Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Learning Matters

Last week the government announced another $4 million will be spent on combating truancy amid claims that each day 30,000 young people are absent from school.

It is welcome news that more money is being allocated to this area. Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has been pointing out to government for many years that the majority of youth crime, which often moves on to become adult crime, begins with young people who are truant from school.

Opotiki College’s analysis of its students and the level of qualifications leavers have shows a clear co-relation between attendance and qualifications. The simple fact is that if a student attends school each day and remains at secondary school for four years they will receive national qualifications. In Opotiki College’s case in 2009 just 2 students left without qualifications after four full years of secondary education.

The opposite is equally true. 100% of students who leave before three years of secondary education have no qualifications. 50% of leavers who leave after just three years of secondary education, in Opotiki College’s case leave with no qualifications.

Almost all students who leave before these necessary four years have a pattern of poor attendance throughout their time at secondary school. The pattern begins with lateness to school, followed by missing the odd class and then moving on to missing full days.

In many cases by working closely with whanau who are keen to have their child do the very best the pattern is able to be broken and the student return to full attendance and get back on the pathway to qualifications. In a few cases the parents are either disinterested or even support the non-attendance. It is these students who don’t see out the four years and who leave without formal qualifications. They are , therefore, destined to a life time of irregular employment and low income.

It is unfortunate that the vast majority of those who we see with irregular attendance patterns began them very early in their schooling. In fact, Ministry of Education statistics show that the worst year for truancy is in a child’s first year at primary school. The pattern is difficult to break as it peaks again in years 7 and 8 and then again in years 12 and 13.

Obviously, then, something has to be done. I am not sure if throwing more money at schools to keep doing the same thing will be useful. As a school we are not certain that we can do much more for the 10-15 hard core truants we deal with as their pattern has been well and truly embedded.

Somehow, families of these children need to come to an understanding that it is their expectations of their child, their support of their child and their actions in making sure their child gets to school every day of their schooling from Year 1 that will break this negative, damaging and quality of life affecting pattern of poor attendance at school.

Schools can’t do this work. The community, its support agencies and the wider and individual families need to promote the belief that missing school without an acceptable reason is unacceptable. We need to do this for the sake of our young people’s learning and learning matters.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Latest Learning Matters

If we accept that age old saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child it makes sense that schools and families have to forge a close relationship if we wish all of our young people to realise their potential.

The Ministry of Education requires schools to develop close relationships with whanau and when ERO visits a school it meets with community members to assess how strong that relationship is.

Traditionally parents have quite a strong and regular relationship when their child is at primary school, but for a range of reasons this relationship weakens and becomes much less regular at secondary school. This may be because a secondary school is a much larger institution so may not seem as welcoming or even that parents themselves didn’t enjoy their secondary school experience so feel a little daunted.

In many secondary schools the relationship concentrates on supporting the school with fund raising. At Opotiki College we do very little school-wide fundraising and prefer to have our parents form a relationship with us in other ways.

As with most schools we have a number of parent teacher report evenings at which we get between 25-35% of our families present. We do, however, run Bilingual whanau hui every term which are well-attended and other evening sessions to explain subject choices, enrolment and qualifications. The attendance at these is still at about the 25-35% level.

Our parents have other opportunities by attending sports events and kapa haka practices and noho.

It is important that parents and whanau find a way to make a link with their local school. Last week we tried something different at Opotiki College. We had a mix and mingle evening for the parents of our Year 9 students. It was quite informal with a shared supper and introductions followed by parents meeting and chatting with the teachers from their child’s class. 50% of our families were present and there was a neat buzz as teachers and parents got to know each other.

I explained to the parents that it was not important if they could not assist their child with some of their homework but that it was important that they were active in taking an interest in their child at school and being present for them wherever possible. Those parents who turned up last week had taken the very first important step in being present for their child and showing their strong interest.

We now expect stronger turnouts from these parents at future report evenings as we have broken the ice with them.

One interesting question asked at the evening was about decile rankings and what it meant for schools. The Ministry of Education assesses each school’s community as to its socio-economic status and then groups the schools into ten (decile) groups with decile 1 being in the lowest 10% socio economic group and decile 10 in the highest. It doesn’t mean the decile 1 schools are in poorer condition, or get less money or get poorer teachers.

Many schools are burdened by such a label and as a result have lower expectations and settle for less. Consequently lower decile schools tend to have lower achievement levels. Opotiki College refuses to be limited by such a label and operates under a belief that our students can and will do as well as students anywhere in the country. We prove this with our results year after year.

Students, schools and communities cannot be limited by labels such as decile rankings. The way forward is by learning and learning matters.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Latest Learning Matters

Right now there is a large debate going on in education circles, especially in the primary sector, around the National Government’s policy of introducing national standards at each year level up to and including Year 8.

