Friday, 29 July 2022

1. Principal's News Term 3, Week 1 2022

In this week's Newsblog I am writing about:

  • Our curriculum learning in Science this term
  • Parent interviews this term
  • How we prepare our students for high school and beyond
  • Extension classes
  • and, Our Board of Trustees


This term and next term our main curriculum focus is in the curriculum area of Science.  We will be teaching reading, writing and maths, primarily in the context of Science.

In the first two weeks of term we are concentrating on the Scientific process and how to make hypotheses, conduct experiments, record and analyse results and make conclusions.  On our teacher-only day on 8th August, we will be having some professional development in applying Scientific principles in our local area, probably themed around water.

The children are enjoying their exploration so far:

One of our Curriculum Capabilities is Making Meaning, and we are approaching Science with an understanding that different academic disciplines make meaning in different ways.  This means that we are integrating our Science teaching and learning with Religious Education and Mātauranga Māori.

Here is our integrated curriculum overview for the term.   Reading, writing and maths are central and our wider curriculum gives us a context for improving reading, writing and maths.

We encourage you to support your child with their learning about Sacrament and have a look at our Sacrament for Parents page which was written with you in mind.

Parent Interviews
Teacher/Parent/Student conferences are on Tuesday 23rd August from 1pm to 8pm.  To make this happen we have to close our school at 12.30pm on that day.  Please arrange to have your child picked up at 12.30pm. Country bus children will be looked after at school until their bus comes in the afternoon.

We know that you are really busy but we think that having a chat with each family about learning is a very important thing to do so we hope you will find the time to come and see us.  Our office will be phoning families who have not made a booking.  To save us this time please make a booking via our online booking system:

Go to School Interviews:
The Booking Code is: 3c85s

Preparing our students for high school and beyond
Educational research on changing schools is often quoted, with the claim that changing schools can put a child back by up to six months' learning.  My observations of children who have been with us from year 1 and those who come later and may have had several schools, is that ON THE WHOLE, staying with one school has advantages.  One of the advantages is keeping the same language of learning. 

In New Zealand, each school is tasked with forming their own localised curriculum based on the New Zealand curriculum.  What it means in practice is that there may be widely different languages of learning between schools and different approaches to learning.  This means that a child changing school not only has to change their culture and social structure, but also change their language of learning.

St Kevin's and St Joseph's have worked extensively making a connection between learning in our schools so that the transition to high school for our students is smooth and they can succeed from day 1.  In 2012, St Kevin's became St Joseph's technology provider and this meant our intermediate students spend the equivalent of four days a term learning at St Kevin's.  The staff at St Kevin's get to know them, our students know the staff and they know the systems and routines of the school before they start.  As Catholic schools, our two schools have a huge shared understanding of how the world works, what is important, and our role in this.

Even better, St Kevin's accesses the same localised curriculum we use.  This means when our students graduate to St Kevin's, they are speaking the same language, they have a similar approach to curriculum and there is not a big gap between what they knew in primary and what they are expected to do in high school.  

This year we are stepping it up even further:

We have found that our students are struggling more and more to embed the technicalities of effective writing.  In our world now, we generally use short texts through social media or online communications and a lot of communication happens through visual language - our young people are masters at this and we admire them.  

What it means though is our students are struggling more and more with the processes of reading and writing.  The world still judges our young people based on their literacy skills.  It doesn't matter how good you are at sport, or technology or art, if you can't write about it, it is hard to justify your knowledge and get the qualification.  

Craig Mawson, from St Kevin's will be spending time in our year 4-8 classrooms this term.  Our senior teachers are inquiring into their practice to see what they can do to improve the writing skills of our learners.  Our senior teachers are highly experienced and talented and have lots of strategies up their sleeves. 

I admire that they are open to working with Craig to see where they can best put their energy so that our children are best prepared for the world beyond St Joseph's.  They will also be working with Danielle Powell, our Learning Support Coordinator for our Kahui Ako.  Danielle is already working closely with our junior teachers on the structured literacy approach  and she will be connecting with our senior teachers to see what is needed and how we can go about helping our senior writers to develop their skills.

We are extremely lucky to have Craig and Danielle and of course Nicola, Leigh and Ann who are our experienced and extremely knowledgeable senior teachers to work together for the good of our young writers.

Extension Classes
Another benefit of our connection with St Kevin's is that some of our intermediate students are now having extension classes in literacy or numeracy at St Kevin's or via Zoom with St Kevin's.  This is a wonderful opportunity for them.  As I've written above, it smoothes the transition to high school and they are already accessing the benefits of our sister school before they even graduate from St Joseph's.  Many thank yous to St Kevin's for supporting our students and helping to make our transitions even better.

St Joseph's Board of Trustees
Whenever I am asked about what is great about my job one of the things I always note is our fabulous Board of Trustees (I also note the staff).  This is a group of people who give us their skills, knowledge and dedication and prepare well for our meetings so that we can have informed discussions about the progress and learning of your children and make strategic decisions for our school which support achievement outcomes for children.  That's it!  It's that simple - our Board is about making sure that each child gets the best outcomes from their schooling.  Our Board is committed to that and I love working with them.  Some of the days when I drive home thinking, "I love my job," are after Board meetings with this team.

We are presently looking for a parent representative to join our Board.  Please have a think about whether you can do this.  You would need to dedicate 1-2 hours reading twice a term to prepare for a Board meeting, plus 2x two-hour meetings a term.  

The Board is also the employer of our staff, ultimately responsible for health and safety, property, and finance and on the whole, most of that is delegated to me.  But sometimes there may be extra committee meetings required.  Covid has caused a bit of that.  Yes, it is time and energy, but the Board team is a strong team and we know we are working hard for our school and so we work together and work willingly, and I believe every person individually and as a team contributes to making St Joseph's the best we can for our students and their whanau. 

Please have a think if you would like to join this team.  If it's not for you, please don't forget to acknowledge them and thank them from time to time.  
Also know that Board members are only part of the Board at the Board table and cannot solve your problems or listen to issues outside of the Boardroom, you have to follow the proper channels. 
Our Board are: Sharni Cunningham (Presiding Member), Andy Bradley, Victoria Forrest, Samara Allardice, Rebecca Laming, Fr Wayne Healey, Leigh Thomas, and me.

Note Teacher Only Day and school will be closed Monday 8th August- this is for our professional development and to make learning better for your children

Ma te Atua e manaaki a aroha,
(God bless, and love)

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