Tamaki College

Tamaki College wanted to regain the confidence of its community. Past principal of the college, David Hodge, looks at methods used to raise academic achievement across the school during his time there.

Transcript

Need for change

Tamaki College was a school which had been in roll decline for a considerable time. It seemed to have lost the confidence of a large sector of its community. We needed to do something about that, so first and foremost we asked ourselves, "What would parents want that would make them choose to take their children elsewhere?" The simple answer is that they want their children to succeed academically. So we had to look at methods we could use to raise academic achievement right across the school.

Teaching through ICT

So, we looked at ICT as a way we might better deliver the curriculum. Right across the school – and none of our neighbouring schools did ICT particularly well or made a feature of it.

There's a lot of theory to support the idea that if you can be very, very good at one thing then, in fact, that gives your organisation the permission to be very, very good at a whole lot of other things as well. It shows clearly what can be possible. And certainly that's been our experience.

Promote change

One of the first things that we did was to create with the board a vision for the school, and that vision was around academic excellence. It was about students gaining national qualifications at a level that was at or above the national average.

Everything that we did in ICT had to be judged around the basis of was this going to increase students gaining qualifications? And was it going to improve their academic performance in the classroom?

Experiment

One of the most effective things I think leaders in schools can do is to run ideas past the best classroom teachers in the school. If you have an idea and you wonder whether it's a good idea or if it's a little bit of a fantasy, find your best teachers. Ask them what they think of the idea. If they like it, if they're prepared to run with it, then give them the resources they need to develop the ideas, and those ideas will then spread.

Empower learners

Student learning is the key. That’s what schools exist for, as places where students learn. We know that a key to students' learning is attitude, and we have a saying at this school that, "I can is far more important than IQ." If you believe in yourself as a learner and believe that you can learn, then you will, and if your teachers believe that you can learn, then they will teach you, and the whole thing feeds on itself.

So one of the important things about developing ICT in the school was this idea that students and staff would learn together and they would see what was possible. And they would see themselves as people who were successful learners.

We saw that, through ICT, teachers were starting to engage students in their curriculum subjects very often in new ways. Social science students going on field trips were taking digital images and bringing them back into the school for analysis. They were far more powerful learning, and immediate learning, tools than the old method of writing down what you see.

And as those things start to get momentum, students start to get better grades and then they work harder, and then they get better grades. And so over time we began to see, at first, quite a dramatic improvement in student achievement. It started to level out over time, but we're still winning.

There is that wonderful line, "Good leadership upsets people at a rate that they can stand", and that's certainly what we did. The reason they could stand it most of the time was because we put in just-in-time support and professional development. There was always someone there to help you if you wanted to make the effort.

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