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information literacy:
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Gwen Gawith: Re-defining research

Opoho School: The Opoho Possum Hunt

Lester Flockton: SOAPBOX

Martin Burgoyne: Kiwi grass is greener

Neil Burton: Kidsline

Think.com

Gwen Gawith: Thinking digital readers

Jennie McRobbie: Diary of a NEMP author

Stephen May: The problem with literacy

Alan Cooper: Learning styles

John Hellner: We can all be leaders

 

 

This lead article introduces a theme which Good Teacher will explore in 2002 - the many things we are doing well; the many things we should be celebrating...

Martin Burgoyne is an education adviser in Rotherham Local Education Authority. In August 2000 he and twelve teachers from Rotherham schools were funded through the UK Teacher International Professional Development (TIPD) Programme to make a brief visit to New Zealand to investigate ‘Leadership and Management and the use of ICT’. Martin Burgoyne has given permission to reproduce some of his observations, at the same time stressing that the visit was too short to allow other than brief impressions.

It invites us to consider whether others might see us - our strengths and weaknesses - more clearly than we see ourselves.

Maybe we should be spending more time celebrating what we do well, and more PD money cultivating even greener pastures at home?

Is Kiwi grass greener?

Seeing ourselves as others see us.

Martin Burgoyne

Our brief trip to New Zealand highlighted some surprises and innovations. The group highlighted the following interesting comparisons with the UK education system.

Funding and bench marking:

Schools were significantly better funded than schools in the UK. Levels of staffing and resources also seemed to be much higher, though, in general, this was not the case with ICT. Funding depended on the socio-economic make-up of the school’s catchment area. This, over a five-year period, could give a school in a low socio-economic area up to 200% more funding per year than a school in a high socio-economic area. All schools we talked to saw this system as fair and equitable. Decile 10 schools were better able to gain sponsorship and community funding, which offset this differentiated government funding. The group’s view was that this was a significant improvement over the UK system and its reliance on Free School Meals data.

Parents were asked for (and paid) additional cash contributions in many schools. These payments covered a range of purposes, e.g., extra materials for technology, textbooks and writing materials, after school classes and clubs, specialist computer rooms, and even individual pupil computers.

There was intense competition for places in some schools. Schools were able to draw up their own catchment area resulting in an ‘observed’ lottery for places if numbers were too high! This open competition resulted in some very lavish/ expensive school prospectus and marketing tactics.

This competitive open enrolment and a lack of LEAs, or any similar support structure seemed to lead to lack of collaboration across schools, though a group of decile 10 secondary schools had successfully approached government for additional funding to challenge disaffection through a collaborative project.

School leadership and management:

Principals (Head Teachers) appeared to have greater autonomy in the running of their school, with flexibility to set curriculum (within agreed national guidelines) that met the needs of the community. Some principals were from a business background and seemed more entrepreneurial in obtaining sponsorship, without the need for City Colleges, Excellence in Cities, and Education Action Zones, etc. Examples included top name sports coaching, and excellent sporting facilities in one school, and excellent ICT/media facilities in another.

Principals and the Senior Management Teams (SMTs) were well-read and well-informed about current educational research. Many had taken part in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) or research experiences which are being translated into school strategy and practice. The CPD opportunities were available, and were being taken up, and with fewer government initiatives and a non-prescriptive national Curriculum, SMT were more able to pursue their own CPD, with a resulting benefit to the school.

A key effect of the larger budget in New Zealand schools was the significant non-teaching time enjoyed by SMTs, particularly in primary schools. This led to teams of staff being actively supported with planning, development, delivery and administration by their SMT team leader. Another effect of this budget was the use of specialist subject teachers, e.g., D & T, Music, PE. This gave greater timetabling flexibility and non-contact time for teachers, enabling them to meet and plan together with their SMT Team Leader. This resulted in more confident, knowledgeable and relaxed staff.

Schools had a successful Performance Management system which, linked to CPD, was valued by teachers. Its in-depth nature and the time available to non-teaching SMT to carry it out, made for clear goals and targets for staff, which was then backed up with appropriate CPD linked into departmental and school plans. It would seem that the UK’s own emerging system is based on the NZ model, and one can only hope that UK teachers will see an equal value in it.

