Friday, 20 March 2020

What do beards and the OECD have in common?

As we watch the Covid-19 situation evolve as a rapid pace, those of us in schools are looking at our preparedness for the future challenges of causing learning remotely. There is an inevitability to this at some stage in the future, even if for a limited number of our students. Our overriding paradigm has to be 'business was usual' for as long as possible while taking all sensible measure possible to 'mitigate the risks', to keep everyone safe.

One of the things it has done for me is to provoke some thinking on our purpose as educators. You might say it's a little late in my career to start that. It's not a matter of having started it,  but rather a matter of deciding to put down in words how I see things in the face of the challenges we face right now.

In writing this, my target audience is our whānau and our rangatahi, because I would hope that colleagues have already determined their position in this regard.

So what is our purpose? I think that the greatest task that faces us is to prepare young people to take their place in society as people able to participate in society, to contribute economically, socially, morally, to bettering our existence as human beings. This brought me first to a piece I wrote in a school newsletter at the start of the year, as we faced the perennial 'beard wars', senior boys demanding the right to grow beards, despite the clear school rules. I wrote this:

Already this year I have had cause to consider the psychology of our teenagers. Psychologists in the 60’s and 70’s described them as ‘marginal man’ (at a time when our language was far less sympathetic to the issues of gender identity). They were referring to the idea that teenagers are at the margin, the grey area in which they are neither child nor adult. It is an age therefore where they are seeking identity, and they do this in many ways, not the least is by pushing against the boundaries in order to gain a line of sight to exactly what it means to be themselves. You will see this daily in your home lives.
Pushing against the rules of any organisation is perhaps the easiest way, as those rules are the things most visible and therefore the easiest target. The problem is that any group or organisation must have rules if it is to function. It matters not what the organisation is: the army, the Police, a hospital, a construction site, a school. They all need rules if they are to function. 
Therefore perhaps one of the best things we can do for our teenagers (after giving them our time and our unconditional love) is to ensure that they understand that rules exist and that they develop the resilience to cope with those rules, regardless of whether they agree with them or not. I have had cause to address the issue of beards. It is perhaps relatively normal for teens to see the growth of facial hair as a way of establishing identity, it reflects their search for themselves. However beards and moustaches are often not allowed. In the Police, yes, In the army no (although there was an odd rule that almost ‘required’ a sergeant in the Royal Artillery in the 19th Century to grow a beard - I haven’t been able to find out whether that is still allowed or not, although I suspect not). Our own school rule is clear: boys are to be clean shaven, beards and moustaches are not allowed.
There are rules in many workplaces, whether we like them or not, whether we agree with them or not. As a kura, and as parents, we do our children NO service at all if we do not support them to accept that fact. In one of our recent regular weekly visits to our local supermarket the checkout operator admired Lorraine’s painted nails, lamenting the fact that as staff they were not allowed painted nails if they were to work at the supermarket. When our employer says that we must wear protective footwear if we wish to work on site, then we have two choices: wear the protective footwear, or work somewhere else. We don’t argue with the employer that we want to work there but not wear the footwear.
Growing facial hair may well be seen as a chance to rebel, and you may argue that the growth of facial hair does not impact on learning. But as I said earlier, we do our young people no service whatsoever if we cannot help them to understand that societies and groups need rules to function, and that to some degree at least we all need to observe those rules. This too is an important part of their learning. If our young people want to rebel, let it be against something that actually matters in the long run. Facial hair hardly seems important  when the future of the planet is at stake, or when we have almost 300000 children still living in poverty. Support our rangatahi to rebel for a cause that actually makes a difference. Support them to show kindness in their actions, to show thought and care for others. An argument about facial hair seems to me to be very self centred. There are far better ways of building personal identity.

My brain then connected this with some material published by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). Here's what they said:

Creative problem solving requires us to consider the consequences of our actions, with a sense of moral and intellectual maturity. This allows us to reflect on our actions in light of experiences and personal or societal goals. The perception and assessment of what is right or wrong in a specific situation is about ethics. It involves questions related to norms, values, meanings and limits: What should I do? Was I right to do that, in light of the consequences? Where are the limits?

