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Strengthening our learning community

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Yolanda Julies, principal at Te Kura Reo Rua o Waikirikiri, discusses how working with all partners in a child's learning has added richness to the school curriculum. The strong relationships that have ben developed provide the platform for developing a localised curriculum.

In the other story in this series Yolanda Julies discusses the importance of establishing a shared understanding and supportive school culture as the school explored the national curriculum documents.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

From New Zealand Curriculum to school curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum (p37) states:

"Curriculum design and review is a continuous, cyclic process. It involves making decisions about how to give effect to the national curriculum in ways that best address the particular needs, interests, and circumstances of the school’s students and community. It requires a clear understanding of the intentions of The New Zealand Curriculum and of the values and expectations of the community."

  • What processes and resources does your school or kura have to support staff and whānau to improve systems, teaching practice, and ways of fostering partnerships?
  • How do you ensure that everyone has an understanding of what you are trying to achieve and where you are going?
  • What elements have you put in place in your school and community to ensure a shared understanding and ownership of the development of the localised curriculum?

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What I want from my child's school: parent voices
Parents from diverse backgrounds explain all the different things that they want from their child's school.


We see ourselves as a learning community. We include whatever we want to achieve in our school in our performance management system and also making sure that professional development is shared across the school but not in individual syndicates. That also helps with the shared understanding.

We share best practice. We have a walk through model that we use during our staff meetings and we get staff to share what they are doing in their classrooms. We have workshops, wānanga for our parents as well as our staff. We also include our support staff because they are the support for our teachers and it is important that they also understand what we are doing for our kids.

We have decided that the relationship model that we have is going to be a model where we have respect for each other and what we do in our classrooms. If we build a great relationship amongst the staff we are able to share with each other in a non-threatening environment. We have developed a buddy system where we have the more experienced teachers supporting the younger teachers, although they come with great and fresh ideas, which we also value as part of our school culture.

During 2009, because we wanted to make sure that everybody has this understanding around what we are doing at Waikirikiri School, we revisited the mission, the vision, the values and the beliefs, just to make sure that everyone is still of the same understanding.

What we decided, if we wanted everyone from the leadership to the students. If we want all of them to be on the same wavelength, we need to filter down information through a certain avenue where we reach everybody that’s involved in our school. We started with the principal being the lead learner, then filtering down that information to our senior management team. Making sure that what we’ve discussed in senior management is filtered down into the syndicates, because we have two syndicates. One is the immersion unit syndicate and the other one is the mainstream syndicate. From there we worked over into the staff meetings.

We had teacher only days. We then decided that we had to bring our parents onboard so we had whānau hui, we had guest speakers, we had pampering sessions, we had father and sons breakfast, we had dads and dudes’ dominoes and dice evening, we had dads and dudes’ fishing days, we had mums’ jewellery sessions. Just to bring the whānau in so that we could have them here, and while we had them here get some input around what it is they wanted for their tamariki and also sharing with them the feedback we get from the other whānau members so that they have, the collated data that we have so that they also knew what the other parents or the other whānau members were thinking. And just to make sure we are all sharing the same understanding. And knowing also that we get the feedback from our parents, we get their input, knowing then, having that assurance that what we are doing at Waikirikiri School is definitely what the whānau wants.

The reward for me is to see that our parents are coming closer and they are more engaged in their children’s learning because they have a better understanding of what we are doing around our school. Everything is more geared towards our children, so it is more child centred. And our children also have input into their own learning and they also share their learning with their parents through their student led conferencing using their e-portfolios. And the positive school environment that we have, even ERO acknowledged that in our latest ERO review, that the positive school environment that we have now is something that I always strived for when I started here.

Published on: 04 Oct 2010