Aorere College: A local curriculum that prepares students for education, training and employment
Aorere College is a medium-sized multi-cultural co-educational year 9-13 school in Papatoetoe, Auckland. The school has around 1600 students. 18% are Maori, 59% Pacific and 22% Asian.
The school’s vision
“Working closely with our community to grow high-achieving young men and women with the character, confidence and qualifications for future success.”
The current state
For five years Aorere College has offered a range of pathways for year 12 and 13 students. Those on a University Entrance (UE) pathway study four or five subjects and attend school five days a week. Others on a secondary/tertiary pathway study at tertiary level two days a week while completing NCEA Levels 2 and 3 at school for the remaining three days. At present these students often miss one lesson a week in their NCEA subjects due to timetable clashes with tertiary courses.
The COVID19 lockdown in 2020 provided an opportunity for senior leaders to evaluate the extent to which the year 12 and 13 timetable met the needs of their students. When the school consulted with senior students after lockdown, many said that they found working from home more productive because it was easier to focus and they could set their own pace for learning, such as allocating a sustained period of time to one subject. Additionally, some students stated that they’d like the school timetable to be more flexible so they could engage in part time work to help support their families.
Academic mentoring has been a feature of the school for several years. Students meet with a mentor teacher in small groups three times a week. Recently the SLT evaluated the extent to which a designated time for academic mentoring resulted in valued learner outcomes. They observed teachers and students during this time, and consulted with students about how effective the academic mentoring time was for them. They found that while some teachers and students make good use of this time, in many cases little academic mentoring takes place. Students identified that the structure is problematic when they do not have an existing relationship with their assigned mentor, or with other students in their group.
What the goal/future state looks like
The SLT went through a process of evaluation and self-review in relation to the two areas described above. They addressed many points outlined in the Evaluation and self-review section of the Local Curriculum Strategic planning Guide:
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the design and implementation of local curriculum initiatives, including NCEA programme design
- Assess what is and is not working, and for whom
- Share successes, insights/learning, and the changes needed to further align the experiences of ākonga with aspirations for them (p. 24)
As a result of the evaluation and self-review, the SLT is proposing three key changes to the year 12/13 student timetable in 2021. The new timetable will allow students to take 4 UE subjects over 3 days and work from home or in employment 2 days a week. Students taking 5 UE subjects will be able to work from home one morning and one afternoon per week. Subjects will be organised in 1 X 3 hour block and 1 X 1 hour period a week so that students can engage in learning over a sustained period of time. Students undertaking tertiary study and NCEA will not miss any NCEA classes because these will be timetabled across three days. There will no longer be supervised study but students may arrange to meet with teachers for individualised support.
A second change involves academic mentoring. Instead of having designated academic mentoring times, teachers will be responsible to mentor a class they teach and incorporate mentoring into their normal classroom teaching. The rationale behind this change is that teachers will be mentoring students that they have developed a relationship with and know well, and that contextualised academic mentoring will be more meaningful for students.
Some teachers will need professional learning and development on how to weave academic mentoring into their programmes of teaching and learning. The School Leavers’ Toolkit could be used to help teachers understand and integrate key areas of academic mentoring such as financial literacy, civics and employability skills. For example, a teacher who understood the seven essential employability skills (positive attitude, communication, teamwork, self-management, willingness to learn, thinking skills, resilience) might explain to students the purpose of his/her teaching actions in relation to the students’ future employment:
"I am getting you to complete this task in groups because teamwork is a key employability skill and we need to build your skills in working together."
Year 12 and 13 students could be encouraged to investigate the school Leavers’ Toolkit in their own time and bring any questions/concerns to a discussion with the senior academic dean, or careers advisor.
The third change is to finish school at 2.15pm on Wednesday afternoon, which is when many sports teams play. Students currently need to leave school early, which affects valuable learning time. Aorere College proposes offering co-curricula, literacy workshops, tutorials and sports practice between 2.15pm and 3.15pm on Wednesdays.
The proposed changes are consistent with the school vision of growing students’ character, confidence and qualifications for future success.
The changes are also consistent with the school’s current strategic plan:
Strategic intent 3
Through the building of strong relationships, effective pastoral care and the provision of quality infrastructure to improve learning outcomes.
The proposed changes are designed to improve the quality of pastoral care, especially in academic counselling, and the infrastructural changes to the timetable are designed to improve student learning outcomes through offering greater flexibility.
Plan of how to get there
The SLT have developed a thorough consultation process, which involves the following steps:
- SLT discussed and refined the proposed changes;
- SLT presented the changes to Heads of Departments (HoDs) and invited HoDs to express their questions and concerns;
- SLT presented the changes to Year 12 students in a meeting. Students brought devices to the meeting so that their feedback could be recorded immediately on a google form;
- The changes were discussed with the whole staff. Teachers were invited to complete a survey. Of those who responded, 57% supported the new structure;
- Whānau consultation included posting information on the school website, a personalised email inviting questions and comments and information in the school newsletter. When whānau were invited to complete a survey, 85% supported the timetable changes;
- SLT will further clarify the changes based on feedback from each of the groups;
- The proposed changes will be shared with the board of trustees.
Aorere College has not yet completed the consultation process, so the actual 2021 changes may differ from the proposal. Nevertheless, this case study demonstrates how the SLT addressed two areas that needed evaluation and innovation. Firstly, the SLT used information from students’ COVID19 lockdown experience to evaluate how well the current timetable met the school’s aspirations for year 12 and 13 students’ pathways beyond school. Then they envisioned a bold timetable change that was responsive to student needs. Secondly, the SLT identified that academic mentoring was often not effective in providing mentoring support for students and was therefore not a good use of time. They devised an innovative solution to embed academic mentoring in programmes of learning and teaching.
The focus throughout has been on improving learning opportunities for year 12 and 13 students. As one whānau response stated:
"Appreciate all staff involved for taking the time to mentor our students to a healthy pathway. Flexibility is a more functional way forward."