That brings us to the toughest challenge in modern education: incorporating values. Values have always been central to education, but it is time to move beyond implicit aspirations to explicit education goals and practices. This will help communities shift from situational values – under which an individual’s actions are guided by circumstance – to sustainable values that generate trust, social bonds and hope. If education fails to build foundations for communities, many people will try to build walls.
(OECD Educational Compass 2030 Last accessed 21 March 2020)
The OECD has effectively stated in 'eduspeke' what I was saying about beards. All that matters in education, in learning, is not just academic in nature. One of our key purposes is to enhance and develop our moral position in life, to enhance our values, to grow those things that make us human.
The purpose of education is NOT to maximise examination passes. League tables and exam results do not measure what counts, and if we think so then we have certainly failed to give due consideration to what matters in education, to the true purpose of education. The OECD view certainly doesn't align with the 'League Table' bandits who thing that NCEA results are the true measure of the effectiveness of a school. It aligns very closely with what we call 'the front half of the curriculum' in New Zealand, that part that spells out key competencies, values, and vision, for our learners.
Yes we all want improved examination results. Yes these results matter. But more importantly we want young people to go out into society determined to make a difference, to be good citizens. For three years now I have been repeating my plea to our students: BE KIND. It is the SAME message we hear from our Prime Minister The Rt Hon. Jacinda Ardern.
The good news, going back to the original prompt for this thinking, is that as a Manaiakalani Programme kura, we are well placed to continue students' learning remotely, on line. Teachers have well developed Google sites that support visible rewindable learning. Students (and staff) blogs support interaction, they support the visible reflection of thinking and learning and the provision of feedback, the interaction with authentic audiences.
The 'however' is this: not all things that matter can be taught remotely, and not all things that matter can be taught in schools.
Much of the purpose of schools is to provide the social connection that we all need, to provide our children with the opportunity to a make it through adolescence learning those skills necessary to be connected, kind, adults who make a positive difference in our communities.
It is also true that not all that is important in learning comes from schools. If your children end up at home with you, take the time to cook a meal together, read a book together, prepare the garden for winter, or change a wheel on the car together. Maybe make a 'bobby cart' together.. do you remember the joy of that as a child yourself? Take the time to truly be 'present' with your children.

In the meantime, it is essential that we maintain business as usual, that we keep routine and 'normality' for our children. If nothing else, in Canterbury we learned this lesson post February 2011. The Ministry of Health emphasises that school closures do not keep people safer at this stage. It is essential that we follow their advice. THEY are the experts. We would be fools to ignore what they say.
In these challenging times.. kia tau te mauri
Robin Sutton

Thursday, 12 March 2020

The power of collaboration

I have written before expressing my opinion that the media, by attacking schools that attempt to be innovative, are simply demonstrating institutional racism. In short the argument goes like this: our education system has historically failed Māori and Pasifika learners disproportionately. There is nothing wrong with those learners, but rather there is something wrong with the system. If our society is to realize the benefits of the skill, the talents, and the humanity, of that section of our population, the system has to change. Attacks on those proposed changes are therefore attacks on attempts to create real equity in society. Economically, socially, and morally, we shoot ourselves in the foot, it is something of an 'own goal' to attack those attempting to create change in our current education systems and structures. Some say why change a system that has worked? To which my response would be 'worked for whom"? Who says it has worked given that there has previously been nothing to compare it with? And anyway, can we seriously claim it has worked when it has failed significant groups in our society?

Today I was privileged to be present when educators from 23 secondary kura from across our region got together to share their evolving practice under the title 'Secondary Flexibility'.  We were brought together under the banner of Grow Waitaha, This is an organisation set up to help schools transform their practice, to make themselves fit for purpose in this new age where the future is so uncertain, in an age when we have much less idea than we ever had about what learners need in order to survive in their future because the pace of change is so rapid. This was an amazing exercise in collaboration that is not normal in the world of education. The previous competitive schools model meant that schools were afraid to share practice in case they gave away an edge to their competitors. We were left with small pockets of innovation that in themselves were limited because it is often difficult to see the bigger picture when trapped in our own bubble. However we continue to see that education at least is stronger when we collaborate, when we share knowledge and expertise. In short, OUR CHILDREN ARE BETTER OFF when we share our expertise. The competitive schools model simply created winner and loser children.

You could observe stuff at the surface level like the passion in the atmosphere, like the desire for change that was visceral to say the least. These are people who totally understand the moral imperative, who understand that we can no longer tolerate leaving a growing proportion of our population behind. These educators were unashamedly sharing their work on the sorts of innovations that they believe will create greater equity in our system. And there were lots of cool things happening. Interestingly we are all on the same journey. It's not as if each school is following a significantly different journey. Rather we are all on the same journey, but adapting the thinking to suit our communities, things like the readiness of community, or staff, or students, to adapt to change, or the capacity to resource change.

We are all talking about systems that build stronger relationships with learners (at Hornby High School we call this Wānanga time). We are all talking about changes that connect subjects across the curriculum (at Hornby High School this is Hurumanu), destroying the subject silos that have been the feature of secondary learning in our secondary schools since.. well , since forever as our teenagers might say.

At a deeper level though I think there is something much more significant happening. I previously wrote that schools are often afraid to put their heads above the parapet for fear of being sniped, of being shot down, by a contemptuous and hideously ill-informed media. Today was different. Today we stood shoulder to shoulder, announcing for the whole world that we are committed to a better education for ALL rangatahi, that we no longer believe the lie that the western education tradition is the best and only way to cause learning. We all acknowledged without saying that there is stuff we don't want to get rid of, but we were all also acknowledging that what we do now is no longer enough, if it ever was.

You see, the impact of this stuff is real. In achievement Hornby High School accelerates writing achievement at twice (yes that's TWICE) national averages as a result of our engagement with The Manaiakalani Programme and its 'Learn Create Share' pedagogy. Hornby High School has maintained attendances at an average of over 90% when attendance rates across the country have been declining. That's called engagement. Maybe, just maybe, we DO know what we are doing.  Maybe, JUST MAYBE, the profession of educators does know what it is doing.

