Gilberthorpe school

Gilberthorpe school

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Visits to Clearview Primary and Breens intermediate- Christchurch

This morning I had the pleasure of touring these two schools with a friend and colleague from Te Anau primary- Grant is the DP there and it was great to be able to hear different perspectives on these changes to education.

Through all of our discussions and observations up to this point there are some real consistencies

  • A schools vision and beliefs must drive this move towards MLE's, this vision comes from all stakeholders within the community.
  • The practice of what happens inside these rooms/bases/breakout spaces is the key.
  • It is important to give our students options for how they learn and what they learn...
  • Technology is highly motivating and should support learning as opposed to keeping students busy.

Thanks to James for allowing visitors into this school.  I know they have had many in recent times.  Tracey Young who showed us around today allowed us to see a 21st century learning environment in action.  A strong message from Tracey centred around the vision within the school and how this was "living and breathing" in the classrooms, we saw evidence of this today.  What struck me was the options available for students, high presence of technology, flexible learning spaces and children having choice over their learning.  It was great to see students gathering together at the beginning of the day before moving off into the business of the school day.
There are a huge variety of options for students and teachers, one common thread was that often there would be a teacher taking a focused group, while another teacher was able to rove and support students on their tasks.  Senior students were able to earn a "SIM" card, which allowed these responsible students to work anywhere within the school- A high trust model which is working.
Options were high at Clearview, high tables, low tables, bean bags, cushions, lap boards, Ipads, Lap tops, sound proof rooms, group spaces etc...  But most importantly these were ways to complete the learning, giving students the power to work where and how they were comfortable.  Thanks to Tracey for the tour!

Breens intermediate
A big thank you to Breens for having us after the visit being organised during a Sunday conference, I was fortunate enough to jump on the bandwagon after Grant had organised a tour for today.
Nikki at Breens was very kind to give us an insight at very short notice...2 hours before we arrived!
What impressed me about Breens was the time and energy that had been put in initially to develop a strong values system and graphic that very strongly connected the community, it took into account a strong past history and current beliefs.  It was obviously working!  A bit like the journey that we will take @ Gilberthorpe, Breens had worked to create Modern Learning Practice within their existing buildings, which was why it was a nice contrast to Clearview.
They had opened up classes to de-privatise both teaching and learning and had spent time create "schools within a school" by having 3 teams of 3 classes.  Teachers planned and taught well together and it was obvious that the time had been put into developing the systems in order to maximise the learning times.  They also benefited by having technology on site, which they also provide for several other schools.
We saw many different technologies, but the real game changer here was potentially the use of chrome books, also hugely successful in Auckland within the Manaiakalani cluster.  Chrome books are a device we anticipate being readily available in the future within our cluster in Hornby. Affordable and capable , many students preferring to have the keyboard available, which tablets don't.
As with Clearview we saw classes allowing for group collaboration, quiet and silent areas, areas for specific instruction.  Walls were turned into glass and old canteen spaces were now teacher planning areas- fantastic creativity and just what I was hoping to see.

A lot of food for thought from both schools- a common theme being the options being made available to students, the range of choice over how and when to work and oodles of creativity from the way student learn and the way teachers teach e.g converting the pie shop to online ordering and creating another space.  A very inspiring way to start the week!

Thanks again to both schools for opening their doors to us...


  1. When I was on a recent NZEI seminar I met this female teacher who was talking about Breens Int and what they had done. After seeing this herself she began trialling MLE in her room. By creating different working spaces and having bean bags and high chairs etc. She said it worked at first but has had to tweak it this term.
    I would be keen to go see Breens and then to go view her room at Cotswold.

    I have seen Clearview through a short board workshop there last year. It would be great to view it in daylight.......Their staffroom WOW!

    1. It's great talking to other colleagues about their experiences working in these spaces. I got in touch with a friend (who is now in Australia) who had worked at Clearview for a couple of years. She LOVED it. She was realistic about how much work was involved had how important collaborative planning is, and was very clear about the pay-offs in student achievement and engagement... and how that impacted job satisfaction :)
      She also gave me a friendly warning about how much more classroom noise there is in open-plan spaces, in comparison to single-cell classrooms. Food for thought, and all okay as long as everyone is 'on-task', right?

  2. We definitely need to get some more visits organised Sam, maybe see when your friend is available? Waimairi will also be great when we go this week. Kate you have raised a good point about the noise levels and overall management, we need to factor this in. I think strong behaviour management and high levels of engagement will help this, but also having a variety of spaces to fit a purpose- students able to be noisy when its appropriate but the other students being able to access quirt zones too...

  3. Today at Waimairi I noticed that I was in a room of 60 NE/Yr1 students with 5 teachers in it, and I was able to have a perfectly comfortable conversation with the adult I was standing next to... it was the same in every classroom I visited. Hmmm... very encouraging :)

    1. Whew!!! Engaged in learning and disengaged sure sound different.