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The sky is the limit: A learning pathway (archived)

Introduction to the NLC

The title The Sky is the Limit: A learning pathway was suggested to reflect how this NLC has been on a learning journey and still has a long way to go. The sector leader suggested that they were looking at the horizon; that there was no obvious end point for their work. When one goal is achieved other opportunities arise.

This NLC is interesting for two reasons. First, it is a cross sector group and second, it has shifted and changed direction as it has moved along its learning pathway. This shift is a reflection of the needs to move from a strategic consideration of curriculum to implementation and practice. Also of interest is how, while there were some initial difficulties, the sector leader has been willing to make changes, to reflect on what is happening and to work out what is needed.

There are eight schools involved in this NLC, although the secondary school’s involvement has been minimal, in 2010. When the NLC was first formed in 2008 the focus was at a principal and strategic level with the initial goal being to develop a continuum for school-based curricula. While this remains a long-term goal the focus, in 2010, has been on developing and implementing individual school curricula. This NLC is comprised of schools which are linked through geographical proximity and they serve the same wider community. This has been seen as a factor in enabling them to work together.

Late in 2010, the decision was made to shift the composition of the NLC group from the principals to deputy and associate principals (DPs/APs). This was seen as necessary to ensure the implementation of the curricula developed. It was also seen as a way of increasing the knowledge and expertise of this group, who did not have the same level of understanding as the principals of the implications of the New Zealand Curriculum.

Activities and processes

Initially, the NLC was incorporated into a wider cluster meeting held regularly by the principals. However, it became obvious that the NLC work needed to be differentiated from these meetings, to better reflect the importance of the curriculum work. As a result, separate meetings were established. These meetings were very structured and followed definite agendas. There were protocols regarding attendance and contributions. The sector leader filtered material provided at the sector leader training days and ensured others received copies of what was relevant. Other participants also shared resources and ideas.

The final meeting of the principal group was in term 3 of 2010. The DPs/APs also attended this meeting. Future NLC meetings are to occur in the first hour of regularly scheduled DP/AP meetings.

One of the main events for this NLC, in 2010, was a review day held in term 3. Both the principals and APs/DPs were involved. This was a full day during which they reviewed their individual curricula and aligned them with the New Zealand Curriculum. The group discussed what a curriculum is and what it should look like. The focus for the day was to develop a one page representation of their individual curricula, which could then be supported by other materials and resources with links back to the one page. Part of the review process was to determine what resources they already had and what they needed to develop or adapt.

The benefits and highlights for those involved

The benefits and highlights, for the school participants, include the resources provided, the opportunity to share practice and the collegiality and networking that occurs. Learning about what other schools are doing was seen as very valuable; as was the chance to discuss National Standards and to make them meaningful. The participants saw the NLC as recharging their batteries, as reinvigorating them. Key benefits for the sector leader have been the professional development opportunities provided and having the time to focus on curriculum without other issues intruding.

The school communities have benefitted through a more effective implementation of the New Zealand Curriculum and the development of a local curriculum that meets the needs of their students. The principals have been able to bring back ideas and resources and share them at staff meetings and with key people.

In one of the schools the NLC had helped to drive the development of an integrated plan. Through the NLC they had been able to see what other schools have been doing and to draw on their expertise. For another the review day had enabled the school leadership team to get started on pulling their school curriculum together and linking their many resources to one page.

Ingredients for success

For the sector leader, the ingredients for success for this NLC have included building and maintaining relationships and making sure everyone is kept informed, even if their involvement is minimal. It has also been important to be well prepared, to make sure there is always plenty to do that is relevant to the participants. Further, has been the need to ensure that the work of the NLC is always on the agenda of the wider cluster meeting so that it is embedded in their wider practice.

Ingredients, mentioned by the school participants, include having respect for each other, valuing their time together and being willing to hold each other accountable to a commitment. Having professional conversations, being able to question practice without hurting feelings and staying focussed were other ingredients. It was also seen as important to ensure there was some fun involved.


Published on: 17 May 2011