Seeing each other in a new light

Issue: Volume 96, Number 11

Posted: 26 June 2017
Reference #: 1H9dLL

Freyberg High School principal Peter Brooks talks about how making connections across the early learning to tertiary pathway has helped challenge some long-held negative perceptions, building trust, respect and collaboration.

Becoming lead principal of Palmerston North East Community of Learning came at an ideal time for Peter.

“I’ve been a principal for 10 years and have a great management team at Freyberg. This is a new challenge and I’m really enjoying it,” he says.

Making connections

Peter believes that helping teachers to connect with their peers across early childhood education me nga kōhanga reo and primary and secondary schooling, is really important to building trust between Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako members, and to improving the teaching and learning experience for all their children and young people.

“For a long time secondary teachers have held the mantra that if only they’d taught them maths or writing in primary schools, we wouldn’t be trying to pick up the pieces. There’s been a lack of understanding and trust about what happens in primary to the point that secondary just retest when students arrive, rather than rely on the testing that’s been done,” he says.

“That’s terrible. In effect we were saying that they have had these students for eight years and they haven’t done anything! But, when I got this job and started visiting our primary schools’ classrooms, I went wow! Primary are at least five years ahead pedagogically than secondary, in my view. They’ve really run with the ball in terms of differentiating learning inquiry and they’re quite a way ahead of secondary.”

After Peter saw how different it is, he wanted his secondary teachers to see for themselves. So, on a teacher-only day at his high school, he arranged for all his secondary teachers to go to two primary schools to spend time in their classes.

“This was interesting and valuable cross-sharing. So now, the Hokowhitu primary teachers in our community are spending time at Freyberg to see how we work. They’ll attend a whānau class, our assembly, and they’ll then go to the first period to watch our staff teach years 9 and 10,” says Peter.

“All my previous associations with primary schools have been in formal settings, like a ceremony; never actually talking about teaching and learning. But, over the last few years, I’ve got to talking about teaching and learning with primary and intermediate principals. That’s a completely new thing and it’s great.

“All the research says that the only thing more effective than teachers is teachers working together and collaborating. It’s the right way to go and it’s just a matter of us working through it.”

Creating local career pathways

Freyberg High, along with other secondary schools in Palmerston North, participates in what they call Talent Central.

All our secondary schools fund a position to drive connections between tertiary institutions and businesses so we have pathways for our students through the next level,“ says Peter.

“We have an MoU to work with UCOL and Massey, as well as with local businesses. The businesses said they could employ a lot more people if they had a driver’s licence. So one of the things set up with Toyota, Manfield (track) and the AA was a joint vision that all the secondary students in Palmerston North leave school with a driver’s licence.”

“This initiative alone is making a lot of people more employable. There are all sorts of businesses now telling us what sort of skills they want, which means we can adapt our programmes at school to feed in so students can do pre-apprenticeships or get on STAR and Gateway programmes.”

Opportunities and challenges

“I feel I can add value by looking at what being in this Community of Learning means for the other principals. I get one week in every three to focus on this role, which is new and exciting. But I acknowledge other principals who are not lead principals are not so lucky.”

“There’s a high workload added to an already busy role if you’re a principal. I’d be struggling if I wasn’t the lead, so it would be good in future if Communities of Learning principals had their roles and time allowance expectations acknowledged so they have time to collaborate with the across-school teachers.”

In the set up stages, Peter says there were lots of meetings but to help ease the extra workload, their principal group now only meets once a term. He still meets with them individually during his dedicated week.

He feels that the new opportunities made available for teachers through Kāhui Ako are really exciting for them.

“If you think about promotion being more money or another responsibility, 14 teachers in our school got promotions because we joined the Community of Learning. That’s a lot of opportunities to do something different”, he says.

The future looks bright. Peter is already thinking ahead to when there will be five Kāhui Ako in Palmerston North with all the secondary schools as members.

“That’s when all five lead principals can meet and decide what we need to do in terms of Talent Central and other initiatives that involve a sense of us all doing things for Palmerston North as a whole.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:00 am, 26 June 2017

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