NZ Principal Magazine Term 3 2017

Page 1

September 2017 Volume 32, Number 3



• Governance in Schools • Wellbeing In Education – Making time for wellbeing in NZ schools

• Learner Agency: Is it really as simple as all that? • NZCER Research

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY Introducing the Warwick ‘My Learning’ range, created for teachers, by teachers.

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Created by a panel of NZ teachers and the Tools 4 Teachers team Includes literacy, maths and multipurpose books Features subject specific reference material to assist at key learning stages Designed to withstand the rigors of daily classroom use - Durable laminated front and back covers - 4 staple binding* - 80 - 100gsm FSC® certified paper *My Literacy Book 1 & 2 have 3 staple binding.

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Editor Liz Hawes Executive Officer PO Box 25380 Wellington 6146 Ph: 04 471 2338 Email:

September 2017


Magazine Proof-reader Helen Kinsey-Wightman Editorial Board Whetu Cormick, NZPF President Geoff Lovegrove, Retired Principal, Feilding Liz Hawes, Editor

7 10


Governance in Schools

Tony Sycamore, LLB, B Com, Van Aart Sycamore Lawyers Limited


Liz Hawes

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Cervin Media Ltd PO Box 68450, Newton, Auckland 1145 Ph: 09 360 8700 or Fax: 09 360 8701

Wellbeing In Education – Making time for wellbeing in NZ schools

Dr Denise Quinlan

Note The articles in New Zealand Principal do not necessarily reflect the policy of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation. Readers are welcome to use or reprint material if proper acknowledgement is made.


Subscription Distributed free to all schools in New Zealand. For individual subscribers, send $40 per year to: New Zealand Principals’ Federation National Office, PO Box 25380, Wellington 6146


New Zealand Principal is published by Cervin Media Ltd on behalf of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation and is issued four times annually. For all enquiries regarding editorial contributions, please contact the editor.



Learner Agency: Is it really as simple as all that?

Dr Jennifer Charteris & Dr Diane Smarden

NZCER Research

Dr Cathy Wylie


Lester Flockton

Opinion – ‘Got time for professional reading?’

Helen Kinsey-Wightman

36 MARKETPLACE SECTION Profiles from education product and service providers

ISSN 0112-403X (Print) ISSN 1179-4372 (Online)

PHOTOS FOR THE MAGAZINE: If you have any photos showing ‘New Zealand Schools at Work’, particularly any good shots of pupils, teachers or leadership staff, they would be welcome.



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Editorial Liz Hawes


It always amazes me how much positivity goes on in schools staff member subscribes to this vision, this moral imperative, despite the relentless mountain of education policies, sometimes and does not waver from it. of no relevance to children’s learning, that keep landing on them, The youngsters at Iain’s school are empowered to set their demanding their energy and attention. own behaviour standards – there If we were talking about the corporate We saw a perfect are no teacher imposed rules at domain, CEOs would be right there at Manurewa Intermediate – and to the table with the politicians, having example played out in this be the agents of their own learning. been called in to offer their advice. year’s Prime Minister’s At the same time they learn to be Not so school teachers and principals. contributing citizens and engage in Teachers are different. They don’t Supreme School Award community service. It’s a recipe that see teaching as a job. They are not reaps excellent results at all levels. motivated by monetary bonuses to fill Competition. Manurewa Intermediate sits at the their back pockets, as corporate bosses might be. A school is top of the pile, and deservedly so. That said there are hundreds not a regular workplace. You have to love children and young of schools in New Zealand oozing positivity with thousands of people to devote yourself to teaching and it is that love of the youngsters thoroughly engaged and loving every day at school. young people, whose educational and life chances are in your The article in this issue p.10 tells the story of Hokowhitu Primary hands, that drives a teacher’s career. School in Palmerston North. It’s a long way from Manurewa and We saw a perfect example played out in this year’s Prime unlike its counterpart, sits in an advantaged area of the Manawatu Minister’s Supreme School Award Competition. Manurewa city. The school has embraced a new pedagogy for its curriculum Intermediate School, under the leadership of Iain Taylor, took delivery through which, as at Manurewa Intermediate, the the first class honours. His school is a decile 1A and 900 young students control and manage their own learning. The students teens, mostly of Māori and Pacific Island descent, pour through there are also having fun learning and discovering through a mix its gates every day. ‘If you don’t love our kids, you won’t be a of collaboration and individual endeavour, with their teachers fit for our school,’ I’ve heard Iain boom out on more than one taking the role of guiding, facilitating, monitoring and evaluating occasion. For him, that is the starting and the end point. In other the students’ learning. They too place high importance on the words, don’t even apply for a position in my school if you don’t wellbeing and safety of all their students. It’s not exceptional. There love these kids. are so many more schools engaging and caring for their youngsters In his acceptance speech he paid tribute to his staff, learning, health and wellbeing every day in our country. acknowledging that they are the ones who make the school a So why is it that these true professionals, who have so much great place for kids to be educated. His accolades did not stop knowledge and experience of how children learn best, and how at his dedicated and talented management team and teachers, best to respond to their personal circumstances, not given a but extended to the outstanding work of his full time school say in education system policy development? By the time the counsellor and support staff. ‘Every single one of my staff is to profession is ever asked for an opinion, the policies are already be congratulated, he said, because they are the ones that make at implementation stage. a difference to these kids’ lives every day.’ Politicians are not professional teachers. How much better off ‘I say to my staff, every one of these kids is to be treated as if would all of New Zealand’s young people be if only our politicians they were one of your own kids because they deserve nothing would accept that fact and bring the professionals in to help? less. And every one of my staff does exactly that.’ How much greater would our country’s future fortunes be if we That is a statement that extends well beyond teaching reading, could establish educational policies that allowed the talents of writing, maths and science. It means that Iain’s staff members are every one of the youngsters in our schools to develop and shine? also to take care of the social and emotional wellbeing of every The profession does know how to do this. one of his students. It means hauora (wellbeing) is right up there It is time for us to make a decision about what stripe of on the priority list as teachers build the often broken self-esteem government we will have for the next three years. Let’s hope that and confidence of the young people in front of them every day. whatever party leads the country through the next three years Another of Iain Taylor’s mantras is ‘Every one of our students will have the intelligence and good sense to let the teaching will have fun at school every day!’ What makes Manurewa profession shape the next iteration of education policy, for the Intermediate the great school that it officially is, is that every good of all of us.


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President’s Pen

Ko Tainui te waka Ko Ngāti Raukawa ki Wharepūhunga te iwi Whetu Cormick

National President, New Zealand Principals’ Federation

I have just returned from Toronto, after attending the World This desire to improve education levels does not always come Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Education (WIPCE). It was at with helpful support mechanisms or appropriate funding many levels an awe-inspiring experience to be present amongst to pursue solutions. Indigenous leaders must often bear the some three thousand delegates from burden of this work unsupported all over the world. The ‘First Nations’ One thing that made me feel and underfunded. Delegates came from countries that One thing that made me feel had once been colonised and all were proud to be Māori was to proud to be Māori was to hear other aware of the powerful effect historic excitedly talking about hear other nations excitedly nations events have had on generations of implementing the Te Kotahitanga their people. Commonalities included talking about implementing programme, developed here in loss of native language and customary Aotearoa by our own Russell Bishop, practices. They included various forms the Te Kotahitanga Professor of Māori Education at of assimilation, alienation, racism and Waikato University. Te Kotahitanga programme . . . discrimination. Most now found that was first implemented in our their people sat in the lower classes of the societies they came secondary schools and was designed to support teachers to from. They suffered poorer health and lower achievement levels improve Māori students’ learning and achievement. It enables in education. They were engaged in lower status jobs and overrepresented in the country’s crime and poverty statistics. None of this greatly surprised me because the stories of indigenous groups from across the globe exactly mirrored the situation for Māori at home. It is important to acknowledge why this is the case if we are ever to address institutionalised racism and discrimination which continue to fuel inequities. That is why I firmly believe that here in Aotearoa we need to teach the history of colonisation, from a Māori perspective, to all our rangatahi (young people). By making the history of colonisation compulsory in our schools and teaching all of our young people the ways in which colonisation practices have oppressed and disenfranchised our Māori people, we can start to develop a shared understanding about the roots of racism and what led to Māori feeling alienated and disengaged. • Unique program with regular testing and rewards The common motivation that had drawn the delegates together • Fun, Disciplined environment which keeps Gymnasts engaged: was to debate and share ideas, initiatives and stories through learning vital sports and life skills which they might discover a better way forward for all indigenous GYM club take care of everything including: program, peoples. All agree that the vehicle for progress is education. registrations, gymnastics fees, specialist training for school competitions, health and safety, management, and coaches. It was heartening to listen to such high quality, thoughtful Add a quality gymnastics program for your students without and intelligent presentations from so many presenters on a wide impacting your staff’s time or school budgets. variety of indigenous related topics that at their core reflected a Contact GYM club today to find out more about our: lunchtime/ theme of ‘resilience’. Taking on the challenge of achieving equity after school, whole school PE, and staff training programmes. for indigenous peoples requires steadfast focus, determination and commitment. In so many cases the speakers highlighted the References Available lack of support they have for this struggle. Expectations that their Ph 0800 273 368 own people place on them as leaders are at times intolerable. On the other hand further pressure is coming from politicians and educational leaders of the dominant cultures to improve educational statistics for indigenous groups because they know that they will be reliant on them for their future workforce.

