Lasting ties: New Zealand – South Australia principal exchange programme

Issue: Volume 97, Number 3

Posted: 26 February 2018
Reference #: 1H9hb0

Steve Berezowski, principal of Te Wharau School in Gisborne, and Tracey Davies, principal of Richmond School in Adelaide, swapped schools for a term in 2016. In 2018, they’re still working together.

Sharing practice and examining the ‘why’ behind the decisions they make have cemented a strong trans-Tasman bond between Steve Berezowski, principal of Te Wharau School in Gisborne, and Tracey Davies, principal of Richmond School in Adelaide. Although their exchange is over, genuine collaboration and learning continues.

Mutual benefits for both schools

Steve and Tracey found their 2016 principal exchange experience so valuable that they continue to communicate with each other at least twice a term. Early last year Steve revisited Richmond School with his deputy principal and two teachers. The teachers also spent time during the week visiting other schools in the area.

“I thought that showing them the ideas I talked about in practice would be a great way of getting the message across,” says Steve.

In term 4 last year Te Wharau teachers started trialling the Words Their Way programme in their classrooms. The programme, which they picked up from Richmond, is a teacher-directed, student-centred approach to vocabulary growth and spelling development.

Students complete a variety of sound, pattern and meaning activities, sorting pictures and words. The programme caters for differentiated learning in the classroom, rather than being a one-size-fits-all solution.

“Staff liked the programme and spread the word among themselves,” Steve says. After trialling it for a term, he says, they will review it and think about next steps.

Steve’s year 6 teacher is also keen to start implementing the MultiLit programme he was introduced to during his exchange, which involves children reading books in the library and then answering questions on computers about what they have read. Reading has increased at Richmond because it has an element of fun with the computer testing.

On the other side of the Tasman Tracey has incorporated some performance management ideas she saw at Te Wharau. While in Gisborne, Tracey got to experience/observe Steve’s staff going through a process of personal inquiry. 

Every term teachers meet and talk to Steve about what they’re doing and where they are going next. Tracey’s teachers really like the changes she’s made, including direct feedback and the direction being provided about their teaching.

More visits planned

Richmond is an ethnically diverse school, with kids of 43 different nationalities. When Steve first visited Richmond, he was impressed with their Intensive English Language Centre (IELC), which provides intensive English language support for newly arrived students from 5 to 12 years of age.

Students study a modified curriculum focusing on learning English, as well as the core content of each curriculum area. When students exit IELC, a transition programme is organised so they can continue their education with ease in their chosen mainstream school.

Steve wants more of his teachers exposed to these programmes, including his ESOL teacher. He’s thinking of sending a group of students over with the teachers, which he says will be subject to affordability.

“Many Te Wharau kids will never get the opportunity to travel or experience meeting people with such diverse backgrounds, so I will do my best to provide a week in South Australia for 2-4 students who can be billeted with local families and attend Richmond School to experience learning in a different environment.”

A lasting bond

The exchange has been an enriching experience for Steve and Tracey, and the benefits are starting to flow through to their teachers and students.

The bond is being formally recognised by both schools with the creation of a joint logo to represent an ongoing desire to build stronger trans-Tasman friendships and a commitment to share best practice to enhance student learning.

Designed by Tracey’s year 7 and 8 students, it will be displayed on the sign at Te Wharau’s entrance, and similarly at Richmond.

Steve says the exchange has been more than a professional learning opportunity for him.

“My staff gained many new ideas and have been introduced to a number of educational programmes that will provide positive learning experiences for their students. Friendship between our two schools continues to grow and the sharing of ideas and successes can only lead to further benefits for our students.

“The exchange is one of the greatest highlights of my 40-odd years in education.” 

The 2018 programme

Applications for the 2018 Primary and Secondary Principal Job Shadow will close on 12 March 2018. Principals employed on a full-time permanent basis in a primary, area or secondary state or state-integrated school are encouraged to apply.

Successful principals will work alongside a principal in a South Australian school for a period of time to gain insight into their role and school. Principals will then return to their own school and host the South Australian principal.

For more information about the programme and the application process visit the Ministry of Education website(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 26 February 2018

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