Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Really important website

The New Zealand Principal's Federation have released a new website that explains the profession's concerns about National Standards. I would like to encourage all members of our community to visit the site and watch the video!


Thursday, 9 September 2010

Looking forward

The school is still waiting for a second inspection by a structural engineer from the Ministry of Education. We sustained some new damage in Wednesday's aftershock. It is likely that this damage is only superficial but we want to be absolutely sure before we allow the staff to return to school.

Miranda, Toby and I attended a very useful meeting run by the Ministry of Education's Traumatic Incident team this morning. They had lots of useful information on the best way to support children and the families after last weekend's events. The staff will be meeting tomorrow, hopefully at school but maybe in another location. Here is a summary of what we will be talking about and the plans that we have put in place to help you and your children on Monday:

Our first priority will be to restore a sense of normality and routine for the children and staff.

What we will do:

The school day will start how it always starts. Teachers will be in their classrooms from 8.30am and I will be in the playground along with Toby and Miranda.

We will not be holding an assembly because it is better for the children to be with their teacher and classmates in their familiar classroom environment.

The teachers will have key and accurate information to share with the children – for example if any teachers are not in school, they will be able to explain why.

The children will want to talk about what has happened to them and what they saw. Teachers will support these conversations through discussions, drawings, story telling etc, and by ensuring the positive aspects of events are emphasised.

if children have lost possessions or things that are important to them, the teachers will acknowledge this loss and speak about ways that they can do to work towards replacing these items

If there are after-shocks, we will follow our well-established earthquake drills. That drill is to drop, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on, or shelter against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases etc.

The teachers will have been through the Civil Defence advice carefully.

We will give the children an opportunity to tell their stories and keep the focus on how well families and community have managed.

What we need parents to do:

Parents will also be anxious about their children starting back at school and may want to hang around the classroom after 8.55am. To help the children settle back in to routine and to help reduce any anxiety, it is best if parents can leave the classroom before or as soon as the school bell rings. The trauma team has advised us of this action. Asking parents to leave is not easy for teachers so I would really appreciate your help with this. We will be putting on tea and coffee in the village for any parents who want to stay close to their children for the start of the day.

The earthquake will have resulted in a range of reactions and questions from children depending on their experience of the event and their dispositions:

anxiety, fear of reoccurrence of the event

some children may revert to behaviours of younger children such as thumb sucking, bed wetting, etc

wondering what will happen next

concerns about being separated from their parents and whānau.

Typically most children will be coping with what they have experienced – but they will still have questions, want to talk about it, and hear from others. Children will be looking to us to provide a sense of safety and security. Children who experience high levels of social support from parents, friends and teachers have been found to cope well.

Helpful approaches:

Provide assurance that all reactions are normal.

Provide opportunities to keep routines going as much as possible and highlight what is and can be done to get things back to normal.

Remember that children listen closely to what adults talk about and they pick up on adults' reactions very well. Keep things positive and emphasise how people have coped and what’s being done - at a government, council and community level, at a school level and family and neighbours. Buildings and homes have been damaged and that makes people sad but we have all done well.

Focus on how things will be in the future.

Stay safe this weekend and I look forward to seeing you all on Monday morning.


Tuesday, 10 August 2010

iPad or laptops? A whole school inquiry.

At Fendalton School, we like to make sure that our children are given great opportunities to use technology. We believe that technology is an integral part of children's lives and will continue to be so as they move into the workforce in the years to come.

Each year we spend some money updating our hardware so that it is useful and effective. This year, we have a choice to make. The new Apple iPad has a great deal of potential for education and we have decided to explore this potential with our children. However, the children are already very familiar with laptops so these might be a better option.

We have an iPad in school and it is being tested by all the classes to see what works and what the problems are. We will use the feedback from the teachers, children and community to make our final decision on buying new laptops or iPads.

This is a great opportunity for our children to take part in some authentic and purposeful writing. So, if you have an opinion on this and would like to have your say, please visit our new blog and present your ideas!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Reports and Standards

After many hours of work, we are close to having the format for National Standards reports ready to go out this term. I will be sending out more details about this next week and I will be running a parents meeting on Thursday 19th August at 2pm and again at 7.30pm.

We have also been working on the online version of Learning Reports and are at a stage where we really need some help from a web security expert. The system is up and running but needs auditing to ensure it is safe from hackers. If you are, or know of, a web security expert please contact me at paul.sibson@fendalton.school.nz. Thanks.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

GCSN website launch

Last week, I attended the official launch of the GCSN website at Burnside High School. I am a member of the technical and curriculum advisory groups and I sit on the principal's steering group and so it was great to be at the event along with the Minister for Education, Anne Tolley.

The website will now form the hub of activity for schools involved in the Greater Christchurch School's Network, providing information on services and learning opportunities for staff and students among other things. In addition there are news feeds and the opportunity to subscribe to newsletters and RSS updates from the site.

This is the culmination of a great deal of work by many people over the last five years. We are all very proud that Canterbury is leading the nation in this area. We have more schools signed up to the network than any other region in the country and we are now starting to make use of this high speed connection between our schools and the internet. Fendalton has been connected for a couple of months and we are currently looking at ways in which we can link up with other schools to take advantage of the possibilities now open to us. High definition video conferencing is something that we are very keen to explore as we seek to offer our children the very best learning experiences that we can. Exciting times.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Reflections on the Board

Last night we had the final board meeting for the outgoing Board of Trustees and I have been reflecting on the work of the Board over my time as Principal. Working with our Board has been a very productive, supportive and entertaining experience and I am very grateful to the members of the Board for the dedication and enthusiasm that they have all brought to the role. Highlights of this Board have included some very successful building projects, the launch of the Learning Reports and the introduction of our new curriculum. It was all capped off with a very positive ERO review at the start of this year. Indeed, ERO were highly complementary of the Board, their systems and their thoroughness.
I would like to thank Paul Bryden, Chris Davies and Dave Wilding for the time and effort that they have put into the school. The skills that they have each brought have been invaluable and will be missed.
It is interesting to compare the New Zealand system with the UK system of governance. A school the size of Fendalton would typically have a governing body of around eighteen people if it were in the UK. In contrast, our Board is made up of six parents, a staff representative and the Principal. The New Zealand model allows for strong relationships to develop between the board members and certainly makes for a more efficient organisation. I am excited to find out who will be joining us when we form our new Board next month and I am looking forward to working with whoever the successful candidates are.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Is the iPad for us?

