Friday, June 29, 2012

Let's talk learning (2)

Innovative not Experimental
Amesbury School is a 21st century school, concerned with 21st century learning – it is absolutely not “experimental”. However, it is unashamedly innovative. Innovation refers to the creation of better or more effective products, processes etc. It starts with what we know and attempts to make it better. Our thinking is strongly researched based – and we are focused on best practice from around the world. Our mandate to be innovative comes from the educational vision of the Establishment Board which, after consultation with the Amesbury community, chose “innovation” as one of the school’s key values.

We are a 21st century school because we are preparing students for THEIR future, not for OURS. If we are truly doing this, then school will and must look different from the education we received. We cannot say, “Well it was good enough for me and look at what I achieved.” The fact is these children are not our generation and we are doing them a disservice if we think their education should be just like ours. I found some video footage from the 1940s and it is interesting to note that people like John Dewey, whose educational thinking has been hugely influential for the last 100 years, was saying exactly the same things then that we are saying now. 70 years later, sadly, it seems not much has changed and yet the world has changed dramatically in many ways. Check out this seven minute video. I imagine you will find it as fascinating as I did:

The Ignite talk I gave last week focused on the need to develop a sense of urgency about changing how we deliver education to meet the needs of the 21st century. If we do not get urgent about this, not only do we put our future economies at risk, but we risk setting our children up to struggle and, perhaps, fail in the future – especially those who are less resilient and less adaptable.

Yet when we try to create the change that common sense tells us is necessary, time and again we hit resistance. Why is it that human nature is so resistant to change? It seems counter intuitive to me to resist that which is essential to one’s own survival. Yet that is exactly what we do. Everyone is talking about the importance of 21st century learning yet how much is really changing in our schools? We know that change is difficult because people have deeply embedded ideas about the way the world is and when confronted with what change might actually look like in practice, it hits up against these paradigms, and creates fear and anxiety. So how do we get people passed that to allow necessary change to occur?

Simon Breakspear, a recognised thinker in education, said of innovation and change – “get started and then get better”. That’s the process we are involved in. Based on the best thinking we have available to us, and based on the mandate we have from the Board of Trustees, we have started. Now we are in the process of “getting better” which will involve constant self-review and is a process that will never end. I believe this focus on data and what it is telling us makes innovation as safe as possible for all of those involved. I am very committed to our practice being data and evidence-based and we are committed to being responsive to what data is telling us. Hence, we have already sought feedback in a number of ways from students, parents and teachers and are on our second round of collecting, collating and analysing achievement data.

As I have said in a previous Blog Post – in terms of the change that is necessary, it is not a case of traditional education or innovative 21st century learning. It is a case of both/and. In fact the world does not particularly benefit from labelling things and placing them in boxes or from taking this kind of binary approach. Labels like traditional, innovative or experimental actually take away from the real question that is central to a consideration of schooling and that is, “What do our children need to be successful participants in their present and their future?”

......More on this in my next Let's talk learning" posting.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Students in the Principal's Office

At Amesbury School students are never sent to me for bad behaviour but rather because they are involved in exciting learning programmes. Over the last week or so I have had some wonderful visits from students.

Visit 1: Koru Hub Inquiry Group. One morning I was visited by a group of year 2 Koru Hub students who very politely asked if they could make an appointment to meet with me later in the day. I was to be their group's "Super Hero" and they wanted to ask me some questions about myself. Later that afternoon they arrived on their own with a variety of technology with which to record the interview and a huge list of questions. I have to say it was a highly organised affair. Samuel had the iPad with the questions. Lucy had paper and a pencil to take notes the old-fashioned way (and I was so impressed because she wrote a whole page of densely written notes). Chelsea had the recording microphone and she went between Samuel and I as Samuel asked questions and I gave answers. Joshua used an iPad to record the interview. Abbie took photos and videos using a smart phone. These students were completely self-organised and self -directed. They knew exactly what they were doing and they did it efficiently, without fuss, with complete mastery of the technology and extremely politely. I was most impressed! I was asked some wonderful questions - see video snippets below for answers to such questions as "Why did you marry John?" and "Why are you short?"

Interview questions:
Lesley, why did you marry John?

What is your super power?