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teachers to create a culturally responsive context for learning. Through a culturally appropriate and authentic context, Māori students felt a sense of belonging and became more willing to engage in their learning. The results came with higher numbers of Māori students achieving NCEA level 2 in the schools implementing the programme. One of the reasons for the resounding success of Te Kotahitanga was that it facilitated a pathway for school leaders to focus on changing the culture of their schools so that structures and organisational factors aligned with this new way of working. The success of Te Kotahitanga was a motivating factor in Te Akatea and NZPF embarking on a journey together to find a solution for Māori rangatahi underachievement in our primary schools. We knew that if we could lift the engagement and success rates of our Māori ragatahi at the lower level, they would be more likely to remain at school and succeed at higher levels. The outcome was the Māori Achievement Collaboratives (MACs). The ultimate goal of the MACs is to establish a critical mass of effective principals and leadership practices which challenge strategies that have resulted in inequitable educational outcomes for Māori. Some three years on we are seeing unprecedented numbers of school leaders providing culturally responsive environments within their schools and Māori rangatahi are making transformational gains in their academic achievement. The PLD targets leaders of schools who are taken on a journey of cultural discovery. First, they examine their own culture and secondly they are led to accept and understand an alternative Māori world view, all within a

supportive, collaborative group of willing participants. I acknowledge the outstanding work of our Te Pītau Mātauranga (national coordinator) Hoana Pearson who resigned as principal of her own Newton School in Auckland to commit herself to this kaupapa. In three years the programme has grown from 47 participants in 6 regions to 156 participants in 8 regions and the total number of Māori students impacted by the programme has risen from 6,111 to 12,873 (31 per cent). The focus is cultural change in schools and so successful has this been in engaging Māori students that this year an evaluation of the participating schools has shown a rise in national standards scores. In MACs schools between 2013 and 2015 there was an 11 per cent growth in the number of students achieving at and above the national standards in writing. In Reading and Maths MACs schools were achieving 3 per cent ahead of the rest of the country. These results are unintended consequences of the MAC programme. Currently I am in negotiation with the Minister and Ministry to secure funding for a further three years to keep this outstanding programme going. We know that principals are lining up to participate. My hope is to return to the WIPCE conference next year to celebrate the MAC success on the world stage. We are fortunate that Minister Kaye recognises the importance and success of this programme and I expect positive results from our funding talks.

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MAKING SENSE OF THE NUMBERS Understanding the key aspects of a School’s financial reporting process is one of the main struggles Boards of Trustees encounter; Accounting for Schools and Xero have the solution to this and more. Often Boards of Trustees (BOT’s) receive financial information that is overly complex and lacking a plain English commentary around how the School is financially positioned. Traditionally, interaction with existing accounting providers is limited, with little feedback provided around issues such as banking, staffing, managing budgets and planning. Maximising the available funds for learning resources is a key goal of all BOT’s. This is difficult to achieve when a School is unsure of its exact financial position and is not receiving the support it needs. Accounting for Schools (AFS) are school accounting specialists, providing exceptional accounting services and understandable financial information to School Boards of Trustees, at affordable prices. Using Xero, AFS provides timely and accurate reports, support around budgets/forecasts, assistance with service provider contract negotiations and other projects. Xero is a comprehensive online (Cloud based) accounting system that has been developed with the non-accountant in mind. Xero captures bank transactions in real time, can be accessed from anywhere, provides bulk batch payment functionality and has customisable reporting. Utilising Xero can reduce data entry time by several hours a month, allowing the administration team to divert more time

to School, student and parent needs. There is also likely to be significant cost savings when compared to other software packages. We have a close working relationship with Xero to ensure we deliver Ministry of Education compliant financial reports; however there is provision to customise reports to the requirements of Trustees. We ensure flexibility is provided with regards to monthly reporting, rather than taking a one report format fits all approach. AFS can provide a range of services, from Xero implementation, through to full monthly reporting, year-end account preparation and ongoing advice and assistance with financial decisions. The AFS team is more than happy to review a School’s current reporting process and provide a recommended solution at no cost to the School. Contact us for a no obligation chat Let us help your School today. Accounting for Schools Ltd Ph: (04) 909 7729 Email:

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Governance in Schools Tony Sycamore

LLB, B Com, Van Aart Sycamore Lawyers Limited

Having had the privilege of more than 15 years involvement in school governance across both state and integrated schools, this article is intended to be an open letter to Principals setting out some suggestions and ideas I have learnt along the way. None of this is based on anything other than my own meandering experiences.

set up legally. You need to have enough information to be able to participate in an informed manner without relying on others to fill in gaps for you.

2 Become financially literate: A large part of operating the school is about the numbers. Never leave yourself exposed by having to rely on others to explain Dear Principal your school’s numbers to you. I have heard on occasions a You are the CEO of an organisation which is possibly one of very strong argument that the financial side of the school is the most emotionally invested environments you will ever find. far less significant than the teaching and learning that goes on The stakeholders in the environment that you are leading every day. This is simply not true. You must have the ability to include a huge and varied cross understand the school’s numbers so section of the community and day- Over the last 15 years I that you are in control of and ahead to-day you are charged with the care of any financial issues. You need to of your communities’ children. You have identified ten things be able to interpret and assist in the are charged with leading and guiding setting of a budget. You need to be the organisation to deliver the best it which, in my view, make up the able to review KPIs on a monthly possibly can to the young people of critical advice I would basis and support team members in your community. maintaining the financial accounts In education you work with a give to any Principal. of the school. There are plenty of governance structure that sees courses out there which can give you communities able to participate at a very high level in the the skills – time invested in financial literacy will pay massive operation of their schools. This sounds like a fantastic concept, dividends. but it can often also be a real challenge. If you are leading a state or private school, you have a single 3 Understand Employment Law: Board that you report to and, you will also be reporting to the One of the biggest facets of your leadership role is human Ministry of Education. If you are leading an integrated school you resource management. I strongly recommend you upskill in the have the added complication of two Boards. With an integrated basics of the process and steps around resolving employment school one Board is the private owner of the school and the other issues. Second only to financial literacy this will make your leadership infinitely more effective. Never rely on board members Board is a traditional school Board of trustees. In any normal week you have many competing stakeholders to guide the school through employment issues. This is your role to take into consideration and at all times have to work within and you must have the tool box to manage it. Done well strong a rigid governance structure. Your leadership is also often management of the people working under you will be defining. alongside a Board with limited or no governance experience in Do not tolerate board members interfering in this space and lead education. You need to tread carefully and wisely to make the confidently with a good grasp of employment law and processes. most of this situation, as done badly it will be overwhelming 4 Keep good records: and exasperating. Over the last 15 years I have identified ten things which, in my One of the most practical suggestions I would have for a Principal view, make up the critical advice I would give to any Principal. is to set up a good structured system for communication between yourself and the Chair and other Board members. Do not fall into I am pleased to now share these with you: the trap of too many discussions without structure and keep a 1 Understand the landscape: simple journal for Board matters where you note down things as To be able to effectively lead the school and work with the and when they happen. This will serve as an excellent reminder Board you need to understand the legal structure and lines of for forming action lists, but also will give you clear chronological authority within the school. Undertake whatever training you structure should you need to go back and look at anything. Take can in relation to basic governance. Upskill yourself around the time to make sure the Board minutes are accurate and be Board protocols, governance best practice and legislation that diligent in organising all email and written correspondence into applies to schools in New Zealand. Learn how our schools are readily accessible electronic folders.

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5 Don’t fall into the trap of saying that ‘Board members will come and go’: Principals sometimes say ‘I am just going to wait it out’. If you have a particularly difficult Board member or a Board member who clearly has no idea about governance, then do not fall into this trap. Some Principals believe that as long as they focus on the day-to-day teaching and learning in the school then over time everything else will sort itself out. This is significantly undermining the opportunity. As the leader, as the CEO and as the commander in chief of your school you must never pull back, isolate yourself and ‘wait it out’. A much better approach to Board members who are potentially posing a problem through lack of experience is to work with the Chair to try and have Board members access some training. Be candid that your expectation is that everyone participates in an informed manner with good faith, pushing in the same direction. Avoid the strategy of just keeping your head down and always tackle Board issues head on. Ensure that issues are talked about and if you are feeling uncomfortable with a Board member then raise it in a professional manner in writing with your Chair. If it is not dealt with, raise it again, but don’t at any point think you will just wait it out. Communication is key. 6 Establish good strong processes for reporting: In reporting to the Board insist on an annual calendar of meetings being established at the start of the year and agree on how many days before the meeting you will have your report out to Board members. Never, never, never take your report along to meetings and read it to Board members. This is both incredibly inefficient, but also extremely irritating. Take the time to establish a template you are comfortable with for reporting and use it every month. Try not to deviate from that template and keep the information as brief and accurate as possible. In the Board meetings assume your report has been read. If any Board member has turned up and not read your report, then that is their loss not yours. Expect questions through the Chair in the Board meeting, but don’t tolerate Board members who are reading your report and making up questions as they go in the meeting. Keeping a strong and familiar structure for your reporting to the Board will make reporting more effective. 7 Take the time to plan strategically: Planning strategically is imperative for good governance and a good Principal will help a Board with their strategic planning. Identify the things that are really important to teaching and learning in the school for the Board, with clear prioritisation so that Board members can look at them and understand which areas are most important. Take the time at the start of the year, perhaps before the children return, to spend a couple of days focusing on nothing other than what does the year ahead hold? What is most important to you? Then write this up and communicate it effectively with your Board. Board members may choose to debate some of this with you, but I promise you it will set the foundation for a far more successful year if you assist the Board to prioritise at the beginning of the year. You should then expect from your Board a strategic plan that is adopted no later than the end of February and that should be the road map for the year. This avoids reactive behaviours or each month just dealing with whatever turns up.


