Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards: finalists announced

Issue: Volume 94, Number 9

Posted: 2 June 2015
Reference #: 1H9crD

Finalists in the 2015 Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards have been announced, and judges are currently visiting them, to determine the eventual winners.

The Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards aim to “recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements in early childhood education, primary and secondary schooling.” Focusing on English, Māori, or Pasifika-medium. What makes these awards different is that they acknowledge the work of groups, teams, and partnerships: this recognises that great educational outcomes require collaboration, whether those outcomes are based on academic, social, or cultural achievement.

Aside from the award categories, a special Focus Prize recognises achievement in a field that’s particularly relevant to the current education environment. The theme in 2015 is ‘collaboration that creates learner-led pathways from early childhood to schooling’.

All the awards reflect a dimension of Matariki. This concept of the Māori new year as a time to reflect on the past and plan for the year ahead, is an underpinning framework for the Awards.

The judging process for the Awards will culminate in a ceremony that celebrates the achievements of all finalists, and where winners of each award are announced. Categories for the Awards and Focus Prize are:

•  Excellence in engaging/Atahāpara (dawn)
At this first glimpse of the dawn, we recognise Engagement - people who have worked with communities and agencies to transform relationships and involvement in learning.

•  Excellence in leading/Atakura (the red glow on the ocean just before sunrise)
With this moment of spectacular glow, we recognise Leadership - people whose leadership and influence have strengthened teaching capability and created a change in conditions, leading to improved and sustained outcomes for all children and young people.

•  Excellence in teaching and learning/Atatū (the moment just after sunrise)
As the sun begins to shine, we recognise Teaching and Learning - people who have transformed the learning for all children and young people to improve and sustain outcomes for them all.

•  Excellence in governing/Awatea (daybreak)
At this moment of connection, we award Governing - people whose governance and management have created the conditions for leading and teaching to improve and sustain outcomes for all children and young people.

•  Focusing on Learner-led Pathways/Takatū (prepare, get ready)
As we ready ourselves for the new day, we award the 2015 Education Focus Prize to a group whose collaboration has created Learner-led Pathways from early childhood to schooling.

•  Prime Minister’s Supreme Award/Takiri ko te ata - (the sun’s rays touching the skin)
At the moment we experience the first warmth of the sun, we award the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award - people whose work has achieved the greatest improvement and impact on education outcomes.

Excllence in engaging/Atahapāra award

One Community, Two Schools, 300 Whānau: Kāiti School, Te Kura Reo Rua o Waikirikiri – Gisborne (Kāiti and Tairāwhiti rohe)

When Kāiti School and Te Kura Reo Rua o Waikirikiri identified low whānau engagement as a barrier to education achievement for their tamariki, they evaluated their mahi and investigated various models for whānau engagement – resulting in a hugely successful collaborative approach.

Both schools began by employing Whānau Ora navigators to mentor whānau. The schools developed strategies to increase the involvement of whānau in student learning, including whānau working together with teachers, allowing children to showcase their learning, counting together and reading together, and opening a Community Computer Hub.

The result was a huge increase in whānau engagement. Attendance rates increased at both schools, resulting in higher achievement outcomes for tamariki and a drop in behaviour-based issues.

Teaching Team, Barnardos KidStart Childcare – Hastings

Barnardos KidStart Childcare Early Learning Centre faced the massive challenge of low occupancy, low parent involvement and a high number of children with learning and behaviour difficulties. So staff at the centre decided to focus on a number of factors: their practices in relation to their environment, parents’ sense of belonging to the centre, and opportunities for learning. The team also investigated options to increase children’s communication skills and the breadth of curriculum they offered.

By building strong attachments with every child, increasing their cultural awareness and working closely with specialists, teachers were able to improve participation and learning for children. Looking beyond their immediate environment to the wider community, the centre found materials to create an inviting learning environment incorporating the use of natural resources for learning. Parent-infant courses were introduced for parents, and the centre began incorporating community celebrations and events into their programme.

The results are significant: the centre increased the participation of children from 40 per cent occupancy to an average of 80 per cent.