Samuel: Some people think you are short....

Samuel: Lesley, what is your favourite thing about Amesbury School?

Visit 2: Harakeke Hub Emergency Inquiry Group - Megan, Luke, Emma and Ruby (session leader) met with me to share the findings of the hazard check they had carried out throughout the school. The students had found a number of hazards which they rated on a 3 point scale. The group asked if they could carry out the hazard check monthly. I told them I thought this was a great idea. They were also chasing up a response from me regarding a proposal they had sent to me to purchase emergency supplies. I reminded them that I had requested further information before I would make a decision. They went off to do some further research so that they could put this information together for me. I was very impressed with the thoroughness with which these students carried out their hazard checks and the very mature way they reported to me on their findings. Fantastic work! Well done Megan, Luke, Emma and Ruby.By the way, great leadership, Ruby.

Visit 3: A couple of fluffy ducks

One lunchtime two Amesbury students stood outside my window mouthing something at me that I could not pick up. I beckoned them into my office. They asked if they could do a dance for me. Delighted, I said yes and videoed it. Here it is for your enjoyment....Thanks Abbie and Nistha for making my day!

Visit 4: Arthur and his Amazing Printing - Arthur came to see me today because for the second day in a row he has done amazing printing. He had lots of questions to ask when he found a plan of our school on the floor. He carried on a great conversation with Rory O'Connor who was visiting at the time. Congratulations, Arthur, on amazing work.

French Classes at Amesbury School



Bonjour! I hope that your child enjoyed the free Demonstration lunchtime French lesson last Tuesday. We had a great turn out and the children were very enthusiastic. If they missed this and would like to try out a Free Trial lesson on Tuesday 17 July please let me know.
If you would like to enrol your child, here is some further information:
The French club will be held in Term 3 every Tuesday at lunchtime at Amesbury School. I am hoping to start these classes on Tuesday 17 July and is suitable for all Year 1 – 6 children. Children come along to the class with their lunch as soon as lunchtime starts.
The class is taught in a relaxed and informal environment using games, songs, role-play, craft and worksheets. The class will also include a French lunch and a French end of year show. The teachers are fully trained by LCF Fun Languages and native or near native speakers. Depending on the class size, the class will be taught by either one or two teachers. 

SPECIAL FIRST TIME OFFER FOR TERM 3 ONLY: 10 weeks of lunchtime classes $130.00+gst,plus annual membership fee as detailed below (fees are payable per term at the beginning of the term).  A 10% sibling discount is also offered.
(Fees for lunchtime French classes are normally $14.50+gst).

ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP (compulsory with 2 options available):

Option 1: Membership pack including French CD, songbook, LCF Clubs backpack, French stickers and a one-year home subscription to Babelzone which is LCF Clubs’ interactive, fun language website (valued at $150 per year). Cost: $45+gst

Option 2: Membership pack includes French handbook, LCF Clubs backpack, French stickers and a one-year home subscription to Babelzone which is LCF Clubs’ interactive, fun language website (valued at $150 per year).
Cost: $25+gst

To enrol your child please email your child’s name, their age, your contact details or for more information please email: or call Annick Withinshaw on 476 3098.

Please visit for more details on other language classes or for further information on LCF Fun Languages. LCF Fun Languages has been running language clubs in New Zealand for over 15 years.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Holiday Activity - Family Movie

I received the following email from Sandrine and her family. It refers to a movie that is downloadable and ideal for families to share together.

I have read the Wikipedia explanation and it sounds amazing. It is also narrated by some extremely well known movie stars. I will definitely watch it over the holidays.
From Sandrine

"I would like to share with you this amazing movie called HOME.

The Wikipedia will probably explain better than me what it is about so here is the link :

And here is the link for the movie in english :

It is free to download for everybody.

We watched it as a family movie and we loved it, it is a good movie to share with family and friends...

I hope you will enjoy it with your family, it is a documentary to SHARE."
Thanks so much Sandrine.
 ENJOY everyone and happy holidays!

News in Brief 2

Another quick round up of the week that's been.