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8 Do not try to capture the Board: Often I have found situations where weak Boards have been ‘captured’ by the Principal. Capturing the Board by either managing the information flow or dumbing down information is inherently dangerous and it can potentially lead to a complete breakdown of trust and confidence between a Principal and their Board. Recognise and respect the separation between governance and management and support strong governance by being involved, participating in a well informed and prepared manner, but never ever try to capture the Board and control it. This will inevitably end badly. 9 Do not tolerate governance creeping into management: One of my most remarkable experiences whilst involved in school governance was when a fellow Board member decided to start ‘popping into the classrooms to check on the quality of teaching’. This was remarkable in that the Board member thought it was acceptable, but even more remarkable was the fact that the Principal felt uncomfortable tackling the issue and effectively allowed it to happen without the Board member being pulled up for this behaviour early on. Governance must stay out of management. You do not want Board members actively involved in the school day to day under any circumstances. If any of your staff are relying heavily on Board members for skills or support then that needs to change. You can’t have team members (particularly finance or admin members) relying on Board members to fulfill management functions. Board members will offer the most to the school through the Board environment and it should only be in very exceptional circumstances that they cross the line. 10 Celebrate the successes: Schools being such an emotionally charged environment become incredibly susceptible to focusing on the negative – the challenges, the weaknesses and the failures. In a school environment, every day there are significant and quite wonderful successes that often get buried. Celebrate the successes every day and make sure that you celebrate them with your Board. It is only when the successes are understood that the challenges can be seen in perspective. If Board members never hear the successes and only the negative then they can be forgiven for believing that there is a very significant issue because ‘we only get bad news’. I suggest a weekly or monthly email out to Board members with bullet points on the successes of the week or month. This is invaluable in setting context and keeping perspective accurate and balanced. The role of the Principal goes to the core of the success of education in New Zealand. Principals and Boards must bind together and embrace their educational communities. When working effectively together the Principal and Board can provide schools that are effective, engaging, and accessible to all. Best wishes TS


KIWI INNOVATION HELPS GREENHITHE SCHOOL REDUCE STAFF BURNOUT A few years ago, Greenhithe School would spend many With Pluto, teachers spend significantly less time on placing of their scarce end-of-year hours on the development their students into their new classes. Within 15–20 minutes, of class lists. Now, it’s a straightforward and stressteachers can enter and save all their student information in a secure free task that takes a fraction of the time. and private online form. Though the form is usually customised Term 4 is often the busiest and to each school’s requirements, perhaps most stressful time of the some of the common fields include year. Not only are the children each individual child’s academic tired and longing for those much needs, behavioural needs, parent anticipated summer holidays, requests, specific friendships, as but teachers and principals are well as negative combinations. also stretched to their limits with Pluto then processes all the many expectations and a myriad of entered data, evaluating and critical priorities to be completed. balancing student requirements, Things are no different at before generating new class lists Greenhithe School. In addition for review. to student assessments, reports, B e c au s e a l l t h e t ang i bl e teacher appraisals and end of information that the school would year ceremonies, teachers and normally consider in the manual management must make time for process is entered into the system, the development of class lists for nothing is overlooked. All the Pluto has made student placement a stress-free task at the following year – ensuring that needs are considered and balanced Greenhithe each student is placed in the best by the Pluto software leading to possible class for their needs. optimal student placement. ‘These class lists are very important to us, because they can ‘Pluto takes the time and stress out of a difficult job,’ says have a notable impact on the individual student’s performance in Stephen Grady, DP at Greenhithe, ‘The solutions that were the following year.’ says Peter Marshall, Principal at Greenhithe generated were very successful, as Pluto takes into account so School. ‘So it’s critical that we place each student in a class that many factors, leading to balanced classes.’ will best serve his or her potential.’ What the Management team at the school finds to be one of Given the significance of the end result, the process of class the most useful features of Pluto, is the ability to easily make placements had typically been a laborious one, requiring changes to the generated lists. For example, if team leaders considerable time and effort from staff. ‘Our planning sessions wish to move a student because of a better teacher personality were long, big and colourful. We had lots of different coloured match, they can simply drag and drop the name from one list post-it notes with students’ names and needs, all stuck to big to the next. If a change is likely to have negative implications, sheets of paper, moving them back and forth as various points such as an unfavourable student combination for example, Pluto of view and arguments were presented by teachers and team will highlight this issue. This means that the school is still in full leaders,’ says Heather Walker, DP at the school. ‘I’m very glad to control of the class lists, and is able to make better informed say that this is all a thing of the past and a very distant memory decisions for their students. now.’ With the usual Term 4 pressure leading to more and more In 2014, Greenhithe School was one of the first to trial the cases of staff burnout throughout the country, Heather is happy innovative specialised student placement software, Pluto. to report that ‘. . . this program has made all the difference to Developed right here in New Zealand, Pluto was the brainchild our stress levels at the end of the year.’ of a kiwi teacher, and was designed specifically to eliminate Staff at Greenhithe can now spend those limited end of year the stressful and lengthy manual processes surrounding the hours focusing on other priorities, knowing that next year’s development of class lists. As a standalone secure solution, classes will have happier students, teachers and parents. accessed online and independent of the school SMS, it required minimal effort to set up and use. ‘When we first used it, I couldn’t believe how easy it was, and most importantly it didn’t jeopardise our priorities around finding the best possible class fit for each individual child. We spent far less time on this process, and saw a far better outcome. I just thought “Why hasn’t this always existed?!”,’ says Peter, ‘It To find out more about Pluto, or better still, experience was an efficient way to sort the kids for their next year’s classes. It first-hand how it works, you can request a free online demo covered everything we wanted it to and required very little effort that you and your staff can trial at any time with Pluto’s sample on our part. Needless to say, we have used Pluto again, and will data. Simply visit or get in touch through continue to do so. I can’t imagine ever doing it any other way.’ N Z Principal | S e p t e m b e r 2 0 17




John Cleese, of ‘Fawlty Towers’ acclaim, once visited But vibrancy, flashy structures and picture post-card scenery are Palmerston North and famously said, ‘If you wish to kill yourself not what the locals of ‘Palmy’ are here for. The 78,800 inhabitants but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will are fiercely loyal to their city which they have built around do the trick.’ The locals, in humorous an attractively designed central outrage, then named a local rubbish Principal, Lin Dixon, Square. The locals know their city dump after him. has plenty on offer including ample Cleese is not the first to ridicule the affirms the historic links saying green spaces, sports grounds, high central North Island’s most inland cafés, bars and restaurants, that several generations quality city for being dull and depressing. cinemas, a top class public library, It’s been panned by many for its of the same families have museums and theatres and some of lack of vibrancy and charm and the best retail shopping in the country. although the distant backdrop of the attended Hokowhitu Primary Students flock in their thousands to Tararua Ranges enchants and inspires be trained and educated in Palmy, School over the years. passing artists and poets, the city where accommodation and the cost itself cannot boast a single interesting geographical feature, save of living are considerably cheaper than in any other university the Manawatu River – which in 2009 was called out as the most city, and the unhilly terrain makes it easy to get around. It is the polluted in the western world. city where a five minute traffic delay could make headline news.

