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


  1. Love your work Robin, good on your for being bold, The Hornby and wider community will reap the rewards in time. Creativity for me (and the dictionary and MKO) refers to using the imagination or ideas to come up with something new. I like this definition, this is one of our strategic goals also, "confident, creative students who lead their own learning" . I look forward to contributing to your "grand plan" . Kia ora.

  2. Kia ora Robin ... as usual, thought provoking, provocative and future-focussed. I love the notion of being 'bold', I believe this imperative if one is seeking to be transformative, which is most definitely happening at HHS! HHS is certainly evolving and taking people along for the ride, have not noticed too many dead bodies along Waterloo Rd at this stage! Do not forget, none of this can happen without wise leadership ... well done you and your team!