Thursday, 16 November 2017

An Evening with our Early Childhood Educators

Sarah Brown, In School Leader with responsibility for early childhood liaison hosted a meeting at Kohia Terrace School this week for early childhood and primary school teachers within our community.  About 30 people attended.  

The focus was on building relationships across the sector, sharing practice and how to ease transition to school.  A tangible buzz around the room reflected the engagement of attendees who found it a valuable experience.  

Further meetings are planned for this group; greater communication around expectations and practice can only serve to support our youngest akonga within ACCOS. Thank you Sarah.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Systemic Change

-spinning straw into gold. A Kāhui Ako leader’s story two years on. 

Jill Farquharson

(This post is one of several that were collated into for 2017.)

Auckland Central Community of Schools or ACCOS as we have come to be known, was one of the early adopters of a 2014 government initiative called Investing in Educational Success. The purpose of this initiative was to lift student achievement by improving teacher practice in addition to offering career opportunities for teachers and principals. At the end of 2015 I was fortunate enough to be appointed to the position of lead principal of ACCOS. 

In the early days of CoL leadership I likened my position to a character in one of the Grimm's brothers fairy tales Rumpelstiltskin.  The fairy tale tells of a foolish miller who lied to the King saying his daughter could spin straw into gold.  The king calls for the daughter and shuts her in a tower room filled with straw and a spinning wheel and demands the straw be spun into gold. The miller's daughter looks nervously at the impossible task ahead. She was hapless, miserable and full of questions: “why am I here”, “how can I possibly do this job".  

As a new CoL leader I have to say there were many similarities between the way I was feeling and the miller's daughter. So many in fact that I was on the lookout for my very own Rumpelstiltskin! 

My story
As a new leader I hoped to provide additional and complementary support to eleven high performing schools who all had exceptionally competent and high achieving principals. The purpose of my work was to build collaboration within the community to meet our shared achievement challenges. Throughout the two-year appointment I have felt immensely proud of our achievements, particularly the strong focus we have kept on student achievement,
the proactive way we have addressed challenges, and the collective progress we have made. Certainly one of the most rewarding things I have undertaken in my career and it is for this reason that I am happy to share my story.

As one of the first Communities of Learning, Kāhui Ako to be established, our aspiration was to strengthen pathways for our students as they moved through their schooling journey. We drew on the resources of all members of our educational community to support this objective. In doing this we have successfully built the individual and collective capacity of our members while strengthening our inquiry mindset.

Once our achievement challenges were endorsed at the end of 2015, I felt it important to focus my leadership on the good things that were happening in schools through appreciative inquiry. By encouraging teachers and leaders to consider new and different ways of doing things, opening up our thinking, challenging current practices and creating opportunities for all stakeholders the capacity of our network would increase.
My approach has always been one of engaging members of the community in self determined change focusing my attention of what works and what people really care about.

There have been many accomplishments in our two years and as the leader it would be very presumptuous for me to take credit for all of these the achievements. They are the result of a huge amount of work from our Across School Leaders, In School Leaders, principal colleagues and teachers at the chalkface. This initiative is steeped in collaboration therefore this story is “ours” not “mine.

Planning for Leadership
Using prior knowledge and experiences from a joint leadership position I previously held in a learning and change network, I knew it was important from the commencement of my position as CoL leader to initiate change through the process of transformational leadership. This meant guiding members of our community with dignity and integrity in all of my actions.

Early on two sub-leaders (Deputies) were appointed who provided regular support, guidance and direction not to mention numerous coffees! We very quickly set challenging expectations for ourselves knowing if we modelled quality and excellence we would empower members of the CoL to achieve higher performance. We met regularly to discuss, debate and deliberate, valuing each other’s contributions and involvement. 
Our In School and Across School Leaders have driven the work of ACCoS including many challenging initiatives. These leaders have been pivotal to the success of our Kāhui Ako so careful planning was required to build their capacity and capability. The work they undertook reflected each school’s improvement agenda, ongoing collaborative inquiries and the sharing of teaching practices across the sector.
The Across and In School Leaders have led from the middle and in doing so successfully created a culture of collective responsibility for excellence and equity across all schools in the community.