I am proud to be a part of a kura that is pushing the boundaries, a kura that wants the best for all learners, not just a privileged few. And today we saw that we are not alone, and in fact never have been. We now know that we have good company on this amazing journey. We have a whole community of educators with us in this work to change lives and communities.

This is the power of professional collaboration. This is the way of the world, this is the. way forward in our work to empower and embolden our rangatahi, to set them on their journey to better lives for themselves, and for all.

You see, the whole IS more than the sum of the parts. As one famous thinker once said 'you can judge the quality of a society by the way it treats its weakest members.' Today showed that as educators we are determined to treat our young people, some of our weakest and most vulnerable members, in the best way we can imagine.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

The new 'cornerstones' of our society

All groups need rules. They need a set of agreements on how members will behave, how they will treat each other, if they are to succeed. Regardless of whether it is the armed forces or the police, a kura or a hospital, a sports club or a motorcycle gang, all groups have to have some agreement about how they will act.

I recall Lorraine in the 90's inviting her parish vicar for dinner. It was an enjoyable evening, and I recall expressing the view that for many centuries in European societies churches provided the moral glue that bound us together as a society. I suggested that it was the failure of our churches in general to retain their relevance to people that has lead to a significant drop in numbers of parishioners generally, and therefore in their ability to influence values, to sustain a moral code that we might live by. I then suggested that this has accelerated a significant shift in our cohesiveness as a society because we struggle to hold shared values. Here is some recent NZ data, and I readily acknowledge that this doesn't reflect some of the changes happening with individual faiths.

I realise that that statement suggests that their values are the right ones, and all others are not. That is not my intention. It is merely an observation on what I think has happened in European based societies globally. Here too I stress that this is a very euro-centric observation, on which I'll say more later in this post.

The vicar certainly didn't disagree with me, and I have to confess that despite working for 15 years in an independent school with an Anglican ethos (and an excellent school, at that), I have at best 'flirted with faith'. That worried me, although despite that I like to think that I have managed to live a values driven life that reflects core values founded on respect for others.

I would also like to state that this is not a post promoting any specific set of values, Christian or otherwise, other than the values that are implicit in the New Zealand National Curriculum. I merely make the observation of the need for an agreed and shared set of values. As a state school in New Zealand, we are required to be secular in nature. We do however have a set of values (Commitment, Achievement, Resilience, and Respect), that are our own interpretation of the values spelt out in the front half of our National Curriculum.

Just last week I was in a meeting with Gary Roberts (Principal, Hornby Primary School) and Malcolm Gooch (Leader of our local Mana Ake team, working with the Uru Mānuka cluster). Malcolm made one of those statements that 'joined the dots' for me. I admitted that I felt deeply embarrassed that I hadn't made this connection, that I hadn't joined these dots, before.

He said 'schools are the new cornerstones of society', they are places in which society generally has high trust, they are gathering places for us, perhaps in much the same ways that churches were before.

That lit a number of light bulbs for me, reflecting a vital function that had lurked in the back on my mind like one of those ghostly memories borne of a half remembered dream.

It also brought me back to Simon Sinek's work on change, and the need to know, and keep at the forefront of our thinking,  the 'why' of our work, our moral imperative.

Image result for simon sinek why

Our moral imperative within Uru Mānuka is well represented in this visual representation of our work, one I've shared numerous times before:

Image result for equality equity liberation
Our work with The Manaiakalani Programme highlights one of the important pieces of work that we are undertaking at Hornby High School to achieve this end, to meet our moral obligation to see ALL students able to be the best that they can be. Our work in establishing our Wānanga time and our cross curriculum Hurumanu, are also important pieces of work in supporting the best outcomes for our learners.

The problem lies in that bigger piece of work, that new role for schools as the cornerstones of our society. You see, this is not something we are resourced to do. We are staffed with wonderful people who hold the moral imperative dear to their hearts. We are staffed by people who would (and figuratively, often do) give the shirts off their backs for tamariki that they teach. However as a wonderful former colleague was want to remind me, we are schools, not social work organisations. That is what we are resourced to do.

But what of our work? What can we actually do to  make a difference, given that we are not actually resourced to be those 'cornerstones' of our society? We can be values driven, as we all are. We can be culturally responsive, culturally inclusive, welcoming to all cultures in our communities. Every child ought to be able to bring their 'cultural backpack' into the kura, to be who they are without fear or reservation.

These two ideas come together in a unique way in Aotearoa New Zealand. We have a true taonga in Tikanga Māori, in those beautiful values of manaakitanga and whanaungatanga, of kindness and relationship. By upholding the precepts of the Treaty of Waitangi we may yet save ourselves as a society. We currently have a Prime Minister who talks the talk and walks the walk about showing kindness, about rejecting the cult of the individual that has been an implicit part of the neo liberal right wing agenda that has driven much of western society for the past 40 years. We hear those messages abut inclusivity, about embracing diversity. Doing so makes us all richer, better off. A society that has extremes of wealth, a society that is divided along any grounds at all, is a poorer society both economically, culturally, and socially. Embracing tikanga offers us a path to greater moral and economic wealth. Why wouldn't we?

