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Leading cross-school professional learning

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Mt Roskill Primary, Intermediate, and Grammar schools share a connected campus. This proximity led them to explore the possibility of working more closely together to provide coherent pathways for their students through the various schools. Learn how the three schools collaborated to explore effective pedagogy, provide coherent transitions, and support greater student achievement. 

Promoting professional conversations

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

Exploring coherence

  • Coherence is a central theme of the MERGE project. What actions have led to greater coherence across the Mt Roskill campus?
  • Read the coherence statement in the principles section of The New Zealand Curriculum? How is coherence defined here? What are the key words in the statement?

Coherence at your school

  • This ERO evaluative summary provides examples of coherence in action. Compare the ERO findings with your own context.
  • As a staff or within syndicates/departments brainstorm all the ways that the coherence principle can be realised at your school. Consider coherency across year levels, between classrooms, within learning areas, across learning areas, and across school sectors.
  • Use this brainstorm to review and prioritise your next steps. How does coherence underpin decision making at your school? What is working well and needs to be continued? What is a new idea that you can start working on? What is standing in the way of coherence and might need to be changed? Consider how you can embed the principle of coherence into future decision making.


Greg Watson, Principal Mt Roskill Grammar

The way we started was that we realised we were close together, and that our students were coming through the campus, and there were lots of opportunities to look after their learning. Also there was an EHSAS project, and there was funding available, and that gave us the kick start to employ a coordinator and get some real momentum going in those first couple of years.

Mike O'Reilly, Principal Mt Roskill Primary

When you share that employment between the three schools, it’s not a huge amount of resource that’s required, but it has a huge impact on the project and its viability.

Louise Dempsey, MERGE Coordinator Mt Roskill Campus

I coordinate the MERGE project on the Mt Roskill Campus. I work half time on the project. Our project stands for Maximising the Engagement of the Roskill Groups Education.

One of our goals is around our learning community. We feel very strongly if we want our kids to be learners, we need to be learners. So we’ve worked very hard, over the years, building learning communities in our schools, and across our schools – it’s been really successful.

We have three other goals. One is around raising achievement, and in particular that’s focusing around our priority learners. So working together to not only transition those kids carefully, but also to refine our approaches and strategies to those kids. Then we have one around the seamless curriculum. We just want our classrooms to feel, sound, and look the same as the kids move through the campus. We’ve also identified one recently around really wanting to sustain our campus identity and build the reputation.

Greg Watson, Principal Mt Roskill Grammar

So here at the Roskill campus we’re focused on coherence across the curriculum for the three schools, because we have students from year one to thirteen travelling through our campus. It seemed really important to us to join up the learning for those students.

Mike O'Reilly, Principal Mt Roskill Primary

We set out to build a climate of trust and understanding – that it didn’t matter about the shoe size, that kids were learners, and we took them from where they were, and took them to the next step. What we tried to build was, especially in the years four to ten... What we want to see in our campus is that students as they go through the campus, those classrooms in years four to ten look, sound, and feel the same for the kids as they go through. That’s an important thing if we’re looking at transition. It’s all about the kids.

Greg Watson, Principal Mt Roskill Grammar

With the focus in the New Zealand Curriculum on the learner, we thought it was really important that the learner was put first in all of our work. We wanted to join up that thinking for our students, and also for our teachers, about the way learning happens. So in doing that, what we needed to do was make sure that the school leadership had a common understanding about what we wanted to do. So we’ve set up a strategic group to oversee the work. We’ve looked carefully at the transitions of students between the schools. We’ve looked at the way the pedagogy works between the schools, and we've worked hard to have teachers understand the pedagogy at each of the schools, and to learn from the different pedagogies at the schools. We’ve also established projects that are shared between schools, for example, in music and in sports, and with our whanau community.

Joe Worrall, Teacher Mt Roskill Intermediate

MERGE is a group where the primary and the secondary – there were teachers selected from primary and secondary and we all got together, occasionally, and we talked about what we were planning, progressions. We also observed each other in lessons. This was really big for me in my first two years because I think the first two years are really critical in a teacher's career. It was really good to be able to see different teaching techniques, not just within my own school, but within Mt Roskill Primary and Mt Roskill Grammar school as well.

Mike O'Reilly, Principal Mt Roskill Primary

So we set up PLCs in our individual schools as a way of learning. But all the time thinking that by having a common way of learning through the campus, of a PLC, that we could then share our knowledge through the same format, as teachers also learned from each other.

Greg Watson, Principal Mt Roskill Grammar

I think one of the most important things about making the project sustainable is for people to really believe in what we’re doing, and for people to be excited by what we’re doing. For teachers particularly to see students progress in their learning, and themselves become excited in their learning. So that’s been a feature of what we’ve done – we’ve made sure that teachers meet with each other across the schools, are in each other’s classrooms, looking at what is happening, and learning from what is happening.

Louise Dempsey, MERGE Coordinator Mt Roskill Campus

I strongly believe that teachers are better at their jobs when they’re learners, and I strongly believe that teachers are better at their jobs when they collaborate, and they learn together. You have to start in your school, obviously, you’ve got to start with a school community. But if you can look outside your school and look at where your kids are coming from and where they’re going to, you will be better at your job and you’ll do a better job for your students. They will be transitioned more smoothly, and everyone will know learners better, and be able to progress their learning better. So I just think it’s a great challenge for schools to think about how can we work collaboratively together across year groups and within our school. When we’re good at that, how can we think about making connections with our feeder schools and also schools our kids come from and schools they’re going to.   

Published on: 13 Mar 2014

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NZC Update 3 – The role of the principles

The New Zealand Curriculum principles embody beliefs about what is important in school curriculum - nationally and locally. They should underpin all school decision making. This update provides a guide to putting the principles into action through exploring the potentially fruitful connections between and among them. You can use the questions for reflection to consider how the principles underpin decision making at your school.