Ambassadors Tia Humphrey and CJ Reid with School Councillor Jenson Bate


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The welcoming face of Lin Dixon, Principal of Hokowhitu School

Palmy is home to the National Rugby Museum and to show its enduring devotion to the sport, recently gained international fame by packing down a world record breaking 1,758 people in a rugby scrum. So we can never say the people of Palmy don’t have a sense of fun or rise to a challenge! Rugby fun aside, by far the greatest cultural and social influence on the central North Island city is Massey University. Massey brings a focus for education and links between town and gown are undeniable. The university’s influence stretches right down to primary schools, as research out of its College of Education infiltrates schools’ thinking. Perhaps that is one reason why Palmy schools are so open to new pedagogies and educational ways of thinking. Hokowhitu Primary School is a good example. One of the oldest in the city, Hokowhitu School opened in 1924. You can meet its first school committee and teaching staff in the school’s front lobby where a photographic display tells its long proud history. Today’s students wear the original school’s bell tower as a logo on their smart red and blue school uniforms. The actual tower is preserved atop the original school classroom block which has been declared a heritage building. Principal, Lin Dixon, affirms the historic links saying that several generations of the same families have attended Hokowhitu Primary School over the years. Respect for their school runs deep. There are stark differences however, between the composition of the school roll in the early 1900s and the school today. The school once comprised a somewhat mono-cultural group

of children. Today 23 per cent of the 365 children are Asian, Pacific or of other ethnicities and 22 per cent are Māori. ‘The world comes together at our school,’ says Lin. ‘We have children from over thirty different countries.’ There are many reasons for the high number of children of different cultures. Some can be explained by the proximity to Massey University. ‘Massey does have an influence on the cultural mix of our students here,’ she says. ‘Many children have parents lecturing or studying at the university.’ That doesn’t account for all the ethnic differences however and Lin is delighted that very recently the school welcomed their first family of Syrian refugees. ‘The family has spent four years in a refugee camp in Malaysia,’ she said, ‘so we are all delighted they will now have a home in Palmerston

Diversity is valued at Hokowhitu Primary School

N Z Principal | S e p t e m b e r 2 0 17


We sometimes have big collaborative discussions

North and the children will come to our school.’ In describing the family’s first visit to the school, she said they were awestruck to find such colourful rooms and big spaces. ‘The children will soon find that’s normal life here,’ she smiled. She also talked of Interactive

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welcoming children from a Chilean and Indian orphanage. ‘They had never played with toys,’ she said, ‘so coming to school was like being in a great big lolly shop!’ Fortunately Lin has a part-time trained ESOL teacher to help out with English language learning and the school has developed a culture of celebrating diversity. ‘We have such a mix of races and religions here which may not typically sit comfortably together but we don’t have any inter-cultural clashes,’ she said. Successfully integrating many different cultures does not happen without thoughtful planning and at Hokowhitu there are a number of factors that contribute to children quickly feeling comfortable at school. One is the ‘buddy system’ where senior students take responsibility for a new or younger student and become their ‘friend’ and mentor. ‘As well as just always being there for each other, every fortnight the buddies have an hour’s formal time together,’ says Lin, ‘to share experiences and plan little items which they present together on stage. It might be a skit or an iMovie or they might read something together,’ she said. The buddy system has other spin offs too. ‘We don’t have a bullying problem at our school,’ said Lin. ‘Our school values include valuing others and stepping up to be the best you can be. The buddy system is one way all of our senior students can demonstrate those values,’ she said, ‘and at the same time they are modelling caring behaviour to the juniors.’ The system clearly works. Lunch-time and play-time at Hokowhitu are fun. The children are happy to take turns as they play their favourite games. They are engaged and cheer each other on. The playground is conflict free, at least on the day I visit. Beyond the buddy system, of special interest at Hokowhitu School is the pedagogical approach to learning. It is based on the philosophy of student agency where the student is at the centre and in charge of their own learning. It is a highly motivating approach and in Lin’s view, brings out the talent in every child. In collaboration with others, each of them then aspires to achieve

Children love to show their principal what they are learning

Special Guests, Iain Lees-Galloway MP, (middle) and Palmerston North Mayor, Grant Smith (right) arrive to read to the children, in celebration of ‘Book Week’

at higher and higher levels. It empowers the students, engages them and allows them to express their opinions in a respectful way. It creates a culture for the children to feel connected to their school and their life within it and it helps promote positive, caring relationships with others. The concept sounds like a winner, and I am excited about seeing this learning in action. In order to implement this approach, some major organisational changes have been undertaken to accommodate the critical components of collaboration and opinion sharing, alongside the direct teaching and task completion by the children. The first most notable change is that the traditional single cell

classroom is all but consigned to history at Hokowhitu. Walls have been removed and the spaces modified. Some 75 students occupy a single space with three teachers and a learning coach. Entering the space is a little disturbing if your only school experience is a single classroom with a single teacher and a single desk for every student. Where is the teacher’s table? Which way is the front of the classroom? Where are the children’s desks? The answer is, there are no teachers’ or children’s desks and there is no ‘front’ to the classroom. This is a flexible learning space. Nor are there reading lessons or maths lessons. There are workshops for every subject during which a group of children will sit at a large table and have direct teaching time. Then off



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A teacher led collaborative discussion on the Inquiry topic of ‘Matariki’

they go to complete learning tasks related to the teaching. This could take them to a corner on their own, or a space on the floor, or to some other table which they might share with others. I am amazed to see how heavily engaged these children are in their learning tasks. Whether working alone or in groups, they are not easily distracted. Each child has their own personal chart of tasks to complete for each subject. These can be done in any order and can be

Tia Humphrey points out the most popular winter sport for TKT


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marked as satisfactorily completed once the teacher has verified it. As each chart of tasks is completed, a new chart of higher order tasks is issued. The third activity involves larger groups of children who are collaborating, sharing and discussing their ideas on an inquiry topic. ‘They learn to think critically and critique each other’s ideas through questioning,’ says Lin, ‘and this often leads to new ideas.’ One would expect that with 75 children in one space the noise levels would be intolerable. Not so. The different working groups are sufficiently separated that the noisier collaboration and discussion group does not impinge on the concentration required for the direct teaching sessions. Cleaning up and moving the groups around, I imagined, might also pose a logistical challenge, but again, not so. With the support of a microphone, a teacher announced the transition which was successfully completed in less than three minutes. The school is organised around five ‘Te Kete’ corresponding to the different year levels. Not all Te Kete are single flexible learning spaces yet but Lin Dixon tells me, they all operate under the same pedagogy, whether the classroom walls are up or down! Lin is very proud of her teachers who are enthusiastic about this approach to learning and unafraid to share their teaching strengths (and weaknesses) with each other. ‘To succeed in this paradigm, the teachers have to be at the top of their game every day,’ says Lin. Having three teachers and a learning coach for each space also means more timely individual teaching for the children. ‘Sometimes, one teacher may be taking a large group for an continued over

activity,’ says Lin, ‘whilst another teacher spends time with I learn that every student visits the library every week. I ask CJ individuals or small groups of children who might need extra why he thinks dinosaur books are so popular. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘you help with their learning tasks.’ don’t see them now because they’re all extinct. That makes them Teachers invest a lot of their time planning, evaluating and more interesting.’ I also learn that this is ‘book week’. This year collaborating to make the system work successfully but they all two special guests have arrived to read to the children. They are say that they would never want to go back to single classroom the Palmerston North Mayor and local Member of Parliament, teaching. ‘What children are achieving through this structure Iain Lees-Galloway. It is not unusual for the mayor and local MP convinces me it is the way to go,’ says to pop in just to touch base. I suggest the mayor of Lin. Tia tells me that the following A class maths expert, Dean Parsons day, everyone will be coming to Palmerston North should school dressed as their favourite would agree. ‘Because I enjoy teaching maths and love maths myself, I am issue an invitation to John book character. And what happens able to share my maths expertise if you don’t have a favourite book with a much wider group of children, Cleese to make a return visit character? ‘You’ll just have to write teaching what I really love most and your own book!’ she says. to Palmy North and this another teacher who is great in Literacy The positivity of the ambassadors or the Arts will have a strong influence time take him to Hokowhitu is irresistible. I learn how the in those areas, so we are all using our learning workshops actually work strengths to benefit more children.’ ‘I Primary School . . . and how kids help each other with couldn’t have that sort of influence in their learning tasks so their friends a single cell classroom structure,’ he said. can be as smart as they are! ‘You manage your own learning here,’ The ultimate test of the pedagogy is to get direct feedback says CJ, ‘and you move up through the grades. You start off in from the students themselves. CJ Reid and Tia Humphrey are proximity learning which means you work close to a teacher. two school ambassadors, assigned to lead me on a school tour. Next you become a novice, an apprentice, a practitioner and then I am amazed at their level of knowledge not just of the school you’re an expert,’ he said. ‘You’re just getting better and better at surrounds and its history but their understanding of everything self-managing learning,’ he says. that happens in the school, including how they all learn and how I hear about the wonders of science and that chemistry is fun. free thinking is encouraged. ‘We are learning about chemical reactions,’ says CJ. ‘Everyone

Children work at their learning tasks in the foreground whilst teachers lead two workshops in the background


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Principal Lin Dixon often visits classrooms and engages with the children

does science. We are burning steel wool to watch what happens and doing some taste testing, then we record what we see and taste,’ says an enthused CJ. The pair tell me that the way learning is organised at their school won’t work on its own. ‘You need monitors,’ says Tia. Different people are chosen for different tasks, like moving equipment round, getting out the art supplies, helping in the library and so on. ‘We have twenty monitors to do all that work,’ says Tia. We concluded our school tour at Te Kete Tangaroa (TKT), ‘home’ of the seniors. There I met school councillor, Jenson Bate. He talked about the importance of systems and planning too, to make the school work. Then he introduced me to the latest class statistical investigation. Displayed on the wall was a graph showing the types and student participation rates of winter sports for TKT. Some twenty sports were listed with the most popular showing as basketball. But there was one sport with just one participant. It was Go-Karting. ‘Look!,’ the lone participant said proudly, ‘I’m the only one!’ I suggest the mayor of Palmerston North should issue an invitation to John Cleese to make a return visit to Palmy North and this time take him to Hokowhitu Primary School where he will overdose on positivity and creativity and where the children will give him a fair and frank debate on the virtues of their much treasured city.