That's a big ask for schools alone. We must play our part, but we can't do this alone.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Do you mean 'creativity', or do you mean 'creativity'?

He puna auaha

A centre of creative excellence

This is our vision for Te Huruhuru Ao o Horomaka Hornby High School, a bold vision for a secondary school, at a time when we need to be bold in education. I'm not afraid to be bold, I'm not prepared to step back from the challenge, because now more than ever before we need to be bold, to develop new ways of thinking in education. Our historical system has failed too many children, too many rangatahi have left the portals of secondary schools undervalued and underprepared for the world that they face. And I am privileged to be able to walk our journey with a group of colleagues who share the vision, who share the appetite for change, an appetite to shake up the system to better serve our amazing tamariki, despite the anxiety that the change creates for them.

For those who weren't involved in the development of our vision, and the development of our roadmap, a reasonable question might be 'do you mean creativity or do you mean creativity'?

The simplest interpretation would be to assume that our vision is to be a centre of the creative arts. That in itself is laudable and desirable, and it is a part of our plan. However our intention is to be much bolder than this. We are seeking creativity in everything that we do. A question I often ask of colleagues is 'what does creativity look like in your daily work? In the classroom? On the sports field? Around the Board table?'

Our staff team has been re-imagining what we want learning to look like, and I want to share their work. I stress it is THEIR work, not mine, and is testimony to their commitment to the vision, and to our rangatahi. I'd also stress that many parts of this work are not unique. In the finest spirit of the development of creativity, we have taken our own educational 'artist role models' and we have evolved their ideas and adapted them to suit our Hornby High School community of learners. Before I outline our progress so far I would like to pay tribute to those inspirations, those other kura that have informed our own thinking. They are Campion College in Gisborne, Rototuna High School in Hamilton, and Rolleston College in Rolleston (outside Christchurch). There are other inspirations that have come from a range of thinkers, but these have been our greatest sources of inspiration, because they have shown as a 'how', a way of 'doing' and 'being'.

Our changes to date can be classified into two areas:
  • The strengthening of relationships for learning, something that might previously have been termed our pastoral system, although what we are devising goes far beyond the pastoral systems of old
  • Connected curriculum, operating under our title Hurumanu
The pastoral changes include:
  • Shifting progressively to a vertical pastoral system akin to a true whānau system, where students will be grouped together across Years 7 to 13. This will be phased in over the next few years. We were strongly advised NOT to drop all students into the system straight away. Other schools reported difficulty as senior students unintentionally sabotaged the change because it is completely different to the horizontal groupings that had experienced throughout their secondary schooling.
  • Using 7 hours per week from 'old school curriculum time' for what we have termed 'Wānanga' (and yes, that macron is important!!). Students will spend the bulk of this time in Wānanga groups of 23-25 maximum with their 'learning advisor', an adult who will come to know them better than any other adult on the team. They will explore cybersmarts, undertake testing to show progress (the data gathered by Woolf Fisher Research Centre, amongst others), they will undertake passion projects, attend assemblies, deliver learning exhibitions, participate in mentoring that will help to build goals and confidence, and most importantly they will build relationships, you get the idea.

This image from the staff Google site gives a great overview of what may take place in Wānanga time.

The curriculum changes see us shift towards more cross curriculum learning. Subjects have been paired, and teachers supported with time to plan cross curricula learning opportunities that we have named 'Hurumanu'. Year 7 & 8 students will work together in combined groups, while Year 9s will operate on a stand alone basis (that is, they will not be in classes combined with Year 7 & 8 students), but experiencing the same cross curriculum structure. In this structure they will explore 'big ideas' through subject specific lenses.

Here are some of the topics on offer for Year 7 & 8 students:

And for the Year 9s:

Students will be challenged with engaging big ideas, using the cross curriculum lenses that we hope will support an understanding of relevance and complexity. A future step will include the recognition of the need for student 'agency', that is, for students having more choice over what they do. Passion Projects do that, but we recognise the need for more agency still.

We have 'resourced strategically', by using four of our five Kāhui Ako Within School teacher positions to appoint staff to support others on this journey.

Underpinning all of this is our desire to ensure that every child knows that her or his culture is valued and recognised. The fifth Within School Teacher position supports staff to improve the cultural responsiveness of their practice. Our Kāhui Ako (Uru Mānuka) has also dedicated one of it's Across Community Teacher positions to supporting and developing our cultural responsiveness across the whole Kāhui Ako. This is central to building positive relationships for learning

We should also recognise that The Manaiakalani Project forms another really important component of our work. Our 'Learn Create Share' pedagogy offers agency and visibility, it offers real world connection which is so important as we delve deeper into our real world cross curriculum work.

All of this reflects one way of seeing creative excellence in our work, challenging old ideas, and recombining those ideas in new ways.

Our 2020 structures are not THE final shape. They are our next steps on the way.

