Schools and community work together to help students thrive

Issue: Volume 96, Number 15

Posted: 28 August 2017
Reference #: 1H9eE0

Student engagement, behavioural changes and community support have all been positive outcomes of the North East Pathways Project.

A project using sport to forge stronger community links is creating new opportunities for students to thrive and achieve.

The North East Pathways Project was first established in 2014 as a means to use physical education in schools as a tool and context for academic success.

With a shared desire to tap into the community at a grassroots level, the Hutt City Council has worked alongside Sport New Zealand to support a group of schools in the Taita/Pomare/Stokes Valley district of Wellington.

With their boots on the ground, council officers began working with said local schools, sports clubs, teachers and whānau to develop and test the notion that increased participation in sport and physical activity could potentially lead to improved academic and social outcomes which could benefit not only schools but also the contributing communities.

The project was funded by Sport New Zealand, which is increasingly engaged in demonstrating how sport can contribute to educational and societal outcomes such as achievement, engagement and community connectedness. 

Avalon Intermediate has become the champion of the project, with one class initially undertaking the programme, under the guidance of former teacher Matthew Jackett, who is now principal at Pirinoa School in South Wairarapa. The project then expanded across the school and other teachers began to implement the ideas in their own classrooms.

Undoubtedly the project has been a success for Avalon Intermediate and principal Ian Hastie cannot speak highly enough of the impact it has had on the school.

At its core, the programme encourages the use of sport to boost academic success as well as encourage qualities such as resilience, social skills and respect among students.

While focused on physical education, it exposes students to a wide range of activities and promotes the learning of literacy, technology, mathematics, social sciences and hauora through sports, exercise and community events.

Ian maintains that the programme is not a sports academy but rather an opportunity for all students to explore new skills and find new passions, using sport as a medium.

He says the pilot class, then led by Matthew Jackett, was not going to become a ‘sporting class’ and credits community events such as Round the Bays, where students became journalists and photographers, as a means to increase literacy, social science skills and general hauora.

“This is not an elite sports thing and we need to find a role in the project that fits everyone,” says Ian.

A community effort

The success of the programme at Avalon Intermediate can largely be attributed to teacher and community involvement, with the programme encouraging support from whānau members and engaging parents, caregivers and children in community events such as weekend sports days facilitated by the school.

Ian admits his school still faces challenges, but believes the project has been paramount in driving Avalon Intermediate in a positive direction.

“We try and keep them on board… resilience needs building and some don’t cope as well as they should, but the opportunities for the kids have been immense.”

He adds that behavioural issues have decreased since the programme’s inception and attributes this to the fact that the project expands well beyond the school gates.

Ian credits community involvement and the establishment of youth facilities such as The Walter Nash Centre for keeping his students focused and safe when outside the school grounds. As a result of the project in its entirety he notes that  “attendance improved, engagement improved, we got parents involved – it is a real community effort.”

Student voice has also been vital in ascertaining the success of the programme and it is clear that the students see the value of their new learning, with anonymous morsels ranging from “...everyone’s more happier in class. And we all get along well. And I find it more exciting when we do our work” to “I’ve gone higher in maths”.

While student success is definitely something to be celebrated, the teachers involved have had to upskill somewhat to ensure the success of the project, with Hutt City Council Sport and Recreation programme manager Mark Curr praising teachers for doing the “heavy lifting” and principals for offering their steadfast support to the programme.

The programme has since been extended to other schools, with Taita College (which Avalon Intermediate contributes to) currently implementing a similar philosophy, as part of Sport New Zealand’s national Sport in Education initiative.

Ian is unwavering in his belief of the programme and encourages other schools to follow suit in order to create greater opportunities for students.

“The way to go about this is to get your local council on board alongside Sport New Zealand and try to co

me up with similar plans,” he says.

“Without a doubt, it’s been a positive experience for Avalon Intermediate School.” 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 28 August 2017

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