Take stock of your journey and see where it might take you next

Issue: Volume 94, Number 22

Posted: 7 December 2015
Reference #: 1H9cyQ

The 2016 Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards are now open for entry.

Over the past two years, the Awards have highlighted some extraordinary achievements of schools and early childhood services around New Zealand.

The Awards ceremony takes place during Matariki, a time of year when we look back on times past, and plan for what comes next.

For the 2016 Awards, there’s a particular focus on the journey – that every school and early childhood service has an ongoing story to tell, as they reflect on their achievements, fulfil their goals and look to the future.

“Our journey was to give our tamariki a sense that they could influence what happens in their lives,” says Dy Stirling, kaihautū of Nōku Te Ao, 2014 winner for Excellence in Governing (Awatea Award). Others who have enjoyed success at the Awards felt a similar sense of their efforts being part of a continuity: “We were talking about a seven-year journey, but we had to first of all explain what that journey was,” says Henk Popping, principal of Otumoetai Intermediate. “Our journey is all around improving the capacity of teachers, not focusing on curriculum but focusing on teacher practice. The whole focus is on improving learning, and we made a conscious decision that the only way we were going to do that was by having the best teachers in front of the students.”

The process of sharing your journey also works both ways – with educators benefitting from the learning experience of others’ stories.

“It’s also an opportunity to share and see other people’s journeys and find out what they’re doing within New Zealand,” says Karla Ralph, deputy principal of Coastal Taranaki School.“That collaboration and sharing is really great, because you can take a little bit from every school and put it back in your own school. So we had colleagues from other schools phoning us to say ‘Hey, how did you become finalists? And can you please come in and share your story with our staff?’”

But entering the Awards isn’t just a great way to share your story so it can inspire others – it also allows you to take stock of your journey at a particular point in time and get a sense of where that journey might take you next. In doing this, you can recognise the roles that staff, students, families, and the wider community play in furthering education at your school, kura or early childhood service.

It’s a unique opportunity to reflect on the achievements of your group, team or partnership – whether large or small. Popping notes that the benefit for schools is “actually the sitting down and getting clarity on their own thinking when they’re putting the award entry together.” Dr Michelle Dalrymple, head of maths at Cashmere High School, agrees: “It looked like a good opportunity to put our story together in one place, to bring all the different ideas together that had been going on. It made us aware of possibly some that we hadn’t actively been aware of, subtle shifts – you sometimes don’t notice until you look back and reflect on your journey.”

Jim Turrell, principal of Limehills School adds that their staff have “gone from thinking of themselves as teachers to thinking of themselves as high performing professionals” as a result of their success at the Awards.

In keeping with Matariki, each category represents a stage of the sun’s journey towards the new dawn. The Awards categories are:

Excellence In Engaging - Atahāpara Award

Named for the first glimpse of the new dawn, this award celebrates working together as a community to transform relationships and achievement, leading to improved and sustained outcomes for all children and young people.

Excellence In Leading – Atakura Award

Named for the red glow just before the sunrise, this award celebrates leadership and influence that have strengthened professional capability and created a change in conditions, leading to improved and sustained outcomes for all children and young people.

Excellence In Teaching & Learning – Atatū Award

Named for the moment just after sunrise, this award celebrates teaching that transforms the learning of all children and young people, and has improved and sustained outcomes for them all.

Excellence In Governing – Awatea Award

Named for the moment of daybreak, this award celebrates governance and management that create the conditions for leading and teaching that improve and sustain outcomes for all children and young people.

2016 Education Focus Prize – Takatū Prize

Named for the moment when we prepare ourselves for the new day, the 2016 Education Focus Prize celebrates collaboration along the whole education pathway to improve health, wellbeing, and learning success for every child and young person.

The Prime minister’s Supreme Award – Takiri Ko Te Ata

Named for the moment when the sun’s first rays touch the skin, this award is selected from the winners in the four Award categories and is determined by the extent of improvement and impact on education outcomes.

Entering the Awards can have wide-ranging benefits. It can lift your sense of achievement, bring whānau together, and even transform communities. And there are tangible benefits of entering as well, which can help your school or early childhood service as your journey continues:

  • All entries will receive feedback from a panel of experts.
  • All finalists will receive certificates, as well as a financial award to acknowledge their contribution to education.
  • Winners of the four Awards categories and the Focus Prize each receive a package that includes a trophy, certificate, a professional development opportunity, and a financial award of $20,000.
  • The winner of The Prime Minister’s Supreme Award receives a package that includes an opportunity to represent New Zealand education, the Supreme Award trophy, a certificate, and an additional financial award of $30,000.

Greg Mackle, principal of 2015 Supreme Award winner Gisborne Boys’ High School, agrees that the benefits go far beyond prestige. “It was really good to get an external organisation and some very well-qualified judges to come to our school and look at what we’re doing”, Mackle says, adding that the judges’ affirmation that their work was worthwhile was a key benefit of the Awards process. Craig Callaghan, head of Whakairo Course of Study, at Gisborne Boys’ High School, also believes that the process of entering the Awards provides important context for a school’s achievements: “In some ways, you could even say it should be compulsory every five years, for every organisation to have a go at it. Because it’s a review of your systems, it’s a way of analysing what you’ve achieved and what you haven’t achieved, and it’s a way of setting goals for the future.”

The entry process begins with your visit to the Awards website at pmawards.education.govt.nz. Entering the Awards involves telling the story of your achievements and providing supporting evidence, which is then assessed by a panel of education experts and, for the finalists, a visit by members of the judging panel. An Awards ceremony is held during Matariki in June, where the winners in each category are announced.

Henk Popping is quick to suggest that a combination of team cooperation and being prepared can be extremely beneficial: “I wrote a good chunk of it, and so did my deputy principal and various staff. But we also had a lot of documentation already in place for various other reasons, so we were able to draw on what we’d already done and put it into the entry form.”

Mackle agrees that having comprehensive evidence on hand is essential in putting together a strong entry: “After a hectic week of putting it all together and making sure we based our submission on evidence and data, we managed to get it away on the morning that the deadline closed. We’d been collecting that data for a long, long time to make sure we that we were heading in the right direction, so that was all there.”

“We shared stories around building relationships with hapū and iwi, celebrations, events – just that day-to-day engagement with parents,” says Kelly Abraham, centre manager of Barnados KidStart Childcare in Hastings, while Karla Ralph, deputy principal of Coastal Taranaki School says they collected “student voice, and we also collected whānau and parent voice.”

Tools and resources are provided on the website to help you start your entry, and the entry form has been streamlined to assist entrants in assembling the information and evidence relevant to each section. A series of videos also brings to life the journeys of previous finalists and winners to give you inspiration about how to frame your story, and there are also videos detailing specific aspects of the entry process and providing ideas on the types of information to include and different ways to approach telling those aspects of the story.

Any group, team, or partnership can enter the Awards, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.

To share your journey, and get more information about the Awards, visit pmawards.education.govt.nz(external link)

Entries for the 2016 Prime Minster’s Education Excellence Awards are open now, and close at 5pm, Friday 18 March 2016.

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

Posted: 5:03 PM, 7 December 2015

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