Anchor Milk Presentation:

Three students (Luke Walmsley, Joshua Clark and Grace Hilton) were selected by their Hubs to represent the school and accept a cheque from Anchor Milk. The special promotion was intended to encourage the purchase of Anchor milk, while at the same time provide an opportunity to give back to the community. Three schools were chosen by New World to share in $3500 donated by Fonterra. People who purchased Anchor Milk were given a token which they then placed in the container - choosing to support Churton Park School, Amesbury School or St Brigid's School. We received a very welcome cheque for $1050.00 which we will put towards the purchase of equipment that will be available for the community to use.

A very BIG thanks to Churton Park New World, Anchor Milk and Fonterra for their support of local schools. And thanks to all those school families and wider community members who supported Amesbury School.

Farewell to Judy:
We were sad to say goodbye on Monday to Judy, our Monday music teacher, who introduced our children to a variety of instruments. Her teaching stint with us is finished and we wish her all the best.

Learning Celebration and SuperHero Day
These are taking place this Friday - last day of term! The Learning Celebration will take place in the hall at 1.45pm. All whanau welcome. Koru students and teachers are invited to think about what their Super Powers are and dress up as SuperHeroes. I am looking forward to having a school full of SuperHeroes on Friday. Hold on....we have a school full of SuperHeroes every day. Go Amesbury!

The Great Pizza Day
Last Friday the Harakeke Food Technology Group made pizza for about 70 people. It was a huge undertaking but the end result was really worth it because the pizza was delicious! The pizza base was made on Tuesday and left in the fridge to mature for several day (made the place smell very yeasty at times!) and then it took all day to make the pizzas, serve them and then clean up. I had a hawaiian pizza and it was outstanding. A BIG thanks to our Food Technology Group and the parents and teachers who helped them. I hope you do it again!

Ignite Evening
We had our Ignite Evening last Thursday. About 50 teachers from around the Greater Wellington area and even from as far away as Te Karaka (Gisborne) came together for food, fellowship and sharing of ideas. Eleven teachers (seven of them from Amesbury) did ignite talks. These talks are five minutes long, with 20 powerpoint slides, automtically set to change very 15 seconds. So you have to keep up. We were all pretty breathless by the end! There was a wide array of topics and all of the talks were really interesting. The talks were videoed and they will be put online soon. When they are available, we will let you know because you may like to go and have a look. We thought it was a pretty good effort for our first Ignite Evening. The Auckland Ignite Evening was happening at the same time and there were lots of Tweets going back and forth.

Games in the Library
I was excited to go into the library yesterday lunchtime to see technology off the menu for a day and board games on the menu. Board games are pretty big in our house (as is technology) and it was great to see the children socialising in different ways while exploring problem solving strategies. I also loved the fact that older students were assisting younger students. A big thanks to our students librarians who made this happen. I am told the games will be out regularly.

Innovative Schools
David Waters (Board Chair) and Lesley were involved in an innovative schools' day with other principals and teachers from around Wellington earlier this week. Amesbury School was invited to join this group because of the innovative practices it is implementing. The plan is for schools with innovative approaches to work together to assist and support each other with their innovation and to draw out some common understandings about innovative practices that improve student learning. Following the formal meeting, the attendees came out to Amesbury School to have a look around and to talk about our learning approaches.


We have continued to have visitors. Since I last wrote News in Brief we have hosted visitors from the following schools/institutions:

Learning Media - Innovator Schools
Porirua College - Teachers from the PLD Inquiry Group
ICTPD Cluster - 20 plus principals and teachers working together to develop the use of ICT in their schools
St Josephs School
Scots College

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kelly Sports at Amesbury School in Term 3

Kelly Sports are very excited to be offering our two great sports programmes from week 2 of next term for everyone at Amesbury school;
Sports Beginnings (years 1-3) - This program is a great way to challenge and improve your child’s motor skills and coordination within a fun environment. Learn the basics of all sports - throwing, catching, running, jumping, kicking and more through fun drills, exercises and games. We aim to improve spatial awareness, team play and game sense, but above all we aim to have FUN!
Winter Winners (years 4-6) - Come and try Mini Olympics, Netball, Ripper Rugby and Football. Learn skills and improve ability, try 2 weeks each of these sports. We use games, drills and exercises to teach game sense and team play. It’s a great way to try new sports, improve old skills or maintain fitness – all while having a great time!
Serena Somlyai
 - Kelly Sports Wellington
 - 04 972 7201 -

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Super Hero Day in Koru Hub

As part of our 'Amesbury School' inquiry this term, the children identified that they didn't know all our staff members and their role at school.

