Hagley Community College – Developing a student-centred junior curriculum
Hagley Community College provides a broad curriculum and a range of innovative learning programmes for both school-aged and adult students. Its designated character means that students are required to engage in Hagley’s culture and environment by being flexible and adaptable. The school’s latest ERO report recognised its “innovative and creative curriculum”, and noted that it provides opportunities that “stimulate interest, promote engagement, and motivate students to achieve success.”
When Year 9 and 10 students enrol, a learning programme is developed by the school, the students, and caregivers with a set of learning goals that meets the students’ needs and supports them to pursue their interests. The absence of a school uniform and the multiple learning pathways are tangible indicators of the school’s focus on students as individuals.
The school has recently begun a review of its junior curriculum, with some changes implemented this year, and further review to be undertaken.
“We know we’ve been a school that’s been at the forefront of innovation in some areas, but we know we can do better and do more.”
(Marie Stribling, Deputy Principal: Student Learning)
A focus on innovation
Compared with the senior curriculum, the junior curriculum has been quite traditional in nature, and its structure has not changed significantly for a number of years. The school’s upcoming building redevelopment provided an incentive for consideration of how a future-focussed and student-centred junior curriculum could better meet the needs of current and future students.
Staff worked with a facilitator who began challenging their beliefs about the curriculum, delivery of the curriculum, and what should be seen as ‘core’. Some staff have also examined the different types of literacy, and how teaching can move away from developing a programme around a topic or idea, to instead considering achievement objectives, required outcomes, and how the different literacies can be integrated into learning.
A focus on passion
The school offers a number of specialist and immersion courses at the senior level, including animation, cuisine, dance, and fashion. Some junior students are attracted to the school due to these programmes, but may not be able to steer their studies into these areas until they reach their senior years.
The review of the junior curriculum aims to give junior students the ability to be more involved in their preferred learning areas earlier in their schooling. Marie Stribling describes this goal saying “something we want to do better is get that alignment through the school, so students can pursue their passions at an earlier stage, while still maintaining their focus on literacy and numeracy.”
A focus on collaboration
The school is trialling collaborative programmes across learning areas, including a collaboration between Art and Hard Materials (“Light it Up”), and a collaboration between English and Te Reo Māori (Ngā Miro e Toru). In the English and Te Reo Māori collaboration, some classes are integrated, and some are specific to one learning area or the other. The school has supported these collaborations with additional planning time for the teachers involved.
Teachers are also working collaboratively to both design and undertake targeted professional development. Staff professional development on a Wednesday morning varies from whole staff, through to departmental groups, through to cross-curricular groups. Where smaller groups have been used, the learnings by those groups have been shared back to the whole staff.
The school set aside some money in the budget for the Heads of Learning Areas to use to enhance professional development in their learning area because the “curriculum leaders are the ones that really have to affect the change.” The Heads of Learning Areas have ownership of this budget, and they meet together regularly to discuss development that has been planned or undertaken. The meetings are non-facilitated, and the discussion has led to a sharing and airing of a range of different perspectives and beliefs.
A focus on skills
Staff worked together to develop a set of six transferable skills, which were informed by the key competencies and the work of Michael Fullan and others:
From 2018, these skills will form the central point of the junior curriculum, with Marie describing this as: “the transferable skills sit at the heart of our curriculum, and the learning areas are the context for delivering that.” Teachers of junior programmes will use their learning area context to focus explicitly on at least two transferable skills each term and will report against these skills. The monitoring of these skills will include self, peer, and teacher assessment.
A focus on structures
The school has worked with a facilitator on a four pillars model, which comprises curriculum, pedagogy, structures, and spaces. They are currently considering enabling structures, particularly the timetable. The current timetable has been in place for a long period of time, and was based on the school’s historically high number of part-time adult students. Now that the school’s demographic profile is changing, the timetable is being reconsidered for how it can better meet the needs of all students.
The heads of department and other leaders in the school have considered a number of timetable models, and used these to generate discussion on what could be possible, and what the school’s priorities should be. This surfaced some deep thinking and critical consideration of the ‘bigger picture’, rather than focussing on fitting curriculum content into the existing timetable.
- Identify and engage a facilitator or ‘thought leader’ to challenge teachers’ beliefs and understanding of curriculum, to provoke thought, and create deep thinking and discussion.
- Explicitly articulate and consider all four pillars – curriculum, pedagogy, structures, and spaces, and ensure that stakeholders understand the connections between these four pillars.
- Ensure sufficient time is set aside for the review to occur so that teachers have time to learn and reflect, and that you don’t attempt to do too much at once.
- It’s important to allow time for Heads of Learning Areas and other school leaders to come together to talk and listen to each other’s points of view.