Although I am a huge fan of what these new schools are doing, the rise in the attractiveness of these schools (Rolleston College just out of Christchurch is another one!) threatens seriously the quality and future of existing schools. These are the schools who either don't see or choose not to see the changes needed in our education system for the benefit of our key stakeholders- our future, our students. Let's be honest; we sadly don't have huge numbers wanting to enter what I believe is the greatest profession there is. As a result, we effectively have a teacher game of "musical chairs". In our current profession, teachers aren't so much moving in; they're moving on. I see this becoming more and more prevalent in New Zealand. We all know the cliche "birds of a feather...." At edtech conferences around our remarkable country, online via blogs or even on my #digitaledchat, it's the same people, the same people who are ever-present regarding innovation, vision and a belief we can make things better for our youth.
The more the best educators in New Zealand engage with each other, the more it is only natural and likely that they want to work together. In this context, Google talks about the power of 10. In the new great schools of New Zealand, the power of 10 likewise means that a new school can be sought after with seconds of introduction while some of more august classic "schools of choice" are increasingly setting up their students and in the terms of the focus of this article, I believe their teachers. Furthermore, the more the best educators leave static institutions that refuse even to acknowledge the new present let alone the future, the power of 10 is also in effect but in a downwards manner.
Speaking from experience, when I started at Aorere College, we had a roll of about 1200 students. Nine brilliant years on, we're just under 1600 while one of our nearest schools is half-empty and another neighbouring school has had to release staff due to increasingly low numbers of students. Last year, our multi-cultural Decile 2 school in Papatoetoe, Auckland was placed on a 4-5 review cycle by the Education Review Office. This year alone, we've introduced two Year 10 Robotics classes and two Year 10 Gamification and App Development classes. We also hosted #educampAKL and are currently hosting the Auckland South edition of the Mindlab Post Graduate course. Oh, and by the way every year, a large number of us attend the GAFE Summits, and yours truly has presented at these summits in New Zealand and next month will do likewise in Melbourne. Lastly but by no means least, we have ridiculously good Wi-Fi (100ms beyond the gate) and a huge presence of edtech tools and edtech capable teachers and students.
I am very proud of what our school has achieved in such a short time, as is rightfully the case with the Rototunas of this world. However, while I want my school to be the absolute best in the world for our students and our teachers, I do not want our success to come at the expense of other schools in New Zealand, let alone those nearby. It is not ethical however for us to have to wait (to the detriment of our community) for other schools to catch-up, history informs us that they may never do.
Teachers obviously have a right to choose when and where they work and who they work with. In other countries, teachers apply to districts or departments of education and are allocated to a school. I am completely against this action. But what are the other options? When we have state secondary schools such as Lynfield and Glenfield College winning Robotics World Championships, school wealth or social status isn't relevant. What is becoming more and more relevant is the need to give teachers room, resource and time to be the greatest learner and collaborator, they can be. If all schools fail to do this, we will be in the presence of the "have and have-nots" where students will be the ultimate victims. Schools that exist now must have an open and growth mindset. Failure to do otherwise will lead to a permanency of static mindset and ultimately school closures in success, hope and without a doubt, reality.
Let's ensure that every school in New Zealand is a "school of choice". We owe it to our students, their parents and we owe it to ourselves.