N Z Principal | S e p t e m b e r 2 0 17


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Wellbeing In Education Making time for wellbeing in NZ schools Dr. Denise Quinlan

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‘We’d love to do more for wellbeing – but where will we find the time or money?’ Principals and teachers are increasingly concerned about staff and student wellbeing. A growing number of schools have decided that despite the challenges, wellbeing must come to the top of their list. The recent upsurge of interest, particularly within education, is fuelled by two trends. We have increasing numbers of students suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, and, on the other, robust evidence accumulating to show that wellbeing facilitates learning and ‘protects’ mental health. The latest Pisa1 and UNICEF2 reports in June 2017 identified NZ as having the highest level of youth suicide in the OECD and second highest proportion of students reporting feeling unsafe at school. Mental health issues are expected to be the biggest health burden in the developed world within the next twenty years. Anecdotally, schools report increasing student anxiety, depression, and behaviour disorders and staff stretched to deal

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with them. Encouragingly, a growing body of research demonstrates that high wellbeing can protect against many of the mental health challenges facing young people. Furthermore, student wellbeing predicts classroom engagement and academic achievement. One leading Australian researcher, Dr Donna Cross, describes wellbeing as ‘the oil of learning’. Importantly, research demonstrates our wellbeing is not fixed and can be increased. Programmes to build staff and student wellbeing have been successfully applied in New Zealand and Australian schools. Although programmes to build specific aspects of wellbeing have existed for several decades (e.g. social and emotional skills, and resilience), attention has turned more recently to whole school wellbeing. One approach, known as Positive Education combines wellbeing science with best education practice. A broader remit than pastoral care, Positive Education considers how the whole school system contributes to staff, student and school community wellbeing. Wellbeing becomes a lens through which decision relating to curriculum, pedagogy, relationship management, and policies and practices are evaluated. Positive Education emerged from positive psychology, the branch of psychology dedicated to the study of what enables human flourishing, and aims to support individual, school and community flourishing. Contrary to sceptics’ fears, it’s not selfindulgent navel gazing. Wellbeing in Positive Education is about ‘feeling good and functioning well’. High wellbeing is associated with greater social contribution and volunteering as well as improved learning and achievement. Australian researcher Lindsay Oades points out that Positive Education equips students with the knowledge and skills they need ‘to develop their own and others’ wellbeing.’ Whole school wellbeing programmes typically adopt a model of wellbeing, align teaching and learning to support wellbeing, and implement changes to ensure policies build, rather than diminish, wellbeing. Models of wellbeing adopted in New Zealand include Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Wha, adaptations of Martin Seligman’s PERMA model, the Mental Health Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing, or the UK-based Wheel of Wellbeing (See table/sidebar). A quick glance at these models reminds us that as leading positive psychology researcher, Dr Chris Peterson, used to say, ‘wellbeing is plural’. Wellbeing is not one thing but many practices. For some people, fun and amusement (positive emotions) are essential for their wellbeing. For others, it’s pursuing meaningful activities or helping others (meaning and purpose). For most of us, across the life span, relationships are the single biggest contributor to wellbeing. Knowing their ‘go to’ wellbeing practices must surely feature on the list of skills parents and teachers want for school leavers as they face challenging new

environments. This knowledge, often described as wellbeing literacy, is not just what parents want their children to know. It is also part of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC), featuring in the vision, key competencies, and Health and Physical Education learning area of the NZC (NZC, 2007, L7 HPE: ‘students will assess their health needs and identify strategies to ensure personal wellbeing across the lifespan’). Although the name ‘Positive Education’ is new, the content is familiar to educators as it provides scientific evidence for what excellent teachers have always done. Positive Education offers frameworks and strategies that help educators get to know the student’s strengths, passions, challenges; to value the student’s experiences outside the classroom; and to use this knowledge to engage and motivate the student for learning and their future. As part of whole school wellbeing students and staff learn evidence-based scientifically validated strategies and tools for resilient thinking, wellbeing literacy, building self-efficacy and mindsets that foster learning and growth. Staff learn and teach practices that support inclusion and connection, feeling safe and valued, and build supportive relationships throughout the school for students and staff. One of these practices is adopting a strengths focus. For many schools, this is a valuable first step in developing a school culture that supports wellbeing. Based on the notion that ‘what’s right with us is as real and as important as what goes wrong with us’, a strengths focus requires deliberately placing attention on the positive character and attributes of students, staff and the school. Many schools adopt a specific list of strengths – there are at least three popular classifications – and develop a shared language of strengths. Staff and students are encouraged to identify and develop their own strengths, practices shown to build engagement and achievement. When students are encouraged to notice strengths in others (strengths spotting) the benefits are even greater. Research I have conducted with New Zealand primary and intermediate schools found increases in student relatedness and class climate, as well as classroom engagement and wellbeing after a strengths programme. Teachers who took part in the study said the strengths classification gave them a common language for valuing each other and they found it easier to notice what was right with their students. One teacher noted that it gave students from very challenging backgrounds ‘something to be proud of ’. I hadn’t appreciated how significant that could be for a student until a Year 7 boy told me, ‘I used to think I was just a bundle of trouble walking around. Now I know I have strengths’. A number of teachers noticed more caring in the classroom; a student who was previously teased was now accepted by classmates and protected in the wider school environment. Happily, strengths are often taken to heart by those who most

need them. A Year 8 boy described by all his teachers as a ‘born trouble maker’ replied immediately to my question ‘What do you think your strengths are?’ ‘I’m really good at raising the energy of a group’, he said. Absolutely! A natural leader without a positive outlet for his strengths. When we identify the strengths in the person or behaviour we can more easily offer positive acknowledgement or channel those strengths constructively. My hope for this student is that his future teachers are as skilled as he is at strengths spotting. The first national conference in Positive Education was held in Christchurch in April 2017. With speakers from the USA and Australia, the conference attracted over 250 educators from around New Zealand, all looking to build wellbeing in their schools. Speakers, including this writer, emphasised that whole school wellbeing is not a programme to tick off. Rather, it is a philosophy and an approach to education that puts wellbeing of staff and students at the heart of learning and takes several


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Wellbeing Models Te Whare Tapa Whā.

Developed by Sir Mason Durie, the whare represents holistic wellbeing or hauora. The whare’s walls represent emotional and mental (te taha hinengaro), physical (te taha tinana), social (te taha whānau), and spiritual (te taha wairua) wellbeing.


[] Martin Seligman’s PERMA model proposes positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and purpose, and accomplishment as pathways to wellbeing. This model adds vitality (built through ‘eat, sleep, move’) as an essential component of wellbeing.

Five Ways to Wellbeing

[] The UK’s New Economics Foundation distilled over 4,000 research articles on wellbeing onto a postcard advocating five effective wellbeing strategies: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, and Give.

Wheel of Wellbeing

[] This UK-based health promotion initiative builds wellbeing through practices that look after body, mind, spirit, people, place and planet.

years to fully implement. There is widespread agreement that staff (and leader) wellbeing must be on the agenda given that teacher wellbeing impacts student learning [ref] as well as being a worthwhile goal in its own right. Australian teacher, Sophie Fenton, speaking of the need to address teacher wellbeing in education states, ‘the whole person is in the learning space – we need to pay attention to the social and emotional dimension of teaching for teachers as well as students’. Whole school wellbeing involves a culture change for most schools that takes time and is developed at multiple levels: schools must ‘learn, live, embed, and teach’ wellbeing. Schools can build wellbeing on a budget but need to allocate staff time to learning about wellbeing so they can ‘live it’ and ‘teach it’. Most schools take about three years to embed wellbeing practices and develop a shared language of wellbeing and strengths. Part of this process involves training for staff in the scientific evidence, practices and tools that enhance school wellbeing. How and where to begin? It’s OK to start small and build slowly if that’s what your school can manage. What works for most schools is: begin by acknowledging and celebrating your existing wellbeing work. A Wellbeing Audit captures the good work already done across the school to support wellbeing by staff, students, community, or Board. It includes the ‘thank you’ morning tea the Board of Trustees throw for staff each year, the teachers versus students touch rugby game, and the art project making ‘happy hats’ that tell stories of what makes students happy. The Wellbeing Audit respects the people and the work of your school, builds buy-in for future wellbeing work, and identifies areas of strength on which you can build. Conduct a Wellbeing Inquiry (using the technique of Appreciative Inquiry developed by Dr David Cooperrider) where your school community shares stories of times your school has been at its very best supporting wellbeing. Notice the themes: the positive qualities and strengths that your school can acknowledge and build on. As part of this process, participants identify their vision for the school’s wellbeing future, and the next steps that will move them closer to that goal. Sharing stories of your school at its best offers a balance to time spent focused on challenges and setbacks, and generates excitement and enthusiasm. Many teachers comment that they have never shared these stories before and describe the process as reinvigorating. On a practical note, the process of building wellbeing in your school should add to wellbeing rather than detract from it. If wellbeing feels like another overwhelming burden, stop and find a different way to approach it. Each school will need to chart its own specific course, appropriate for your context and priorities.


