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Raurimu Avenue School – Ka Hikitia and wellbeing

"Well-being sits in the centre and smiles out at everything".

Raurimu students in front of whiteboard.

A commitment to Ka Hikitia and well-being lie at the heart of dramatic changes and curriculum development at Raurimu Avenue School, near Whangarei.

Sally Wilson's appointment as principal coincided with a Team Solutions contract led by Rosemary Meyer to develop health and well-being in schools. She drew up a wish-list, developed a plan, focused on behaviour management and reached out to the community. Two years on, she is amazed to see that what seemed to be dreams in the beginning have now been realised.

Sally believes that people matter. Her first priority was to lift student and staff morale.

“It was really important for all of us to leave the school gates tired-out, but harmonious.”

Gathering Data

Sally and the staff gathered data to understand the nature of well-being within their school. The teachers kept weekly record sheets asking questions such as:

  • Did the child want to come to the classroom?
  • Did the child lose energy and momentum by midday?
  • Where are the challenges?
  • In which situations were children strongly engaged with you?

 “We gathered data individually, school-wide and then we shared the information with the community. It has been fantastic. So much so, that we report to our community on the child’s progress and well-being status every term along with their academic achievement so it becomes a complete package, but the two elements are recognised. “

Every child is carefully tracked. It is important to know exactly where each child is for student achievement conversations with an individual student.

Every now and then teachers use the old data to remind them how far they have progressed.

Behaviour recovery

The school introduced a behaviour recovery programme. Sally thought there was merit in Bill Rogers’ ideas – allowing the child to recover their behaviour and giving them strategies to help with that. She says, “If they are able to recover their behaviour, then they are able get on with learning.”

“It’s not about punishment here, it’s about building up success. And it works.”

Effective teaching and learning

There have been many changes for teachers. These changes in practice have consolidated and are now sustained.

“The focus on effective teaching and learning has been challenging for some and others have loved every single minute of it. In fact they’ve welcomed it. I could go to my files and show you pages and pages of teachers’ observations which are followed by huge discussions on the ability to improve practice and the desire to improve practice.“

“We’re in love with the new curriculum here. Absolutely in love with it! The curriculum is about a school having ownership of its needs. E-learning has been a big change for a lot of staff, and allowing children to take over their inquiry learning. Children deciding what happens in the classroom - that’s been a big change as well. That’s starting to happen.”

Raurimu student climbing rope ladder on a tree.

“Because we’ve got well-being up, people want to be involved with learning now. I’m worrying about student achievement, I’m not worrying about behaviour. In this school its about all our students all the time and constantly pushing for that. That’s why we’re getting results – very effective results now too.”

 “We’ve managed to make the changes. When the teachers see the changes in the students and with students becoming more involved in their learning, teaching becomes quite different. The days of leaving – staggering out the gate – are over. Now everyone leaves on an equal footing – we all leave mentally exhausted for the right reasons.”

Ka Hikitia

Raurimu Avenue is predominantly Māori. Each year they deepen their understanding of what that means for their pedagogy and the philosophy for the school. They have developed a strong whānau philosophy, helping to make the school unique –including factors such as:

  • forming relationships to give our students confidence and support
  • providing a base for students to support each other in learning
  • gaining confidence and support from our community
  • providing a culture where all are learning and moving ahead together
  • sharing goals with students so they are able to respond

These are important to improve student learning, behaviour and relationships with the wider community. School leaders have consulted with the staff and community to shape this approach. It has been informed by teachers’ observations on how Māori students like to learn.

“This made a huge difference in some classes. Māori students like time, time to talk to each other to check, to question and confirm learning. When teachers have talked about an idea, students need time to discuss it as well. “

“Ka Hikitia is fundamental to what we are doing in our school. The children have to know what success means for them. You’ll see here on my wall – I have asked kids what does measuring success mean? If the kids can talk about the big ideas, they actually have ownership of these Ministry strategies. “

Josiah (6) knows that attendance means: 
You have to come to school every day.

Havana says: 
Retention means if you’ve learnt something you can use it now, later, anytime and it helps you.

Breeze says: 
Achievement shows what you know and is trying to meet your goals. You may have to work hard to get there.

Hemi says: 
Engagement means asking questions listening and participating so you can really do anything you want in your future.

“Every day we begin with karakia because we are predominantly Māori. A child leads that. It’s a chance every morning for a value to be explored and shared and we move physically together for the day. We all participate in that. Then we bless our kai and we close our day with karakia whakamutunga so that the children are raised in the values that their whānau and community want for them. It’s a way of bringing them together and at that time being able to acknowledge Māori success."

"So it connects with well-being. What makes you feel well? The ultimate way to feel really well is to achieve with your learning. That’s what the community perceived so that’s what we’ve worked towards.”

Building relationships - home and school

Raurimu School staff visit families on a regular basis. “We talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, as it were. We don’t leave anything untouched. But we also go in with praise because that makes our connection worth it. “

The school uses a range of strategies to reach the different groups in the community.

The school has a strong sense of community. Newsletters regularly let them know about curriculum changes– and keep them included. In response, parents write in and comment.

They regularly survey families.

The school hosts informal get togethers at the beginning of summer at the pool-side for a sausage, a BBQ and a swim. “We don’t talk about school – just people to people - and no pressure,” explains Sally.

Over time, the informal gatherings (at no cost and with no pressure for whānau to organise) have developed into interviews with teachers, setting goals at home, encouraging whānau to articulate what they want for their children.

The school is proud of its recent ERO report that singled out as areas of good performance – a commitment to teaching and learning, engagement in learning and a positive tone. The report commented on the learning focus, the differentiated teaching and planning, school-wide planning, formative assessment practices, and professional leadership.

Sally comments, “People want to come to school. Our teachers very rarely have a day off. We plan together and we constantly discuss the new curriculum so that we feel very familiar with it. The key competencies are brilliant and absolutely support what we are doing. And if you look at that document now – it really serves a need of where New Zealand’s at. We need to bring back values. We need to have the competencies as people – to function and get on. And we need to have our languages recognised.”

effective pedagogy
ka hikitia
teaching as inquiry

Updated on: 21 Sep 2012