Questions and Answers

May 2017 Aroha Team

Dear Parents and Whanau,
Early this year we held a parent information evening on future focused and collaborative teaching and learning.  We have been answering the questions, raised at that meeting, in the newsletters.  These have also been added to our website.  To access previous questions on the website please go to ‘Information’ and then ‘ILE’. 

The following questions have been answered by Jacq Price and the Aroha Team teachers as they are pertinent to Aroha students and whanau: 

What if both parents work and there is no time at home to monitor or check and mark homework, does this student fall behind?  What if you don't have a computer or printer?

Home Learning is provided for those who would like some extra work at home.  Your child will not fall behind if Home Learning is not completed, as the teaching the child receives in class is the most important factor.  Practising basic skills can be useful i.e, reading daily, number knowledge.  We recognise that after school activities can dominate family time, so ask that you do what you are able to, within the context of your family situation.  Spending time talking with your child about their learning is very important, especially their learning goals.
Home Learning sheets can be printed at school should you not have access to a printer.  Please ask your child’s Whanau teacher if this is a barrier.

What happens if they don't complete everything on their timetable?  If they get behind can they do some tasks at home or before school?

The timetable activities (Toku Ako) are for independent time when students are not involved in group work (workshops) with a teacher.  Our learners are developing skills to manage their time, and the tasks set each week are to be completed by Friday.  All students are, however, at different stages of being able to manage their timetables, and therefore are either identified as requiring a Learner Pass, Restricted Pass or Full Pass.  A ‘Learner’ still requires very close monitoring and scaffolding by the teachers daily, a ‘Restricted’ learner has guidelines around where and who they work with and a ‘Full’ learner has demonstrated an ability to manage and plan their time with work output that is of a high standard.
Learning does not just happen from 9am-3pm and we absolutely encourage students to get on with their learning from 8.30am when classrooms are open if they wish.  They are also welcome to work on projects, tasks and passions at home also. 

Do kids out at activities still have to complete ALL toku ako tasks e.g. sursum corda, communication ambassadors etc?

Students are expected to complete their activities, however we realise some students have many other commitments outside of regular learning, so we encourage students to speak with their teachers to negotiate what needs to be completed if their time in class has been reduced during a specific week.  Student voice is encouraged and we welcome any student to talk with teachers to problem solve or simply share their thoughts and opinions about anything in our learning spaces.

March 2017

Tracking Success

Will there be data compiled to track the success rates of students within the collaborative learning environment?  

This is a very timely question from our community.  Our latest ERO Report stated that: “The important next step is for the board and senior leaders to continue to evaluate the impact of current initiatives, such as innovative teaching environments, on various groups of children, especially those at risk of underachievement.”

One way that St Mary’s School tracks the success rates of learners is our commitment to internal evaluation.  “Evaluation is the engine that drives improvement and innovation.  Internal evaluation is undertaken to assess what is and is not working, and for whom, and then to determine what changes are needed.” (ERO - Effective Internal Evaluation For Improvement)

Another way that St Mary’s School tracks the success rates of learners is through monitoring cohorts and in particular individual students.  Senior leaders, team leaders and teachers meet regularly to discuss, monitor and track individual students who are causing concern and all students to ensure that sufficient, and in some cases accelerated, progress is being made.  It is important to track not just academic progress, but progress in areas like the Key Competencies.  

As part of our research project for the Teacher Led Innovation Fund, we are also collecting data from teachers, students and parents to track improvements in teacher practice and student agency.  

Research can confirm that collaboration between teachers improves teacher quality, and in turn quality teaching has a significant effect on student learning and achievement.  “Collaborative learning, team teaching, using ICT in learning and peer teaching are all recognized as effective methods with strong research about each of these areas.” Professor David Mitchell

February 2017

How is St Mary’s School preparing our students for secondary school, university and more ‘traditional’ environments?

At St Mary’s we work hard to make the transition to Intermediate and secondary school as smooth as possible.  Our job is prepare students both academically and socially and over the last couple of year’s we have been working closely with Aquinas College so that important information is shared.

We are preparing our students for life in a changed and changing world.  Education must prepare our children “for jobs that don’t yet exist, to use technologies that have not been invented and to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet” Kath Murdoch sums it up nicely in this 2 minute clip:

Research states that the successful transition to school and the ability to deal with change relies heavily on the students acquiring certain key dispositions or competencies.  These competencies are a valued aspect of the teaching and learning in our classrooms and align closely with our Catholic Character. 

As required by the New Zealand Curriculum, we place an emphasis on the following Key Competencies:   Thinking; Using Language, Symbols and Texts; Managing Self; Relating to Others; Participating and Contributing.  You can find more information about the NZC Key Competencies here:

ERO, through their research on ‘Transition from Primary to Secondary’, has identified the following aspects that make transition successful:  “How well students respond to the changes is largely dependent on two key aspects – students’ personal resources and coping skills (such as their acquisition of the Key Competencies described in The New Zealand Curriculum framework); [2] and the school culture into which students transition. Schools can support students to make successful transitions by helping them to develop a sense of themselves as competent and capable beings characterised by:

  • a ’can-do’ attitude
  • a sense of self capability
  • resourcefulness
  • resilience
  • strategies to deal with challenges
  • independence
  • skills relating to others such as listening actively, being tolerant and cooperation
    a sense of contribution to school and community

At St Mary’s, we are excited to join you in the journey of developing lifelong learners who are able to collaborate, be creative, and solve problems that really matter in all of the environments that they encounter. 

Anna MacKinnon
Deputy Principal