Learning cluster gathers to raise education achievement levels in south Otago

Vision Education director Dr Alison Davis of Auckland and Big River Cluster Kahui Ako Community of Learning executive ...
Mary-Jo Tohill/Stuff

Vision Education director Dr Alison Davis of Auckland and Big River Cluster Kahui Ako Community of Learning executive leader Paddy Ford of Balclutha, at a two-day workshop held at the South Otago Town and Country Club at Balclutha.

South Otago educators are working together to raise student achievement in literacy and numeracy. 

Formed six months ago, the Big River Cluster Kāhui Ako Community of Learning, met in Balclutha this week to identify education achievement "challenges", in the areas of writing, mathematics, science and National Certificate of Educational Achievement - NCEA.

About 100 teachers, along with principals, from the secondary, primary and early childhood sectors, were involved in the two-day workshop held in the last few days of the school holidays, at the South Otago Town and Country Club, at Balclutha. They came from South Otago High School, Rosebank, Clutha Valley, Kaitangata, Clinton Romahapa, Warepa,  St Joseph's, Wairewa South, Stirling and Tahakopa primary schools, and all the district's kindergartens and early childhood centres.

National Standards data findings show schools where they could be doing better, Big River Cluster Kāhui Ako executive leader and Balclutha Primary School principal Paddy Ford, said.  

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In Māori pupils' achievement, National Standard data shows that in writing, of the 156 Māori students across the cohort, 38 of them (24.4 per cent) are below expected levels, and in mathematics, 23 (15 per cent) are below or well below the standard.

In writing, of the cluster's 902 students, about 25 per cent were below the standard. More specifically, in boys' writing, a third of the cohort fell below the standard.

Mathematics is targeted as critical to lift achievement level in science, from primary to NCEA level. In maths years 6, 7 and 8, data indicates that of the 332 students, 23 per cent are below the National Standard.

Getting more NCEA students achieving merits in level two, as well as reaching level three was also one of the cluster's objectives.

It had taken two years of discussion to get to this point, and the group had a plan for the next two years going forward, Ford said.

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The cluster had employed two "across school" teachers to work two days a week, and more plans were afoot to raise student achievement. 

"This term we will appoint 10 'within school' teachers who are released for two hours a week to work on the challenges," Ford said.

"The idea is to share expertise that we have within our own district."

These teachers would be funded by the Ministry of Education, to develop teaching skills.

Milton and the Clutha District area schools had formed their own learning clusters.

Auckland-based professional development company Vision Education has been contracted by the ministry to facilitate the Big River cluster's aims and objectives. 

Vision Education director Dr Alison Davis, who attended the Balclutha workshops, said clusters were all about teacher collaboration, and identifying areas of need, for instance writing, which covered anything from hand-writing to computer-writing.

"It doesn't matter where that child is, so long as they're being supported because of a collective knowledge of learning."   

 

 - Stuff

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