Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS from now, because this sounds hip) has been in the news recently for their decision to drop NCEA Level 1 in their school with the public support of both NZQA & the Ministry of Education (MOE). Yet despite such high level support from such illustrious and reputable entities, there still exists in the New Zealand education system and beyond, a great deal of wariness and dare I say it, indeed out and out fear about what this young upstart of a school is doing. Even when the mainstream media gives the school a fair and balanced review, there is someone such as Mike Hosking arguably doing considerable damage through ill-advised throw-away comments to the promotion that teenagers are incapable of self-direction or independent learning. The most august media outlet stuff.co.nz, recently appeared to take great delight in highlighting that ten students had obtained MOE permission to be living in the HPSS zone but be able to attend alternative, "mainstream" secondary schools.
Here are some of the reasons why I think many in education and beyond are wary and/or just scared stiff of HPSS:
1.They seem themselves as part of a HP cluster/continuum with Hobsonville Point Primary School and not a stand-alone education institution. There is even a website that the two schools share (http://www.hobsonvillepoint.school.nz) as if they are equals. In my experience, this is just not the done thing. Lower level schools are supposed to separated and subservient to the almight high school/college. How many high schools can truly say that there exists an explicit and practised continuum of learning from Year 0 to Year 13 in their locality? I'm guessing not many, if any!
2. They're too hip to be effective.
3. They have rather nice bean bags and they sit outside.
What is going on here? I see no books, no pens, for a modern learning institution I see no tech equipment either. That's it, they're teenagers, they can't self-manage. I reckon they've either run the batteries dry or they've lost their device. Typical. Anyhow back to the bean bags. One thing's for sure, they're certainly not hand-me-downs from Auckland Grammar. I cannot believe that the teachers appear to have no equipment either. It appears it is not only the students who can't self-manage either. I think these confused souls believe that students and teachers can learn and lead back and forth from one to each other and are equals in the learning process. Lastly why are they not in a classroom? I thought a classroom had four walls, lots of books, teacher, whiteboard and teacher's desk at the front and 30 perfectly aligned student desks facing the "front" of the classroom. HPSS obviously has a lot to learn.
4. HPSS lives and breathes the NZC and its original intent.
Furthermore the NZC was visionary in that its first 40 pages barely refers to the curriculum's learning areas (what used to be "subjects"). The NZC hoped to emphasise the importance of Key Competencies, Values and Skills over subject matter. This is why all the learning area detail is at the back. In my opinions, a number of schools' current practice suggest they are reading this publication from the back to the front or maybe not even getting past the learning area pages. Even fewer schools dare to design their learning in response to real-time student choice and a minimal number of schools voice the beauty and viability of the NZC so explicitly in print, on screen and in reality.
5. The school dares to favour learning over teaching.
Disclosure: I hate the word "teacher" and its' obvious connotations.
6. The final reason for now (because they WILL be more) why HPSS is so feared is they have dramatically challenged and deconstructed the role of what to most is still called the "teacher." This for many TEACHERS is unforgivable and almost a most disgusting breach of collegiality and solidarity and what's worse from within our own profession, our own teachers. Hold on that's right, HPSS doesn't even have teachers or Heads of Departments. Instead they have the following:
In reality, I feel that HPSS are being unfairly punished due to widespread educational and public ignorance and an conscious unwillingness of many to accept that while many areas of our society have moved with the times and vast technological and social transformation, education institutions still appear to be more about one-way transfers of power and content and dare I say it, still about social control and indoctrination. Thankfully there are classrooms and more significantly more and more schools in New Zealand and beyond embracing a similar, evidenced-based approach to modern learning that is contextualised to local and global localities and preferences.
For me however I'm off to my classroom.
Now class, would you all please be quiet and face the front! That's it...right...I've had enough...where's my cane?