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Boulcott School – Our school curriculum plan

Two years ago, Boulcott School began their curriculum journey with a staff car rally. Now principal Kathy Lye’s main task is to capture, in documentation, all they have subsequently achieved and learnt.

In this snapshot, she shares some strategies they have used along the journey to deepen understanding and action their school curriculum plan.

Car rally | Principles | KCs and LAs | Pedagogy | Evolving curriculum

Boulcott School students.
Curriculum car rally

Staff teams took part in a rally in which they completed a series of rally tasks designed to help them think about and discuss important aspects of the school curriculum. It proved a fun way to introduce the new curriculum.

"Nobody really thought it was hard work. At the end of the rally we all met up and had dinner together. What was happening was that everyone was talking over dinner about the events of the day. At the next staff meeting we came back to the discussions. But what it did was demystify the new curriculum."

Understanding curriculum principles

Recently teachers have explored The New Zealand Curriculum principles in depth. Kathy sets the scene:

"We had embraced the key competencies with enthusiasm, because we could see really good connections for those. But the principles lie in your own personal beliefs. It was a time of celebration, because there were some principles we looked at and thought, well actually, now that we’ve had a good look at that, we’re actually doing a really good job. Maybe it is because we’ve got it as a priority. For others we asked, does that fit in our list of priorities? How well are we doing this?"

Boulcott School - teacher and student.

Principle priorities

Teachers worked in small groups to discuss the order in which they would prioritise the curriculum principles. They pasted these onto large sheets of paper and made notes about the reasons for their decisions.

Next, they placed the principles in order of how well they thought they were reflecting them at school, and had an in-depth conversation about the comparison.

Principle conversations

The teachers’ discussions touched on the ways different people’s roles led them to prioritise certain principles. Some were more relevant to school management, while others were obviously bigger priorities for classroom teachers.

"We wanted to find out if there was a difference between what we thought the priorities should be and why we thought they should be the priorities, and what was actually happening in the school. That was a really illuminating discussion. It was quite fun – and very challenging."

Principles in action

Each group chose one of the principles and wrote goals for the school. The idea was to ensure that if a principle was considered a priority, then the conditions and resources needed to make that well grounded within the school needed to be clear.

Principle reflections

The results had some clear messages for leadership. Kathy comments:

"As a school leader I was interested to see disparities and the things we thought we were not doing so well. I just sat back and asked, OK what am I doing about that? How well am I making that play out?"

Following these staff discussions, curriculum leaders have established new priorities and strengthened the visibility of certain principles within the school.

Key competencies and learning areas

Students at Boulcott School.

While all key competencies are promoted, each term one key competency becomes the focus and is connected with the school-wide unit. For example, during the term where the theme was cultural diversity the key competency was 'relating to others'.

Initially, there was a concern that a whole school approach could drain teaching and learning resources. Happily, the school has discovered that rather than making resources scarce, the whole school approach has resulted in resources pouring in from the community to support the students’ learning.

"If a family have a child in juniors, middles and seniors, round the tea table, everyone’s talking about the same thing, and saying, ‘Oh, Grandma’s got one of those. Can I take it for my class?’ And so the resources the community is able to contribute make a huge difference."

In addition, budgeting has changed to support school-wide planning and resourcing each term. Each term and syndicate has its own budget, rather than curriculum areas.

Term one’s focus was on pushing your limits and managing self. Staff discussed their ideas with children, then asked:

  • When we talk about managing self, what does that mean to you?
  • What do you think we need to be doing?

There has been a real focus on goal setting. The children set goals, and then adjust those goals. Kathy explains: 'That has been a big shift. It’s not teacher driven quite the same.'

An interesting (and gratifying) development was to see a growing number of parents coming in to the school, and also talking about pushing limits.

The school ensures there is learning area definition as they want students to understand the different disciplines and what they look like. When there is a natural opportunity to integrate, they do so.


"The new curriculum has given us an opportunity. We’re not sitting down ticking off objectives any more. We’re thinking, ‘What is the most important thing our children will learn through this experience?’ So it has absolutely opened things up. I think the new curriculum is hugely exciting."

The shifts:

  • ensuring literacy and numeracy are priorities
  • understanding the complimentary nature of curriculum learning areas
  • finding creative ways to engage students
  • making sure that the learning is relevant and achievable for children who struggle with text
  • providing authentic learning contexts
  • regular opportunities to focus on creativity
  • regular opportunities to focus on LEOTC
  • trailing new approaches including cross-grouping from years 1-8.

An evolving curriculum

The curriculum journey continues. There will be ongoing annual evaluation and review to ensure the school is staying true to their beliefs and principles. At the same time the school curriculum document will continually evolve. To be responsive, targets established against student achievements and what we know about students and how they learn may need to change.

"Schools are busy places, so it is important to choose your priorities carefully. I want teachers to enjoy teaching. I want them to be having fun. I want the kids to be having fun with their learning too."


Updated on: 08 Jun 2012