Each of these innovations in teaching and learning at Ngaruawahia High School is contributing to the overall cultural shift that has and continues to take place. In 2014, the emphasis was on structures and programmes that would raise engagement and achievement at the junior level. In 2015, we have not only remained committed to the junior programme but we have trialled a number of initiatives that support this same success in the Senior School.
English In Context
In 2015, we have trialled a new English course at Year 11 called English in Context. This has come about because we identified that students were not achieving in English at this level. As a result, we decided that we would not remove English from the student’s course but would reshape how it looks and where it is delivered.
We have targeted two other subject areas where the skills developed in English would support higher achievement. These subjects are Music and Design Technology; students are in one or the other not in both. English in Context runs parallel to these subjects where students complete English achievement standards in the context of these subjects.
The goal is that students become more competent designers, musicians, artists, creative and reflective thinkers through the skills developed in the literacy component of their subjects. Students are not required to physically attend a class, but rather an English teacher tags herself to the student in Music or Design.
So far we have seen an increase in completion, achievement, and engagement far beyond what we have experienced in previous years. For the first English Achievement Standard delivered this year, we had 38 of 42 Year 11 students complete and hand work in. All of these students achieved in their first or second attempt.
UEC - University Entrance Class
The way in which this new course works, is that all Year 13 students operate as one class for the first three hours of the school morning. Period 1 and 2 is a solid two-hour block that works through three University Entrance Subjects; Physical Education, Education for Sustainability and Health. Each of these subjects requires similar skills but are in different contexts.
Students are developing the ability to produce essays that reflect on their experiences, challenge assumptions and predict future outcomes. These concepts flow across each of the three subjects. The benefits experienced so far from introducing this class is that teachers of Level Two and Level Three are not required to teach multi-level classes or teach students who have already gained NCEA level 2.
Our past experiences tell us that these students quickly lose motivation and become disengaged, and our achievement rates at NCEA L3 are impacted negatively because students have little opportunity to access L3 programmes. A second benefit has been keeping this year group together to start the day. They are in one place and remain engaged. This has started to produce a culture of achievement whereby students see each other achieve and complete assessment tasks by the due date.
All of our Year 12 and 13 students are expected to begin their year by taking part in an intensive four-day Leadership and Citizenship programme. This programme is based on the Perry’s Outdoor Education Trust (POET) model developed by other POET schools.
The four day conference is a combination of lectures exploring contemporary leadership styles and leadership strategies, as well as programme design, experiential learning, facilitating, and leadership through role- modeling. The context for this learning is through a range of outdoor activities such as raft building, triathlon, waka ama and group challenges based at Karapiro Domain. Students are also challenged to contribute to school-wide and community programmes, and increase their understanding of their role in the reshaping of culture in our school.
This initial experience is then followed up a fortnight later when senior students they lead the junior school at the same venue. Through a similar range of activities, junior students are also expected and challenged to become reshapers of culture. This korero is one that is familiar at junior level but through the use of POET, our senior students have been able to be included in this kaupapa. The feedback from senior students in 2014 was that they felt disconnected to the new vision of the school. The POET experience has not only engaged 2015 students in the conversation but has also allowed for them to become leaders and carriers of this vision. The change of culture is also demonstrated in the rise in achievement at NCEA Level 2 and Level 3.
The intensive four-day outdoor leadership conference results in students planning and applying leadership styles and strategies to a higher level. This also creates better reflections that are fresh in students’ minds and ultimately, greater results. We have experienced our highest completion rate of assessment since the camp, allowing students to gather some momentum of success early in the year. This pedagogical philosophy of intensive block learning is a concept that we have since continued as a way to raise engagement and achievement in the senior school.