Exemplar Review - Somerfield Te Kura Wairepo School - Rich Curriculum - May 2019

Background

Introduction

Under Part 28 of the Education Act, 1989, the Chief Review Officer has the power to administer reviews either general or relating to particular matters, of the performance of applicable (pre-tertiary) organisations in relation to the applicable services they provide, and prepare reports on the undertaking and results of such reviews.

An exemplar report may be produced when ERO finds an organisation demonstrates effective practice in relation to specific aspects of performance.

Effective Practice: Keeping children engaged and achieving though a rich curriculum

ERO reviewed Somerfield Te Kura Wairepo School to investigate the teaching approaches and strategies that have led to considerable improvements in achievement in Years 5 and 6. In particular, we wanted to learn more about any curriculum changes that the school had introduced which may have been influential in bringing about these positive achievement trajectories.

Somerfield Te Kura Wairepo School was selected from a database of 129 schools, with rolls over 200. The school was chosen because increased numbers of students were achieving at or above standards as they moved through Year 4 to Year 6. The school’s achievement levels were also higher than the average for their decile.

Before the review, we sent the school a set of discussion points and questions for leaders to consider. We asked leaders what they saw as the reasons for their positive achievement trajectory. We then looked for evidence of the approaches and strategies used, and the outcomes, by:

  • talking with children, parents, teachers, leaders and, where possible, trustees
  • observing in classrooms
  • looking at documentation, student work, class displays and the school environment.

This report we shares this school’s approaches and strategies for promoting deep learning, focusing on the children’s heritage and capturing their interests. The report also outlines how leaders, teachers and trustees work together across the school and a cluster to share and improve the responsiveness of their school’s curriculum.

Context: Developing and implementing a rich curriculum

<p">The principal function of The New Zealand Curriculum[1] is to “set the direction for student learning and to provide guidance for schools as they design and review their own [local] curriculum.” In acknowledging that context matters, the intent of The New Zealand Curriculum is that schools develop local curricula for their students that are challenging, engaging and relevant. Each school is expected to design a bespoke school curriculum that takes account of the vision, values, key competencies, learning areas and principles of The New Zealand Curriculum, while also focusing on the school’s own local priorities and values, and the strengths, needs and interests of their students.

While a school’s curriculum framework is intended to provide information about the requirements and boundaries of students’ learning, teachers have latitude to interpret and adapt the curriculum in light of what they know about the students in their own class and school.

ERO’s findings from the past decade indicate that more is required to increase teachers and leaders appreciation of the permissive nature and intent of The New Zealand Curriculum and to implement responsive curricula in their schools. New Zealand prides itself on its child‑centred approach to learning, yet school practice is not consistently matching this rhetoric. 

Responsive curriculum incorporates connections to students’ lives, prior understandings, and out-of-school experiences. It draws on and adds to parent, whānau, and community funds of knowledge. Student identities, languages and cultures are represented in materials used in the enacted curriculum. Cultural and linguistic diversity are viewed as strengths to be nurtured.

Through our national evaluation programme ERO has found that children experience widely divergent opportunities to learn within and across schools. There is some confusion around the different intent and role of the principles, values and even the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum in improving outcomes for all students.

As schools develop their curriculum they should take into account the cultures, interests and potential of all their students. Many primary and secondary schools do not adequately draw upon contexts and themes relevant to diverse learners. While references to diverse students might appear in the overarching statements of a school’s curriculum, classroom planning and practice frequently misses opportunities to reflect the culture, knowledge and understanding of these learners and their families.

Many teachers are not making use of valuable information about students’ cultural backgrounds to plan programmes that celebrate and further extend students’ understanding of their own and others’ rich and diverse cultural backgrounds.

For students whose strengths and passions lie in science, social studies, technology, health and physical education or the arts, there can be long periods of time when these learning areas are not part of their curriculum. Some important aspects of learning are neglected and curriculum often lacks depth across these learning areas.

Exemplar: A curriculum that captures the interests and heritage of the children

During the past three years teachers were involved in work to deepen children’s learning, focus on their heritage and incorporate interest when planning an inquiry topic. To promote a more responsive curriculum, leaders moved away from having a three‑year plan in curriculum areas other than health and physical education. Their more flexible approach allowed them to better respond to the changing interests, strengths and needs of the children.

