish, my joke about Cockrobin, Barry, Baabara and Shane in the fence, and the dancing. It's a good thing I don't have more time to talk about that!