Children have been working in groups to inquire about and interview each staff member.  The result is that children have created super hero trading cards for all staff that outlines what their skills and interests are - their super powers.

To end the term we are inviting all children and staff from Koru hub to dress up as a super hero on Friday 29 June.  This is not compolsory, but is open to anyone who wishes to do so.  There would be no need to wear school uniform if they are in their costume for the day.

Join us at our learning celebration assembly at 1:45pm that afternoon (Friday 29 June)where we will be sharing our super hero trading cards.

Koru Hub Team

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reporting on achievement at Amesbury School

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou - greetings to all of you

Improving achievement - the teaching and learning/assessment/reporting/programming cycle

Last term we tested and assessed students using our national standards matrices which have achievement indicators in reading, writing and maths. Early this term teachers met with parents and students to consider their children's achievement and to set achievement and learning goals. These goals, and the next steps as indicated by the matrices, were taken into account as teachers planned students' learning programmes. For example, fractional knowledge in maths was low across the student body, so this term there has been a focus on improving students' knowledge of fractions and ratios and proportions. We have seen some significant improvements as a result. However, there is still further work to be done in this area of maths.

As term 2 draws to a close, we are currently in the process of collecting achievement data again. Over the last couple of weeks the teachers have been busy doing running records, AsTTle writing testing and maths testing. This data from testing and evidence from students' work will be used to update the reading, writing and maths matrices (highlighted in a different colour so that parents and students can clearly see improvements made) and will be used significantly to inform the teaching and learning programmes for term 3.

Though I have not seen all testing results yet, in general, the testing is pointing to some significant          improvements in achievement. While we attribute some of this to our differentiated and personalised learning programmes (for example, some students received a specialised maths programme which was in addition to their normal maths programme) we also feel that some of it has to do with the fact that students have started to settle in and are beginning to find their feet in a new school. It is well known that transition to a new school can impact progress for a period of time. Some students can take up to six months before they begin to make progress again after a change in school. However, in general, students make that up and, in time, show no disadvantage because of the move. The implementation dip is a well known phenomenon in business and education. When you implement change there is an initial dip in production or achievement followed by rapid improvement, settling down to steady growth. This has been the experience of other new schools - the implementation dip followed by rapid improvement in achievement. I believe that is what we will see at Amesbury School.

Our second reporting round will take place week 2/3 next term. This will be emailed out to you, or in the case of Harakeke Hub, a link to online documents will be emailed out. This report will include three documents: the updated matrices - which show your child's achievement in relation to the national standards - and is our most comprehensive and significant assessment and reporting tool, a summary report in which we meet our legislative requirement to make a statement about your child's achievement in relation to the national standards and the updated Personal Learning Treaty. Your child's most recent running record result, AsTTle Writing assessment result and Numpa Testing results will be included in the Matrices.

For us, the most important aspect of this assessment cycle is to have quality data from which to plan learning programmes that meet the individual needs of students. From this data, we are going to be very deliberate about identifying students who are not achieving to expectation and developing Individual Education Plans for them. These will be reviewed frequently with parents, with more frequent assessments being done to ensure that the plan is working for them and that they are making accelerated progress.

For all students, further data will be collected towards the end of term 3 - however, this is likely to cover the other strands in maths, other genre in writing, involvement in the arts, intercurltural competencies etc.

In term 4 after a solid period of core curriculum teaching and learning, the final data in reading, writing and maths will be collected, collated, analysed and reported on. Obviously there will be some variations in this testing regime. For example, new entrants will be assessed much more frequently to ensure they are making progress.

Although this cycle of assessment will continue next year, the nature of the reports will change. Last year I spoke about creating an online reporting tool - a "living report" - which parents and students will have access to all the time and to which evidence of learning will be attached. I mentioned that it will also be able to be used to create a personalised homework programme that is specific to the needs of each child etc and it will have many other useful features that will enable parents much more of a window into their child's learning.
The creation of this software programme is underway. However, it is a big piece of work and we want to get it right - so it will take time. More on this later.

