There is a particular flow to the way a year happens at Amesbury School. We have learned that the first half of the year is the time to try to get major development work done (in curriculum, professional learning for teachers or assessment, for example), because in the second half of the year, the continual roll growth begins to take its toll and creates pressure on staffing and it is very difficult to find time or the mental space required for big picture thinking. Actually, at the moment, it is hard to find any space anywhere at all!
Because of the pressure of roll growth in the second half of the year, sickness or other personal circumstances requiring leave by teachers is less easily absorbed by teaching teams and senior leaders often end up in the hubs doing quite a bit of teaching which adds pressure to their roles as well. Further, once the second half of the year hits, it is time to begin looking at staffing and going through recruitment processes for the following year. Consultation is also carried out with major stakeholders to help develop the Annual Charter for the next year. So, the second half of the year is often a very pressured time.
However, that said, it was good to be able to report to the Board of Trustees last week on some of what we have managed to achieve to date this year. Here are some excerpts from that report:
Good progress is being made in meeting the needs of diverse students. Employing a teacher with specialised post graduate qualifications to lead the programme for English Language Learners has lifted the programme significantly and a much more systematic and student centred approach is taking place. A diagnostic test has been developed and used to determine ELL students’ progress and ongoing needs and next steps. The data collected on ALF also makes a significant contribution to ensuring personalised programmes for English Language Learners.
Great progress has been made in developing the systems and processes that implement a Communication Arts programme. Teachers were “finding their feet” in the first term when the approach was new and different, but have settled into reframing reading and writing and the arts as Communication Arts – they see that it makes sense. Slight improvements in data at mid-year, suggest that this change has been worthwhile and is making a difference. This can also be seen in the significantly increased engagement of students. Review of the writing matrix and consideration of how “Communication Arts” could be framed in ALF with the connections clear, has not yet started but will need to happen before the end of the year.
A library based teacher has been appointed and she is supporting teaching and learning programmes as part of her role, as well as taking responsibility for celebrations of our cultural diversity. The library-based teacher role has been a little hampered by the fact that the library needs to be used for the overflow of students in Harakeke Hub and so much of her work as library-based teacher is being done in the hubs rather than the library – not quite what was envisaged for the role. The Mobile Maker Space is still to be developed. Due to the change to Communication Arts (rather than just literacy), many more performances and installations etc. are being created and performed.
We have continued to develop articles etc. for our Future of Education website. However, it has been difficult this year because we seem to have been very busy with other developments. The cost of developing ALF to make it more parent friendly, along with many other developments, is currently being determined. We have run several courses for teachers and school leaders from around New Zealand. These have been well received. We’ve had one Open Day so far which was very successful and gave parents an opportunity to ask questions about teaching and learning at Amesbury School. We have had regular whanau hui – one each term, which is great. However, we need to get back to having focus groups for the other major ethnic groups within the school. We have been using Loomio this year to give the school community the opportunity to feed back their thoughts and ideas. This has been more successful with some topics than others. But even with small numbers responding, it has been helpful.
Implementation of the Digital Technology Curriculum has continued. This has been assisted by the purchase of a range of small robotic devices and other tools which require coding etc. Various storage units have been purchased for trial.
'Culturally sustaining practices' has become a huge focus for the Ministry and so it is good that we are ahead of this and making progress. Our teacher professional learning is focused on exploring and implementing culturally sustaining practices. Currently teachers are carrying out teacher inquiries (action research projects) where they implement relevant strategies and collect data about the outcomes to see what they can learn, so that they can do it better in the future. Teachers are working in teams to implement their strategies and to reflect on the efficacy of the approaches. Several successful cultural celebrations have been held this year, including a Matariki Breakfast. There are several more cultural celebrations and activities happening in the second half of the year, including taking a bus load of students on the hikoi for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. We still have to focus on developing a more formalised curriculum for Te Reo Māori me ngā Tikanga to ensure ongoing building of student knowledge.
ALF for Teachers is fully functional and being used by/for all teachers to guide their ongoing growth and development. A strong leadership development programme with multiple leadership layers is underway and making a difference for teachers. The increased automation of ALF and pulling systems together to reduce double handling of data is currently being priced and will definitely reduce workload. All in all, we have made strong progress in this area.
There is still considerable work to be done to ensure ALF is being used with students in ways that increase their agency. However, there are other ways in which students are developing knowledge of themselves as learners and able to be agentic in their learning, as a result. – such as bus, bike, car. The Learner Backpack and Learning Maps are being used consistently across the school to develop student agency and insiderness. The next step is to review how useful they are. With students continually enrolling, it is difficult to maintain shared understandings and agreements about behaviour. However, good processes (walkthroughs, particularly by Urs and Demelza for example) and effective feedback loops have been developed to ensure teachers are continually thinking about, maintaining and improving their practice in relation to the learning culture that we aspire to.
These excerpts give you a little bit of insight into some of the things that are going on behind the scenes that won’t necessarily always be obvious to you. At the beginning of next term, we will begin our consultation with parents, students and teachers etc. to identify development goals for 2020. I look forward to catching up with you then.
Ngā mihi mahana