I have been thinking a lot about the possibilities of the new apple iPad for education. A lot of comments have been appearing on blogs and in the news media about the limitations of the new device, however I am becoming more and more convinced by the possibilities. They offer a cheap (ish) computer which will allow our children to do everything that they currently use Macbooks for (with the exception of video editing). The price point means that we could look at buying 3 iPads for the price of one laptop and that means more technology in the hands of more children, more of the time.
I have believed for a long time that the iPod touch had a lot of potential in the primary school classroom but the screen size was prohibitive. Now that obstacle has been removed, we can really start to look closely at the opportunities of this new technology. The iPad would nicely compliment our pedagogical approaches and support the children's ability to blog and share their learning online. So roll on April when we can get our hands on an iPad and test it out with our children!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The debate on "National Standards"

I have, over the past few months, commented on my concerns regarding the new National Standards in my newsletter to parents. As the Standards approach implementation in the new year, it seems timely to again look at why so many principals and teachers are opposed to this initiative.

There is a wealth of educational research from around the world that shows National Standards do not work! When I first moved from the UK system into the New Zealand one, it was like a breath of fresh air. The schooling system here is based on children's needs, it is fun, exciting and challenging and the new curriculum is wonderful. In contrast, the UK system has suffered greatly from years of National Standards that have forced schools to focus their attention on the few children who are on the cusp of "crossing the line". The children who are safely meeting the standard do not, therefore, get the extension that they need to keep their learning moving forward. Our New Zealand curriculum aims to educate the whole child and at Fendalton the key to that is knowing our children. It the relationships between teachers and children working together to meet individual needs that make a difference to their progress. National Standards risk narrowing the curriculum and over-simplifying learning.

If you would like to read more about some of the concerns with National Standards please follow these links.

Fact Sheet from the NZPF
New Zealand Principal's Federation
Academics’ Open Letter to Hon Anne Tolley

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

An interesting article

This link was recently sent to me by a parent, it makes for very interesting reading.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Fabulous Middle Team Performance

This afternoon, the Middle Team performed their 'Sparkle Taker' show for the rest of the school and they were spectacular!

If you have tickets for tonights performance (few tickets still available), then you are in for a real treat. The children were so impressive with their confident acting, singing and dancing. When I think back when I was seven or eight years old, I would have been terrified by the idea of performing in front of a packed theatre, but it didn't seem to phase the children at all. There is no danger of any of these children losing their sparkle!

Congratulations to everyone involved in putting on the production. The teachers, parents, children and extra helpers worked their socks off in the lead up and today. Special thanks goes to Kiri and Nick for their efforts in bringing it all together and sharing their sparkle.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Powhiri for Rob

Today we farewelled Rob Clarke and delivered him to his new school, where he has taken over as principal. It was a daunting, but very rewarding day for me personally, as I took on the role of speaker for the visitors, during the Powhiri. Speaking in Te Reo Maori for the first time was certainly a challenge and hopefully I didn't offend anyone with my pronunciation.
The Powhiri is an impressive tradition to be part of and it is a great way to bring to school communities together and formally hand over a staff member. It was a pleasure to be able to take some 30 children from our school down to Burnham and for them to be part of the experience. Burnham is a lucky school to have Rob as their new principal and we all wish him the very best of luck in his new role.

My part from the Powhiri:

Ko te mihi tuatahi ki te atua, tena koe.
E te whare e tu nei, te papa ki waho ra tena korua.
Ki nga mate kua hinga i te po moe mai i roto i te ringa o te atua.
Tatau te hunga ora e huihui mai nei, tena koutou, tena koutou
tena koutou katoa.
Tena koutou e te iwi kainga mo te reo powhiri ki a matau.
He honore tenei kua tae mai matau ki waenganui i a koutou.
E nga mana, e nga reo, rau rangatira ma, tena koutou, tena
koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Library plans!

The new Library plans are here and ready for viewing. Over the next week, we are seeking feedback on the plans for our new library. The images here show the proposed library at the current stage of planning (Click on the images to enlarge them). At the end of next week we will finalise the plans based on feedback from the staff and community and will then move on to the working drawing and council approval stage.
The location for the new library was decided after surveying the school staff on the best option. The site is just next to the main school office beside the basketball court. This is a central location that puts the library where it should be, in the heart of the school.
This project is being funded by the Ministry of Education as part of the ratio changes being introduced at year 1. The Ministry have given the school $320,000 to help us meet the classroom space requirements of reduced class sizes in year 1. As a board, we decided to spend this money on building a brand new library and using other funds to convert the existing library into classrooms. The new library will be slightly smaller than our existing one but will provide us with a much lighter, brighter and more welcoming space for our children to read and learn in. The Ministry property funding guidelines limit the size of library that we are able to build.
Please have a look at the images here or pop in to the school office to see the printed versions. You can make comments via the drop box in the office or by completing the form below. Please let us know what you think of the ideas and plans, we want to make our new library a place that children a rushing to go to and we need your ideas to help make this a reality. Thank you!