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If you begin by noticing what is right in your school and how you could build on it, you have implemented a strengths focus and are underway. Footnotes 1. PISA Report (2015). 2. UNICEF Report Card. advocacy/global-report-card Bio Dr Denise Quinlan researches and teaches the science of well-being. She has published in international journals on positive psychology, resilience and well-being. The developer of a successful classroom-based strengths programme that positively influences student well-being, engagement for learning, relatedness, and class climate, Denise is committed to building wellbeing knowledge in NZ education. Denise works with schools in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, researches university student well-being, and lectures in strengths-based team development. Denise has a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, where she studied and subsequently worked alongside positive psychology thought leaders Professor Martin Seligman and Dr Karen Reivich. As part of the UPenn team she delivered resilience and well-being programmes to educators in the UK and Australia (including Geelong Grammar and St Peters Adelaide in Australia, and Wellington College in England). Her PhD from the University of Otago, Dunedin, broke new ground in development and understanding of strengths-based approaches in schools. Denise is a Research Fellow at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, a lecturer on the Executive Masters of Positive Leadership and Strategy at IE University Business School, Madrid, Spain, and delivers an ASQA accredited Diploma of Positive Psychology for LGI in Australia.

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‘Learner agency’ – Is it really as simple as all that?

Jennifer Charteris

Dianne Smardon

Jennifer Charteris and Dianne Smardon

University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia

Whether you are in a school that is retaining single cell spaces, have remodelled, or purpose built an innovative learning environment, student ‘agency’ has gained traction as a ‘buzzword’. The notions of the 21st century learner, the use of mobile technologies, and innovative schooling design are influences that, when taken together, have led to a focus on relationships in classroom spaces. There is a spotlight on learner agency. What do we mean by learner agency? Is the model of the self-directed/ self-managing/ self-regulated learner with ‘choice and voice’ really the go? This is the view of agency where the learner knows the assessment for learning recipe, can follow teacher instruction, and is compliant with classroom norms and protocols. In this article we share a typology of agency we have developed through our research with Aotearoa principals (Charteris & Smardon, 2017). Agency can be thought about in different ways, as our typology indicates, and these differences have implications for teaching and learning. (See Table 1.)

We identify four forms of agency that can be seen in Aotearoa classrooms – sovereign, relational, ecological and new material. Firstly, there is agency associated with the sovereign self, an autonomous learner that has emerged from self-determination theory. We found that this was the most common interpretation of agency among the 38 Aotearoa school leaders in our case study. Typified by ‘choice and voice’, this account of agency privileges ‘empowerment’, and ‘student responsibility’, with little consideration given to socio-cultural factors and power relations in the learning environment. (This is elaborated below.) Secondly, there is relational agency – produced through sociocultural influences. Relational agency addresses ones’ capability to work with peers to ‘strengthen purposeful responses to complex problems’ (Edwards, 2011, p. 34). It involves interaction with others’ understandings and the integration of others’ perspectives into one’s decision making. Children work with their peers, understanding both the motives of others and the resources that together they bring to a shared task. We see relational agency in classes where teachers promote a lot of dialogue. Thirdly, we have ecological agency, which is a temporally embedded (time related) process of social engagement, where young people shape their actions in response to their learning contexts. This is where what we bring from the past, connects with the sociocultural resources in the present, and can be projected as a capacity to act in the future. In ecological terms, agency is built on past achievements, understandings and patterns of action with both short and long term considerations. As Priestley and colleagues point out (2012), ecological agency ‘varies from context to context based upon certain environmental conditions of possibility and constraint’ (p. 2). The beliefs, values and attributes that students mobilise in particular situations are important. Engagement with this sort of agency requires us to think about the children’s histories. How do beliefs, values and attributes generated in the past, influence students use of materials, involvement with people and approaches taken to learning in the circumstances of their current classroom? How can they be equipped emotionally, socially, culturally and physically to take future action as agentic learners in particular learning contexts? Ecological agency is located learning, at a point in time that feeds into a future purpose.

Table 1. A typology of agency Agency

Functional definitions

Associated Theories


Individual students can be provided opportunities by teachers to exert agency. It is possible to possess it. It is enacted through choice. It is intrinsic.

Cognitivism, Mindsets Self-determination theory


Relational agency is co-produced in spaces between people. It is dialogic and socially produced and consequentially is a dynamic that resides in social environments. It is therefore situational; located in the dynamic between extrinsic and intrinsic elements.

Socio-cultural theory


Agency is a temporally embedded process of social engagement that is informed by the past, oriented to the future and enacted in the present.

Socio-cultural theory

New material

Agency is always in flux and flow – generated through a range of elements within schooling spaces. It is co-produced in relations, between humans and objects, and between humans.

New material theory

(Adapted from Charteris & Smardon, 2017 p. 6) N Z Principal | S e p t e m b e r 2 0 17


Finally, there is an emerging recognition that objects are measuring of their submission to what amounts to little more agentic and influence classroom spaces. As an example, ILE than coercive operations of power’ (McPherson & Saltmarsh, have the potential to support flexible pedagogy and prompt 2016, p.6). Student individuality and competitiveness is a rethinking of learner agency. We see the affordances of privileged, with each learner shaped as an economic unit and objects in learning spaces, influencing the sorts of learning objectified to meet the demands of a market economy. taking place – e.g. flexible furniture/moving walls influencing In the classroom, sovereign agency involves a relatively simplistic possibilities for individual, peer to peer, or group learning. In conception of power relations. Power is seen as a possession, another example, acoustics in poorly that teachers can deploy, give away, designed spaces negatively impact on We have heard of ‘ILE or take back. For example, we have student learning (and possibly teacher seen curriculum support materials nerves). Further, the agency of the refugees’, where teachers describing agency as ‘ownership’. This objects and structures in classroom a controlling stance, where agency have left schools because of isis something environments can prompt resistance that teachers can impart to ILE spaces. We have heard of ‘ILE redesigned spaces. to students, a form of empowerment refugees’, where teachers have left and responsibilisation. Subtleties of schools because of redesigned spaces. Objects are influential in resistance are ignored or negated and certainly not seen as a relationships. demonstration of agency. Furthermore, when agency is seen as responsibilisation, the Is there a problem with sovereign agency? onus is on learners to accept responsibility for themselves and Learner agency is seen as conducive to 21st century learning and participate in acts of self-surveillance and control. Student choice the evolving pedagogy of ILE. Yet the notion, if unquestioned, becomes a ‘forced choice,’ as there are few options really but is problematic. Just as student voice becomes merely a ‘quality to conform, where the ‘chosen' line of action is really the only control’ manoeuvre, aligned with neoliberal moves to leverage possible action (Davies, 2000). school improvement, agency can be located in the same way. Agency is fraudulent when there is only a limited role for Sovereign agency is based on ‘individuals’ freedom of students to be significant stakeholders in the educative process expression, action and choice in the marketplace’ where they and there is little scope for their advanced status in classroom are ‘activated, responsibilised, individualised, moralised , and/or relations and schooling decision making. A robust conception freed’ (Miller, 2015, p. 350). The student as ‘autonomous agent’ of agency prompts us to move beyond low-level individualistic is a commodified conception of personhood where individuals conceptions of ‘managing self ’ to the recognition that learners ‘realise fulfilment brought about by continual monitoring and develop identities in relation to the material, temporal, relational

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and spatial dimensions of classrooms. Possibilities for democratic About the Authors participatory pedagogy and agency may be reduced to rhetoric if Dr Jennifer Charteris is a teacher educator with teaching experience the focus on students as sovereign selves remains a primary focus. in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. She has worked with students, It is timely to consider approaches to agency, with the teachers, principals, school communities and school in-service advisors prominence it has in our current parlance. In writing this piece, across the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. Her doctoral research we recommend an expanded consideration of agency that was in the area of learner agency. As an in-service teacher educator with the University of Waikato, Jennifer provided professional learning for recognises relational, ecological and new material dimensions. principals and teachers that aimed to raise This is in order to engage with a student achievement through targeted richer conception of pedagogy, We caution against a assessment for learning and culturally than one that focuses exclusively responsive pedagogies. She is currently on learner responsibilisation. The sovereign approach Senior Lecturer of School Pedagogy at the University of New England in Armidale various forms of agency position that places a focus on Australia. learners in different ways, and Ms Dianne Smardon is based in Hamilton influence approaches to teaching individual motivation and and undertakes contract work for the and learning. It is therefore important University of New England as a teacher unquestioned learner to understand the limitations of educator in Nauru. She led Assessment sovereign agency. responsibilisation. and Curriculum professional development We caution against a sovereign projects for teachers and school leaders in approach that places a focus on individual motivation and Aotearoa/New Zealand with the University of Waikato. She has worked unquestioned learner responsibilisation. These are ‘unsociological’ with school leaders and teachers as a consultant in Hong Kong. In and ‘de-politicised’ conceptions of learning (Istance & Kools, researching teacher education in Aotearoa/New Zealand and the Pacific, 2013, p. 48). We suggest that the typology illustrated here may she has contributed to a range of research teams. She has published support teachers and leaders to avoid simplistic notions of ‘choice research articles on school leadership and systemic improvement though and voice’ to make explicit the nuances of agency in classroom collaborative peer coaching practices. settings. Acknowledgement The authors wish to thank the Principals across New Zealand who contributed to this research. References Charteris, J., & Smardon D. (2017). A typology of agency in new generation learning environments: emerging relational, ecological and new material considerations. Pedagogy, Culture and Society. Available at AsDXs66xAJGFXi7tQcA3/full Davies, B. 2000. A body of writing 1990–1999. Walnut Creek, CA: Rowman & Littlefield. Edwards, A. (2011). Building common knowledge at the boundaries between professional practices: Relational agency and relational expertise in systems of distributed expertise. International Journal of Educational Research, 50(1), 33–39. Istance, D., & Kools, M. (2013). OECD Work on Technology and Education: innovative learning environments as an integrating framework. European Journal of Education, 48(1), 43–57. DOI: 10.1111/ejed.12017 McPherson, A., & Saltmarsh, S. (2016). Bodies and affect in nontraditional learning spaces. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 1–10. DOI:10.1080/00131857.2016.1252904