At every stage of development, the ACCoS leaders including myself, played a critical role in establishing our priority goals and targets. These were soon transformed into Achievement Challenges which represented a collective commitment to improvement and the action we would take to meet these challenges. An openness to learning and a willingness to share information and evidence was prevalent among the schools. This continues today.
Respect as a leader was gained from members of our community by walking the talk of our change methodology ‘appreciative inquiry’ a strengths based approach. My attention was focused on identifying strengths, building on those strengths and then facilitating the analysis of what worked well and why.

Taking time to value each and every contribution from teachers and leaders was important and became a helpful enabler when we were setting up inquiries so they were positively aligned to our achievement challenges. In particular, my work with the Across School Leaders on open to learning conversations and coaching has been exceptionally rewarding as it has emphasized the importance of honest connections, inclusiveness and the value of diversity.

Developing and maintaining professional relationships is closely aligned to my role as a CoL leader which reflects the value I place on building strong relationships and ensuring they are functional. This in turn means the work we do and the progress we make will be successful. 

There is high relational trust in our Kāhui Ako, which was fundamental if we were to have robust discussions and engage in challenging dialogue. Through open conversations and a strong self review process we have been able to acknowledge what we don’t know, take risks, share expertise and support each other.  We have collectively created a safe environment where we can problem solve together and foster the kinds of innovation, creativity and confidence that will enable us to address the complexities of improving student learning without fear of failure.  

In our Kāhui Ako there is a culture of transparency in everything we do. Through open and clear communication channels we have been able to facilitate the exchange of ideas and new knowledge. Formal and informal opportunities to discuss and network have been regularly offered at different levels (Principal, ASL, ISL, and cross sector) with the purpose of collaboration around a shared focus.

Strong professional relationships have been established in my time as the community leader and I have actively contributed to maintaining these relationships through a focus on learners, their families and whānau, colleagues, board members, other professionals and various groups in our community.

I believe relational trust, effective communication and highly developed professional relationships are fundamental to an effective Kāhui Ako.

When planning for success our Kāhui Ako embraces the challenge of new possibilities, makes positive change and sustains improvement.

Professional Learning
The community has been fortunate to have well informed members who are up to date with current research around teaching and learning and the benefits of working in a collaborative network.
Members willingly exchange ideas, learn from each other and explore teaching practices that work and sometimes don’t work- there is a positive culture of risk taking. New knowledge is collectively developed and there is a strong correlation between this and student outcomes.  
There has been and will continue to be a strong emphasis on research underpinning our actions, decisions and direction. This includes knowing about global trends that have the greatest impact on student achievement, synthesizing this information and then developing an understanding of what success will look like. It is important to us that learners make sufficient progress and there is equity and excellence for all.
Professional learning within our CoL has seen teachers inquire into the effectiveness of their practice at a class level, within teams and across school sectors. These inquiries have embraced collaborative problem solving, expanded learning conversations, challenged current thinking and encouraged reflective practice.  By building professional capability we have been able to strengthen our evaluative reasoning to better understand how our improvement actions have impacted on learners and what difference this has made.  The exploration of evaluative practices such as asking good questions, gathering fit-for-purpose data/information, making sense of it and thinking deeply about next learning steps has encouraged deep and meaningful conversations between teachers. This shift in thinking and practice has also meant a more considered approach and cross sector understanding when looking at transition points and the transference of data between schools.

Professional learning has been a critical element for us in the Kāhui Ako driving improvement and innovation.

Having a personal sense of agency has helped me in my leadership role by reinforcing the fact that agency is socially interdependent. Every decision I make and every action I take has a consequence that impacts others.  The effects of agentic behavior is a huge responsibility as leader and one I undertake with the utmost respect for those I work alongside.  
Looking back on our work over the last two years I am pleased to say that unlike the Grimm Brothers fairytale, our Kāhui Ako has many treasures, numerous success stories and a very happy ending.


Auckland Central Community of Schools (2016). Achievement Plan.Retrieved from:

Daly, A., Moolenaar, N., Bolivar, J., & Purke, P. (2010).Relationships and reform: The role of teachers’ social networks. Journal of Educational Administration, 48(3), 359-391.

Education Review Office. (2016). Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako: Collaboration to Improve Learner Outcomes. Retrieved from:āhui-ako-collaboration-to-improve-learner-outcomes

Farrar, M. (2015, November). Learning together: The power of cluster-based school improvement.  East Melbourne, AU: Centre for Strategic Education.

