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Wanaka Primary School – Living the vision

Living the vision: ‘Empowering a Community of Learners’


Wanaka primary students at school sign.

Wanaka Primary School has been implementing The New Zealand Curriculum since they undertook a re-visioning and charter review in 2005. They have reached the point where they are focused on living the vision through their everyday interactions.

This is achieved through aligning all that happens within the school to the vision of empowering everyone within the community with the capabilities to live, learn, work, play and contribute as active members of society.

We align our practices to our beliefs by:

  • Living the curriculum in practice, not on paper – evidence in practice.
  • Developing a whole school culture of self reflection and inquiry. This is the glue that builds our interactions so that what we say and do to be who we are, our taha wairua, is congruent with our vision of empowering all learners. A congruent approach means learning in all classrooms and across the schools is shared. Classrooms are deprivatised so it’s "our students, our learning and our school" rather than "my students, my teaching and my classroom". We are building a collective responsibility for student learning.
  • Believing that effective pedagogy is inquiry based and permeates through all learning areas.
  • Focusing on self directing and self managing all work within the school – students and staff alike. Personal and school goal setting for staff and students
  • Student assessment and staff appraisal – using feed back and feed forward, and based on shared practitioner practices and reflection of these.
  • Distributive leadership for staff and students, building capacity across the school at all levels. Principal/leader certainty about teaching and learning.
  • Personalising learning for students, staff and the comunity. Staff PD is focused with a variety of professional learning opportunities. Teachers can opt into whole school, teaching team, curriculum team or breakout initiatives. Parents are invited to take part in professional learning where presentations, open days and the newsletter provide information to help them understand changes at school and inform them about pedagogies and practices.
  • Restorative justice, using mediation and a focus on healing relationships rather than blame or consequences for breaking the rules.
  • 3 way student-led interviews, so parents are involved in their children’s learning and what goes on in the classroom.
  • Using evidence as the basis for decision making, whether it be student achievement data, parent feedback, or teacher discourse based on evidence in practice.
  • The language, philosophy and expectations behind the systems, policies, procedures and processes are in line with our inquiry, self managing philosophy. Documentation is based on evidence of practice with the vision at the forefront.

The most powerful influence for cultural congruence or alignment is face to face, not external systems. Strong collective responsibility, shared leadership and strong school wide networks sustains the change. We are aiming for an aligned environment which will encourage anytime, anywhere learning for all in the expectation of evolving change as part of the school culture.

Distributive leadership

Leading a school is so complex it is no longer possible for principals to do it on their own.

"Distributive leadership" is an empowering framework for all staff to build collective responsibility through individual accountability. Within this framework the leaders' job is to enhance people's skills and knowledge, creating a common culture of expectation, and holding individuals accountable for contributing to the collective result.

At Wanaka Primary School ‘distributive leadership’ is about:

  • Leading learning within and across different teams. It builds self management through collaborative reflective critique based on evidence of practice.
  • Focusing on teaching and learning and on relationships and interactions with people. It is not delegation, management systems nor job descriptions. It is about developing rich conversations using reflective questioning (inquiry) and critical reflection so people examine their own practice critically and are supported in coming to their own solutions rather than being told what to do. Cross school sharing of beliefs about learning and how this fits with the school vision and shared practices foster collaborative practices.
  • Creating opportunities, then providing support and mentoring, and using an inquiry leadership approach.
  • Deprivatisating practice - opening beliefs and practices to the scrutiny of others and promoting each teacher's own reflective thinking about their practice through: shared discourse; sharing stories and showing learning teaching artefacts; in class observation and modelling; reflective practitioner approaches focused on sharing ideas and critiquing pedagogy and practices.
  • Making high quality judgments based on evidence of practice.
  • Knowing staff, their passions and competencies, and developing a common culture that values these so spheres of influence ripple and infuse outwards.

Leading change is about utilising multiple sources of guidance about teaching and learning and having a common culture of expectation.

Dr. Wendy Bamford
Wanaka Primary School

curriculum design and review
leading change

Published on: 09 May 2014