Developing ownership

Merryn Muir discusses developing the culture in a new school.

As Selwyn Ridge was a new school when I became leader, the greatest challenge was to ensure that our staff and community values and beliefs were identified and that everyone owned our school's vision.

I knew that I was going to be a role model for what was important in the school and I knew that I wanted to lead educational practice rather than focus on management.

Relationships and ownership

I would describe the school's culture now as one where people have ownership of what is happening. Teachers know where they are going and they can articulate what it is that is important to our school.

It is a culture that is very caring, where relationships are paramount. I believe that positive relationships are crucial in a learning environment and I think that if people know that everyone cares that is really helpful.

People describe coming into the school as feeling like there is a calmness there but that there is also an energy and purpose about it. There is a lot happening.

We encourage innovation and creativity and we aim to soar high to provide the best we can for our children.

We believe that when kids are in charge, they start learning. It is a philosophy about children leading their learning and being responsible for their learning. There is quite a bit of choice in that for children, as we negotiate the curriculum with the children.

We illustrate the desired qualities on a learner map in graphic form and have the poster in every classroom. The benefits of this are that children can look at the poster at any time, can talk about it and relate to it to themselves. When I did an exit interview with some year six children it was lovely to hear a child say "When I have a problem, I think, what would the kid [on the poster] do?"

Working together

I tend to feel more comfortable talking about a "we" when it comes to leadership, as that is the way it works around our place. Growing leaders is one of the goals. I am aware that there isn't necessarily a hierarchy of leadership for things to work well within an organisation.

I work with an amazing team of teachers who come to the school with these incredible ideas, passions and talents that they are happy to share. And if we think something is going to work for children, we try it.

When you are in our school there is something about the feel of the place that lets me know that things are going well. Teachers are happy to be there and are willing to share their talents and their passions.

I know we're doing a good job when I look around at the children and I see them leading their learning, and when I see that they are articulating their learning. I think that is really exciting.

Children will talk about their preferred thinking styles and the sort of physical set up they may like in a room. They will think through what they need to develop most to make the most of themselves in learning situations.

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