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The result is the Teaching and School Practices Survey that covers effective teaching practices, school practices and principal leadership, in a survey that takes teachers and principals around 10–15 minutes. Thanks to Ministry of Education support, use of the tool is free in Terms 2 and 3 each year. The principal leadership and school practices questions in the tool draw on four key strands of research, including collaborative leadership. ‘School principals sometimes feel pressure to be “heroic leaders”, but the research shows this model is not effective,’ Cathy Wylie said. Collaborative leadership enables continuous improvement and development and ensures that school leadership is sustainable. NZPF President Whetu Cormick encourages principals and

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NZCER’s Educational Leadership Practices survey was available for school leaders from 2009 to 2016. This year NZCER has released a new tool, the Teaching and School Practices Survey tool. We wanted to know what has changed, and what the new tool can do for schools. Cathy Wylie, Chief Researcher at NZCER, has been involved in both tools. ‘We develop and update these tools because research consistently points to the difference leadership makes for educational outcomes,’ Cathy Wylie said. ‘School leadership is a large and complex role, and the administrative and organisational demands can make it challenging to maintain a focus on pedagogical leadership.’ The Educational Leadership Practices survey (ELP) was based on the Educational Leadership Best Evidence Synthesis1 and the vision for New Zealand educational leadership set out in Kiwi Leadership for Principals. ‘The Best Evidence Synthesis framed school leadership as leadership of an organisation that is continually learning and enquiring,’ Cathy Wylie said. She added that the adoption of the tool proved its value to school leaders. It was used in the Experienced Principals Development Programme, the FirstTime Principals programme, and by individual schools and some school clusters. ‘Principals who found the ELP survey valuable told us that they and their staff used the results to spark discussion of deeper aspects of pedagogy and how school processes could better support desired change,’ Cathy Wylie said. ‘It helped identify where to make the best use of that scarce resource, time. It was also really interesting for principals to see how their own view related to teachers’ views. The tool spurred self-evaluation and ongoing data-using inquiry cycles.’ In 2016 it was time for a refresh. Time pressures also meant schools needed a shorter survey, and they needed to get their results as soon as they were ready. Cathy Wylie looked for more recent research literature on effective school leadership to see what further insight had been gained since 2009. She also looked at leadership standards and surveys designed for formative purposes, and ERO’s Leadership for Equity and Excellence and Professional Capability and Collective Capacity domains in the School Evaluation Indicators. ‘There’s a much greater emphasis on inquiry and relationships for teachers, too’ Cathy Wylie said. If a new tool was to be developed, it had to give good information on key parts of effective teaching practices.’


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schools to participate. ‘The tool will give them valuable insights into their practice,’ he said. ‘Reflecting on the items will help you with your leadership and teaching practice.’ Whetu Cormick was part of the advisory group for the tool, representing NZ Principals’ Federation, along with representatives from NZ Educational Institute, NZ Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools, Post Primary Teachers’ Association, Secondary Principals’ Association of NZ, and NZ School Trustees Association. ‘I was delighted to be involved with the advisory group and found the developers open to suggestions,’ Whetu Cormick said. The advisory group also worked with the Education Review Office, the Education Council, and the Ministry of Education. ‘In terms of time-management,’ Whetu Cormick says, ‘the tool is well designed.’ ‘I’ve had anecdotal feedback from schools that have done the survey, and it’s not onerous. We always think “I haven’t got time”, but once they start, they’ll see how short the survey is.’ The developers were aware that time, choice, and privacy would affect perceptions of the tool. ‘We’ve developed and trialled this as a formative tool. For it to work as intended, teachers need to know it is not compulsory and that individual responses can’t be identified,’ Cathy Wylie said. ‘Individuals might want to print their responses for their own reflection or performance appraisal, but that is their decision.’ Want to find out more? Go to

References 1 Robinson, V., Hohepa, M., & Lloyd, C. (2009). School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying what works and why. Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]. Wellington: Ministry of Education. series/2515/60169/60170 About the Author Cathy Wylie works on a number of long-running research projects, including the national surveys of primary, intermediate, and secondary schools that started with Tomorrow’s Schools in 1989. She leads the longitudinal study, ‘Competent Children, Competent Learners’, which has tracked subjects from early childhood to early adulthood. Cathy’s 2012 book Vital Connections: Why we need more than self-managing schools argues for better support across the education system to improve student outcomes. She sees leadership as a key factor in improving outcomes. Cathy led the development of the Teaching and School Practices Survey tool.



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School Lines The Rise and Rise of CoLs (Common old Lollipop $yndrome) The Decline and Demise of a Common Sense Lester Flockton

Some important Definitions Passion:

a forceful driver fuelled by what is believed.


an opinion or conviction that is not necessarily supported by what holds to be true.


Division into two contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs.

Alternative Facts:

statements intended to contradict other more verifiable, but less palatable, truths.


successful accomplishment of something that is dependent on multiple factors, of which the teacher may be one, but never the only one.

During an informal discussion with a senior Governmentaligned politician, I asked whether he believed that CoLs would lead to significant gains in student achievement. ‘Of course they won’t. It’s about politics. It’s about capture into an ideologically driven big-sell policy package through the lure of money and privileges,’ he replied. During a perchance meeting with a well-known principal, he surprised me by declaring that he happens to be a CoL leader. I asked what led him to this. Straight up he replied, ‘The money. Might as well take what’s going. But I never realized that I would now need so many Ministry people hovering around to “help” me do my job!’ During a reflective discussion with a senior principal of a large school with a high percentage of Māori students, he opined, ‘I regret having agreed to join the CoL. I’m convinced it’s not going to do much for our students or our teachers, but if we pull out now, three of our good teachers will lose a lot of money. It’s become very awkward.’ Then I read with considerable disquiet that a ‘showcase’ CoL of high decile schools, with mainly ‘achieving’ students, somehow managed to become first in line for a considerable share of CoL funding. The money allocated to teachers through the Communities of Learning scheme has largely gone to those at the wealthiest schools (located in Auckland) . . . That’s despite the programme being aimed at closing the gap between top-performing students and those at the bottom. (NZ Herald, 8.6.16) But at the time, the then Minister and her Ministry were desperate to get their Investing in Education Success (IES) ignited, and they needed a Little Miss Lucifer, a ‘morning star’, to lead a trail blaze, no matter how needy the group of schools. Data reveals that this front-runner cluster of eleven schools is now garnering over a million dollars in extra salaries, and spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on travel each year.

So is this CoL thing really serious about claims that it will significantly accelerate student achievement (claims that are not supported or substantiated by convincingly robust evidence), and is it true to the Government’s espoused priority of supporting those most at risk of not achieving, and improving equity of educational outcomes? Or is it really about grandstanding a policy of well-intentioned virtue wrapped in sugar coated platitudes? Consider these questions in relation to statements made by the former Minister of Education: Having broad support (for IES) as we look to raise student achievement is great for kids, parents, schools and our country as a whole. This investment is part of a comprehensive range of practical measures we’re delivering . . . to help families and children and I look forward to seeing the first communities of schools from the first term of 2015. The initiative is expected to make a significant contribution to raising student achievement (by raising the quality of teaching). New Zealand has an achievement challenge. Our top students are doing as well as students anywhere in the world but there is a big gap between our top performing students and those who aren’t doing so well. Too many Māori and Pasifika students, students from low socio-economic families and those with special education needs, continue to be under-served by the system. Investing in Educational Success will respond to this achievement challenge. The Government expects it to accelerate achievement and to improve equity of educational outcomes. (Hekia Parata, 3.6.14, But, as has been repeatedly noted in previous School Lines articles, the quality of teaching in New Zealand is high by international standards, and the teacher is by no means the only determiner of student achievement, as made very clear by OECD: In a study of 25 school systems, it was found that ‘the first and most solidly based finding is that the largest source of variation in student learning is attributable to differences in what students bring to school – their abilities and attitudes, and family and community background’ (OECD, 2005). It is a curious matter, therefore, as to why so much play has been made around teacher capability by the CoL regime rather than the core concern of the ‘gap’ in learning opportunity between students in high and low decile communities. Is this a case, therefore, of policy distortion through ‘alternative facts’, because it is not a proven fact or truth that this scheme in its present N Z Principal | S e p t e m b e r 2 0 17