There is a huge amount of overseas experience, notably in the US and the UK, which shows such a policy has a negative rather than positive impact on student achievement so it is being treated with caution and, in some cases, hostility in the primary sector.

The Minister of Education claims that what is being introduced in New Zealand is quite different and has been developed fully aware of the faults in overseas models. She may well be right as New Zealand has a record of leading the way in educational practice.

Primary teachers are worried that they will be forced to ‘teach to the test’ and that the inevitable publication of league tables will show some schools, typically those in lower decile areas, are falling quite short of the national standard.

Good or bad; welcome to the world of the secondary sector. We have been operating in such an environment for ever with the national standard determined by School Certificate and now by NCEA and the publication every year of league tables.

One of the arguments against pay equity between the primary and secondary sectors is the lack of any external accountability for student achievement in the primary sector, something which secondary schools are faced with and fall or stand against every single year.

I don’t think I like the new policy but I will wait and see.

My advice to colleagues in low decile area primary schools in New Zealand is to take the opportunity to throw off the yoke of low decileness and show the Minister and your community that this does not limit achievement opportunities for your children. There are plenty of places where this happens.

Once again, decile 1 Opotiki College students have done impressively well in NCEA from 2009. With 83% of non-Maori gaining Level 1, 75% gaining Level 2 and 77% gaining Level 3 and with 62% of Maori gaining Level 1, 83% gaining Level 2 and 68% gaining Level 3 our students have done our school and community proud. In all but one of the groups above this puts us at or above the average level of achievement for deciles 8-10 schools (the highest grouping) and in the other we are above the average for decile 4-7 schools.

These figures are not a figment of my imagination and will soon be available to the public on the NZQA website.

The primary schools in Opotiki are doing a great job and despite their best efforts our Year 9 students do arrive well below the national average for their age group. This is normally the case in a low-decile community.

A combination of innovative programmes, committed staff, supportive parents, great resources and a ‘never give up’ attitude help our students to achieve these great results. The most important thing, however, is that we have learned to ignore our decile ranking and to operate in a way that shows we expect all of our kids will achieve national qualifications. This is the learning that matters.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The table below shows how tremendously well we have done with NCEA. The first column shows our % achievement of NCEA at each level, the second column shows what the national average % was and then the next three columns show the national averages for low, mid and high decile schools. Opotiki College is a decile 1 school but, as you can see, our figures put us in either the mid or, in many cases, high decile groupings. The achievement of Maori students in particular is well above the national levels.

The table didn't copy too well, but you shoukd be able to make sense of it.

Opotiki College National Deciles 1-3 Deciles 4-7 Deciles 8-10

Level 1 68 71 55 69 80
Level 2 81 75 60 73 83
Level 3 71 68 52 66 76


Opotiki College National Deciles 1-3 Deciles 4-7 Deciles 8-10

Level 1 62 55 52 53 66

Level 2 83 62 59 61 72

Level 3 68 52 52 50 60


Opotiki College National Deciles 1-3 Deciles 4-7 Deciles 8-10
Level 1 83 79 68 75 84
Level 2 75 81 69 78 86
Level 3 77 74 60 71 78

Saturday, January 23, 2010

NCEA 2009

Once again we have punched well above our weight for a decile 1 school. With 66% of our Year 11s gaining NCEA Level 1, 81% of our Year 12s gaining Level 2 (with all but 4 of the rest gaining Level 1) and 64% of our Year 13s(!) gaining Level 3 (with all of the rest gaining Level 2) we have done wonderfully well.

The keys, I am certain, are strong leadership across the whole school, an emphasis on strong and positive relationships with our students, and a 'dog-with-a-bone' belief that everyone of our students can succeed.

When you consider that 60-67% of our students arrive at the start of Year 9 in the bottom quartile of nationally-normed literacy and numeracy tests I don't believe there would be many, if any, schools in New Zealand which 'add value' as much as we do.

Let's see what ERO's view is when they arrive in Term III!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Curse on Valley Station Rd

Two weeks ago I was charging down Valley Station and my derailleur was snapped off by a branch and I ahd to single speed back with my chain breaking on the last hill at home. So I missed the stream ride.

One week ago I attempted the same loop and had to turn around at the stream and walk back up to help Kurt look for his sunglasses. So I missed the stream ride.

Today I was hurtling down Valley Staion at a section known, by me, as the dip which has a fast downhill followed by an uphill which I alwayas attempt to coast up using my downhill speed. Half way down I lost my front wheel on the edge of the rut (Aaron should have trimmed the grass from this!) and hit the ground hard on my head and right shoulder. I did the squirmy, writhy, groaning thing rthat Barry has witnessed before and was helped to my feet by Lea. I has a bar end brand on one knee, my right fingers were sprained, my head hurt (thank god for helmets!) and my shoulder and ribs were complaining.