I often say that I do NOT believe in revolutionary change. Revolutions almost always leave 'dead bodies' on the streets. I want everyone who choses to be standing at the end to be able to do that. So our change journey is one of evolution, of gradual change that (I hope) takes people along with us. Change is stressful enough without beating people up with it, without 'leaving bodies in the streets'.

All of this work reflects the general understanding that exists within our kura: relationships are central to learning, and connection and relevance are central to engagement in learning.

He puna auaha A centre of creative excellence, we're working on it.

R Sutton

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Necessary but not sufficient ...

What's the secret to school improvement? If I knew the definitive answer to that, I'd probably be on the global speaking circuit earning significant dollops of cash, I suspect. Mind you, I think we all know that there ISN'T one single answer to that, and there never has been.

I have come to believe however that there are a series of factors, some necessary but not sufficient, and then others from which we leverage the significant learning gains for our rangatahi.

I think we begin with the Viviane Robinson framework for student centred leadership. This has been my 'bible' for thinking and for action around leadership since I took up Principalship in 2016, and continues to be my guiding framework. It looks like this:

Image result for viviane robinson leadership dimensions"

What do I think this has looked like in our Hornby High School context?

The "necessary' factors I mentioned in my opening paragraph have been, I think, a relentless focus on:

  • Relationship building
  • Valuing all students' cultures in our school community
  • Strong vision, consistently articulated and applied
  • Quality physical infrastructure with our whole school rebuild
  • Strategic resourcing of key initiatives with suitable staffing
  • Effective use of digital technology that is founded on a consistent  and overt/completely visible pedagogy
  • Consistency and coherence in everything that we do. That is, there has been NO jumping from one fad to the next. We call this 'staying on the bus'. This metaphor comes from the 'Helsinki bus theory'.
  • The demand that we have clarity in our values, and that all of us (staff and students alike) live and apply those values in all that we do, as a basis for strong positive relationships. In our case, we apply PB4L, restorative practices, and restorative circles, to conflict resolution and relationship building. I have consistently talked up the need for kindness.

These things are essential to school improvement, and there are more that we do that I have just not mentioned. Our new school buildings have had a significant impact on the mindsets of our students. I would like to think that more of our students now generally feel valued by our kura, and our country, because they have been given the chance to live and learn in the school facilities that they always deserved. The design we chose for our spaces, a mix of collaborative and single cell spaces, has allowed staff the opportunity to review their pedagogy, and to put into effect things they learned when we encouraged them to 'play in the sandpit' between 2016 and 2019, to try out ideas that ranged from project based learning to passion projects, from knocking out walls in classrooms due for demolition to cross curriculum learning opportunities.

We have seen the dramatic impact of digital technology, and our Learn Create Share pedagogy, on student outcomes, with writing progress accelerated at twice national averages, and reading and maths accelerating at 1.5x national averages.

My current opinion is that these are all things that have been necessary to improvement in our kura. However I suspect that on their own they would have relatively limited impact unless combined with what I think are THE game changers in schools:

  • Embedded inquiry
  • Curriculum shift
  • The Manaiakalani Porgramme

Our curriculum shift is already significant. If anything, this is where e are disrupting education. I often say that I am a believer in evolution not revolution when it comes to organisational change. Why? When we have revolution we are, far too often, left with bodies in the streets. I'd rather we embark on a change journey that sees everyone who wants to 'stay on the bus' still standing at the end (if there is ever an end, that is). So our curriculum is evolving, perhaps more quickly than some would like, perhaps less quickly than others would like, but nevertheless it is evolving. Our junior 'connected curriculum' is more adaptive, more engaging, more relevant. It connects more clearly with the front end of the national curriculum, supporting as it does the development of the five key competencies that we still think are essential to success. In one of this year's junior prize giving speeches, I said this:
I have chosen to talk about this today because your ability to be successful at school is in part determined by your ability to manage your emotions. The fancy phrase we use is your ability to self regulate. Work hard to get better at that. We all struggle with the challenge, regardless of age.
The Manaiakalani Programme has provided Hornby High School with a visible and clearly articulated pedagogy that is proven to make a difference. Without this, the application of digital devices is unlikely to have made much of a difference. My opinion on this mater is strong: placing digital technology into the hands of students and teachers without changing the way teachers work, without changing the way learning is caused (the pedagogy), is doomed to failure. TMP gives us the pedagogy and the visibility that is necessary to make a difference.

And then there is the professional game changer: inquiry. For the non educators amongst readers, this is the principle that teachers inquiring into what they do, investigating hunches about what will improve learning for their students, are far more likely to adapt and improve their practice. The process looks something like this:

Image result for teaching as inquiry"

Let's face it, NONE of us begins our lives in this profession knowing everything that we need to be successful. In fact, on a side note, I suggest that it is even worse than that, that much of what passes for initial teacher education in New Zealand is not fit for purpose, but that's a different issue. So, as teachers we all need to be curious learners. we need to ask ourselves how we can do this better.