form will lead to raised student achievement across the board for those most in need. It’s simply a hope. Not a fact! I reason that it might work well for a few, but not for most, bearing in mind: Objectivity is based on unbiased information, not feelings or personal interpretations. Subjectivity mixes facts with feelings, which leads to biased information. The NZPF President has been quizzing the Ministry about the real and foreseeable purposes and intentions of CoLs, especially given the recent changes to the Education Act with their farreaching implications for how schools might be governed, managed, resourced and controlled. The Ministry’s responses so far have been less than convincing, elusive, and characteristically sugar-coated (keep it sweet). Understandably, the Ministry is beholden to their Minister, but it also helps fuel and shape the Minister’s intentions. It is the sauce that helps the spaghetti slip down the throat! Indeed, it might be foolhardy to put too much store on what and how it is feeding out to schools, a viewpoint reinforced by recent revelations from the ombudsman that the Ministry’s work with the government was kept secret from schools in the matter of Christchurch school closures. Without doubt, this finding is most likely only one case in point. Regardless, the initial intention of CoLs was declared at the outset (see above), bearing in mind that the meaning of ‘achievement’ has been severely narrowed down to the Government’s National Standards and NCEA targets, despite numerous other aspects of educational achievement that are particularly relevant to preparing students for satisfying and


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successful lives in an increasingly complicated social, cultural and economic world. Most regrettably, a major downside for the profession that has emerged from all of the hoo-ha and hype surrounding the multi-million dollar CoL $yndrome, is the further undermining and deterioration of what we might call ‘common sense’ among school leaders. In this context, common sense refers to perceptions, understandings, judgements and decisions that are widely shared by (‘common to’) school leaders, and can reasonably be expected of nearly all without need for a lot of debate. The recent NZPF CoLs survey, for example, shows that principals are far from being of one mind when it comes to CoLs, as indicated in their disparate statements. A few examples: ■■ ■■


■■ ■■

‘CoLs have huge potential to be transformational.’ ‘A sad, sad “solution” that is going to be used in ways that do not enhance the schooling experience of our tamariki and whānau.’ ‘If I had known what I know now, I would not have signed up to join a CoL.’ ‘Really enjoying the process.’ ‘I am deeply suspicious of the Ministry of Education and its expansionist agendas for CoLs, their leaders, Boards, and resource controls. These agendas have been authorised in Parata’s changes to the Education Act.’

Principals are almost evenly split in their beliefs that their participation in CoLs will lead to sharing of teacher expertise, improved innovation in teaching, school transitioning, the sharing of facilities, reduction of competition, etc. Overwhelmingly, however, a large percentage believe that too much is being expected of CoLs. So we might ask, why are such demanding expectations being tolerated? Clearly, policies and programmes that polarise the profession, are policies and programmes that should be sent to the cleaners, and CoLs are a case in point, yet submissions for an improved model have been repeatedly ignored. So where does this leave the collegium of school principals? Is it time to face up to and tackle the forces of polarisation and to find a universal ‘we’ – or do we continue to have those who consider themselves to be leaves, without knowing that they are part of a tree (Speilberg, 2016)? Footnotes (1) When speaking to graduating students at our College of Education, the college principal told us that we were about to join a ‘noble’ profession, and I then believed it to be so. Can we say the same of today?

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(2) There is no question about the value and importance of collaboration and sharing of knowledge and experiences within every profession. But Government cannot manufacture the conditions for true professional collaboration according to a set of operational structures and rules overseen and monitored by their bureaucrats. That is, if you play the game our way and with our rules, you’ll get lollipops. If you don’t, you won’t!

Got time for professional reading? Helen Kinsey-Wightman

Jan Robertson’s book on coaching has been a long time companion – as a first time principal my appraiser loaned it to me and for 6 months it diligently sat on my bedside table. It was briefly accompanied by a copy of 50 Shades of Grey that a friend thrust upon me and urged me to read because ‘everyone’s reading it’ – fortunately I’ve always been good at resisting peer pressure! Despite the lack of literary competition Coaching Leadership remained unread and I reluctantly returned it . . . Since then, it has been recommended to me at 2 mentoring conferences, by several colleagues and finally by my Principal who read it last year with her Professional Learning Group. Finding the time for professional reading has always been a challenge and I suspect amongst school leaders I may not be alone. Whilst I cannot deny the importance of professional reading and the benefits on my practice when I find the time to do so, there is always something more immediately pressing. Even when there is time, ironically an environment conducive to sustained concentration can be elusive in a school. I have definitely learned that professional reading is not suited to my bedroom after a long day at work! However, I am finally 3 chapters into Coaching Leadership and it is proving to be well written, timely and thought provoking. In chapter 2 Jan Robertson talks about the concept and role of educational leadership. With my thinking increasingly focussed on how our school community can contribute to and benefit from a Community of Learning I was interested to read her views about the role of coaching practices in developing leaders who are able to contribute effectively across communities of schools. In her literature review she references Prof. Brian Caldwell who talks about, ‘system leaders who care just as much about the students in the school down the road as they care about the students in their own school.’1 It struck me that this could be a success criteria for our CoLs to embrace and the saying that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ could be the vision that drives a CoL to raise achievement across all schools. So how have I achieved this professional reading breakthrough? Within my workplace I have several challenging, productive mentor relationships. We mentor each other through touching base regularly, listening to the accounts of the work we have been doing and increasingly asking each other challenging and thoughtful questions about how we can move forward. One of these partnerships began as a focus on mentoring provisionally certificated teachers and has grown into an inquiry into the

implementation of school wide mentoring training for middle leaders and beyond. Meeting with the Principal to discuss the draft of a mentoring target we plan to put into our school action plans for 2018 highlighted the need to develop a definition and a model for mentoring within our school. Thus, we agreed to read Coaching Leadership. Having a joint reading goal (3 chapters by next week) has spurred me into action. Having finally opened the text, I realised Jan helpfully provides a box with a summary at the end of each chapter – a photocopy of these was a great way to organise my notes. During the term break I predicted it shouldn’t be too hard and in the last week I have found some unexpected places to achieve my reading goal . . . chapter 1 was completed at Flip City to the background of pumping music and with the distraction of trampoline propelled tamariki invading my peripheral vision . . . chapter 2 was started in the dentist waiting room and involved resolutely ignoring the upcoming removal of a tooth . . . chapter 3 was completed in a quiet corner of Te Papa while my 6 year old discussed the tentacles of the Colossal Squid with 3 bilingual French children and their nanny. With my reading challenge complete 5 days ahead of the due date, I went to introduce myself to Delphine (the nanny). She was visiting NZ for the first time on a working holiday and is part way through a degree in Psychology. She talked enthusiastically about her aspiration to become a clinical psychologist and how much she was enjoying looking after the 3 small boys. When I told her I was a teacher, she smiled sympathetically and said, ‘I thought about teaching and think I would enjoy it – if only it wasn’t so much work . . . ’ Whilst it was certainly good to meet someone during the school holidays who does not make a comment about how great it must be to be a teacher, to finish workdays at 3pm and get so many holidays . . . as I shuffled my holiday reading back into my backpack I felt slightly sad that our brightest and best students around the world may no longer consider teaching to be the amazing career that it is because of their perception of the workload. References 1 Caldwell, B.J. (2011) The great cultural divide in system leadership. The Australian Educational Leader, 33(3), 14–16

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IT’S ARSON SEASON, SCHOOLS BEWARE! Schools are four times more likely to suffer an arson attack than commercial buildings. All schools can take some simple, inexpensive steps to improve fire safety and reduce the likelihood of arson.


KEEP RUBBISH BINS AND SKIPS WELL AWAY FROM OUTSIDE WALLS • We recommend you keep all fixed bins and wheelie bins at least two metres away from all buildings • Lock and secure bins so they can’t be moved up against buildings.




Empty bins every night and weekend if school grounds are being used e.g. sports, fairs Remove loose combustible items from under buildings e.g. timber, desks, school crafts Lock recycle bin lids after hours Monitor school boundaries, as nearby rubbish can be easily carried to school grounds.




INSTALL/INCREASE SECURITY LIGHTS • Leave external lights on or increase timer periods for sensor lights • Cut back vegetation to make school buildings more visible & minimise places for arsonists to hide.


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INVOLVE THE COMMUNITY • Ask neighbours and parents to keep an eye on the school and report any fires and serious vandalism to the Police immediately.

CONFRONT ALL FIRE-SETTING BEHAVIOUR, NO MATTER HOW SMALL • Report minor fire lighting to the Police as it has been shown it is likely to continue • Increase night security patrols during November • Fire and Emergency New Zealand offer a FREE programme to assist where young people are showing a fascination about fire. For further advice about the Fire Awareness Intervention Programme (FAIP) call 0800 FIRE INFO (0800 3473 4636) or visit our website • Record all information about fire-setting incidents for possible use by Fire and Emergency New Zealand.



Order resources from our Get Firewise programme to teach children general fire safety, go to