It Doesn't Happen Overnight!

It doesn’t happen overnight! It takes a leader of a committed, collegial and cohesive team to make even a good school great.

School development is often driven by a disappointing ERO report. One school’s development, although coinciding with such a report, was very evident to the newly appointed principal who acknowledged some good ideas were in place in the school but there was no ownership or enthusiasm from the staff.

It was agreed that the following points needed addressing:

Develop a collaborative leadership team 
Consult Maori community, disaggregate assessment data and strengthen partnerships       
Effectively teach within the intent of the NZC and develop a school-based curriculum (SBC)          
Develop teaching as inquiry cycle
Link teaching to assessment information and to targets for identified groups of students 
Develop a robust and evidence-based self-review process
Upgrade reporting to Board of Trustees and parents
 
Over four years the staff and school have benefited from a: 
 
very supportive and generous Board of Trustees in funding Professional Learning and Development 
driven principal with great vision and knowledge and ability to form a learning team 
principal with very effective budgeting skills
commitment to PLD using internal expertise and purpose chosen external PLD
commitment to the development of leadership capability (Teachers can begin in a supportive shared role)

The school has also benefitted by staff turnover which has presented opportunities to hand-pick teachers to fit the vision and culture of the school.

External support was employed in:
 
clarifying NZC intent and SBC development through vision, values and inquiry process            
literacy development focused on reading moved to writing 
the development of Overall Teacher Judgements in Reading, Writing and Mathematics                     
conceptual understanding as an answer to rich learning area delivery
 
Key shifts evidenced in teacher practice today:
 
teacher knowledge of students
formative assessment practices
deep level and understanding of moderation by all staff
well-developed inquiry processes at all levels of the school
total commitment by all to meeting the needs of every child
 
Principal perceptions
 
"I feel excited that we now have a learning community which displays quality engagement of teachers and the support staff. Because of this there is an effective and new understanding of our learners.  Teachers have sound understanding of the assessment tools, and are constantly refining that understanding through deep conversations about children and good teaching practices."
 
"I am thrilled with the way the teachers have embraced the opportunities of OTJ PD and are now reporting on them to the parent community. Students feel highly valued, are responsive and generally content.  Excellent learning opportunities are being given to them through reflective and well-structured robust team planning and energy from the teachers".
 
"The children are happy and want to come to school and learn. There seems to be a growing desire in the community for children to come to us!"
 
Teacher perceptions about what makes their school what it is:
 
Community spirit
Belonging
A big school with a small school, rural sentiment
A Home and School parent body where their support and the way they pull people together is even of greater worth than the money they raise
Being driven through a common position
Leadership + the character of the people on the staff drive it
The connectedness of the community
Openness, sharing, collegiality, no boundaries, distributed leadership
The Leader has a very visible presence around the school
 
Student perceptions of their education:
 
Teachers should rove to help us - not to control us
When there is total silence in the classroom there is always tension
If there is no interaction with other students then it is difficult to learn
If we don’t like something we need to think about the opportunities it gives us
 
Parent perception of the school development:
 
"Four years ago I knew something had to change and was on the verge of pulling my child out of this school. Through coercion from the brand new principal I didn’t take this step. My son went from being just a number to someone who was listened to and had concerns addressed.  He sailed from that point on. The overnight change came because at last someone listened to him. It’s wasn’t, ‘We don’t have time for this. Get your mother in to speak to me” anymore".
 
The reporting is easily understood by all
Words are put into actions 
The community looks after every child not just their own

As acknowledged, it was a long, hard process but worth every single minute!