Our attention so far has focused on developing processes for reporting on reading, writing and maths. However, we are aware that education must have a broader focus than this. Over the next couple of terms, we will be considering how we report on key competencies, other curriculum areas such as the arts, science etc.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

iTime in Koru Hub

How does iTime work in koru hub and why do we do it this way?

iTime means 'independent time' (although children also work in groups and with buddies during this time). This is the time during the day when children are working from their personalised learning contract.  With teachers,  children plan the tasks they need to do in order to meet their learning goals and to increase their learning in inquiry, literacy, numeracy and the key competencies such as self management and independence. On the children's personal contracts, together we set up what they are going to do during itime.  Some things are compulsory (must do) and some are choice (can do).  

Must do tasks include:

  • Finish writing after the teacher modelling
  • Finish task from the inquiry workshop (different everyday - could be to finish writing questions for interviewing people, or searching for info about the inquiry topic
  • Spelling 
  • Printing 
  • Library visit (children can now self issue and there is a teacher in the library at all time to monitor this)
  • Fitness 
  • Basic facts will be starting soon
Can do activities include:
  • Fluency 
  • Bug Club
  • Mathletics
  • Literacy games (alphabet, spelling board games, literacy games on computer or ipad)
  • Independent reading/writing (creative own choice writing)
  • Buddy reading
  • Music practise
  • Developmental
  • Listening Post

Each child's contract is personalised to their own needs.  For instance a child who is an independent reader won't choose an alphabet game as it does not meet their learning needs.  A child who is an emergent reader will need to select "My Pile Your Pile" game so they can increase their knowledge of the high frequency words they need to become capable readers. Some children need to complete printing everyday, while others may only have to plan to complete it once a week to maintain their handwriting skills. 

Children choose what order they do things in, and manage their own time (with monitoring).  They need to make informed decisions about what their priority tasks are, what to do if there is no computer available for their task, gathering their resources, choosing an appropriate place to work and with who, manage their time effectively in order to complete everything and to become more independent.  Children who need more support in this have less choice and more direction from teachers, for example we would instruct a child to do their printing first, then their spelling and this is the place that you need to sit in order for you to concentrate at your best.  There is a group of emergent learners (usually New Entrant children) who work in a nurture group altogether for one hour during itime with more structure and support. Currently children have a laminated timetable that they put pictures on their tasks on in the order they wish.  As they finish each task they take the picture off.  Our long term goal is to have their personalised contracts on their personal google calendar so it can be accessed from home.

We have noticed that many children rely a lot on teacher support to find their scrapbook or printing book, these can be found and go back to the same place everyday.  Over the next two weeks we will be focusing on these type of independent skills so teachers are more able to conference and challenge children with their work rather than helping children to find their book or other resources that they need to manage.  Children will also be required to tidy up appropriately.

"Workshops" is a term we use that means "lesson".  During itime children are taken out for their workshops in reading as well as other literacy skills such as punctuation and identifying key words etc.  We also have specific workshops based on information literacy skills.  Last week we focused on interviewing skills as that is what is needed in order for the children to gather information for their current inquiry.  We look at the skills that are needed for the current inquiry and the children's assessment matrices to identify which workshops to hold.  With the teachers, children are able to identify if they need to go to that workshop or not.  Next term we will be communicating with parents about the specific workshops your child is in and with what teacher. You can currently see what workshops are planned by clicking on the inquiry workshop details in the calendar found on our planning site. 

There is 2 hours of itime every Tuesday-Thursday. This equates to at least 2 hours of literacy plus the literacy they are doing during inquiry.  It is no different to a 'traditional classroom' that has guided lessons and rotations - only our children have more ownership over when and where they do their tasks and it is more personalised.  Children are more motivated as they have more ownership over their learning and it is suited to their needs. 

There is always at least one teacher who is with the children during itime while other teachers are taking workshops.  That teacher is monitoring that the children are self-managing, assisting in tasks and conferencing with children giving feedback and feedforward.

It may look disorganised from a viewing perspective but there is a huge amount of structure that underlines it and a massive amount of organisation that takes place to ensure children have tasks appropriate to their needs and that children are receiving plenty of teaching and learning in all curriculum areas.  

