Smart schools are taking a cautious approach to the new Communities of Learning (CoL), rejecting the one-size-fits -all model and working according to evidence, need and proven records of success.

“There is no box,” says one principal, “so don’t get boxed in.”

NZEI member leaders have been locked in talks for months with Ministry of Education officials, trying to squeeze sense out of the government’s flawed Investing in Educational Success policy.

Crucially, members have achieved more flexibility in the new Communities of Learning (CoL) model. But it has been impossible in the current climate to win everything, and changes are still needed to achieve a model to meet the sector’s needs.

“Don’t be limited by perceived expectations and don’t be fooled by the mixed messages coming from officials and politicians,” says another member leader. “We have been told by the ministry’s regional managers that they accept the need for flexibility, the need for the model to be adapted by communities.

“What is key too – there is greater acceptance in the ministry that it will take time, a lot more time, for communities to work through real and meaningful collective action on behalf of learners.”

But it appears some communities are inadvertently falling into the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) trap by producing plans that focus on narrow targets driven by National Standards for small groups of students – despite the evidence that indicates this will stress students, deter them from lifelong learning, encourage cheating, narrow the curriculum, and ignore the needs of many other learners.

Member leaders are putting together evidence-based guidance documents to support CoLs to gain the most from the model. It is hoped these will be available shortly, with endorsement from the ministry. The process is on-going. “It is up to us to keep pushing – and to remain in charge of our community processes.”

Editorial: Louise Green

The education system is changing and it is important to stay true to what brought us into the profession in the first place. For me, it was about making a real difference in the lives of children so they can live full and satisfying lives as contributing citizens in a democratic society.

The questionable reforms being imposed on the education sector mean it is up to us to pushback with the tools at our disposal. These include our rich and enabling curricula, the full range of effective practices, and our willingness to work together on behalf of learners.

We have achieved some gains with better flexibility in the Communities of Learning model (p13). We can use these gains to redefine what success really looks like.

Follow developments and read more about good collaborative practice at nzei.org.nz/joint-initiative