School Reborn 2020: Part 4 – First Community consultation

In a 2004 BBC news article, Dr. Vincent Cerf, one of the original founders of the Internet, predicted the rise of significant social changes.

“The internet is a reflection of our society and that mirror is going to be reflecting what we see,” he said. “If we do not like what we see in that mirror the problem is not to fix the mirror, we have to fix society.”  Quote via Dr. Beth Holland 

My High school is reviewing significant changes to what might be learned and how the learning experience is structured. Just like in the problems implied in the quote above, it is schools responsibility to not shy away from change but to fix and adapt themselves accordingly. The results from our community consultation with parents, highlights that although there is much uncertainty, there is a dominant recognition that something must be changed to better reflect the world these children were born into and will live there lives.

Consultation No.1: Parents & Guardians

The initial community consultation was an important moment in our review and it was vital parents were clear on the sort of issues we were looking at. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of feedback we were able to encourage as surveys are notorious for being ignored. It helped that we had a school app as the push notification seemed far more successful than the 2 emails we sent.

Survey design

It was very important the community were clear on what we were talking about and what sort of changes it might lead to. We produced this video montage to capture the focus for curriculum design written into the NZ national curriculum and voices from around the world on new challenges facing education in 2020. We made sure the survey was designed in part and then checked by our on-site stats teachers, so we would have reliable and useable data. Here’s the 10 minute video:

The 1st results

Here is a summary of the results:

  • 437 responses
  • 13000 words in comments
  • Parents of all seven year levels responded
  • 80% vote in favour of a change in the direction of integrated subjects and/or projects

It’s funny that one just doesn’t really know until one asks. Our school is in a conservative area of the country and assumptions had been made by people that this sort of ‘modernisation’ would scare people away. What you find is that when a population that lives and works in the ‘real-world’, where change has been obvious for some years, sees a school wanting to reflect that world, they are in favour.

There are concerns and we are taking those seriously in our initial school design planning but most are easily answered with more detail or are based on misinformation or poor reporting in the press about other NZ schools. Here are some of the 13000 words submitted by the community:

  • “Yes, never do you sit working totally on your own in the real world (as with current subjects and exams). You always interact with, get information from, consult with others in the work place.”
  • “My Daughter did well but when she left school, she discovered talents and abilities she did not realise she had, which gave her a lot of self confidence that she never received from school.”
  • “Focussing on the individual child and not on school rankings would have allowed me to embrace those interests and see how there were means and ways of translating a passion into economic stability.”
  • “I interview candidates for jobs and it is clearly an advantage if the person has a more rounded approach to the pending role, how would they see themselves fitting into the team environment, meet the values of the company than the traditional mindset of just looking at the skill set of the individual.”

Onward and upward…

The summary is being fed back to the community and we will develop a “Frequently asked questions” webpage and point of contact channel to address and issues that we might solve or cater for in the redesign. We will continue to consult with our community throughout the next 18 months. Now that we have quite a clear mandate from the community and have had many hours of discussion in school, it’s time to gather the thoughts, feelings and needs of our teaching staff and students. This will feature in the next post in this series.

Here’s an appropriate tweet for the occasion:

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