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Aligning the standards in English at St Hilda's Collegiate

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Judy Maw, from St Hilda's Collegiate in Dunedin, explains that taking the time to unpack the new curriculum and the aligned standards is essential. She discusses that it might seem like you are doing the same thing over and over, but it is really worthwhile pulling all the "bits" apart and seeing how they all fit together. 


To support the teachers in implementing the new curriculum effectively and the aligned standards - I think it’s the ability to unpack it. The ability to take the time (and it may seem like you’re doing the same thing over and over again) but actually to pull the bits apart and look at how they fit together. We took a long time over the new curriculum and I think it’s been an incredibly worthwhile exercise. We spent a long time looking at key competencies, values, principles - I think it's important that departments do it all over again with the English lens. So I think that's the best support for it. The other thing is, I think it's important that teachers are encouraged to put their own spin on the standards. So in other words English has been very, very well served over the years by being given a lot of very good resources but in some ways we've become reliant on those very good tasks and I think this is a chance for teachers to experiment a little bit.

At the moment it's a work in progress because this is the first year of using the aligned standards with the year 11. I know for a fact that most schools in Dunedin have looked at using the aligned standards this year because they felt that it was important to get their head round it.

There's still possibly the transition phase, where our headspace is still very much how we use the old standards, and there's still work going on, on how we can broaden what we do and perhaps be a little bit more creative in where we place our assessments and how we use the assessments.

It's a little bit scary - it's very comforting to go with what you know, whereas the aligned standards (while they offer scope and challenge and are very exciting) also require a little bit of a leap of faith. Faith in your ability to plan a really interesting program that the standards will fit within. Faith in your ability to get the moderation right. Those are the challenges, I think, it's that aspirational versus the practical. So yes we would like to teach to what are the students interests and create new tasks that are stimulating and exciting but we know we've got to meet the moderation requirements as well.

The benefit I think is that it allows teachers to actually go back to the core business which is responsive teaching. These are the students I've got in front of me, I'm teaching this, I need to look at how it's going if it's not working well, I change it, I adapt it, I reconstruct what I'm doing and to do that you have to have a flexible program. You can't have a program that's been designed around the times that you're going to teach 1.2 and 1.3 and 1.4. So I think for teachers it allows them to go back to core business, which is, students first.

I think main advice for middle leaders is use your networks. Use your relationships with other schools. Use your relationships with the advisers. Part of the network learning community has been the incredible support given by Mal Thompson especially in the English area and Kate Rice who has done the curriculum background. They've allowed us to set up more formalised communities where people know that everyone’s dealing with the same issue and they can look at what they're doing and perhaps back and forth.

Published on: 22 Sep 2012