Halbert, J., Kaser, L. & Koehn, D. (2011, January). Spirals of Inquiry: Building professional inquiry to foster student learning.Paper presented at Association of Christian Schools Conference, Limassol, Cyprus.

Ministry of Education. (2011). Understanding teaching as inquiry. In The New Zealand Curriculum Update (Issue 12), Wellington, NZ: Learning Media.

Ministry of Education. (2016). Community of learning: Guide for schools and kura. Wellington, NZ: Ministry of Education.

Ministry of Education. (n.d.). Communities of Learning | KāhuiAko. Retrieved from:

Nelson, T., Slavit, D., Perkins, M., & Hatham, T. ( 2008). A culture of collaborative inquiry: Learning to develop and support professional learning communities. Teachers College Record, 110(6), 1269-1303.

Michael Fullan - Public school improvement and the role of school leadership in that process | Australian Education Union (AEU)

Timperley, H. (2015, October 18). Effective professional conversations [video file]. Retrieved from

Friday, 10 November 2017

Technology connect & share session

On Tuesday 7th November a group of 12 teachers from 6 schools met at Remuera Intermediate School to ‘Talk Technology’; connect with people who have a passion for teaching Technology and discuss topics relevant to the transition of technology learning across all year levels. This was the culmination of a 2017 inquiry by Sonja Potter (ISL at RIS) into the transition of the Technology curriculum, and related elements, from primary to intermediate to secondary.

Looking ahead to 2018, the goal of this inquiry is to build a network of teachers of technology who meet on a regular basis to;

  • share successful pedagogies in Technology
  • collaborate on elements of the Teacher Agency initiative, in addition to targeted aspects of Technology teaching and learning
  • develop a programme of learning for students which offers a smooth pathway where student engagement is maintained as they move from school to school.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Lessons learned from ASL in a Kāhui Ako

On Friday the 13th of October, four of our Across School Leaders presented our journey as ASL in our ACCoS Kāhui Ako at uLearn. They were Catherine, Erin, Sue and Sonya

Here is a link to our abstract.

Here is our presentation.

We had 23 attendees from all sectors and 13 completed the google form to help us identify who we were were sharing with.
Forms response chart. Question title: What sector are you working in?. Number of responses: 13 responses.
We had mostly across school leaders attend our session
Forms response chart. Question title: What position(s) describe(s) you (tick all that apply)?. Number of responses: 13 responses.
We also put up a Padlet life for questions that they were seeking answers to and we answered them from our current situation. If you are new to a Kāhui Ako you might find these useful.
From many questions and comment on our Padlet, we were able to ascertain that several were new to Kāhui Ako

Evaluation Feedback
We had 4 attendees take time to give us feedback after the session so thanks to those of you who gave us feedback as this helps us refine what we do for next time. Here are some of the comments.

  • Excellent collaborative sharing your experiences with others on what has not and has been successful within your CoL.
  • Really useful to hear about your progress. Liked the panel approach as this provided opportunity to hear perspectives.
  • Really enjoyed the use of online tools you modelled. Thank you for sharing your models and approach.
  • Very valuable session. Great to see people's burning question and your honest response.

Here we have answered the questions.

What are the functions of the AST.

Interested to hear if you have instigated the Change Support/Management process?
We are aware of the various Change leadership frameworks
Here is a link to a professional development session for Kāhui Ako where you can find out more that was run by the Connected Learning Advisory.
Here is a link to our blog sharing about the session. We are still taking small steps and consolidating and reflecting on the process.

Knowing that your boys have no high school pathway within your are you catering to their needs as they transition from Year 8 into Year 9?
  • Make informal connections with the high school - conversations with Yr 9 deans and teachers
  • Empower our boys to be independent and confident learners so that they can handle the step
  • Prepare them with the skills they will need for their first few weeks in particular (e.g. in our case they will have exams right away so talk to them about that)
  • Invite ex students to come back and talk to the intermediate students about their journey (this is awesome - we usually have 4 Y13 students to visit - boys and girls).

