Award-winning school sparks further momentum

Issue: Volume 97, Number 11

Posted: 22 June 2018
Reference #: 1H9jLY

A high-energy, rousing Friday afternoon music and dance event, led by “Passionators”, is a key part of the week for a successful school in South Auckland, firing up students to come back on Monday eager and ready to learn.

Students wear their team colours during the school singing event at Manurewa Intermediate

Winning the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Supreme Award in 2017 has had a huge impact on Manurewa Intermediate (MI).

“It was very affirming and boosted our confidence,” says Associate Principal Sam Holt a year on. “It confirmed we were heading in the right direction.”

The school won $20,000 for the Excellence in Engaging Award and another $30,000 for the Supreme Award, much of which went towards new artificial turf. Associate Principal Sam Holt says, “After the win the children, as well as the wider community, were pumped up! It gave them another reason to have pride in their school. Our high attendance rate is amazing – and pride in the school is a big factor in that.”

The attendance rate is very high – 94 to 95 per cent. Formerly it was around 80 per cent. “The kids want to be in school. It’s exciting and relevant for them,” he says.

School culture is key to success

The spark from winning has also reverberated amongst the teachers. “But we weren’t about to rest on our laurels, so we have been working on our pedagogy and progress in learning areas,” says Iain.

“Our big push since then has been in developing our Community of Learning, but we have also extended our teaching as inquiry development.

“The number one factor in our success is the school culture. It’s really positive, and impacts on staff, students and parents. We are absolutely clear on where we are going, and on knowing our students and their learning needs.”

Manurewa has very challenging social conditions, including a high gang presence. But the school grounds and property are immaculate and that reflects the school’s positive approach to everything. “We give children a place to be proud of and belong,” says Sam.

“The advice I would give to other schools in a similar situation is to put all your time and energy into what you can impact – there will always be barriers in whatever area you’re in.

“It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen... if you have determination, drive, and passion. If you truly want to make a change, you have to put the time and energy in!”

School events contribute to school culture

All students are split into four whānau and they compete in a whole-of-school meeting each Friday, called School Singing, with high-energy song and dance.

“It creates a huge amount of positive energy. It ensures that every single student goes home after having a blast, and makes them want to come back on Monday. It even makes our ex-students want to come back! Moreover, school-wide events like School Singing help us create the culture that we want.

“So we have whānau versus whānau battles, we have teachers leading chants, we even have people called ‘Passionators’ who are charged with whipping their whānau into a frenzy! We only have two years with our kids, so we have to work so much faster to create a positive, energetic tone where students feel proud to call themselves MI students.”

Focus on collaboration and teaching as inquiry

The students enjoy the bonding experience as part of a distinct whānau but part of the teachers’ ongoing professional development direction is modelling collaboration rather than competition to the children, including displaying soft skills. There is also a strong focus on teaching as inquiry.

The school has no middle management, and the leadership team is made up of Principal Iain Taylor, one associate principal and five deputy principals, each with their own area of responsibility: Learning and Teaching, e-Learning, Guidance and Support, Pastoral Care, Operations, and Professional Learning.

“We are really passionate about the environment being the third teacher. We also developed our cultural intelligence, for everyone, including staff,” says Sam.

Recently, all seven of the school leaders attended the National Future Schools conference in Melbourne, and Sam says it was a positive experience.

“There were seven sets of eyes with different lenses, and we all brought something different and of value back.”

The Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards 2018

The finalists of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards have been announced.

The winners will be announced on 3 July 2018.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:56 am, 22 June 2018

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