Some of their curriculum decisions came from working together with six other schools in the Kahukura Māori Achievement Collaboration (MAC) cluster. Principals and trustees shared practices, discussed programmes and whānau engagement. Lead teachers met regularly to work on or share major projects, celebrations, ideas and resources.

Focusing on children’s heritage through a place‑based curriculum

Leaders aimed to improve the way they developed children’s understanding of their local history. This focus was supported in part by the teachers’ involvement in the MAC project and Hōaka Pounamu professional learning and development (PLD) that occurred before the schools joined the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL) project. Their involvement in the project allowed them to share practices across the seven schools in their cluster and take a lead in this work. As part of this focus, leaders also encouraged teachers to learn new ways of connecting with students and getting to know them as individuals.

Many changes occurred at Somerfield Te Kura Wairepo because of their ongoing curriculum review and development. Their review identified te reo Māori was often taught in isolation without any understanding about what children would learn over time.  A small group of teachers worked together to lead the change to have te reo, me ona tikanga and kaupapa Māori taught together, in context. The small group, known as the Māori leaders, placed teachers in groups of three, with each in the group having different abilities and background. Teachers took time to find out their own histories and learned to express them in hui, mihi and pepeha. This helped them situate units of work and activities in contexts that Māori children could relate to. Teachers selected video clips and created resources and shared these with whānau and children.

Teachers’ sought to provoke children’s curiosity about their past and give them opportunities to strengthen and express their identities. The leaders of the Māori programme felt teachers had to go through this collaborative learning before they could confidently follow any agreed progressions. Teachers continued to learn from each other and the first staff meeting each term still focused on related ongoing PLD. 

Once the teachers’ confidence grew, the Māori leaders developed clear progressions and detailed advice about programmes for children from Years 1 to 6. They wanted every child to learn about all aspects of the past, key to their environment. The school’s place‑based topics are summarised below. They balance the local history with learning about science, social studies and technology.


Local Area Overview Plan

Purpose:To educate Somerfield Te Kura Wairepo students about our local area, our local Māori histories and stories, and give them experiences in making connections with the land and its people, over the course of their time at our school.

Year, Topic and Field Trip

Year 1

Opawaho te awa

Opawaho River

Harakeke weaving

Notes

In this unit students learn about the Opawaho River, they learn how Māori and early European settlers used it and the resources it brought. They learn how the waterway has changed overtime and how we need to care for it

Year, Topic and Field Trip

Year 2

Te Tihi o Kahukura

Tamatea Maunga and the Port Hills

Notes

In this unit students learn about ‘Ngā Kohatu Whakarekareka o Tamatea Pōkai Whenua’ – the smouldering boulders of Tamatea Pōkai Whenua. They learn about the volcanic activity that formed Lyttelton Harbour and the history and stories.

Year, Topic and Field Trip

Year 3

Te Maunga me te Awa o Ngai Tuahuriri

Maukatere and Rakahuri

(Mt Grey and Ashley River)

Notes

In this unit students learn about our mountain and river for Ngai Tuahuriri iwi. They learn about the flora and fauna of the river and mountain and why Māori settled in Kaiapoi to use the rich resources they had.

Year 4

Mana Whenua Ngai Tuahuriri

Tuahiwi Marae

Notes

In this unit students learn about the establishment of Tuahiwi Marae after the iwi left Kaiapoi after it was sacked. They learn about the land being set aside for Tuahuriri under the Treaty of Waitangi and the subsequent building of Mahunui, its life and then the building of ‘Mahuni II’. They learn about powhiri and marae kawa.

Year, Topic and Field Trip

Year 5 and 6

Te Kaiapoi Pā

Visit to Kaiapoi Pā site and entrance to Pegasus

Notes

In this unit students learn about the migration of Ngāi Tahu from the North Island. The establishment of Kaiapoi Pā by Moki and the roles people played on the Pā site. They learn how the Pā was set up and how it worked as the main trade site for the Canterbury area. They also learn about its eventual sacking by Te Rauparaha in 1831-1832 and the scattering of its people.


Each year children learn about and visit a different significant local site. In the first year of the programme a key Māori leader took a leadership role in every team’s local site visit. In the second year, the Māori leader initially supported teachers on the visit, but withdrew from the visits in the third year.

