By Arnika Hazelwood | Posted: Thursday May 31, 2018
Our school was selected as one of 12 top performing schools in New Zealand and showcased in the latest ERO publication published 31 May 2018.
The Education Review Office (ERO) reviews all schools in New Zealand and shares best practice in their publications.
In 2017 we received a very positive ERO report, and as a consequence a team returned in 2018 to follow up on "What Drives Learning in the Senior Secondary School." This research will also contribute to the current national review on NCEA being undertaken by the Ministry of Education.
They were excited about our curriculum, which reflects the aspirations of the New Zealand curriculum and Logan Park's blue-sky thinking. They celebrated our ability to cater for all of our diverse learners as well as our phenomenal national NZQA Scholarship results sustained over 20 years.
ERO looked at the way our school provides a coherent curriculum, rather than one dominated by assessment requirements. The ERO publication features Logan Park as an example of how we have developed a cohesive approach to curriculum coherence and students’ success.
Below is an extract from the ERO publication on Logan Park:
A strong feature that led to coherence was the high quality of learning relationships between teachers and students, students and students, as well as teachers and teachers. Frequent contact with home and opportunities for useful conversations between teachers, students and parents about student progress and learning pathways were a feature of these schools. Community engagement effectively connected with students’ wider lives and engaged support from students’ families. Students confidently reviewed and discussed their own progress.
The following example shows how Logan Park High School developed a cohesive approach to curriculum coherence and students’ success.
The stated purpose of the curriculum, teaching and learning at Logan Park is to make sure: “our students acquire and develop the knowledge, skills, tools and values expected of a well-educated person and life-long learner.” The curriculum is based on the principles of Excellence, Creativity and Community, Heritage, Equity, Integrity and Environment.
The school’s approach to curriculum delivery is student centred, inclusive and flexible. It takes account of the diversity and richness of the school’s community. The development of the curriculum has been ongoing since 2007, and is under constant review.
Shared language and student agency are at the core of the school. Students have a say about their learning and the school. Student feedback about their classes is shared with teachers. Students, teachers and the community have discussed what is special about the school and have identified the values that drive the curriculum.
“The New Zealand Curriculum is aspirational. We are making it our own. We have grappled with the Key Competencies. We have lots of robust discussions about what success looks like.”
Students said they want to be at school as social beings, to discuss, argue and develop their ideas and knowledge. The main aim in class was to teach students to think critically about what they learnt. Teachers planned courses with the express intention of covering more content than would be assessed, so that “learning becomes the focus”.
“We want our students to be open, thoughtful and to take risks. Students who trust their own thinking.”
“…assessment becomes transparent but invisible, it is important but in the background.”
In the senior school classes are not streamed, and there are no alternative classes. No NCEA credits are offered in Years 9 and 10. The school offers extension rather than acceleration, showing students and parents the depth of work students are capable of, given the opportunity. Reports on student dispositions and learning habits are sent home weekly and students are awarded a junior diploma that indicates their progress in key competencies. The criteria for this diploma have been refined over time to make the expected behaviours explicit and understood by all.
Heads of department meet frequently to share ideas and strategies for learning. Teachers have shared their understanding about inquiry, to put this into practice in a genuine way. Some teachers work together on inquiries based on student needs. They also collaborate in writing tasks for achievement standards used across subjects. Senior leaders compensated teachers for the extra time they put in by reducing their responsibilities in other areas.
“Teachers are amazingly generous with their time. They assist with assessment, sometime for students in other subjects.”
“[There are] lots of emails and documents where students discuss their learning with teachers.”
Senior leaders value the extra time given by teachers and look for ways to compensate staff with time “to do what is important.”
Students who spoke to ERO recognised and applauded the school’s values:
“Within my first day, after I came from another school, I learned about ‘respectful, motivated, inclusive’ [the school values]. All year levels are together and teachers talk to students without barriers.”
“The vibe of the school is service to others.”
“It can be scary not doing things for credits - what’s the point? But now I’m excited about learning - I love it again.”
“[Here] we fit NCEA into learning rather than fit learning into NCEA.”
Students understand the purpose of the standard they will be assessed against. They use the language of standards and can choose those that are appropriate to their own pathways. Students have been able to cross-credit assignments in subjects such as English and media studies, history and music.
The school has achieved results in New Zealand Scholarship significantly above those of any other school in the region. Senior leaders attribute this success both to the way the school highlights the Key Competencies and how it provides a curriculum that engages students in learning, and develops their capacity for self-motivated learning. Teachers offer tutorials on an opt-in basis for students who wish to attempt scholarship. There are no formal scholarship classes timetabled at junior or senior levels.
“School results prove that our approach works. We have no special scholarship classes…biggest number of scholarship in the province. We see the school values in scholarship: open, thoughtful, taking risks - students who trust their own thinking.”
The full ERO publication can be found here: http://www.ero.govt.nz/publications/what-drives-learning-in-the-senior-secondary-school/