Principal's Blog

Newsletter 20 Oct 2016
20 October 2016

The warm weather of the last few days has brought with it a real sense of positivity around the school and it has been wonderful to watch our classes make use of our extensive grounds to prepare for athletics and summer sports. As a management team we have begun preparing for our 2017 staffing and with a few staff leaving next year we have been busy interviewing teachers.

A number of our current staff do not have permanent positions here and alongside external applicants we were able to interview and appoint for next year. What came through strongly in this process was what outstanding teachers we do have in our school, and even those that have been with us for only a year or less were able to articulate their love of our learners and teaching and why they want to be part of Paparoa Street School. We are thrilled to be able to announce that all those that applied internally have accepted a place on staff for 2017 and we would like to congratulate Dahl Robertson, Nikki Western, Eleanor Smith, Lynn Fletcher, Grace Hopcroft and Paula Kirkpatrick for winning positions.

We are also excited to be able to introduce Ella Sidey, a young teacher who comes to us from Dunedin. Ella impressed with her bubbly enthusiasm and undoubted passion for children and their learning. We are also thrilled to welcome Dean Isherwood onto the Senior Management Team as a Team Leader, his experience, enthusiasm and personality will complement our team of leaders and again we are excited that he has accepted this important role in our school.

The announcement of our new Principal for next year draws closer. It has been an incredibly rigorous process and we are both very excited by the upcoming news. What we would like to share is throughout this lengthy process how impressed we were by our recently appointed Board of Trustees. Time with the Board allowed us to see what a professional, insightful and noble group of people we have governing our school and again at the heart of why they give up their time is the best interests of your children.

Changes are inevitable in all schools, particularly those the size of ours. It has been sad to have to farewell some stunning teachers and leaders for 2017, but as they say “one door closes and another one opens up”.

Nathan Burford and Dy Stokes

Acting Principals 

Term 2 2016
05 May 2016

How long will this Indian Summer continue? I must say it is a glorious way to start the second term, but one could be forgiven for thinking that there will be a sting in the tail coming our way in due course. In the meantime, it’s bliss for everyone, as the children have arrived back very smoothly and well.

This week we welcome Nathan Burford onto the team as our new DP in charge of the senior school. Nathan is slowly making sense of who everyone is, and is looking less bewildered every day. He has made himself comfortable with a huge armchair and a coffee machine, so swing past and introduce yourself – you may get a free coffee. I don’t really know what it is with DPs and furniture. Dy Stokes has a whole red sofa, but she stole that from the Junior Foyer. Just saying... I’m not really bothered.

We’re delighted to have Chris Pease back on two legs, mostly, after being away for all of term 1 due to injury.

I met today with the principals of seven neighbouring schools, including Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools. These schools and their boards are in the early stages of considering forming a community of learning – where schools work collaboratively and more closely than in the past. The intent is to further demystify and share teacher practice, to consider common goals and purposes, and develop efficiencies and sharing of resources. Any Community (CoL) must be approved by the relevant Boards of Trustees, and finally by the Minister herself.

We are in the very early stages, but if you have any thoughts or ideas you believe would help our thinking, please feel free to send me an email.

With an apology to any farmers in the community, I hope that the endless summer continues, and that your weekend is a chance to enjoy the wonderful autumn colours. 

Modern Learning Environments?
08 March 2016

I am sure that many parents will have read Jody O’Callaghan’s article in Saturday’s Press about Pegasus School, and her take on modern learning environments and school design. 

The term modern learning environment of MLE has now apparently been superseded with ILS – which stands for Innovative Learning Spaces. Hardly a great leap in clarity, but the Ministry loves to use new jargon. 

Stage One of Pegasus was built with a budget of around $15m, and I have had two tours of its buildings and know Roger Hornblow well. The term only relates to the spaces and the design, and not the teaching practice. It is fair to say that most of our Paparoa Street classes meet none of the key design elements of an MLE, or an ILS. The quality of light, classroom sound treatments, and general air quality in our older rooms are all poor, and the rooms themselves are very small at around 65m2 for what can number up to thirty children in some settings. They usually get too much light during the day, and due to the use of blinds to keep the sun out, the windows become sealed by the curtaining, and rapidly overheat in both summer and winter. If the curtains and windows are opened to improve the air flow, the levels of glare and light affect children’s ability to work on white paper, or to view and use devices and screens, and so forth. So, from a simple design brief, they are no longer fit to purpose.

Our “rebuild” budget currently sits at around $5m, to be accessed in 2021. That figure will be reduced by the cost of the Junior Block repairs which will see around $700,000 deducted from it. That means a frustrating wait with these substandard spaces, and then a limited budget to address the problems discussed above. So in addition to deciding the actual configuration and room size issues, we also have to improve and ensure the quality of light, air, and sound.

Then, there are the teaching practices that occur within those spaces. For us, that has been a shift in some rooms towards more collaborative practice. This simply put, involves teachers working closely with another colleague or colleagues, in delivering the best teaching and learning programme for a group of learners. Last year, this involved several groups of two, a small number of single cells, and two groups of three teachers. This year, there are no threes, as teachers found that the general complexity, noise, and degrees of “knowing” that were required made it hard to meet the other objectives. The emerging consensus from our teachers universally tells me that they like having a colleague to plan with, to share the teaching, to discuss the challenges that individuals bring to the mix, and work closely with a trusted colleague observing and modelling practice.

We were very cautious about using language such as “trial” or “experiment”, as we worried that it would give the impression that we didn’t know what we were doing. In fact teachers have been reflecting on their practice through inquiry and dialogue. The fact that we have no groups of three this year, is evidence that we are determined to evaluate and know what works, and what does not.

We believe that we are actually a lucky school, as we have plenty of time to plan, to innovate, to reflect, and to change, before we make property decisions that might "lock in” practice which is ineffective. As we all know, these changes are affecting more workplaces than just schools, and the pace of change is literally frightening at the moment. This pace of change requires whatever we do to be flexible enough to meet any future challenges and shifts in practice and technology, seamlessly and wisely. Pegasus was built by the community through its Board and Principal, following an exhaustive process of consultation and prototyping on their old Waikuku School site. We have the same opportunity, albeit with a lot less cash to spend at the end of it.