Without a doubt, our holistic success (for students, staff and the wider community) is down to an empathy over sympathy of our surrounding socio-economic factors, a strategically-developed and nurtured school culture (and climate) and collegial and highly capable teaching and administration community that is relentlessly focused on developing outstanding local and global leaders and learners, and great citizens too. Our professional community (support staff inclusive) is effectively “all for one and one for all”. I love the fact that no-one is more important than anyone else and that there is considerable recognition that the only way forward is via team in both theory and practice.
The socio-economic status of our school’s community does however give rise to a few issues of educational relevant not so prevalent in more well-off communities (OECD, 2015). Many of our families do have internet in the home and often devices such as laptops or tablets are shared across multiple members of one family. In many cases, senior students assume a significant de facto parenting role due to both parents working often long and labour-oriented jobs. To this end, our school expects student-owned devices and strongly recommends Chromebooks for learning but as yet, has not made this expectation compulsory. This being said however, significant and increasing numbers of students are bringing their own devices, no doubt in part due to an extensive and highly capable school Wi-Fi & Google eco-system. We also run extensive in-school tutorial and homework sessions to enable students to complete work before going home. We also keep school and co-curricular fees as low as possible to ensure as much as possible no student is left behind.
Aorere College has a very robust and egalitarian professional environment; essential for firm, fast and fair school growth (Kraft & Papay, 2014). Teachers at our school frequently and proactively prepare, care and share. Collegiality in a school such as ours is not only essential for whole-school student achievement but also for staff well-being and staff personal and professional development. One major issue that did arise from the professional environment was to reduce our professional learning foci for 2017 to just three areas; Innovation (inclusive of innovative learning environments and education technology), Literacy, and Equity (inclusive of Culturally Responsive and Relational Pedagogy). The idea behind this reduction was that if the school community got these three elements sorted, the battle would almost be won. Thankfully the staff saw the logic and need for such focus and thus far, have been highly enthusiastic and participatory. Such buy-in is no doubt in part due to frequent and high-quality consultation (noted by Stoll, 1998) with 2016 professional learning leaders and clear alignment with school academic and pastoral targets. Once again, our school culture of consideration, inclusivity and collegial made a fairly transformational transition seamless and efficient.
OECD. (2015).Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing, Paris.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2015-en. Retrieved from http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/96....
Kraft, M.A. & Papay, J.P. (2014). Do supportive professional environments promote teacher development? Explaining heterogeneity in returns to teaching experience. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 36(4), 476-500.Retrieved from http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/mkraft/files/kraf...
Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Understanding-school-cultures/School-Culture