We are also looking at introducing PACT with our Kāhui Ako.....what I am wondering is - are you introducing all three curriculum areas at the same time, one each year over the next three years or are you rolling it out in another way?
Do what Erin, Kim and Catherine did? Many schools can be still negative about PaCT. So first and foremost you will need buy in at principal level.
  • Suggest you roll out either one a year, or combine Reading and Writing as they are so complementary
  • We are looking at a pilot project within teams in 3 schools for 2018 to see how it goes.
  • One key message that has come through is the amount of time that needs to be allocated for teachers to get into it.  Once it is up and running properly, it should not take as much time as other assessments if used smartly.

Where do your Across School Leaders sit in the school organisational structure?
  • Depends on the school and depends on how you are valued, some are part of the senior management team and some are not. Some are seen on the same level as AP/DP and some are not.
  • At EGGS we report to the DP in charge of PD.

What are some tips about the running of effective CoL meetings/events?
  • Transparency of communication and standardise non negotiables.
    • Have a clear purpose
    • Agendas available before the meeting
    • Across ASL
    • ISL
    • School Folders

  • Transparency using a community EG: Google+
    • One established CoL no longer uses email and therefore ISL and ASL are expected to visit their online community to find out what is going on and contribute to it. If it concerns the whole CoL all information comes via the community.
  • Transparency with sharing
    • Blogger Eg: ACCoS Blog
    • Videos :Eg: ACCoS Channel
    • Presentations/ sharing
      • Within Schools; Eg: Staff meetings
      • Across Schools; Eg: -currently ASL driven once a term
      • Nationally Eg: Ulearn
      • Virtually Eg: TeachMeetNZ
  • Transparency of Community Events

So how to manage accountability and work with senior school management and how to get and sustain their support
  • Transparency with documentation and communication
  • Nothing is locked down. Our principals and senior management teams have full access to everything we do.
  • Keep them informed eg: an email with a link works wonders, invite them to comment or like something in the Google+ community.
  • Accountability.
    • For example at EGGS the ASLs meet with their DP once a week. The ISLs meet with their ASL regularly. End of year reporting requirements needs to be developed at the beginning of the year. At EGGS the ISLs write three slides with the findings of their PLGs and present these to the staff in workshop sessions at the end of the year.

If you had your time again what would you change?
  • Keep in mind…. What you don’t know you don’t know
  • Bring in someone with evidence of digital collaboration and building a community digitally early in the selection process.
  • Bring in the ASL before the ISL
  • ASL to be part of establishing the achievement challenge process
  • Importance of consistency and transparency of the selection process across your CoL
    • Do DP/APs get to be an ASL?
    • Do Senior Team Leaders get to be an ASL?
    • If you have responsibility units - which ones get kept and what units do you lose?
    • Every school is different but do consider the implication of these decisions.
    • PPTA guidelines are clear but NZEI are not as clear
  • Spend more time developing the achievement challenges and ensure the process for this is transparent
  • Use the development maps from earlier on to give some direction

The challenges of being an across school leader and how to stay connected and collaborative
  • If you are not already connected or collaborative, being part of a CoL will highlight that.
  • Eg: Can I find you when I google you? What legacy are you creating for education?
  • Challenge is: Stick to your self promise. Today is my CoL day, do not ask me to do anything else today and stick with that self promise. The ministry gives your school two days per week for your work. Be firm about your responsibilities. Ensure you still get CRT release as you are entitled to that too.
  • Read lots and widely - around leading from the middle, collaborative frameworks, agency etc. so you know the theory of networked learning communities

I am wondering how you manage your  time?
It ebbs and flows.
Be aware that it is like everything else in teaching - how long is a piece of string?
  • Have a timetable
  • Have a list that you tick off.  
Read in quieter times

Connection to local daycare or kindergarten centers. Is that a connection you are currently include or are hoping to include in your CoL?
Yes we are working on this. You can hear from Gaylene Brownlie here.

How to manage principals and their empires?
What lessons have you learnt, that we do not have to learn the hard way?
  • Interesting way of phrasing this question. Have you been a principal?
  • Roll your sleeves up, FAIL and move on. Being an ASL is a journey and we cannot do this for you.
  • Principals must be totally on board with this initiative, otherwise there will be problems down the track. They need to be challenged if this is not the case. Should be sorted early on.
  • Communicate often with your principal in the first instance and then keep up the communication lines between the two groups.