Tu Tane, Gisborne Boys’ High School – Gisborne

Gisborne Boys’ High School was concerned about the number of detentions, suspensions and stand-downs, which cumulatively resulted in a low percentage of students participating in NCEA at all levels.

In response, the school introduced the Tu Tane programme for year 10 students, based on personal growth and the concept of a rite of passage. The programme focuses on identity, values, relationships and finding a place in the world.

As a result of the programme, detention rates dropped considerably from 823 detentions in 2009 for year 10 students to 393 in 2010. Stand down figures also dropped from 29 in year 10 in 2009 to just five in 2010, and suspensions decreased from 12 in 2009 for year 10 students to just one student in 2010. Since Tu Tane was introduced, NCEA participation rates have increased and there is a significant reduction in behaviour-based issues across the school.

Whakairo Course of Study, Gisborne Boys’ High School – Gisborne

Gisborne Boys’ High School was concerned that they were not engaging Māori students in learning, and NCEA results confirmed that their Māori students were lagging behind. They made the decision to address the problem with a curriculum founded on cultural engagement.

They developed the Whakairo course, which covers NCEA Levels 1 to 3 and responds to the students’ cultural needs, promoting and fostering Tikanga Māori and teaching and learning opportunities with credibility and integrity. Engagment with parents and whānau was also critical to the programme’s success.

The course has had far-reaching implications for the school: as a result of the Whakairo Course, 600 students at Gisborne Boys’ High School have now achieved appropriate and relevant qualifications over a 10-year period. Attitudes have changed, values and passion have flowed onto other components of the school curriculum.

Excellence in leading/Atakura award

Central Regional Health School – Wellington-based

Central Regional Health School works with a variety of organisations including schools, health and mental health providers, specialist units, and Youth Justice and Care and Protection. By its very nature the school has a high turnover of students. The school had always focused on the physical health conditions of their students, but was also experiencing a growing awareness that mental health conditions were preventing students from attending school.

The staff have created individualised programmes for each student, with the structure and flexibility to respond to each student’s needs. Priority is given to achievement in literacy, numeracy and the development of key competencies, and success is measured by looking at each student’s goals and achievement.

The impact on students’ cultural, social and academic achievement has been significant.

Primary Science and Mathematics Teaching Team, The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand – Lower Hutt

This team looked at New Zealand’s results in international studies and concluded that professional development opportunities were needed to engage, challenge, and up-skill New Zealand’s primary school teachers in the areas of science and mathematics.

Approximately 300 primary school teachers throughout New Zealand have now accessed the resulting online courses, designed to enable primary and intermediate teachers to improve the quality of their teaching and leadership in these areas. The courses allow teachers to study while working, and empower them to develop professional groups in their areas.

The result has been a change in teachers’ classroom practice and teachers sharing their findings, which has led to a transformation in children’s experience of science and mathematics in the classroom.

Teaching Team, Mangere Bridge Kindergarten – Auckland

This centre, based in a very diverse community, had two objectives: to improve learning outcomes for children, and to support children and families as they transition from early childhood education to school.

Through an ongoing cycle of research and change, they have built relationships between parents and whānau, the school and kindergarten, so that teachers can share information about children and explore each other’s practice. A series of developments have flowed from the research, including a new approach to school visits, visiting books and other material to document transition, teachers visiting each other, and a buddy programme at schools to help kindergarten children settle in. The centre also developed specific transition portfolios to accompany kindergarten children when they start school and parent information pamphlets, and have published numerous research articles together with a book focused on practice to achieve successful transitions.

The result has been positive transitions to schools, continued contact by kindergarten staff with the children and their families and increased engagement with families. And the initiative has had a great effect on the wider early childhood community, sharing research, new insight and practice with other early childhood services across New Zealand.

Tui, Hoiho, Kea and Kiwi Sections, Massey Child Care Centre – Palmerston North

Concerned about a lack of cohesion and teachers working in isolation as they struggled to build effective teams, Massey Child Care Centre set about changing their organisation and learning culture to improve teaching practice and create better outcomes for all members of their community. They wanted to build a culture where teachers found motivation within themselves, would lead their own learning and use conversations with colleagues to improve their practice.

