Ed Sheeran tells students, ‘Find the thing you love’

Issue: Volume 102, Number 2

Posted: 23 February 2023
Reference #: 1HAZQN

Manurewa Intermediate was one of three schools to receive a special visit from Ed Sheeran during his tour of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ed Sheeran motivated students with songs and a speech.

Ed Sheeran motivated students with songs and a speech.

It would be no problem getting ākonga to school if they knew Ed Sheeran was visiting. For Manurewa Intermediate, they had to keep the visit a secret but still had good attendance thanks to their vision and mahi to engage ākonga, making school a place they want to be.

In June, the Ministry of Education’s Attendance and Engagement Strategy was released, including a target for schools to achieve 70 percent regular attendance in 2024 and 75 percent regular attendance in 2026. Regular attendance is defined as missing less than one week of school time across a term. Pre-Covid Manurewa Intermediate had a 94-96% attendance rate, since covid this has been around 90%.

Ross Devereux, the deputy principal, explains that their approach to attendance is twofold.

“The first part is that we want ākonga to want to be here. We see the environment as the first teacher – by environment we mean the physical space and the tone/relationships between people.

“Students should want to walk into this place and just feel like this is an oasis. This is home. This is where they belong.”

This is achieved by looking at curriculum, relationships students have with teachers and the staff, and how they interact with their friends. They also have four whānau groups that students belong to, which are not just confined to interacting on sports days.

The whānau groups have weekly competitions where they can gain ‘MI dollars’ for things such as attendance, not being late and correct uniform. The concept of earning dollars was designed to strengthen their financial literacy programme.

“We thought, ‘How can we take this to another level to really get into the mindset of students as to how money works and how savings work?’”

Each group has a ledger to keep track of the money earned and can use it to ‘purchase’ treats such as wearing mufti shoes, or having an area of the playground for their own use. High earners are also rewarded in weekly assemblies.

The second part to their attendance strategy is follow up.

If students have not been at school for a couple of days and there has been no contact, Ross and other teachers will go and visit the home to make sure everything is all right. Ross says that the follow up can take time but that it is worth doing.

Students were surprised and delighted with the visit.

Students were surprised and delighted with the visit.

A special visit

The visit from Ed Sheeran came about due to the school’s regular participation and achievements in Band Quest and Rock Quest  competitions – they were recognised as a school connected to the arts.

Ross received a phone call during the morning assembly from the organisers of Rock Quest  asking if it would be all right for Ed to visit the next day.

“They had been approached by Ed Sheeran’s promoters who said, ‘Ed wants to get into schools, he wants to do this sort of free gig for schools and help to inspire them. We know you guys have a solid music programme. Your students love singing, so are you able to host them at 11am on Wednesday?’

“I’m taking the call and as he’s saying this to me, I said, ‘Hang on, stop, stop, stop. Can you just repeat that? Who to come and visit? Are you kidding me?’”

Ross told principal Iain Taylor about the call and that he had agreed to the visit. Later in the afternoon sound technicians came to the school to check the sound equipment, and Ross and Iain told the senior leadership team about the visit. The other teachers and the students had no idea of what would happen at their Wednesday assembly.

Ross enjoyed having a brief chat with Ed before the show.

Ross enjoyed having a brief chat with Ed before the show.

On Wednesday, the assembly commenced and then Ross was asked to speak to the students. At first he said he was going to tell them about their upcoming camp but then told them to welcome a special visitor.

“I said, ‘Can you guys put your hands together, make some noise for Ed Sheeran’. Then he walks in and the sound, the screaming, the noise, it was one of those absolutely unforgettable moments.

“Just being amongst the atmosphere was so fulfilling. It was so heart-warming, because you just saw the looks on the students’ faces at the start with this utter sense of disbelief, wonder, and awe going, ‘Is this really happening?’ It was extremely special.”

As well as singing for the students, Ed also gave a speech encouraging them. Ross was impressed that it was not just an off-the-cuff quick talk, instead Ed had carefully prepared the speech.

“He talked about finding that one thing that you just absolutely love and following it through, and not being worried if you’re not the best at maths or reading and writing or whatever. It’s about having that one thing that will give you the confidence to perhaps boost those other areas and just keep following that through.”

As well as the performance at the school, Ed also made free tickets available for all students and up to four members of their families. The promoters supplied the school with forms for the students to fill out to organise the tickets. This did require additional work on the part of the school to process the forms and arrange the tickets, but Ross says this is part and parcel of what the school does.

“Our approach to education and curriculum and everything we do is giving the students the best deal possible even if that does take extra time and energy.

“If it’s good for our students, we should be doing it. The tickets and everything took extra time, but it just embodies what we believe these students deserve, and they deserve the world.”

The school has a strong music programme.

The school has a strong music programme.

All in for learning |
Kia kotahi te ū ki te ako – The Attendance and Engagement Strategy

The Government has developed a strategy for tackling the decade-long decline in regular attendance and engagement in schools. The strategy sets expectations of ākonga and whānau, schools, communities and government agencies in addressing this complex problem. It builds on work that government has already been undertaking alongside schools and communities to address attendance and engagement issues. 

Read more about the Attendance and Engagement Strategy (external link)


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

Posted: 8:56 am, 23 February 2023

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