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Renwick School - writing our curriculum

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These four videos show how staff, students, parents, and the community worked together to write a school curriculum that reflected the vision and values of Renwick School and its place in the community. In this video, the staff at Renwick School have embarked on writing their school curriculum with a distinct community flavour.

Examples of their local school curriculum can be found on the Renwick School website.

There are four stories in this series:

  1. Community and curriculum
  2. Writing our curriculum
  3. Vision and values
  4. Curriculum in action

Professional learning conversations

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

The school curriculum: Design and review

The New Zealand Curriculum, (p37) states:

"The national curriculum provides the framework and common direction for schools, regardless of type, size, or location. It gives schools the scope, flexibility, and authority they need to design and shape their curriculum so that teaching and learning is meaningful and beneficial to their particular communities of students. In turn, the design of each school’s curriculum should allow teachers the scope to make interpretations in response to the particular needs, interests, and talents of individuals and groups of students in their classes."

Curriculum design and review can be visualised as a continuous, cyclic inquiry process that is responsive to the needs of students, their communities, and wider society. 

In this process the school asks four key questions:

  • What are our priorities for student learning (based on evidence)?
  • What knowledge and skills do we need, and what actions shall we take to improve student outcomes?
  • What has been the impact of our changes (based on evidence)?
  • Where to next? What are our priorities for student learning now?

Have you seen?

NZC Update 4 – School curriculum review
This Update discusses ongoing curriculum review and explains how schools can draw on the national curriculum to address the particular needs, interests, and circumstances of their students and community.



The real reason that we took a team approach, a co construction approach to writing our curriculum was about, well several things. One I knew we had the expertise across the staff. Two the curriculum no matter what had to be owned. And this is a great opportunity for teachers to actually take a firm grip on what it is they are going to be teaching in classrooms.


In the past the curriculum development was done to us, but this time it was Renwick School teachers writing a curriculum for Renwick School. So we had a lot of ownership over what was going in the curriculum and we could adjust it and put in things that were specific to children’s needs at Renwick. So their needs and interests went into the curriculum, things that happen in our community. And rather than being prescriptive and very restricted on us as teachers, we could put some of our teacher flair into it as well.


We had a retreat back in November 2008 to start talking about what our new curriculum might look like even though it was a long way off before we would, we were going to put pen to paper. It was just getting thinking under way. And part way through last year, the senior leadership team had a day’s planning retreat, a day away from school, offsite, to just think about how we were going to do this curriculum, what is this thing going to look like. And the key terms of reference for me as I put it to the team and to the staff ultimately, was this must be the Renwick curriculum, it is not anyone elses, this is Renwick School curriculum. And so it is going to be driven by us, it will to reflect us, what’s it going to look like, what shape’s it going to take? And at that point we didn’t have any structure or anything like that, just that key idea that it must reflect who we are, our school, our kids, our community, our people, our place.


Before we got into teams to write our Renwick School curriculum, Simon took us all on a bus trip to Christchurch for three days, so the whole staff went. And we went and visited other schools to see what they were doing in the lines of curriculum development.


The idea was put forward that we should hook it quite purposefully into our whole inquiry approach, that inquiry should drive our curriculum. And it is four key headings that we decided would be the four key headings across our curriculum. And sitting above that would be the key belief about that curriculum area, that we strongly believe in as staff, as kids, as a community as a board of trustees, that's what we're aiming for here through each curriculum area.


Basically what the school has done is formed partnerships with the teaching staff, with the community, the board of trustees, and any other interested parties. And we've basically had consultation with all those groups. And probably the most important one of those is the students. So in effect we've had many partnering workshops where we've had the different groups of people come together with all their ideas and then we've just taken the best ideas out of that as to how to incorporate everything that the children want, the community wants and the parents want into the curriculum.


I think it is really important that the kids and the teachers have a joint decision because it gets the children more involved and it makes them more interested when they know that they've had a decision in what they want to learn.


So we felt from there we had a clear direction that had been set for us by the students and parents to move ahead and start thinking about writing a curriculum that truly reflected the needs, aspirations and the skills and expertise we have sitting in our community. As a result of all of that we come to actual writing and how we are going to do that. Because what I know is one my teachers are busy, they are really busy people, they are planning, they are doing a great job for their kids, they have lives to lead and I want them to live their lives. So the biggest decision we made and the best decision we made was to give every teacher time. There is no question about that, it is the most significant decision we made. And it sounds easy, but it wasn't in terms of we had to resource that, but it was a very valuable and a most worthy expense to the school.

Deputy Principal

We co constructed the curriculum in the real meaning, the co bit, we really did it together. What we did was we gave groups of teachers who had special skills or interests in a certain area the task of writing that curriculum statement for our school. And the most important thing, well one of the very important things is we got time to do it. We were given a three week period and we got a day's release for one day in each of those three weeks. And the timing of that was really important because it gave us time to chat between, we do a bit, then we have a week to think about it, chat, and think oh no we want to scratch that and so it was really, really, really good thinking time, And so each group would go away and do that and feed it back to the staff. So the whole staff had input. The big thing always was that this isn't in concrete, this is always, even now, a draft. So that now as we're implementing it, we're finding things, trialling things, things that we aren't, isn't quite what we thought, we can change them, and we all feel really confident that that is what the idea is. So it is really important that it is now ours and not somebody elses, That we made, we designed the expectations, we designed the format of it and we've got the power to change it if we want to.


Inevitably day one of each team starting their writing or their thinking process about this, is they struggled. Because it was getting rid of the books, getting rid of the resources, and relying on what they had inside them in their heads, as I said before in their experience, their knowledge, their expertise, their talents. That's what we wanted. I didn't want something that was written, if I wanted it in a book, I wouldn't give them time to write something and regurgitate it from a book. I wanted their stuff. Because that's what constructing our curriculum was all about. They also found it difficult once they did get writing and everything started to flow, to keep it to one page. Because we didn't want a whole lot of stuff, we wanted the right stuff on one page. But as a result, we got there, And it was hard work, it was very hard work, but they had the time to think about it and they are all very proud of their efforts, there's no question about that.


From a personal point of view I think as a teacher, it has really really helped me focus my teaching and my delivery and what we're doing and why we're doing it. It has made me more aware of what's going on in the school, in other classes, it has made me connect into areas that I never thought I would connect into so much before. So it has given me a really really broad picture.


And you know as that process unfolded, there was very little tweaking. But having said that, and I'll say this many times, it is not perfect, what we have written is not perfect. But it is pretty good, And it reflects what we want it to include in our curriculum. And there is lots more to do. We will review it every year. It is a living document. Every single one is a living document. They are not static, they are dynamic. And that is what the curriculum should be. It should be dynamic, it should be responsive, it should be able to reflect those changing needs and aspirations of our kids as they come in. Because the needs of our kids are changing on a day to day basis. So it's got to be able to deal with that. So no, we're pleased.

Published on: 23 Jun 2010