The main difference to a traditional class is that there is no single classroom - so there are more children but also more teachers, and instead of everyone doing the same thing at the same time in a rotation system while lessons are taking place children manage their independent time without needing to fit into a set timetable.  There actually becomes less down time as some children finish faster than someone else and they can move onto their next activity straight away.  Another advantage of this system is that when a teacher is taking a workshop (lesson) there are still other teachers who can work with the children on their other activities.  In a traditional classroom one teacher has to teach a lesson and also 'manage' children working independently.

This is a very exciting and motivating way to structure part of the day for not only the children but the teachers also.  Every decision that is made is based on assessment data, observations and a lot of teacher collaboration about every child. Based on research and experience with teaching and learning we know we are offering the most effective ways that are constantly reflected on and adapted as necessary and assessment data will show this over time with progress and achievement. 

We welcome anyone who wishes to arrange a time to come in during itime and observe or even chat about their child's personalised learning contract. 

And lastly, come along to our learning celebration assembly on Friday 29 June at 1:45pm in the hall.  We would love to see you there!

Let’s talk learning…… Post1

Interrogating the old and the new

Educationally we are in challenging times. We are living in an age of rapid change, and education must change to reflect this or risk becoming irrelevant. We all understand this, and yet when confronted with what this change might look like in practice, it really does challenge our paradigms of what schooling should look like and it makes us very anxious. This concern is understandable. Traditional teaching is what we all know and what we have experienced ourselves in education and it is what we have generally been successful in. For us as teachers also, it is what we have experienced more than we have not. And it is tempting to continue to do the same old thing – not necessarily because it is the best option but because it’s actually easier to swim with the tide than against it.

For some reason, and this often catches me by surprise, what is traditional is privileged in our society. We interrogate the new, but the traditional is not required to account for itself in the same way. We often don’t interrogate what we know and are comfortable with. People involved in innovative initiatives are held to higher account for what they do than those involved in more traditional pursuits. We experience this frequently. Some people come in and look at our hubs and the furniture (specifically, the smaller number of desk and chairs), shake their heads, and without really thinking ask, “How do the children learn?” I respond by saying, “Well I learn in the shower, when I am out walking, when I lie awake in bed thinking, when I am watching a movie or reading a novel.” Or I might ask, “What evidence do you have that sitting behind a desk is best for children’s learning or the only way that children learn?” This question – how do children learn when the classroom is not full of desks and chairs - is an automatic response to something that looks different and it reveals a deeply embedded assumption that children can only learn in one particular way, and yet from every perspective, including a common sense perspective, the assumption and the question is neither robust nor defensible. Common sense tells us that learning does not begin the moment a child sits at a desk or finish when the child gets up to move to another piece of furniture. Our senior students will tell you very articulately that being able to move around the spaces and work in different ways, using different furniture, assists their learning. It certainly increases the joyfulness with which they learn.

Interestingly, others who were not so successful in the traditional school system and who have had cause to question its underlying assumptions, come into our school and say immediately, “This would have worked for me.” I think we all have to interrogate both the old and the new otherwise we risk basing discussions about what is best for children’s learning on assumptions that are not defensible. We should interrogate everything. That’s what life-long learners do. And I think we do that here at Amesbury School. Our daily conversations are taken up with asking the question - is what we are doing best for kids? And I can assure you that if, over time, evidence – and I want to put a stress on the word evidence, not assumptions, not prejudices, but evidence – If evidence showed that what we are doing is not working, or not working for some children, then we will review our programmes. In fact, we are always reviewing what we do here. Again, this is what life-long learners do. They take considered action and then they review and they adjust where evidence shows it is necessary to do so. Central to this approach is having quality data, frequently collected and reviewing it honestly and robustly.

The point is that we cannot be one dimensional in our approach to education but must be committed to being multi-dimensional. I believe 21st century learning is about having a broad toolkit from which we can pull out the right programmes and ways of working for each child, (or if what we need is not already in the toolkit – then we create the right tool) - and it is about having the organisational flexibility to be able to provide these differentiated, personalised programmes. Our team teaching approach and shared use of space – though it has caused some confusion for parents, at times - is essential to creating this organisational flexibility. It is not the team teaching approach that needs to change but rather our communication with you about who is teaching your child.

