Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Strategic Planning Meeting at Cornwall Park District School

Last Wednesday, 5 April, the Across School Leaders along with Jill Farquharson and Madeline Gunn met at Cornwall Park District School to strategically map out 2017 and beyond, using the Community of Learning Development Plans provided in the Ministry of Education resource 'Personalised Pathways for Kids: through quality teaching in Communities of Learning.'  Close inspection of the Development Maps allowed us to find where we were in our journey in terms of the establishment and functionality of the Community, and give us direction in terms of our next steps. There were also some important questions that arose during the meeting relating to some of our responsibilities as leaders.

A number of goals arose following some robust discussion around each of the six domains. The plan is for these goals to eventually be turned into a more detailed action plan that will make up a lot of our work for the rest of the year.

There was also some discussion around the type of questions Madeline would be asking when she visited the schools. We worked together to refine these and were happy with the succinct and relevant nature of the end product.

Following this, we spoke of the importance of having some direction when working with the various ISL focus groups at our meetings throughout the term. What did we want to achieve with each group and what would be the basis for discussions? Some members of the team agreed to meet at EGGs in Week 11 to nut out the content and focus of these gatherings, starting early next term.

Furthermore, the Progress Indicators are being developed so that we can track and celebrate our progress during the year. These will be ready in draft form this term.

To finish, Alaric spoke briefly on the recent PCT meeting at Parnell Primary School. Apparently this was a valuable gathering for those at the start of their careers.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Cross-sector forum

My first cross-sector forum and the Hon Hekia Parata, Minister of Education’s last, was stimulating and inspiring. The theme of the forum was transformation via personalised pathways for kids through quality teaching in Communities of Learning (CoLs). Embedding Communities of Learning/Kahui Ako to ensure better outcomes for learners in Aotearoa is transforming the way both schools and the Ministry of Education operates. Anthony Mackay, deputy chair of the New Zealand Education Council drew the international stage to our attention, saying that global eyes are on the Community of Learning/Kahui Ako model.

Sitting in pre-arranged nation-wide groupings each table consisted of an employee of the Ministry of Education, an Expert Partner, school principals, an across-school teachers and a representative from the public sector such as the Tertiary Education Commission. Expert Partners are a group of academics and practitioners who are available (without extra cost) as required by a community. Examples of Expert Partners are published academics such as Michael Absolum, Cathy Wylie, Mere Berryman, Alex Hotere-Barnes, and Earl Irving (ex-Starpath). The Ministry has made Expert Partners available to act as critical friends assisting communities in various ways such as problem definition or writing professional learning development plans to ensure CoLs can successfully meet their achievement challenges. A simulation exercise where we brokered resources across an imaginary CoL highlighted the idea that resources can be collectively used across the community to meet achievement challenges. 

Opportunities to network, while gathering knowledge occurred in expo neighbourhoods which focused on five domains: teaching collaboratively; leading for progress; using evidence; educational journey pathways; and partnering with the wider community, for example through local iwi. The proffered lens with which to view the neighbourhoods was through the experience of everyday learners. This focus on learners demonstrates the commitment to ensure our decisions and actions are student-centered.

The expo highlighted various Ministry developed tools that are available to assist the success of the CoLs. A stand on TLIF, the Teacher-led Innovation Fund, highlighted that funds are available for collaborative groups to attain achievement challenges. I downloaded The Learning Progressions app, which has student exemplars in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. I look forward to using the Local Curriculum Smart Tool to learn more about the local environment, economy, history and people of our community.

Hekia Parata’s oratory modeled dynamic bilingualism and her inspirational challenge that we become bilingual resonated. I enjoyed her autobiographical story, one of ten children, who did not lack wealth, despite growing up without a car or their own home in Ruatoria, because whanau and teachers supported educational pathways. She spoke of the new dawn; just as Ruatoria literally sees the first light, communities of learning are the new light in education.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

First meeting for 2017!

On March 1st the across school leaders hosted the first 2017 meeting of in school leaders for the ACCoS. After a year of 'forming' the community, it was exciting to see familiar faces and meet new additions to the team. Opening definitions of student agency and literacy represented the overarching goals of the community for 2017. 

