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Thinking big: Principles to guide vision and curriculum

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Stonefields School opened its doors to students in 2011. With this new start came the opportunity to try new approaches to curriculum design. The leadership team discuss the process of developing a set of guiding principles. These principles prepared the way for working with their community to develop their school vision. This film supports schools to consider the relevance of their own vision and the ways in which they bring this vision to life.

There are three stories in this series:

  1. Thinking big: Principles to guide vision and curriculum
  2. Learning and teaching in learning hubs
  3. Early learning conversations

Professional learning conversations

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

The relationship between The New Zealand Curriculum and the school curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum sets the direction for teaching and learning in English-medium New Zealand schools. But it is a framework rather than a detailed plan. This means that while every school curriculum must be clearly aligned with the intent of this document, schools have considerable flexibility when determining the detail. In doing this, they can draw on a wide range of ideas, resources, and models.

The school curriculum: Design and review

  • Puppets, pedagogical ideas, and school brand helped shaped the Stonefields School vision. What range of ideas, resources, and models have you drawn on to create an overarching vision for your school? Is this vision still relevant for your learners today?
  • Stonefields School developed some scaffolds to help staff and students enact the vision they had for the school. How do you scaffold your staff to enact and embed your school vision? Could you provide further scaffolding?
  • How does your vision fit into the framework of 'a vision of young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners', while still retaining the specific needs of your learners and school community?


I think the critical determining factor of the change that has occurred here at Stonefields School is the development of the vision. It’s certainly been our overarching guide and tool for decision making.

Our vision has four guiding principles, the first being building learning capacity which is all about knowing yourself as a learner. So knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. And within our building learning capacity also sits the core literacies - so reading, writing and maths. Collaborating is our second vision principle which is all around making contribution, working with others, participating and relating, and knowing that what we can achieve by ourselves we can achieve a lot more with others. So it’s getting that feedback and those ideas which is key to how we work here at Stonefields School. Making meaning is our third vision principle. That’s where our inquiry model sits. So it’s all around how you solve a problem, building the knowledge, making some meaning and then applying the understanding and that’s where your thinking tools and the strategies sit in there really strongly. And our fourth vision principle is around breaking through. So that’s that celebrating of success, that fulfilment that you feel when you’ve had a breakthrough but also sitting in there is developing those strengths and passions that we have or that our learners have and we have as learners to make a difference.

So once the vision principles were set, I think it’s fair to say that the stage was set. And we’re very mindful we didn’t have our actors, our teachers, but we were quite clear that we needed to develop some key props, or scaffolds, that would help enable the change we wanted to see. Some of the examples of the scaffolds we did develop would be the reading progressions, so we co-constructed together and spent about three days really unpacking so learners could be able to answer: How am I going? Where am I going? What are my next learning steps?

Another one of those scaffolds would be the effective teacher continuum. We hummed and haaed whether we should unpack this. And then believe in hindsight I think it was a really good thing to do. We had a clear aspiration in our vision, but we also wanted to be clear with the teachers we appointed about what was the teaching practice that was required to achieve that aspiration and those vision principles. We also spent quite a considerable amount of time thinking about the conceptual understandings we wanted our children to develop over the eight years they’re with us. And we actually mapped those, and looked at quite strategically the experiences our learners would need to have in their eight years with us.

Having an aspirational vision is one thing, but having it in a format that is living and breathing for learners as young as five is another story. Firstly, we took the four rocks from the brand and with the addition of four little characters they seem to sort of live a little bit more and give a bit more sort of flesh out what we want to. From there, we actually then rolled on to some puppets, four puppets, so then in came Rocky and Roxanne and Pebbles and Cliff onto the stage at Stonefields School and these four puppets have become very much part of the fabric of school and appear in assemblies and in presentations and also make visits into classrooms where they help celebrate learning and successes and achievements with students. But what they’ve also done is help unpack that language of learning for students and have made it really accessible for the youngest of learners, in Learning Hub One for example with five year olds. So that’s five year olds who can sort of engage with Rocky and talk about how they’re building their learning capacity and how they’re being more determined in their learning.

In addition to that, other things that we’ve introduced are things like little fridge magnets with vision principles on and certificates with the different principles on and some stickers and things that teachers and students are utilising in their Learning Hubs.

So the stage was in place, and then the actors came on board, being our teachers and this was an amazing opportunity for our vision to continue to evolve and grow to that next step and we deliberately left some parts, or some things, within the setup of the school not in place because we wanted our teachers to be able to co-construct those and grow it and build it to that next step. So a really good example of that is our learner qualities. So our learner qualities were co-constructed with our teachers and then they were then again co-constructed with our learners and by pulling out the essence of what those actually are. And a really lovely example of the learning qualities being co-constructed further by the learners is our hip hop dancers. Last week at our official opening day our hip hop dancers took the learning qualities and they found pieces of music and then choreographed a dance to bring these to life, to actually pull the essence out of those qualities. So that’s just one of many ways that these are starting to come alive in the classroom and one of many ways where our vision is continuing to grow through our teachers having that room to evolve it and take it to that next level.

So I think it’s fair to say that our vision continues to get richer and deeper and it certainly evolves the more people that come to that stage. The platform is set, the vision principles are in place, there were some deliberate props put in place, scaffolds to help our teachers and certainly as Kirsty said there were some that were deliberately left unpacked so that we could co-construct together and as a consequence we believe change doesn’t need to take a long time to occur.

Published on: 18 May 2011