They developed a Community of Practice with a strong emphasis on relationships among collaborative teams focused on collective inquiry. Their changing practice ensured that children’s voices are heard, and their identity and emotions are acknowledged to strengthen their learning. The centre worked with two programmes: the first, the Attachment Based Learning Programme for infants and toddlers emphasised the importance of secure relationships between the child, teacher and family/whānau. And the second, the Community of Researchers programme, through which learning grows to involve the teacher, the child’s family and the wider community.

The results have energised the centre, with teachers now valuing and celebrating the unique characteristics of their students, while fostering each child’s interests, skills and abilities. This has also had a great effect on their community: teachers have developed skills in working alongside parents and whānau in collaborative ways.

Excellence in teaching and learning/Atatū award

Central Regional Health School – Wellington-based

See ‘Excellence in Leading’ section.

Literacy Team, Longford Intermediate School – Gore

When Longford Intermediate School decided to address their existing outcomes for children in the area of writing, they embarked upon a journey involving professional development and using expertise within the staff to up-skill teachers.

The school set out to determine the strengths and needs of students and teachers in the school and use these learnings to inform professional learning. They collected data on teaching practice and interviewed students; individual feedback was then provided to teachers and goals were set.

The information collected enabled the school to identify gaps in teaching practice across the school, and a plan was created for professional development for teachers. Overall end of year data was then collected, which showed that accelerated progress had been achieved for all students – particularly those students who had been most at risk.

Teaching Staff, Coastal Taranaki School – New Plymouth

To tackle the issue of students who were not achieving, Coastal Taranaki School established the Dreamweaver mentoring programme with the aim of helping students to reach their full potential, and to achieve both inside and outside the classroom.

The programme encompassed the students as well as their whānau, who were encouraged to plan together and share knowledge to build towards a shared outcome of higher achievement.

The Dreamweaver programme has resulted in improved student presence and engagement at Coastal Taranaki School, and has fostered high expectations and attendance, while reducing behaviour-based issues. The overall result is higher achievement across the entire school.

Whakairo Course of Study, Gisborne Boys’ High School – Gisborne

See ‘Excellence in Engaging’ section.

Education focus prize/Takatū prize

Anchorage Park Kindergarten with Anchorage Park Primary School – Auckland

When these two groups sought to improve learning outcomes for tamariki and their whānau, they examined their teaching approaches and the individual needs of their students, and decided to focus on the transition from early childhood education to school.

By reviewing their practices, they found they were able to better understand the connections between early childhood and primary schooling and adjust those practices accordingly. The result has been the creation of a strong learning community that extends beyond the kindergarten and school, and into the wider community.

Close relationships have been developed with parents and whānau, and their accumulated knowledge supports transitions between the two education settings. This ensures that smooth transitions occur and results in positive learning outcomes for all children.

Teaching Team, Mangere Bridge Kindergarten - Auckland

See ‘Excellence in Leading’ section.

About the artist

Creator of the handcrafted trophies for each award, Te Rongo Kirkwood is an award-winning artist and her specialty is kiln formed, cold-worked glass. Through focusing on this applied art process and medium, Te Rongo has been able to creatively explore inspirational concepts, with influences coming from both her Māori and Scottish heritage. In her glasswork she expresses her love of pattern and form through the use of negative spaces and the combining of opalescent and transparent glasses.

“The inspiration for the design of these awards has been drawn from the light, the Matariki rising sun at dawn and the corresponding symbolism of the learning journey towards wisdom and enlightenment. Glass made from sand is the perfect medium to transmit the story of light and enlightenment. Its ability to resonate the full spectrum of colour that our eye perceives never fails to thrill me and I love to frame that light with the blackness of obsidian glass. There is a balance between the volcanic black from the creative fire deep in the earth and the life-giving light from our sun.”

“It was also important to me to ground this work in the natural world. I engaged Master Craftsman Mark Lester, Ngati Te Ata, an expert in New Zealand native timbers. The wood for the base of each sculpture has been personally selected by Mark for its beauty, grain and colour, hand-crafted and finished.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 4:53 pm, 2 June 2015

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