Pinehaven School principal Kaylene Macnee says there’s not a lot of support necessary to have cluster group meetings. “It’s just the will, if you’ve got something there to model it from.” She says primary principals have talked a lot about IES. “In our schools we need the funding to go to the kids” not to our pockets. We feel very strongly about that.

She says if she left she would really miss her colleagues.

“I feel like we are a very supportive and cohesive group and anything we do is for the kids” we do think of ways that we can work together to better our kids. We do spread our knowledge and our experience and our strengths across the cluster.”

Macnee admits that personalities do play a part: “We all get along, we’re all committed, we all work well together but we also like to have a good time together too, we have a laugh which is important.”
The cluster includes secondary school principals” one local college principal attends regularly and others join in occasionally. But she says the group’s secondary colleagues are not prepared to say that at the moment, because they want more information about what the IES would look like for them. PPTA is holding ratification meetings in term 4.

The cluster includes an assistant and deputy principals’ network which meets once a term to focus on professional learning. Other groups include one led by the local RTLB, which meets once a term to discuss building and continuing relationships between kindergarten and new entrant classes. Participants share research based-evidence on best practice for transition into primary school.

Within the cluster different groups combine to work on current issues, for example, a group of primary and intermediate schools collaborates on putting together their targets for the year by 1 March.
Intermediates have to rely on data from feeding schools, so they work on moderation, alignment and the relevance of the data received, answering questions such as: Are we talking the same language, are we making the same sorts of judgements?
It means intermediate schools feel more comfortable about the judgements that teachers make at primary school.

The cluster has also worked together on literacy projects. Five schools had a project called “talk to learn”, about oral language. It involved professional development with a facilitator across five schools. There were leaders within the school who fed back and supported the other teachers.
“That was very much a way to grow leadership within schools, who then feed back to their colleagues.”
Two years ago the principals group had a year-long focus for a on raising achievement for Maori children. “We had a facilitator but also shared what each school was doing so we could learn from each other.”
Next year they plan to spend the morning of the cluster day visiting two local schools where the principal can share something they’re proud of.
“We’re looking at actually spending some time in each other’s schools” we’re not precious about what we’re doing, we want to share.” She says they don’t want to reinvent the wheel about what’s going well.

MacNee says late last year they put a proposal to the ministry about funding for the large number of children with special education needs. They did get a response.
“But the way it was presented to us, it didn’t mean any more money, basically it meant that we’d have to do all the work around it.”

Then early this year, the government announced they had $359 m to spend on the IES.
“And yet here they are saying we don’t have any money to give you for special needs” that’s where we feel our strongest needs are.”

EHSAS

A similar programme operated from 2005 until 2009, when the funding was cut. Called Extending High Standards Across Schools”funded by the ministry of education which provided a facilitator, and funding for teacher release to take part. Every cluster had to include at least one high performing school (a “lead” school that had demonstrated success in improving learning outcomes for all students), EHSAS cluster projects were diverse. All projects shared the same broad purpose to link to EHSAS policy outcomes, but each cluster had the flexibility to choose a focus and desired outcomes according to the preferences of the schools involved.
The EHSAS programme was replaced by SAFs (School Advisory¦) paid positions within the ministry.