At Hornby High School I believe that what I am seeing is the progressive adoption of inquiry as the driver behind improving what we do. As my colleagues have inquired, made changes, reflected, and then written of what they have done, I have seen reflection that I would describe as transformative. What's more, this has taken place with the support of Professional Learning Groups, many of which have involved collaboration across our Kāhui Ako. This means that we have had primary and secondary trained colleagues collaborating on their inquiries. This is a rich source of knowledge sharing and transfer, and the potential for impact on our learners is huge.

Amongst the benefits of being a Manaiakalani school are that we have a clearly articulated pedagogy (Learn Create Share) around which to focus all inquiry, with hunches often formed based around the mass of great data with which we are blessed. We are able to inquire into what we call 'high shift practices'. In short we are beginning to build a true inquiry culture that focusses on improving outcomes for learners.

That in itself is the high shift practice. I would suggest that while new buildings and digital devices are necessary for transformative school improvement, in and of themselves they are not sufficient. To create those big shifts we seek, we need inquiry, and a future focussed curriculum, and....

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Why school competition isn't optimal

History is filled with what we might call 'defining moments'. For New Zealand, I think we would have to count as one of those that moment when a reportedly drunk Prime Minister Robert Muldoon called the snap election in 1984.

That election brought to an end one era in New Zealand political and economic history and heralded in another, the age of neo liberalism, as it saw Muldoon's government defeated, and the Fourth Labour Government lead by David Lange come to power. Here is a definition of neoliberalism that I found randomly on the web, and it seems as good as any:
"Neoliberalism is a term for different social and economic ideas. ... Neoliberalism is characterized by free market trade, deregulation of financial markets, individualisation, and the shift away from state welfare provision."
The newly elected Labour Government (remember that these were 'first past the post' election days) began our journey down this path with what came to be dubbed 'Rogernomics' after the Minister of Finance Roger Douglas. It heralded in decades of competition like we had perhaps never seen before, and in areas of life in which we had never seen the likes before. And so began the cult of the individual.

The jury was out on its impact for quite some time, but as the data, the evidence, accumulated we came to see amongst other things a significant increase in inequality. The data on the increase in inequality is indisputable. This HAS happened. It is my speculation that the former is the cause of the latter, although I have no proof that this is so. It is interesting however that the increase in inequality begins in that period of the mid 80s when these policies were introduced. I just can't prove cause and effect. This data on the Gini coefficient graphs the change nicely.


So we entered this period of competition, Friedmanites we all, (well most of us), believing that this was the best pathway, the best medicine, for what many might have described as a moribund economy. However we allowed competition to enter those other walks of life too, in particular education.

What we didn't know at the time was that this free market ideology and the corresponding increase in inequality would actually harm us all, and in a way that we hadn't predicted. It actually reduced economic growth. That is, our material wealth increased at a slower rate when inequality increased. We had thought that the opposite would be true. This comes from an OECD report (pretty reliable stuff I'd have said):

"To explore the question further, our study estimated a relationship for GDP per capita in which a change in income inequality was added to standard growth drivers such as physical and human capital. The idea was to test whether the change in income inequality over time has had a significant impact on GDP per capita on average across OECD countries, and if this influence differs according to whether inequality is measured in the lower or upper part of the distribution. The results show that the impact is invariably negative and statistically significant: a 1% increase in inequality lowers GDP by 0.6% to 1.1%. So, in OECD countries at least, higher levels of inequality can reduce GDP per capita. Moreover, the magnitude of the effect is similar, regardless of whether the rise in inequality takes place mainly in the upper or lower half of the distribution."

We have had competitive schools since 1989 and 'Tomorrow's Schools'. The school choice model had its strong advocates, some going as far as suggesting a 'voucher system' that allowed complete freedom of choice. We have retained a modicum of control, despite the offical policy of the ACT party and David Seymour, both of whom support the school choice model.

How have we gone? Well it's been good for some. It has created winner and loser schools, but I would suggest not for the reasons we might have thought. One of the foundations of free markets, the idea of full and complete information and rational decision making, simply does not hold true in education, nor in any market for that matter. We do not have complete information, and we do not make rational logical choices. We make emotional choices based on incomplete information. So those schools 'perceived ' as being better were the winner schools, while those 'perceived' as being worse, were the losers.

This all misses a fundamental truth. Education is most effective when it is a collaborative activity. It is most effective when students collaborate, and when teachers collaborate, and when schools collaborate. You see, education is NOT a zero sum game. We don't educate one person or group at the expense of another. What's more society couldn't afford that even if it were true. To write off one section of society so that another can benefit has to be the biggest waste of human capital ever. We don't want winners and losers in education. We want winners and winners.

Over this past term I've seen two truly outstanding examples of the benefits of collaboration in education.

The first was within our own Uru Mānuka cluster. All teachers are expected to undertake 'inquiry'. This is intended to support teachers to use an evidence base to improve their practice and therefore the learning of students. This year we have run a number of Professional Learning Groups not only within Hornby High school, but across the cluster. Teachers from multiple schools have joined together to inquire into their practice, looking for better ways to cause learning.

Several weeks ago we had a celebration of that work, with teachers making presentations to staff from across the cluster in which they presented the 'gold nuggets', those pearls of wisdom that they had gleaned about how we can imporve learning.

