Sitting in a class for 100 minutes initially seemed an awfully long time for Naenae College's head boy.
One period every day has an extra 40 minutes tacked on at the Lower Hutt school and Hamish Nixon, 17, says it's amazing how much more he gets done.
"With subjects like graphics, design or art where you have to set up and pack up every period, you lose so much time. But with 100 minutes, most of it is spent doing work now and having individual chats with the teacher about progress."
Naenae College is one of seven secondary schools identified by the Education Review Office that is using new initiatives to improve student engagement and achievement in a decile 5 or below area, with a roll of more than 200 students.
Those selected by ERO have better-than-average academic achievement levels and low rates of student stand-downs and suspensions.
Hamish says students are generally more organised because of the extra time spent in a different subject every day and achievement is better as a result.
"You can get more chats under way with the teacher and plan ahead and have a better idea of your progress."
He says leadership is a big focus at the decile 2 school, and the 16 prefects have trusting relationships and open communication with other students and staff. "The prefects have really good relationships with the year 9s to mentor them and show them the way, especially the troubled ones that can make bad decisions."
Principal John Russell says two years ago he started taking prefects during the four 40-minute sessions a week of learning advisory time.
Every student takes part and the time is spent reinforcing restorative practices and tracking how students are doing.
"I take the prefects during this time and it's great for communication and they do things like organise assemblies and messages they want to get across to the school.
"When you have a student voice coming through and giving a message to other kids, it's more powerful than the principal standing there banging on about something."
He says NCEA level 1 pass rates reached 88 per cent last year - a new record for the school.
ERO's evaluation services manager, Stephanie Greaney, says the report's findings show that each school has a strong vision for every student's success.
Every school has strong links with families and communities in ways that support the students' learning.
Young people in these schools are actively engaged and confident members of their school communities, with many taking on leadership roles, she says.
"Another key factor for success was the leadership of school principals in managing change, with a focus on positive outcomes for every student enrolled at the school."
The other schools involved are Gisborne Boys High School, McAuley High School (Auckland), Mt Roskill Grammar School (Auckland), Opotiki College (Bay of Plenty), Otaki College (Kapiti), and Trident High School (Whakatane).
- The Dominion Post