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.