Some photos of the 70+ staff from across our cluster celebrating their own learning:

One of the things that was patently clear in all of this is that teachers often don't need professional learning 'done to them'. They most often have the solutions to improving learning 'in the room', that is amongst their peers, their colleagues, often within the same school, and most definitely in our case within our cluster.

Then earlier this week I was able to join educators from most secondary schools in Christchurch at a hui organised by Grow Waitaha. Its purpose was to develop a secondary school community of practice designed to share experience in the work that individual schools have been doing to improve learning, whether it be with curriculum innovation, the use of spaces, or pedagogy.

The outcomes of all of this work are better learning outcomes for our tamariki. Empowered teachers, teachers who are happy to try new things, to take risks, means that our tamariki are better off.
Why do we need this innovation? We have a tail of underachievement in New Zealand. That tail is significantly longer and larger than in most equivalent OECD countries. This tells us that our system is not working for a significant number of our rangatahi. We need to change, otherwise that human potential, that human happiness, is lost to us as a society.

These things don't happen when you are in competition. Competition disincentives sharing and collaboration.

These examples are schools and educators saying we will NOT compete, we will collaborate. This is educators saying "media, your b***y league tables are a nonsense', they are counter-productive, they are reducing chances for too many of our children. This has to stop."

I titled this blog post 'Why school competition isn't optima''. Perhaps I might have been stronger and said 'Why school competition fails far too many of our children, especially Māori and Pasifika children'.

We've had enough. We are making the changes. We are innovating. Get out of our way if you oppose this, because we are coming through. The moral imperative is strong in us all, that's why we do what we do.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Senior Prize Giving 2019

Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu
‘Feathers enable the bird to fly’

Board Chair, Mrs Kaye Banks, fellow Board of Trustees members, Te Taumutu runanga, honoured guests, colleagues, parents and friends, ladies and gentlemen, students of Hornby High School  - welcome to this 45th senior prize giving of Hornby High School.

During the year Kaye Banks, Penny Devine, Donna Sullivan, and  Rochelle Jackson, were re-elected to the Board, and Simon Evans joined them on election. Crystal Edminstin was re-elected as our student representative on the Board. Thankyou to you all for your time, your work, your wisdom and your support.

The year has seen a small number of staff changes.
Mr Jack Goodlfellow joined us as our newest Deputy Principal replacing Mr Jon Rogers and quickly showed his worth to our kura. Mr Alan Tenberth continued his work relieving for Mr Jonathan Handley-Packham who has subsequently announced his retirement. Mr Russell Cairns joined us in a part time position teaching English for the year, and Ms Gina Cuttance joined the counselling team part time for the year. Ms Cuttance’ position was funded entirely by the Board and reflects their focus on supporting improved wellbeing for students by increasing the availability of counselling support for students across the school.  Mr Corey Kamariera left us to join the team at Te Whānau Tahi, and subsequently Mr Connor Matthews joined us teaching Te Reo Māori. We welcomed Ms Melissa Oliver part time to the staff team working lart time in our Learning Commons Re Pae Rewa. Teacher Aides Emma Grennell and Sarah Nothcote left us to take up full time employment elsewhere.

We are grateful for the contributions that they have all made to our wonderful kura.

The year 2019 marked the completion of the whole school rebuild, with only landscaping and ‘make good’ work to be completed. Our contractors Leighs Construction expect to be clear of our site by March 2020. The company and its team have been exemplary citizens sharing the campus with us as they have undertaken their construction work. We moved into the last of our new buildings, we have called them kahui, late in term 3. Unsurprisingly we immediately saw students focussing on their learning in these new spaces. We were careful in our planning and design to allow for a variety of learning needs amongst students, with a combination of larger collaborative spaces and smaller break out and traditional class spaces. I have already observed increased staff collaboration, and the exchange of ideas and thinking, exactly the sort of start we would have hoped for in these spaces. Our preparation for the occupation of these new spaces has included a great deal of thinking and trialling of different ways of planning our curriculum, we have called it ‘playing in the sandpit’, and we believe that we continue to see improved engagement and achievement amongst students. The new buildings were also explicitly designed to allow a shift to a vertical pastoral system, a whānau grouping in which students from all year levels will be grouped in those whānau groups. Each of our kahui is a pastoral grouping. This change will be phased in over the next few years.

Of particular note has been what we believe is a significant improvement in internal NCEA results at the Merit and Excellence levels (and in fact overall pass rates). One year level has nearly doubled the proportion of internal standards credits achieved at the Excellence level before the inclusion of external results in January, and we have seen a record number of students gaining their NCEA endorsed with Excellence before they even enter the examination room. This reflects deeper learning and higher levels of engagement and aspiration amongst students. This broader aspiration is vital to our student success. Every student needs to aspire to be their best.

To every adult in the room, I beg you, I implore you, to support our rangatahi in raising their aspirations. Perhaps my biggest frustration in my professional life is the amount of almost unbounded human potential I see going unrealised. Talented students settling for nothing near their best means they miss out on fuller richer lives, and it also means that as a society we miss out on those talents.  We are the poorer economically, culturally, and socially. Settle for nothing less than their best.