Let’s talk learning…..

Kia ora koutou

I have been doing some writing which brings together a number of presentations I have done, some thinking I am currently doing, some reading and video watching I have been doing of others’ thinking. The writing is also a response to some of the conversations I have been having with people over the past couple of months. It will also outline some of our plans going forward and some of our reflections as a school. Rather than sending you a 5000plus word essay, or being forced into writing a completely cohesive piece of writing – which would take a great deal more time than I have - I will be posting a series of BLOG Posts over the next few weeks which I hope you will find interesting, illuminating and, hopefully, challenging. Please feel free to email me or come and see me to discuss these postings. Let’s talk learning…..

Nga mihi

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Buddy Reading

Buddy reading began across both hubs last week.
It was the brainchild of one of the students from Harakeke, who suggested via his weekly reflections that buddy reading would allow students to improve their fluency and expression when reading aloud to an authentic audience, and would also help students to get to know other children in the school.
The reading sessions across the hubs currently happen for about 15 minutes after lunch on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Harakeke students all bring a picture book to read and Koru students bring along their reading book or a different book to share. Students read with different children each day and all children get the chance to share their books. It is heart warming to watch the students share and discuss their books with such enthusiasm and expression.
Check out our slideshow of images from buddy reading last week.

Friday, June 15, 2012

News in Brief

Kia ora koutou

I have been a bit quiet on the blog lately in spite of my best intentions. A number of things have happened over the last couple of weeks which deserve a spotlight put on them and I have not managed to do so as yet. However, I intend to rectify that now and provide you with the "News In Brief".

Junior Cross Country Event

On Friday 1st June we held a Junior (year 1 - 3) Cross Country Event to which we invited a number of local schools. Unfortunately most schools were unable to make it, but it was great that two schools turned up on the day and enjoyed the event. Thanks to Johnsonville Primary and Crofton Downs for sending about 50 students to compete with ours. And thanks to all their parents who made it possible by transporting the children. It was perfect cross country weather - had rained hard in the night so parts of the track were wet and muddy, but the morning dawned bright and warm with not a cloud in the sky.

Johnsonville students won the day in terms of competition. But for everyone, it was a most enjoyable day and we relished our first experience of hosting other schools on our site in this way. We have received lots of positive feedback from the parents and staff of the other schools and we plan to host this event again next year. It is a good course for spectators and provides a bit of challenge for athletes with the wet and muddy part down the back. Next year we will set the date early so that hopefully more schools can attend.
Congratulations to the following Amesbury students who were among the top 5 place getters in their races:
Year 1 - Kate 5th, William 2nd, Cruz 5th
Year 2 - Gabriel 2nd
Year 3 - Jamie 2nd, Ryan 3rd
Education Review Office 
On Wednesday 30 May we had the final of three "Readiness to Open" audits with ERO. The two ERO reviewers who visited with us twice last year, came and met with members of the Establishment Board and the Senior Leadership Team. It was a very positive day. All new schools have a full ERO audit in their second year of operation. We expect the full review to take place in a year's time.
Colin Prentice/mentor and coach
We had Colin Prentice in the school last week. Colin was the foundation principal of McLean's College (Auckland) 30 plus years ago and within a couple of years of opening had taken it to being the highest performing secondary school in the country. He also achieved remarkable things at Mt Roskill Grammar as principal and then went on to become CEO of World Vision. He has now been semi retired for a number of years, but has acted as my coach and mentor for the past 6 - 7 years. It was great to catch up with him, show off our new school and then do a series of reflective sessions with him, which has prompted lots of thought and review.

I am frequently aware of how much we need others to help us see ourselves more clearly. When coaching and mentoring is done well, it provides more focus and a sharper image as we look into that mirror and it enables us to reflect on our own actions more accurately. I have found the process to be incredibly valuable because how can I change myself when I cannot see very clearly what needs to change?