Three key focus points were covered over the course of the meeting. Starting with a question about how we use the student achievement data from our various schools to deepen the inquiry process. Cross sector groups analysed and discussed the trends apparent in the student 2014-16 achievement data collated under each ACCoS Achievement Challenge. Next there was an opportunity to sign up to cross sector focus groups that will continue to meet over 2017, building community networks and sharing of practice. Lastly, there was valuable discussion about how student agency can be measured, which was run Educafe style, bringing some interesting philosophical and practical questions to light and further adding to an awareness of what student agency means in practice. It was an energetic afternoon, testimony to a growing understanding of the shared aims across the community.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Gearing up for 2017

A new year, a new gear.  After a break it is often time to "shift up" as we prepare for challenges ahead.  The Across School Leaders spent our first meeting of the year in deep discussion around how to support the schools and students in our community over 2017.  We welcomed Alaric Nicholls and Erin Hooper to the team which is now complete.   We are looking forward to engaging with everyone and getting underway.

We congratulate Madeline Gunn on being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Principals session with Sonya

Last Monday I shared our Google tools with the ACCoS principals. Some of the links may not work to those outside the community. However if you are in the community and still unpacking everything then these slides will help.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

ACCoS Cafe

Inspired by Educafe style interactive discussions, last Wednesday afternoon the across school teachers hosted an ACCoS Cafe for the in school teachers in our Auckland Central Community of Schools. The session had two purposes, firstly to build our community connections and secondly to discuss learner agency, a common thread within our various inquiries. Our community is large so it felt important to provide the in school teachers with an opportunity to meet each other face-to-face and share their findings so far. Our question for the afternoon was, "How does my inquiry within the ACCoS connect to learner agency?" Groups discussed what learner agency looks like in our setting. After a couple of rounds of sharing we explored the question, "How do we build agency across our community?" Alongside the cafe discussion groups, community members were encouraged to share their thinking beyond these questions by providing comments, constructive feedback and posing further questions. It was a positive afternoon and worth repeating with a different focus in the future.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Principal's Professional Development

Jill Farquharson's meeting with Michael Fullan and Visits to Network Schools in Toronto.

This year I was fortunate to be able to take part in a professional development opportunity with a one-on-one meeting with Michael Fullen.

Points Discussed  

  • Structure of networks 
  • Work in progress for our network 
  • Opportunities and challenges we are facing 
  • Looking ahead, next steps  

Key Take Outs 

  •  The centre frames the direction, the middle gets empowered and the bottom liberated (the term middle depends on your context. For some jurisdictions middle is the Principal e.g. Ontario but for others it means the teachers and middle leaders e.g. NZ). Devolution of power. 
  • Get to the nitty gritty with your work, explore what the causal pathways might be, but don’t rely on this always being clear. There is no recipe. 
  • Look for opportunities to lead and learn from other networks. You should have a penchant to what is happening in the rest of the country. Have an external face and a plan of action ‘look out to be better in’. 
  • Chronicle your efforts, develop new measures mindset and use two or three of them to take regular stock takes – name it, model it, monitor it. Don’t worry if you know what the destination is but the pathway is not that clear. This is part of innovation.  

It’s quite humbling to look off shore at different jurisdictions, talk to world renowned experts in the field and receive confirmation that what we are doing in New Zealand is world class. We punch well above our weight for such a small country. The innovation, risk taking and empowerment that is happening in our COL means we are learning all the time and should keep talking about it, amongst ourselves, in the community and across the country. What we have happening is good, it matches current thinking about leading and learning and offers paradigm to adapt and successfully accelerate system interventions in education. COLs are a powerful driver for improvement.


  • Lift our profile – tell people about what we are doing not only to be noticed but for quality feedback as well. 
  • Extend our network links – across Auckland, across the country. Significant gains can be made by sharing. Find out what else is happening in the country, in leadership, in new pedagogies.  
  • Be explicit in what we want and focus on things that count. 
  • Chronicle our work.  
  • Develop a new measures mindset (with a focus on only one or two - don’t have too many). 
  • Continue as leaders to be interested in building collective capacity rather than individual autonomy. 
  • Plan for a regular stocktake, how are we doing? Be specific.