While planning the units, the Māori leaders from the school met with a leader of their local runanga (Ngāi Tūāhuriri) to learn more of the local history, before meeting with whānau to further discuss ideas. The local‑area curriculum was fully shared and discussed at whānau hui held at least twice a year. One idea the whānau hui promoted was to have as many Māori parents as possible go with the children on the local site visits. Whānau also contributed resources to increase provision of te reo Māori through an extension te reo Māori programme that many children attended and enjoyed. 

ERO spoke with a group of Year 6 children about the place‑based curriculum. They enthusiastically shared the different activities they did at the Kaiapoi Pā led by teachers from their school or from the pā. Some told us about going with their parents to visit their marae in other parts of New Zealand. Children were also aware some of their teachers were learning alongside them.

”People from the marae talked to us about the history and about their ancestors”.

“Everyone should know the history of their countries and the customs. I’m pleased I know more about this because later on I might need to go to a funeral or something else at a marae and I know what to do. I like having the different experiences because I came from England and I need to know this”.

“All our teachers can teach us about these things because some teachers were taught more by other teachers and adults that were not teachers”.               

Year 6 children

Māori leaders from the school had shared their placed‑based curriculum with other schools in the cluster and sought ideas for a sixth topic they could plan for Year 6 children.

Working within a school’s cluster to enrich their curriculum

Some of the inquiry learning planning started with the MAC cluster where teachers and leaders from across the schools shared what they were teaching and the resources they used. Resources from other schools were shared and developed further for the rest of the cluster.

While we were at the school, the school’s leaders and teachers and others from the Kahukura cluster, were in the process of developing an inquiry unit on social justice. The unit Kahukura – Change Makers focused on the occupation of the pacifist settlement at Parihaka in Taranaki. The topic had links to their local community as some of the men arrested from Parihaka had been taken to the Addington Prison in Christchurch and Fort Jervois on Ripapa Island in Lyttelton Harbour, where they were supported by Ngāi Tahu people.  One of the schools had already completed an inquiry into the historic events at Parihaka and suggested this as a likely topic.

However, once the cluster leaders decided to explore the knowledge skills and outcomes possible in this topic, they saw the potential for a major inquiry topic. They then agreed a framework for the first half of the unit and the NPDL leaders decided to focus on citizenship with a unit on change makers. The MAC lead teachers located a series of resources that they placed on their shared website. The chart below shows how the cluster and the school had combined the key knowledge ideas to contribute to deep learning.


Kahukura‑ change makers unit - Design for Deeper Learning

Key Question; As a citizen of the world how can I peacefully seek social justice to make a meaningful difference?

Some of the key knowledge ideas from the MAC cluster
  • The people of Parihaka passively resisted their lands being taken.
  • People and leaders of Parihaka were taken from their lands and their pā was invaded and sacked.
  • Reconciliation between the people of Parihaka and the crown for these events is still going on today.

Enduring understandings about citizenship for deeper learning

  • Change can be brought about by peaceful means.
  • People participate individually and collectively in response to community challenges and have consequences for communities and societies, past, present and in the future.
  • I am a citizen of the world. I can make a meaningful difference. I seek social justice.

Although the seven schools in the cluster approached the teaching in different ways, a common theme derived from the Parihaka learning: “I am a citizen, I can make a difference” which drove the direction of learning in all schools.

The planning was not completed when ERO was at the school, however rubrics were already developed that identified how well children considered global issues and how well they used technology for learning. Teachers intended to use these as part of their planning and assessment.

A key feature of the MAC cluster was the level of involvement of boards of trustees in understanding and supporting curriculum decisions. Twice a year trustees in the MAC cluster attended meetings. In the most recent combined meeting, they looked at the Parihaka unit to discuss why schools should focus on this topic. About 60 trustees from the cluster attended the meeting, where a person from Parihaka talked about their history and the links to Christchurch. They also watched a documentary Tarakihi the children of Parihaka. We spoke with a trustee who told us about the recent meetings.

“Most of the things from our history children learn have been influenced by Ngāi Tahu stories but this one has a place in our history because of the people coming to Addington and Ripapa Island.

When the Children of Parihaka documentary stopped, there was silence in the room. We were supposed to ask questions but there were none because it was so powerful. Later though we talked about how come we didn’t know this from our own history. It is important our children hear and know our history.

When we come to these cluster meetings, it is good to drop conversations about competitions for school rolls and focus on curriculum. Together we have done professional development about cultural competencies and Māori values too”.   

Trustee

Deepening Learning

One of the key goals of the cluster was to provide children with a creative and responsive curriculum. All of the schools in the cluster supported this goal through their involvement in a global partnership working with Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy from the Victoria State Government of Australia. The partnership aimed to foster new pedagogies for deep learning (NPDL) in schools and leverage the power of digital technologies.

The New Zealand Curriculum and the school’s SMART Values, which exemplify the key competencies, guided Somerfield Te Kura Wairepo’s curriculum. The key competencies are also closely related to the six underlying concepts of the NPDL framework, which are shown below.

The School’s SMART Values

Socially adept

Motivated

Articulate

Resilient

Thinkers

The six underlying concepts of the NDLP framework

  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Citizenship
  • Communication
  • Character

They called these the Six Cs

Teachers worked collaboratively to weave together and visually display the school’s Smart Values and the key competencies. 

Leaders agreed that many of the pedagogies introduced were good, but they were not necessarily new practices. They acknowledged the key area of change was extending the ability to form partnerships with students in mastering new learning.

When developing inquiry learning unit plans teachers also deliberately planned for each of the four quadrants from the NPDL framework shown below (new Pedagogies, learning partnerships, leveraging digital and learning environment). Some of the key threads the school focused on included:

  • shifting to more of a learning partnerships with children
  • developing a place‑based local curriculum
  • enriching their curriculum through working with the wider community.

Increasing learning partnerships with children

Teachers used a collaborative inquiry cycle they had developed that encouraged them to focus on developing students capabilities with the Six Cs. The cycle began with students undertaking a simple assessment to identify their developing capabilities with the Six Cs. Students then moved through three more phases: design, implement the learning and measure to reflect on the change.

Teachers designed a pre‑assessment activity and used rubrics from the NPDL framework to determine where individuals and the class in general, were on the continuum as shown in one example below.


Pre Assessment Activity

Dimension

  • Communicating in different ways

Limited evidence

  • I need help to communicate what I found and learned in my task.
  • I have trouble communicating my learning in a clear and substantive way.

Emerging

  • I am beginning to put together different pieces of my thinking in one clear message.
  • I am beginning to express my thinking and learning in different ways, such as through images, and other visuals, music, and spoken words, for example in film or digital presentations.

Developing

  • I am beginning to integrate multiple issues and perspectives into my message.
  • I regularly use several modes of communication to get my message across in the best way.

In the pre‑assessment activity in one inquiry, teachers highlighted to the children the problem of litter at school, and asked the children to creatively prepare to help draw awareness and reduce the problem. Almost all of them choose to prepare a poster. Teachers identified that many students were at the ‘emerging level’. The intention was to determine each child’s increasing proficiency using the same rubrics at the end of the unit.

Teachers then used progressions from the rubric and worked with the students to design authentic learning task related to a real challenge. During the implementation phase, children also used digital technologies to deepen their learning. Finally, teachers and the students used a variety of evidence to see the level of achievement in relation to the learning progressions. They also determined some teaching improvements they could make in the future.

One recent inquiry focused on developing the Six Cs through a technology inquiry. The Year 5 and 6 children developed learning resources for Year 2 children. They had to find out what the Year 2 children were interested in and then design a learning tool to support their specific learning need.

The assessment activity ‑ All Years 5 and 6 children went to the hall. They saw a large circle with snake lollies in the middle. Together they had to design something to collect the snakes and bring them out of the circle. Teachers were able to observe such things as children’s perseverance, ability to adapt, problem solving and leadership skills. Students then used rubrics to complete a peer assessment about their buddy’s communication and technology skills.

During the design phase the Years 5 and 6 children worked in pairs and interviewed the Year 2 children and people from their families to find out more about the children’s interests and strengths.  They recorded their interviews on iPads and sketched their emerging designs.

The Years 5 and 6 children regularly used online journals as they modified their designs to respond to feedback from the Year 2 children, their buddy and their teacher. They became aware of the needs of others through the constant opportunities to seek and respond to feedback. Later the children were able to describe the process and what they had learned.

Comments from the Years 5 and 6 children:

“It was quite hard when they were trying to decide on ideas because they told us what they like, but they didn’t tell us what to improve on, so we didn’t know if we should keep it that way or if we should make changes”.

“I think we have improved a lot and we have been talking to people we haven’t seen much.  We are communicating with them and they don’t really know how to explain it”.

“We learned how to think in a different way, if we came up with our first idea, it wasn’t always our best idea so we had to keep coming up with more”.

“It was fun doing it this way, we got to experience more things, new things, new words ‑ that really long word – metacognition- I never knew what it meant before”.

Including children’s perspectives in inquiry unit planning

One aspect of planning teachers were developing involved including children in this phase of the inquiry unit. Years 5 and 6 children focused on communication, which is one of the six underlying concepts of the NPDL framework. Teachers met with a focus group established to hear children’s ideas as part of their planning for the topic. When teachers shared their initial ideas, the children suggested an entirely different direction - that they focus on communication about problems and issues experienced at school and suggested some likely issues. As part of the unit plan teachers then integrated the students’ ideas into the communication inquiry unit that explored parts of visual arts, drama, dance, English and social studies curricula.

When we met with the focus group of children involved in the planning, they explained their involvement and perspectives:

”The teachers shared a little slideshow of their ideas. We talked about their ideas and decided to think about communication to solve problems at school. We suggested one or two types of problems”.

“It is better doing it this way, as the teachers now know more about what the kids are interested in”.

“We were also told that we could possibly end up with something that would become our school’s production next term. Some of us are now working on skits about communication to solve a problem. We have also been improving our persuasive writing”.  

Year 5 children

When ERO spoke with a group of children, they were about halfway through the inquiry topic. They told us many different ways they were now communicating messages and were working on a variety of problems they wanted to address, such as bullying and looking after sports gear used at lunchtime. When we asked if they could tell us more about deep learning, they told us their teachers expected them to think of more than one idea because your first idea is not always your best idea. They were expected to aim for 10 ideas.

School leaders skilfully used a variety of resources to capture all aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum in the inquiry topics that were part of the school’s curriculum. Their school values and aspects of NPDL matched the Values and Key Competencies. The Principles were included through the work with the MAC cluster, the board, whānau, the place‑based curriculum and the NPDL. Teachers integrated the relevant Learning Areas and Achievement Objectives across their inquiry topics. Teachers also worked collaboratively to learn or develop the knowledge and pedagogies needed to fully engage students. They were also clear about what skills children were developing and how well they were progressing.

Why is this exemplar important?

The principal function of The New Zealand Curriculum is to “set the direction for student learning and to provide guidance for schools as they design and review their own [local] curriculum.” In acknowledging that context matters, the intent of The New Zealand Curriculum is that schools develop local curricula for their students that are challenging, engaging and relevant.

Leaders and teachers at Somerfield Te Kura Wairepo School had designed a bespoke school curriculum that takes account of the vision, values, key competencies, learning areas and principles of The New Zealand Curriculum, while also focusing on the school’s own local priorities and values, and the strengths, needs and interests of their students. 

Effective and culturally responsive pedagogy supported and promoted student learning. Leaders and teachers gave considerable priority to responding to children’s culture and heritage. Leaders, teachers and trustees successfully worked with a cluster of schools to better understand the local history and share their successful approaches to helping all students and teachers to learn te reo, me ona tikanga and kaupapa Māori together, through local contexts. They also sought community and other resources to explore contexts from the students’ cultures. Whānau and community knowledge, language and culture, as well as student identities, were represented in curriculum materials and the enacted curriculum.

Teachers were increasing opportunities for student involvement in planning the direction of the inquiry took. Inquiry topics were deliberately broad to allow students to follow their interests and passions. Teachers involved children in different ways by:

  • seeking students’ ideas when planning the new inquiry
  • providing students with some initial learning activities to assess their strengths and needs before establishing the aspect the children wanted to focus on. 

Students were positioned at the centre of teaching and learning and were able to participate and learn in caring, collaborative, inclusive learning communities. The schools’ innovative approaches to designing their curriculum help children engage with the knowledge, values and competencies to equip them well to enjoy future success.

Recommendations for system improvement

ERO recommends that school leaders continue their improvements and share with other schools their approaches related to: 

  • stewardship
  • leadership for excellence and equity
  • educationally powerful connections and relationships
  • responsive curriculum, effective teaching and opportunities to learn
  • professional capability and collective capacity
  • evaluation, inquiry and knowledge building for improvement and innovation.

ERO also recommends that school advisers and PLD providers share this exemplar with other schools to improve their performance.

Diana Anderson

Deputy Chief Executive Review and Improvement

On behalf of the Chief Executive/ Chief Review Officer

May 2019



[1] Ministry of Education. (1993). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media Limited, 6.