HPSS 5.0 - The Journey So Far

Refining is what we do best!

This week marked my fifth anniversary as Deputy Principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School and more importantly the first year that we will operate as a fully fledged high school, offering programmes for Year 9-13.

It has been an incredible journey, one that involved an incredible amount of work from an evolving team of committed educators who have not only reimagined secondary learning at HPSS but have influenced changing educational models around the country.

It is heartening to see when we reflect on where we started with students in 2014, that much has remained the same. This was taken from the introduction to the school  which I wrote back in our first week of operation:

HPSS is a co-educational state school located in Hobsonville Point, Auckland. We are a MLE (modern learning environment) which means we are a large open plan school, typified by open flexible learning spaces, break out rooms and specialised learning spaces. The furniture is varied, including high bar leaners, mid-level desks, tables, low tables and bean bags. The space and fittings designed to move from caves, campfires to watering holes. We are also a PPP school which simply means that we have another company managing our property (from maintenance to cleaning) - which means we can focus on teaching and learning!

(Credit where credit's due - the next part is mostly poached and remixed from a range of existing resources developed by the Senior Leadership Team and Leaders of Learning!)

The vision for our school is to create a stimulating, inclusive learning environment which empowers learners to contribute confidently and responsibly in our changing world.

The foundations of our curriculum decision-making are to:

  • Innovate through personalising learning
  • Engage through powerful partnerships
  • Inspire through deep challenge and inquiry to develop empowered learners

The curriculum and student week is made up of three key components - learning hubs, specialised learning and project learning.

Learning Hubs
Learning Hubs will:

  • be small groups where caring relationships are fostered
  • provide learners with one key person who will connect with family and ensure learners are engaged in a relevant and challenging programme
  • explore learner interests in order to pursue passions, which can be linked back to learning
  • track progress and provide structures so learners, with their coaches and families, can maintain a learning portfolio
  • build on learners' capacities to be Inquirers and Self Directed Learners

Specialised Learning ModulesSpecialised Learning Modules:

  • will enable all students to gain coverage of curriculum areas and fluencies
  • will include a range of teaching & learning modes: co-constructed, seminar, workshop, flipped, online etc.
  • will encourage critical and creative thinking
  • will be framed by inquiry and involve independent learning activities
  • Learning Coaches will work with the students to create a LearnPath by selecting a range of modules that ensure curriculum and skills coverage. Beyond 2014 students will be able to be placed into modules based on curriculum levels suited to their readiness rather than based on their age.
Project Learning
Students will be engaged in at least one project at any time.
This allows student choice through personal interest and develops lifelong skills of collaboration and complex problem-solving.

Big Projects:

  • are larger scale, links with internal or external expertise/mentors, business partnerships, community links, encourage social responsibility & citizenship
  • apply learning across curriculum areas with focus e.g. Wetlands
  • exposure to wide range of learning experiences, scope for student participation across range of roles

Passion Projects: 

  • individual/team initiated and negotiated interest based projects
  • encourage curiosity, grow passions and achieve excellence
You can read the full post here: A beginners guide to HPSS from 2014

It is heartening to read this and realise that so much of the hard work done in 2013 (when we were lucky enough to have a year to research and plan) really did pay off. Our vision has stood the test of time, the principles have continued to be the touchstone by which we test any new concepts or ideas. But to say the school remains the same would be a total misrepresentation and would not acknowledge the incredible amount designing and refining that has taken place of the last five years.

So what has changed?

Well the timetable has become a bit more complex...

Timetable 2014

Timetable 2018

I would sum up our journey so far, as design and refine. We started our journey with glorious simplicity.

With only one year level we could be completely focused on a single programme of learning. We began with three 90 minute blocks a day which over time evolved into four 80 minute blocks. This allowed us to retain our desire to have time for longer periods of deeper learning, where as the move to 60 minutes allowed for more combinations with the shift from 15-20 blocks.

Learning Hubs began with two 90 minute blocks, then shifted to three 80 minute blocks and this year has returned to two 80 minute blocks. The Learning Hub Curriculum has similarly moved and shifted with the times shifting from My Learning, My Being, My Community to a more complex range of iterations before settling this year on a more refined four pronged focus on WHANAUNGATANGA (Relationships), AKO (Learning to Learn), HUARAHI AKO (Learning Paths & Futures) and MANAAKITANGA (Citizenship & Community).

Learning Modules began their journey as Big Modules (three subjects taught together by three specialist teachers), Small Modules (two subjects co-taught by two specialist teachers) and SPINs (single subject taught by one teacher). Three subjects and three teachers proved challenging with one subject often becoming the spare wheel, this meant we chose to focus on Modules (two subjects co-taught by two teachers) and SPINs still remain. What we have discovered is that different variations of these combinations work at different levels. There four we now offer the following:

Foundation Level (Year 9 and 10 combined) have three Modules and three SPINs with Modules lasting a Semester whilst SPINs swap each term.

Q1 (Year 11 students) have two Modules with more time for each and two SPINs.

Q2 (Year 12 students) have one Module and three SPINs which allows for greater specialisation whilst maintaining one integrated module (both students and teachers agree that integrated learning is on of THE most powerful aspects of learning at HPSS. Connections give purpose and add depth at every level.

Q3 (Year 12 students) has five SPINs with the option of one line being a study block or a fifth subject. The move to single subjects is key for us to be able to offer the level of specific specialisation that is needed for course entry and pathways beyond school.

Projects have morphed from Big Projects (larger scale projects at Year 9 and 10)  and Passion Projects (which were more individual projects) to a three step progression.

In the Foundation Years students still participate in Big Projects. In Year 11, 12 and 13 students may do Impact Projects which tend to be more student led and maybe single students or smaller groups. Year 12 and 13s may do Pathway Projects which might include anything from tertiary study, scholarship preparation or even work experience, with a focus on providing students with a pathway beyond the school gates.

Our Learning Design Model continues to be refined by our Learning Design Leaders and is now embedded across all areas of the curriculum at HPSS. This consistent  use of a common learning taxonomy for all learning objectives has undoubtedly helped our learners to be able to articulate their learning. 

HPSS Learning Design Model
In reality, each and every one of these aspects deserve a blogpost of their own and a shout out to a whole raft of talented educators and the more I reflect, the more I realise there is so much more to share! So rather than try and capture it all here I will do my best to blog a little each week so I focus on each of the areas of HPSS that continue to make it so magic. 

In the meantime, make sure you check our Principal, Maurie Abraham's blog for regular updates and insights and if you look at his 'My Blog List' you can see the many other HPSS teachers that regularly blog about what they and we are up to.

If you want to see just how much we have evolved you could check out these:
Courageous Sharing at HPSS (2013)

And if you wonder how what we do at HPSS might translate in to a traditional school environment you could check out: 
Blue Sky High - five things every secondary school should implement...now 

And check out that Leadership Team!
HPSS SLT - Claire, Di, Lea and Maurie


  1. Your current school programme looks highly engaging for secondary school students. It was interesting reading about how it has morphed over time, and in particular with the project based learning your students do. I'm very curious as to what types of projects your students undertake. I have just begun PBL with Year 3 and 4 students in my class and finding it inspiring to see how inspired they are to take responsibility for their project and learning. I'd also be curious to know about how you go about arranging your students into groups - is this something that is all student driven?


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