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Whangarei Girls' High School

Anne Cooper, the principal of Whangarei Girls’ High School, believes taking an Education for Enterprise approach to learning begins at the strategic level. Identifying the values and school culture you want to develop, and having specific goals for the development of an enterprise culture within these, are the first steps. An enterprise culture pervades all aspects of Whangarei Girls’ teaching and learning programmes. The aim is for students to leave with well-developed enterprising qualities, which the school sees as essential for students to contribute positively in the 21st century.

Being an "enterprise school"

Intrinsic to an enterprising approach at the school are opportunities for students to develop the qualities of risk taking, resilience, creativity, problem solving, initiative, teamwork, passion, self-belief, flexibility, reflection, and the importance of effective communication. Having these qualities so closely aligned to the principles, values, and key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum was a huge bonus.

Staff were encouraged to develop their units of work around these qualities, rather than simply being content driven. This also extended to co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Embedding the enterprising attributes within all teaching and learning meant both students and teachers were constantly aware of the skills developed through the learning experiences being offered. Constant evaluation means processes were continually improved and refined to ensure staff were aware of their own practice – knowing what they do to engage students is important, but changing classroom practice is a challenge. The goal is always to encourage teachers to introduce a learning style with a strong emphasis on student involvement and decision making.

Gathering information – assessing where you are at

The staff talked about what enterprise meant at head-of-department and whole-staff meetings, giving examples of the enterprising activities that were already under way in the school. Each department was asked to look at all the things it was doing that fitted within the umbrella of "enterprise education". This was collated and presented back to all staff. Staff were asked to think about what their students had gained as a result of being part of these types of learning experiences, and this information was presented to staff and the board of trustees.

The school saw positive results through having a dedicated enterprise education leader within the school, who worked closely with a small team of cross-curriculum teachers to further develop a shared understanding of enterprise education within the school.

The goal was to move away from the traditional concept of "enterprise" being something that was only undertaken in the commerce department, and to begin sharing with other departments how they could engage students to be enterprising. This meant shifting the perception of what enterprise means, and highlighting the opportunities available to teach in this way across all subject areas.

What were the specific links we made and why did we choose them? What sort of model did we use?

The school didn’t consciously use any particular model, but rather experimented with several. CREATE was a project run at the end of year 9 to show staff and students that every department and every student had something to offer. Put together, it had the potential to be something powerful and amazing.

Some staff initially objected to the business model used and felt the students should not be setting out to make a profit. In some cases, the students could choose to perform a service, rather than be involved in a business.

Each of the 300 year 9 students paid $5, which provided them with their "start-up capital". In groups, they completed a detailed business plan which they carried out, culminating in a lunchtime gala/trade fair. Any profit made was kept by the students. A staff mentor was appointed to each group to help with its business plan. The students were charged for everything they wanted to use throughout their project, including, for example, materials from the art department, petrol for a trip to town in the school van, and power charges for the use of the food room. Students had to learn to do things such as seeking permission if they wanted to leave the grounds, and completing risk analysis forms. Sessions on finance and marketing were held while staff became bankers, van drivers, shopkeepers, and mentors.

The evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, with students articulating what they had gained from the experience. Even the more challenging students were fully engaged, and produced some amazing results. Over the duration of the project, there was no denying the high levels of initiative and entrepreneurship on display. Even the more sceptical among the staff were won over and could see the powerful results of collaboration to achieve a shared goal. Many relationships were strengthened as staff and students worked together in a different way, seeing qualities in each other they had not seen before, and mutual respect was evident.

Other models

The graphics class was involved in several initiatives. One project had students design carpet for the school’s new library, working alongside architects. These students worked on signage for a couple of local businesses that approached them for help. They played a key role in landscape designs for the Student Council, which wanted to improve open areas around the school. At year 13, this extended to having to undertake and complete an assignment for a real client.

Part of the curriculum in year 11’s textiles and fashion programme gave students an opportunity to make a ballgown (timed to fit with the annual school ball). These are displayed later in the year at the Bernina Fashion Awards. This usually attracts 70–80 students to participate, with the girls always doing well, often taking out top prizes and sometimes competing with professional people in the community. Seeing their creations on the catwalk is a wonderful buzz for the students, and teachers receive huge accolades from the organisers every year.

As part of their course, the year 13 textiles and fashion students are required to complete an assignment for a real client. One student chose to work with the prefects to design a uniform, as they had previously worn mufti. This design is now proudly worn by all Whangarei Girls’ High prefects.

Commercial kitchen facilities are available to support the hospitality classes, which have undertaken numerous catering events. Some of these included contracts for the catering of the monthly board of trustees meeting, a staff dinner on parent interview nights, and the school's Jubilee celebrations.

A recent highlight was an outstanding performance of Arsenic and Old Lace by the year 13 drama class, in conjunction with the hospitality class, which catered for a dinner before the show. The show was sold out and attendees were ecstatic with their praise. The profits for the evening were split between the hospitality and drama departments.

Traditionally, the te reo Māori classes have made booklets for a local kohanga reo. The enterprise coordinator saw it as an obvious next step to suggest the students take them to the kohanga reo, read them to the children, and leave them behind as a gift. This extra gesture made it all so much more meaningful for the students.

The school sports education programme, focusing on leadership and coaching, was a golden opportunity to put it all into practice by assisting with the Kinder Olympics. This preschool event involves all the kindergartens coming together for an Olympic-style tournament. The students were able to put all their learning into practice as they officiated across all areas of the programme. It was a win-win community effort, and a wonderful opportunity for students to gain credits towards their NCEA.

Teachers designing teaching and learning programmes to model and develop enterprising attributes

An applied biology class was developed specifically to cater for students who would find traditional biology difficult. The learning centred on a marine environment project, which involved students approaching the local council for information to assist them with their research. The council requested that students come back and present their findings, which resulted in their information being incorporated into some of the council’s own planning. A strong partnership has since formed between the school and the council, with potential for many other projects.

As part of the Tikanga Māori class, year 9 students produce hand-painted rocks decorated with a whakatauki or some other aspect of what they have learned. These rocks are highly valued by the students themselves and by the wider school community. On market days, it is not uncommon for students to produce these to order, personalising them and charging per item. A nice little profit-making venture.

The year 12 graphics class combined with a year 10 enterprise class to work with CCS to develop a map showing the levels of access for disabled people in Whangarei. The purpose was to be able to publicise this information, so as to make life easier for disabled people within the Whangarei community. However, what this study actually highlighted was how inadequate the current facilities are. This led to talk of commissioning students to complete further work.

Monitoring progression

Progression is monitored anecdotally when goals are reviewed; but as the curriculum is implemented, this will be done more formally. The school begins by looking at the key competencies before developing course content. When incorporated into regular professional development sessions where teachers are encouraged to share something they have done, it can be a powerful way to develop insight and knowledge about an enterprise culture within the school. 

Tags:
curriculum design and review
secondary

Published on: 27 Mar 2015


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