Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Re-imagining Hornby High School

I recently gave an address to the Hornby Rotary club in which I aimed to update them on happenings at Hornby High School. I realised that I had actually put together a lot of our thinking over the past two terms, and so I thought this was worth sharing with our wider community audience.

We live in exciting times in education, and that is a good thing, contrary to what is supposed to be an ancient Chinese proverb ( I have been able to find no evidence to convince me that it was).

Across the city we are seeing significant Govt investment in the schools network, with several hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in new secondary school facilities. We are also seeing more cooperation than ever before across the secondary network. We are seeing collaboration about everything from enrolments to learning pedagogy (that stuff about how we cause learning).

We are also seeing unprecedented levels of investment in the up-skilling of teachers.


We are living in times of exponential change. Technology is changing at a pace never before experienced in human history. Jobs as we have known them are at the very least changing if not disappearing at a similar rate.

The very meaning of the concept of knowledge is changing. It was once a noun, meaning facts and data. Today it is a 'verb'. That is, the concept of knowledge covers not only the stuff (facts/data) that we need to have in our heads, but also the ability to do something with those facts, that data.

Schools are becoming increasingly aware of the expressed needs of employers who tell us that 'soft skills' are a key factor in determining employability. Employers tell us that if we produce literate and numerate citizens who have the skills to get along with their fellow human beings, who can empathise, collaborate and think, then they will give them many of the technical skills that they need. That statement is certainly open to challenge but you get the idea.

This is driving changes in the way we cause learning, in the pedagogy that we employ in schools.

There is this increasing focus on the ‘soft skills’ that employers are telling us they want - those abilities to collaborate, to empathise, to communicate, to have a set of values to hold fast to.

Schools are always seeking improvements in the levels of engagement of students, and Hornby is no exception. Project Based Learning is well up over the horizon and set to become a normal part of how we engage and motivate learners while developing the knowledge, skills and key competencies that we all need. Enthusiastic staff are planning and trialling approaches that will make this common across the curriculum.

There is a shift to more online learning, although like most schools we hold fast to what we call 'blended learning' where learning is achieved in a wide variety of ways, using a wide variety of tools, and we focus on 'the right tool for the job'. We don't live solely in the digital world.

Hornby High School's participation in Manaiakalani Outreach is yielding growing benefits in improved learning as our learners are empowered with the MKO pedagogy 'Learn Create Share'. Of course to do this learners need to be connected and to have devices. For this reason the recent Spark Foundation announcement of their newest programme Spark Jump, designed to help struggling families 'jump the digital divide', is a huge step forward for New Zealand. Learning any time any where is now available to what has previously been a disenfranchised portion of our society.

This still leaves us with the challenge of how to make sure that every student has a device in her or his hands.

We can increasingly see evidence of the impact of this technology, here for example is commentary from across the fence at Hornby Primary School on the benefits to their children.

Finally we are about to undergo an almost total rebuild of our school. At the heart of the school culturally will be a whare, sitting alongside fantastic new science, technology and visual arts facilities. At the very centre of these facilities will be the creative arts. We believe that creativity is central to what will keep us apart from technology and offer us a future in a world of dramatically different work.

When I first joined the amazing Hornby team I invited my new colleagues to help re-imagine education. Most have taken up the challenge with relish.

Look out for the new Hornby High School, watch the progress and be a part of our re-imagining as we shape education to equip our wonderful Hornby kids for their extraordinary futures.

Nga mihi nui
Robin Sutton


  1. Another great read Robin! I agree we are living in very exciting educational times; rebuilds, collaboration, re-imaging pedagogical approaches and the affordances of digital technology. HHS is definitely providing students with the necessary skills, knowledge and dispositions to be successful contributing citizens.

  2. As a former students it is fantastic to see the school embracing change and future focussed approaches. I think you will be very good for the school Robin. Just interested in what you mean by "blended learning".

    1. Darren
      Thank you. 'Blended learning' simply means a combination of both digital and non digital tools... i.e. there is a place for laptops, but also for a pen and paper. The mantra is 'use the right tool for the job'.

      Kind regards