Excited to learn about what direction/steps others are taking.
  • You have the right idea. Find others who have taken this pathway and learn from then and with them. Be active on social media because that is where ASL/ ISL are sharing.

Just beginning my journey as an Across School Teacher so looking for ideas on where to start. What are the top three things I should do first with my other AST? What will be my wine consumption over a week from now on?

1)Make Connections
  • I still believe that ASL should have a visible profile somewhere on your site so you can find out the skill sets. (I am still working on this). Connect up on social media like twitter.
  • I want to know why the others were chosen. It takes time to find out about each other. We have been a family for nearly twelve months and we are still learning about each other. Tell me who you are and I won’t remember. I want to go back and find out more about you.   
  • Take time to get to know the others, what makes them tick and how they like to work. Each member of the team has different talents, worth working out what they are so that when the things need to happen fast, you know who is best on what job (e.g. writing a report, organising a meeting, speaking in public)

  • Set up systems of communication. One CoL had all the ASL and ISL together and they documented the best way of communicating and came to an understanding that most teachers prefer social media for communicating, except when it came to school. So by unpacking the why they decided that they would use social media because this helps build connections.

3) Co- Create
  • Community event together EG: create an event for ISL so they can all meet each other.
  • Virtual sharing sessions like TeachMeetNZ

Celebrate and reflect on the process
  • Maybe that could be where the wine comes in -off school site of course.

How do we go about approaching ambitious "reach" achievement targets without getting demoralised about the task at hand? How do we get other staff to buy in to this process too?
(I am guessing you are ISL)
  • Focus on the progress. Unpack data at team level. Look at all your data historically including attendance and track cohorts.
  • Check the data (qualitative as well as quantitative) frequently to tell you what is happening celebrate the small examples of progress as you go.  Hattie says we should see a difference after 12 weeks - if nothing is visible then review the changes that you’ve made.  
  • Getting buy in? - Look to the PTCs. How do your staff fulfill criteria for registration?
  • Remember these are long term goals, you are not expected to reach targets in the first year!

What are the structure and process you have in your CoL? What iterations of these have you been through since you were established? We are at the beginning stages of our Kahui Ako development and am keen to hear your journey. What has worked well and what were some of your challenges?
  • Connect- Collaborate- Co-create- Celebrate
  • You may get an idea of this by looking at our site and blog (links in our presentation)
  • One big goal - Building community through group meetings - getting to know each other
  • Another goal - forming common understandings around concepts such as agency (using techniques such as Educafe style discussions)
  • Delving into discussion and inquiry - cross sector groups meeting to discuss focus topics such as writing moderation, transition to high school, strategies for meeting the needs of students who are non English speakers etc.  - The groups were great for building networks but not always relevant to everyone involved.
  • Now moving to more focused inquiry model with topics that fit into strategic plans for each school.

Lessons learnt?
  • Get social and connect with other educators.
  • Have the AP/DPs part of the loop from early on
    • They have the bigger picture of the school so work on that relationship
    • You will work with them so build those relationships
    • They can feel left out of the principal and you discussions so keep that transparent
    • When visiting other schools, find them and build connections
  • Importance of digital structure. Get that in place or collaboration can’t happen. (All talk and no action).
  • Transparency eg: If it cannot be found digitally within our ACCoS drive,  it does not exist.
  • Make connections through across school events.
  • Blended Meetings- Use both F2F and virtual ways of holding meetings to build capabilities
  • Lead by example- never ask teachers to do anything that you are not prepared to do yourself.
  • Work with principals  because they need to report your work to the BoT and MOE
  • Ensure strategic direction from the school's fits in with that of the Kāhui Ako - adjust both so that everyone agrees on a common focus (or in our case, form groups with common focus)
  • Importance of systems
    • Transparent communication systems -eg: Google+ -Hangout, -Community
    • Documentation systems eg: Google Drive
    • Tracking using calendar -EG: Google Calendar
    • Reflecting on the process EG: Blogger
    • Sharing our work EG: Sites

Overall we had a great session sharing our journey. We made connections as a team away from the usual ACCoS ASL sessions and we made connections with other Kāhui Ako. We collaborated on ideas of what we needed to cover. Then we co-created our slides using examples from our shared ACCoS folder. Finally we were able to celebrate our work by sharing our story at uLearn.