To our wonderful staff, thank you. You are amazing colleagues, you show yourselves to be the risk takers that our rangatahi need in education. We know that risk taking is essential for creativity to thrive, and I want to make some comment at this point about the media in regards to education and its future, and the notion of risk taking.

We know that in New Zealand we have what has been dubbed a ‘tail of underachievement’. We know that our Māori and Pasifika children are overly represented in that group. This tells us that much about our traditional systems of education has not worked for those children, that this is the fault of our systems and structures, not the fault of those tamariki. We must change and adapt to better meet the needs of these children who are our future. However, most often when a school tries new ways of meeting the needs of these children, it is pilloried, it is attacked, by our media. The result of this is that schools become risk averse. Change is disincentivized. Frankly this is little more than institutional racism, it is the protection of the privilege of the few for whom the system does work, as the media is slowing the change that we need in New Zealand to better meet the educational needs of our tamariki. To steal and adapt the famous quote from the epic movie ‘Gone with the Wind’, “Frankly, we don’t give a damn about those media attitudes”. My colleagues are embracing change.They show great courage in our endeavours. We have not lost our moral compass. We are driven by the moral imperative to do right by every child, not simply the privileged few.

I’d like to once again make mention of The Manaiakalani Programme. In my entire career I have never seen anything as transformational in education. The Manaiakalani Programme is a pedagogy (a way of causing learning summarised with the three words Learn Create Share) that is consistent across our cluster, and increasingly throughout our kura, and it is magnified with the use of digital technology, specifically Chromebooks. With these tools, we are accelerating student progress in writing by twice national averages. That is, our students are improving in their writing twice as quickly as students of their age generally across the country. In reading and mathematics it is currently less spectacular. The rate of progress is only one and a half times that of students generally across the country. But we still have our junior students improving faster than students nationally. Can I say definitively that these improvements are solely the result of Manaiakalani? No. However, consider this. These same improvements are happening for the thousands of students across the country in the nearly 100 Manaiakalani schools. Those same improvements are not happening consistently anywhere else. It would be a funny old coincidence if it weren’t Learn Create Share and the affordances of the digital technology that were creating these transformational improvements. The Ministry of Education has finally accepted the worth of what is going on, and work is afoot to have funding for the scaling of Manaiakalani across the country built into budget 2020/21

We are doing our bit, as staff learn how to best employ the pedagogy to accelerate the learning of your children. Please help us. Please make what we know for many is a significant investment: provide your child with a Chromebook. It is possibly the best money investment you can make in your child.

In this regard I’d like to make special mention of and offer our warmest thanks to the members of the Uru Mānuka Education Trust who have done amazing work to support our work across the cluster, and to the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust who have made the investment into our cluster Uruy Mānuka. They have secured five years worth of funding to support our education leader Ms Kelsey Morgan who works with teachers to continue their upskilling in how to cause learning with our driving pedagogy, and therefore how better to help students to make informed use of the digital technology. This teacher development is essential, because we know that simply putting devices into the hands of learners and doing nothing else will fail completely. The devices impact learning for your children when we also change the way teachers teach. Thank you.

Of note too over this past year is that we have engaged with the other schools across our cluster (Uru Mānuka) to formalise our Kāhui Ako, our community of learning. This releases additional resources that will be put to use to support and benefit our learners, your children, not just at Hornby High School but across the whole community. Thank you to my colleagues and fellow Principals, and to the wonderful staff who make these kura such wonderful places tro be. We are doing amazing things for our community.

I have to say thank you to a growing number of supporters of our kura. This growing list is a symbol of the support, the love and kindness, the faith, that our community has in you our students, our whānau, our staff.

CERT Trust
Mainland Foundation
Westpac  - Hornby Branch
GCSN - the Greater Christchurch Schools Network
Orica Chemicals
Hornby Residents Association
OCS   ( $200)
Wycola Medical Centre
Westpac Hornby Branch
Craig Frampton
David Browne Contractors
Kitchen Surplus 
Hornby Working Men's Club
Hornby Rotary 
Gators Basketball -   ran fundraiser for senior basketball to attend tournament

Finally, to our prize winners, well done. Tonight we acknowledge and celebrate your attitude, your persistence, and your achievement. The prizes we award acknowledge only one part of the wonderful achievement represented here tonight, and throughout the school, but that achievement represents much about our purpose as a kura..

To our 2019 Prefects, thank you for your leadership and your commitment to the school. You have modelled the very kindness that I think is essential to healthy caring inclusive communities. Your daily actions are an example and an inspiration to us all, you are all a wonderful example of the values based leadership that the world desperately needs. Kia tau te mauri.

To all of our leavers - please know that you take with you our best wishes, and the knowledge that at Hornby High School you have your turangawaewae, your place to stand. You are an outstanding group of young men and women. Thank you for everything you have contributed to our kura. Well done on all that you have achieved. Thank you for the people that you have become.

Kia mau ki te tūmanako, te whakapono me te aroha

Hold fast to hope, faith, and love.

Noreira tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa