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Opinion Piece: Tomorrow's School Review - little to lose and much to gain

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As the sun set on the school year in 2018, the Tomorrow’s School Independent Taskforce published their report and recommendations. The taskforce looked to review the education system at large, with a particular focus on the ways in which are schools are governed, led and resourced. The report is a weighty tome, coming in at 144 pages and presenting “a package” that identified eight key issues and 32 recommendations with a focus on “developing a system that promotes equity and excellence and ensures that every learner achieves educational success”.

The report is as courageous as it is polarizing and whilst the report and recommendations are detailed, they can, in their relative brevity, leave enough space to enable some to presume the worst. The recent months have seen many responses which represent a diverse range of voices and views - the loudest of which seem to be those driven by ideological positions and a desire to continue to reap the benefits of one’s “luck” and protecting the…

The Principal Diaries - The Annual Plan and putting the plan into action!

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It was an interesting process pulling together my first annual plan as Principal at Albany Senior High School. School Charters and Annual Plans are interesting beasts. To be honest, they appear to be box ticking waffle and weasel words which gather cyber dust in some virtual filing system.

My belief was that a plan can be bloody useful, but only if it was actually designed to be useful. For that reason, I set about researching and reading as many as I could lay my hands on. What I found, for the most part, was (I thought) unnecessarily long winded and either attempted to capture so much in so much detail that they seemed insurmountable or so vague they read like paraphrased business as usual. In the end, the easiest approach was to go to The University of Auckland Centre for Educational Leadership to look at their resources and templates and have a crack of building something from scratch. The following is my attempt to craft an Annual Plan (this obviously doesn't include the broa…

An open letter to New Zealand students - you are bigger than any exam!

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Kia ora lovely students of New Zealand,

Well, today marks the day that many of you will have experienced the first high stakes external exam of the 2018 NCEA exam season and whilst I do wish you all the best, I also want you to know that you are bigger than any NCEA exam.

An exam is defined by the Collins Dictionary as a formal test that you take to show your knowledge or ability in a particular subject, or to obtain a qualification. 

I would rather focus on what an exam is not:

It is not a measure of if you are bright.

It is not a measure of your potential.

It is not a measure of your worth, either now or in the future.

It is not a measure of your ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.

It is not a measure of your ability to communicate.

It is not a measure of your ability to collaborate.

It is not a measure of your ability to research.

It is not a measure of your creativity.

It is not a measure of your curiosity.

It is not a measure of your willingness to take risks.

It is not a mea…

The Principal Diaries - reflections, observations, opportunities and leadership inquiries

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Well, the first term has felt like something of a whirlwind. It has been a case of of hitting the ground running and any other whirling/high speed metaphors you can think of. Partly this was due to the time of year - being a senior school, the third term ends up feeling like the (nearly) end of the year, with Impact Projects coming to an end this marked a flurry of exhibition, performance and celebratory evenings. The other reason that it has barreled along so quickly is that I was determined to act quickly so as to ensure plans were well and truly in place for 2019.
As I reflected earlier in the term, I am determinedly approaching first-time Principalship as a leader of learning and have tried to be transparent in that leadership (and leading of change) from day one. In my second week I shared with my staff my lens on powerful learning which informed my approach to observing learning across the curriculum and school. After many weeks of digging into school data (attendance and acade…

The Principal Diaries - Getting ConnectED with our community!

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When I applied for the role of Principal of Albany Senior High School, one of the points I covered in my pitch at the interview was my ability and desire to build powerful partnerships and networks for ASHS students:
And finally, I am leader who can build powerful partnerships and networks. 

I have experience in developing productive and warm relationships with local schools to establish a highly effective Kāhui Ako. I bring in depth experience gained as a Projects Pathways and Partnerships Leader and as an Impact Project Guide, having worked with the community and business sector to create rich and authentic learning partnerships for our students. As Education Advisor for the 21st Century Skills Lab and as a board member of NetSafeNZ I have experience that spans across the education and business landscape. I have fostered a vast education, community, innovation and business network that will support the growth and expansion of powerful partnerships for this school and it’s learners. 

An open letter to Minister Hipkins - 13 Reasons Why EVERY teacher deserves a pay rise!

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Dear Minister Hipkins,

Too often the narrative around why we need a pay rise can become focused on how hard the job is. The act of teaching is hard, however be assured, a career in teaching is a privilege. That said I do believe each and every teacher in this country deserves a generous pay rise, not because it's a tough job, but because it is a bloody important and complex one. 

Here are my 13 reasons why...

1) What we do is important!
There is no question. Being a teacher is one of the most important roles in our community. We are not only fantastic (low cost) caretakers and babysitters for much of the year, we are also trusted to provide young people with the knowledge and skills they need to survive and thrive, whilst also addressing community concerns and government priorities - we are miracle workers (and hence we deserve the pay to go with it. What we do is seriously important work on many levels.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” - Malala Yousafz…

The Principal Diaries: My Lens on Powerful Learning

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If there is one thing I am pretty adamant about, it is that the Principal's primary role is to be the 'leader of learning'. To that end one of my real focus areas in my first term as Principal is to observe as much learning as I can in action. As many of you will know, at Albany Senior High School (ASHS) we have three strands to our curriculum - Tutorials, Specialist Subjects and Impact Projects.

You can read explanations of each part of the curriculum here:
Tutorials: http://ashs.school.nz/curriculum/tutorials
Specialist Subjects: http://ashs.school.nz/curriculum/specialist-subjects
Impact Projects: http://ashs.school.nz/curriculum/impact-projects

I came into the school knowing that I loved the curriculum design and the way that the time allocations clearly signalled the value of each element. What I did not know was how well each element (in their current form) was meeting the needs of each and every learner. And as in every school there is often a bit of a disconnect be…