Bold goals, big ideas resonate beyond school gate

Issue: Volume 97, Number 8

Posted: 14 May 2018
Reference #: 1H9iib

A new learning model has turned the achievements and performance levels of Patea Area School around and engaged the whole community in the process.

A strategy of thinking bold and aiming high is driving impressive achievements at Patea Area School and led to students presenting to a Parliamentary select committee on seabed mining and working with community agencies to find a solution to homelessness – all as part of their studies.

Patea Area School has won the Education category of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO Award in Global Citizenship Education for its whole-of-school approach emphasising global citizenship, global connectedness and global solutions. This has truly embedded global citizenship in the whole school’s curriculum delivery, instead of being a one-off project.

Patea Area School has a learning model that reflects its vision statement of ‘Growing good people for a changing world’. The approach is closely aligned with international goals for global citizenship education and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The approach is part of a commitment for students’ learning to resonate in the real world. Principal Nicola Ngarewa (Whaea Nicola) says, “Our strategy is called Impact Inquiry Learning, whereby we have a whole-of-school inquiry topic with a local/global focus and the students each choose their own personalised pathway of learning.”

Every student chooses an aspect of the inquiry topic based on their area of interest, passion and need and the learning is contextualised and authentic, she says. “We tell our students, ‘Don’t close your books at the end of the year – never stop learning. We want you to be courageous and make a difference’.

“Being able to choose their own pathway is a powerful tool for students.”

She says at the end of each term the students will produce a big, bold celebration of their work and learning.

For example, last term the school held a fundraising Feast or Famine dinner, with 250 invited guests including politicians, kaumātua, and business and community leaders. While guests were served either a bowl of rice or a feast, students presented their inquiry work on solutions to the biggest global challenges. Funds raised went towards completing one group’s inquiry on equitable access to digital fluency.

“For their impact inquiry work last year on how to make a difference, a group of Year 11 students chose the issue of seabed mining. They worked with local scientists to investigate the local reef, gaining science credits, wrote a report gaining English credits and presented to the parliamentary select committee, gaining speech credits.”

The school has tapped into a wide network of advisors and subject matter experts and has hosted leaders and movers and shakers in many fields who visited the school to share their knowledge and inspire the students, such as 2014 New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O’Sullivan, US business consultant Liliana Gil Valletta, and media figure Matt Watson of The ITM Fishing Show.

The award also reflects an impressive turnaround in performance in just three years. In 2015 Patea Area School had some of the worst NCEA results in the country. It had high suspension rates, low staff morale and a significant disconnection with the local community. But the new learning model has turned the achievements and performance levels around and successfully engaged the whole community.

Nicola says the challenges of 2015 presented an opportunity to the school to deliver a 21st century learning model that met the needs and aspirations of learners.

The New Zealand Curriculum is an amazing document that allows us great depth for innovation, but you have to be courageous and be prepared to disrupt the norm.

“In a nutshell, at our school our students sit at the centre and the community is at the heart of everything we do.”

Nicola Ngarewa was awarded the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award in 2013 for her work in education. In 2016 she was the Taranaki Daily News Person of the Year and was appointed to the Education Council. 

About the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO Global Citizenship Education Award

This award aims to ‘empower learners to engage and assume active roles, both locally and globally, to face and resolve global challenges and ultimately to become proactive contributors to a more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world’.

Applicants need to demonstrate that their project contributes to a significant issue/s at a local, regional or national level. They also need to provide evidence of their project’s impact on learners’ ability to be active and responsible global citizens.

The winners of the award’s three categories were:

  • Education: Patea Area School
  • Community: Generation Zero
  • Innovation: Tiaki Early Learning Centre.


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 14 May 2018

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