Rising to the challenge

Issue: Volume 96, Number 20

Posted: 13 November 2017
Reference #: 1H9g7N

Chris Bryant talks about his role as lead principal at Wakatipu Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako.

We see the Kāhui Ako opportunity as a way of strengthening collegiality and collaboration across the schools for our kids.

The biggest thing I’ve gained as lead principal is that one person can’t do it. The success of the Kāhui Ako is not going to come down to the success of one person.

I see myself, in essence, as leading a network of teams, as opposed to the Kāhui Ako lead, the across school leads, and the within school teachers. Each team connects with a lead from each school, and team members connect back to teams in their own schools, hence a network of teams.

As things merge and grow and the Kāhui Ako progresses, we’ll probably have more networks. These networks will, over time, drive change and distribute opportunities for our kids and our teachers across all our schools. They will help us to grow capacity and capability to focus on the few things we need to do well, and on succession planning.


We have strong relationships across our principals group and we’ve worked hard on that. Our boards and many of our teachers are engaged but if we’re truthful, our changes have, to date, been driven by the principals. In the early days, we had a series of collective meetings with all the boards and we presented what we were thinking. The endorsement from the boards was “we like what you’re talking about, so carry on”.

Our next step is to broaden the understanding with all our Kāhui Ako board members, educators and learners and launch their participation in what we are doing. Our focus has been on getting a common purpose and understanding of what we could all do together. It’s also been on developing systems and structures to sustain us going forward.

Setting achievement challenges

We have one secondary school and seven primary schools, which is fantastic – it’s the ideal cohort. If you look at the design around pathways, it’s perfect, as  most of our kids will feed into our one secondary school.

We all had a positive spirit about sharing our NCEA and National Standards data. When developing our achievement challenges, we were able to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of our data, but had a collaborative culture around sharing it.

We had a very talented group of leaders and middle leaders who worked on the data that put the challenges together, and a governance group that worked on the structures and processes so we could get them over the line and start utilising the resource available to us.

We do have to grow our understanding of our data so we know why some kids aren’t at standard or at NCEA L2. Are they quietly or overtly disengaged or do they have significant learning challenges? We need to drill down deep and find ways to take those kids forward.

The Wakatipu Basin performs really well against the NCEA L2 and National Standards markers. But drilling into our data, there are still improvements to be made.

We have three achievement challenges: boys’ writing, which is not an uncommon challenge; transitions both into the compulsory schooling sector and out of primary and into secondary, which is also common; and a future focus.

Future focus is about integrating all learning experiences so we keep growing the literacy and numeracy capabilities, along with knowledge and competencies that will equip our learners for the challenges of their future. Importantly, it’s sparking kids’ interest by using opportunities around them and enabling them to apply their learning in the communities they live in.

If we have engaged learners working with authentic matters, then the other learning will come.

Pioneering change

Changes are coming and we want to be pioneers, with all the opportunities and frustrations that go with it.

In 2018 I want to see opportunities for our teachers to share and celebrate their successes in their practice, or their changed practice. There are fantastic things going on in the classrooms already and we don’t ever want to stop that. In fact, all we want to do is grow it.

I’d like to see us harvesting good practice and sharing it with others. By the end of next year, I hope we’ll have simple but valid processes for collaborative inquiry. This is not just about finding a practice that makes a difference but about being able to justify why we do things.

We all have our part to play in this and that’s the critical thing – in fact, that would be my key point. We’re all building this together, both Kāhui Ako o Wakatipu and the Ministry, and we all have to keep sight of the kids – the reason we are doing this. 

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

Posted: 9:00 am, 13 November 2017

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