With no LEA’s each school’s Board of Trustees (Governing Body) appeared to have greater power and accountability in the running of the school, to the point that, if following inspection a school was found to be failing, then its Board would be replaced.

There seemed to be fewer teacher/ staff meetings than in the UK, and many of those took place in school time. There was greater emphasis on meetings being used for joint planning, rather than for information giving.

ICT:

Given the theme of the visit and our expectations, we were surprised at the very limited use of ICT to support literacy, numeracy, etc., though there were some notable exceptions, particularly in the use of multimedia packages. There seemed to be no real government or local ICT strategy. This left ICT provision and development down to individual school priorities. The result was that, in general, in the schools we visited, the use and provision of ICT was behind the UK.

It was reassuring to see that, as in UK schools, expertise and confidence in the use of ICT varied. However in many of the schools visited, a personal ICT target was included into teachers’ Performance Management.

Where good practice was seen, then ICT was successfully integrated into teaching programmes rather than as a discrete ICT lessons, with pupils showing real independence and innovation in its use.

Cultural diversity:

There was much wider cultural diversity in schools than we had expected, one school having 29 nationalities. Together with the high turnover of Pacific-rim and Asian students, this made ESL provision a major issue for secondary schools in Auckland.

The value placed on Maori culture and language was surprising.

There was great emphasis on sporting achievement. Many primary schools started each day with at least ten minutes PE. Secondary schools were proud of the number of All Blacks they had produced, and their success in local sporting contests.

There was a respect for teachers and teaching that some of the group felt we were losing in the UK. This was evident in community support, pupil/ teacher relationships and the whole learning environment.

Curriculum and teaching:

The New Zealand National Curriculum was less prescriptive and seemed less compartmentalised in primary, with greater emphasis on learning goals and basic cross-curricular skills. Children were given more responsibility, from an early age, for their own learning and environment. Emphasis seemed to be placed on managing learning, rather than teaching. Standards of teaching and the pace of lessons may not have found favour against Ofsted criteria; however, the surprise for us all was was that learning was as good as it is in the UK!

In general, pupils were also more independent learners. There was a greater tolerance of what would be unacceptable behaviour in the UK which seemed to be challenged in less disruptive and confrontational ways. Pupils were asked, not told; those not listening were not asked to listen but those who were, were praised.

The plans developed by primary teams with their extensive SMT support were less detailed. Similarly secondary department schemes lacked the detail of our own.

The use of pupil performance data to inform teaching was in its infancy, though some good use was being made of standardised tests in the partnership of decile 10 schools.

Teachers were less stressed than they are in the UK, which is possibly the result of fewer government changes and initiatives. This led to a more calm and relaxed teaching environment, backed up by a brighter school environment, with buildings in a good state of repair and decoration. Primary and intermediate classroom environments were lively and vibrant, despite a lack of displays with double/ triple mounting!

Two interesting examples of pupils being used in a support role were: peer tutoring - sixth formers helping with lessons or mentoring younger pupils; ‘Expert pupils’ in primary who were trained in ICT applications (or who were already knowledgeable) who then taught other pupils. Yes, we have used these ideas as well but they had been formalised in New Zealand.

There was not as much emphasis placed on Reading Recovery as was expected. It appears to have been internalised by schools and ran alongside other schemes and catch up programmes.

Other observations and evaluation:

Facilities and support for staff are better than the UK, e.g, business cards, microwaves and dishwashers in staff rooms, development of resources.

The range of professional publications, Internet pages and centrally produced teaching resources were much more in evidence than they are in the UK.

All participants commented on the calmer, less confrontational style they observed and many want to try out some of these ideas in their own classrooms. Others have identified ideas for promoting greater independence through their teaching, and making children more aware of the learning outcomes involved. Many of the primary teachers have already undertaken activities with their pupils resulting from their experiences in New Zealand, or the teaching materials they brought back.

As the group continues to disseminate the outcomes of the visit across their schools, their EAZs , and the LEA, they are becoming clearer and more articulate about the key outcomes and learning from the visit, insights into teaching and learning, planning styles, behaviour strategies, children as independent learners, the integration of ICT, professionally informed managers.