It was an agonising walk ride back to Waiaua where Lea arrived with the car. The Boss and Amber stuck with me - sorry for wrecking your ride. So I missed the stream ride for the third time.

Leigh was not happy when I got home and had a view that I do these things on purpose! Coffee, anti inflammatories and ice have helped. I have a suspicion that my shoulder may be worse than I am accepting, but don't tell Leigh.

Very disappointed that George, Brian and Dennis couldn't spend last night drinking beer and still make the ride. You all need to do better, especially you George if you aspire to be a possum!

Great to see Paul (Tegel) join the real hard man's club by spewing after yesterday's time trial!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mangakirikiri Mystery

You really need a knowledge of this looped mtb track to fully understand this comedy.

Jarrod and Aaron thought they would clear the windfall from the Valley Station Road loop so..... Jarrod dropped Aaron off at the top of the hill at the start of Valley station and, armed with a hand saw, sent him along Valley Station on his mtb and told him they would meet somewhere along the stream. Jarrod then drove back to the skid site and hopped on his mtb with Shane's wee trailer and his chaainsaw in it and headed down stream clearing fallen trees.

When he had finished he had not seen Aaron so assumed he had backtracked to the skid site. Jarrod rode back up Mangakirikiri and at the skid site discovered the chain guard had come off the chainsaw so biked all the way back to find it then biked back to the skid site. But, no Aaron. Jarrod jumped in his truck drove up to Valley Station Rd and then along the newly cleared Valley Station as far as the truck would go without sustaining more damage than some scratches and a broken aerial. He the got on his mtb and carried on in the same direction looking for Aaron.

In the meantime Aaron, who had been meticulous about his clearing arrived at the stream and then rode up it until the skid site to find no Jarrod or truck. He assumed Jarrod had driven up to Valley Station Rd so he rode up this huge hill to get there but no Jarrod or truck. He then headed back down the hill, past the skid site, through the gate and ended jup at my plaace at aabout 6.00pm absolutely shagged and hanging out for a beer.

In the meantime Jarrod turned around at the little sisters, returned to the truck and drove baack out to Hermanssons cowshed and rung George who had no idea where Aaron was. Jarrod feared the worst and headed back to the skid site. At about this time Aaron rang George to come and pick him up who informed Aaron that Jarrod was back in the bush looking for him while swearing loudly.

In the meantime Jarrod rode back down the Mangakirikiri and near the first creek crossing saw Aaron's tyre marks so assumed he was out, rode all the way back to his truck at the skid site and drove out. Once he got cell phone reception he discovered Aaron and George were at my place drinking beer so turned up in quite a rage.

I was able to intercept him with a cold beer and was able to avert a family fall out!

When you are biking the newly manicured valley Station circuit please have a wee thought for the Teddy boys!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Surf's Up!

Yesterday Lucy and I went to surf lessons at Ohope and graduated successfully!

We had a one hour lesson on land taken by Beaver and the lovely Lucy. We learnt how to paddle through the waves, paddle to catch a wave, steady ourselves, get to our knees and then to stand and haka hula.

We then entered the water for an hour of surfing. Our instructions were to go out to where the waves were breaking and catch them after they had broken. To my surprise I stood up and stayed standing up right into the shore! Lucy proved to be as natural as I was!

After about 20 minutes of doing this we headed a little further out (still not quite over our heads!) and started catching waves before they broke. A couple of nosedives showed that it was important to stand quickly so both of us dispensed with the kneeling stage and got used to going straight to our feet. These rides were cool!

All too soon our hour was up and we got our certificate and headed home hugely pleased with our new status as surfies! Wicked dude! Lucy and I both agreed we were the two best surfers in the class of 10 and that she wasn't too far behind me!

Highly recommended dude! Now where can I get a board from?

Spot X

Spot X delivered for Pete, Kurt and myself this morning. I was up at 4.00am and Pete picked us up at 4.30 and we were off to spot X. We drove for somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes and walked for somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes to find ourselves perched on a great rock, with great water and nice swell and got the berley out quickly. It was a bit slow for an hour and then Pete and Kurt landed fish between 4 and 6k and then 2 casts later Pete pulled in about a 3kg fish. I was a bit slow off the mark but pulled in 4 up to 2kg ( 2 were only 30-33 cm!).

It was great fishing and the walk in and out, while strenuous, added to the adventure. Snapper on the BBQ tonight.

Thanks for the guiding, Pete!