Ngā hononga kura-whānau e puta ai ngā ihu o ngā ākonga Māori

Aorangi School

Aorangi School is a decile 2, year 0–6 school in Rotorua. It has 140 students, 88 percent of whom are Māori. The principal, deputy principal, and a parent were interviewed for Ruia.

What are the priorities for our Māori students?

The interviewees said that their school community values academic and social success equally. The community wants its students to believe in themselves as learners and to focus on success in numeracy, literacy, and all academic pursuits while also being confident in social settings.

Teachers at the school have high academic expectations for their students and ensure that these expectations are supported by specific targeted instruction.

This is backed up by the school’s self-review processes, which include the careful tracking of student data by gender and ethnicity.

For example, when the school identified that year 5 girls were not achieving the school’s targets for mathematics, it employed an extra teacher to deliver a targeted mathematics programme with specific objectives that would step them towards their learning goals.

The following ‘cornerstone values’ underpin the success of students at the school:

  • respect
  • kindness
  • responsibility
  • honesty
  • obedience
  • truthfulness
  • duty
  • consideration
  • compassion. 

People in the community praise the students’ adherence to these values, which the teachers are encouraged to model in their practice.

This appreciation is reflected in letters from visitors to the school and comments from members of the public. For example, the hosts of a popular school holiday camp said that the respect that the children had for the teachers and other adults was “noticeable and admirable” and reflected positively on the adults who were with them.

It has not always been this way.

In 2003–2004, the teachers and school leaders noticed that a lot of students were being removed from class for a wide variety of interventions (for example, oral language and reading programmes). However, when they looked at their data, the interventions were not making much difference to student achievement. The teachers and leaders were also concerned about the low turnout to parent–teacher interviews.

What are our own learning needs?

The school’s self-review and appraisal systems are set up to enable ongoing identification of individual and collective learning needs. These are addressed through professional development that is targeted at personal and collective goals. The learning needs of parents and whānau are identified in consultation with them during, for example, school self-review.

Planning and participating in partnership learning

The teachers and leaders at Aorangi School decided to take collective responsibility for raising student achievement, beginning by creating a policy around shared data analysis and an end to withdrawal.

Teaching, planning, and the use of specialist support are now better targeted, and there is much greater teacher collaboration. For example, teachers and school leaders have attended workshops to ensure that their reporting against the National Standards is aligned with the school’s philosophies and practices.

That learning is enabling the development of strategies for reporting to parents in the students’ achievement books using plain language and visual representations.

Partnership actions: connecting and collaborating

The teachers and leaders at Aorangi School were concerned about the low turnout at parent interviews, so they decided to take a new approach.

Twice a year, the school has student–led conferences that focus on the students’ achievement books. These are books that the students take home each term as a report of their progress. They contain examples of their work that have been either self- or teacher-assessed.

The conferences follow a set protocol.

The students show their parents examples of their work in writing, reading, mathematics, and the visual arts. They then introduce their parents to their teacher for a chat.

This isn’t a formal interview, and the teachers said that they have to restrain themselves from making it into one. However, the teachers were pleased to report that most of the parents did talk about their children’s progress, their goals for the future, and the things to work on with them at home.

Following the first round of conferences, the parents are invited to write a letter to their children responding to the work that they have seen. The parents are provided with the paper, an envelope, and a sample letter.

After the second round of conferences, the parents are also invited to make their children a certificate. The school supplies all the glue, glitter, paper, and other materials required.

Afterwards, the school holds a big assembly, where the children read their letters out and parents come to celebrate their achievement.

The school also reports student achievement in the school newsletter so that the parents are aware of how their children are achieving in relation to the National Standards.

What has been the impact of our changed ways of working?

The principal describes the student-led conferences as one of the most successful community engagement initiatives that the school has used.

The interviewed parent also said that the conferences were an effective way to engage with the teachers about his children’s achievement. They agree that the conferences work because they are completely led by the student and parents in a process that redistributes power to them, away from the teacher.

The parents respond to their children in a focused and loving way about their achievement.

The school has kept data on how many parents responded to the parent-led conferences. For example, at the end of 2009, 72 percent of parents came to conferences, and 100 percent of those parents wrote letters and made certificates in response to their children’s achievement books.

The interviewees told Ruia that they have seen an improvement in student behaviour and that, according to their data, students’ reading and writing achievement has also improved. They ascribe these improvements in part to the student-led conferences.

Student feedback corroborates this:

  • Student 1 – “Our parents can see exactly what we are doing at school. They can help us at home.”
  • Student 2 – “Our assessments in our Achievement Book have a learning goal and the success criteria, and our parents can see what we are not so good at. We talk about this.”
  • Student 3 – “It helps our parents know what we are doing and how they can help us with our learning.” 
  • Student 4 – “We can share what we have been doing with our family, and if we are not doing so well, they can help us. Or if we are doing really well, they can support us.”  
  • Student 5 – “If you have bad behaviour, your parents can support you and help you change your behaviour to a positive."

An increasing number of parents and whānau are supporting school activities and offering to assist with coaching and fundraising. The school hopes that other strategies, such as participation in the Reading Together and Toolbox parenting programmes, will help deepen the growing partnership.

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