A role model of transformation

Issue: Volume 96, Number 1

Posted: 30 January 2017
Reference #: 1H9d5u

Rotorua Boys’ High School was awarded the Excellence in Leading – Atakura Award at the 2016 Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards. Principal Chris Grinter talks to Education Gazette about the ‘right mix of conditions’ fostered at the school to ensure student success and wellbeing.

The Latin motto on Rotorua Boys’ High School’s crest, ‘Ad astra per aspera’ translates to ‘Whāia te iti kahurangi’, or ‘To the stars through hard work,’ and that sums up the approach taken by both students and staff at the school in recent years.

The school received the Excellence in Leading – Atakura Award at the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards in June last year. The judges described the school as a “role model of transformation” and praised in particular the outstanding lift in achievement, both academic and personal, that is underway.

“A culture of open leadership is empowering teachers and students, challenging attitudes to achievement and driving the progress of every student,” they wrote.

Principal Chris Grinter says the journey to transformation began when a clear decision was made to tackle the disparity between Māori and non-Māori student achievement.

“We knew there was a gap in achievement in our school, and we’d worked hard to close that through a number of initiatives and interventions over the years. But until we brought our focus back to how our teachers worked with their individual students – looking at how they actually operate within the classroom – we weren’t able to properly address the gap.”

A turning point came in 2009 when the school joined the Te Kotahitanga programme.

“That really allowed us the opportunity to drill into the teaching practice within our classrooms, and we started looking at the relationships and cultural understanding between teachers and students.”

Rotorua Boys’ High School is made up of 77 per cent of students who identify as Māori. Chris says the school has been able to demonstrate that with the right mix of conditions, young Māori can achieve equally well, or in fact better, than any other cohort in the nation.

“It wasn’t a short process, it’s been going on for several years and obviously we’ve worked in a number of areas to bring about a change in approach to teaching and learning that works best for young Māori men.”

Other changes made at the school include a concerted effort to work more collaboratively as teachers and leaders, and to foster a positive environment for learning.

“We haven’t suspended or excluded a student for several years,” says Chris.

“Of course, we’ve had a few behavioural issues, but harmony has developed in the classrooms, while unacceptable behaviours have become less frequent. I believe our boys genuinely like coming to school.”

Chris and the team at Rotorua Boys’ High School say the exercise of entering the awards was an encouraging one.

“It was a wonderful exercise for us – to summarise our story of recent years and reflect on our recent successes. It’s also given us a way to acknowledge and honour those teachers who have made significant changes to their teaching practice in order to embrace this work of ours."

“I would encourage any school to celebrate their own successes by way of participating in these awards.”

The Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards are now open for entries.

There are four award categories including: Excellence in Engaging, Excellence in Leading, Excellence in Teaching and Learning and Excellence in Governing. Finalists for the awards categories are eligible for the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award.

In addition, there is a standalone Education Focus Prize and this year’s focus is on digital technologies and responsive local curriculum.

For more information and to apply, go to the Prime Minister's Awards website(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:40 pm, 30 January 2017

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