Student trips

Recently we have had a few groups taking their learning outside of the school site:

- All students travelled to Newlands to explore Matariki in the Starlab.
- Senior students Food Technology Group - shopping expedition
- Senior students Food Technology Group - Cooking pizza with the Novotel chef
- Senior students inquiry group - Trip to Wellington City Council

Community Evening - 6th June

Last week we held our second school community family evening. Apologies to anyone who was not aware that it was on. We have had it advertised on the BLOG for quite some while and we did send out an email to everyone the day before as a reminder. Perhaps we need to do a check that we have everyone's current contact details etc.

Anyway, a HUGE thanks to all those families who ventured back to school on an extremely cold, wet and windy evening. I was impressed that so many turned up. I am sure that if I had left the warmth of our school and gone home prior to the evening, I would have had difficulty forcing myself out into the weather - even enticed by the prospect of a fun evening together.

The evening began with hot soup and buns. I was going to make home made buns to accompany the soup but my day was impossibly busy and I ran out of time. Next time hopefully...
Thanks to Amaria, Gail and Mary-Jane who made the soup. It was delicious and so welcome. This was then followed by Banana or the Bag. I would like to thank "my beautiful assistant" Mike for assisting me with this. Didn't he look great....perfectly suited to the role! There was a really nice, family/community atmosphere at the evening. Thanks to everyone for participating.

To those who were not able to make it, I will share some of my presentation in a separate BLOG posting.

Advanced notice: We have a special Community Evening planned for Thursday, 1 November so everyone should keep this evening free. More later.

Wellington Inter-Zones Cross Country Championships

Tom Pavan represented our school and the Northern Zone Schools at the Wellington Inter-Zones earlier this week. Congratulations to Tom for his splendid run. According to those watching the race, he started off at a sensible pace (did not take off too fast like many others), and finished very strongly. The competition was fierce and he finished 36th.

International Festival

We are planning to finish our foundation year with an International Festival. We have not decided yet just what this festival will look like and will seek your input and ideas as we begin to plan this event. However, we think it would be fantastic to finish the year celebrating together the cultural richness of Amesbury School and the Churton Park community. I am very excited about this.

Visitors to the School

We are continuing to enjoy having many visitors to the school. Most of the visitors are from schools but some from the Ministry and others from education-related entities. Some of the visitors we have had recently are:

• Miramar and Strathmore Schools
• St Pats Junior School
• Learning Media
• Thorndon School
• Furnware – research project
• St Ignatius, Auckland
• Silverstream
Redwoood School
• Waikato University, School of ED.
 • Cashmere Ave

Up coming conferences/presentations etc.

  • Next Thursday we are hosting the first Wellington Ignite Session. Up to 50 educationalists from around Wellington will be coming together with some participants giving Ignite talks - including a number of teachers from our school.
  • Lesley, David Waters and Tricia Chapman will be presenting at the NZSTA conference in July
  • Lesley will be speaking at the Education Leaders Forum in August
  • Lesley and Tara have had their abstracts accepted and will be presenting a workshop each at the International Conference on Thinking in January.
Digital Citizenship

Check out this link for activities to do with your children to encourage safe cyber safety and explore what it means to be a digital citizen

Board of Trustees

Last week the first parent elected Board of Trustees of Amesbury School met for its first formal meeting. The first item on the agenda was to appoint the Board Chair. David Waters was elected to the position and Steve Dunbar is Deputy Chair. The Board is excited to be underway and looking forward to getting stuck into their role of governing the school.

The Rory O'Connor Library

The final act undertaken by the Establishment Board was to recognise the huge contribution made by Rory O'Connor as Chair of that Board. The Board met for their first meeting in late 2009 and continued to meet fortnightly after that until it ceased last month. It was fortunate for the Board that Rory was retired because he took on a huge workload to ensure that the school was up and running for its opening day. Personally, I really appreciated working with Rory and I learned a huge amount from watching him work. He is an extremely skilful Chair and, at times, I have been in absolute awe watching him take the board carefully through discussions which had the potential to be contentious.

To recognise Rory's contribution, the Establishment Board felt it was appropriate to name the library after him. The unveiling of the new signage was done at the meeting at which the Handover to the new board took place. Family and friends were present to see Rory (perhaps for the first time in his life) absolutely speechless but clearly delighted. It was a lovely moment as we formally recognised all of the contributions Rory has made to education throughout his distinguished career.

We trust that he will now enjoy retirement - probably out on the golf course.