Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Future: School Collaboration

Corinna School Mural: 'Our Best Always' Posted by Hello

I have just been sent a booklet outlining developments of a collaborative Porirua East Quality Schools Project 2003 -2005.

I believe that this locally initiated school collaboration is a very healthy development and one that ought to be encouraged by the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

School collaboration was part of the ethos of the early days of ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ but it was ‘crushed’ by the ideology of Market Forces of the 90s which was based on the value of school competing for students (‘clients’). Sharing was out!

Before ‘Tomorrows Schools’ school collaboration was part of the belief system of the then Regional Education Boards and Department of Education Inspectors. This was by no means a perfect system but what eventuated was akin to ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’!

So the idea of schools getting together and sharing ideas is a move in the right direction. As well in recent years a more ‘enlightened’ Ministry has been encouraging a range of clusters. The best examples are the ICT Clusters.

The idea of schools self organizing around shared beliefs is another step towards true democracy and one the Ministry would be well advised to support with as much of a ‘hands off’ attitude as they can.

I would love to see small groups of teachers working collaboratively springing up throughout New Zealand because sharing idea is not only important for teacher growth, but the diversity that would eventuate would be to the advantage of everyone. Successful ideas would spread like benign viruses in the right conditions. Establishing such a ‘high trust’ environment would be the key role of a democratic Ministry. Naturally all schools would need work within a broad National Framework and be held accountable to their agreed Charters.

There is such a group in Blenheim and I know of other areas that just need a little support from the Ministry.

Throughout New Zealand there are a number of schools that have customized the Quality Learning ideas outlined in the Te Ara Vision and Teaching Beliefs to be found on our site. I would love to hear from schools that have made use of such ideas.

It is important that collaborating schools need to retain their individual distinctiveness and creativity within the basic ideas they share. There will always be creative tension between a sense of shared beliefs and individuality. Areas of tension are where all new idea germinate. Such creative tension can be seen in: every classroom between students and teachers; between teachers and principals; and between schools and the Ministry.

It is well to remember that the aim of education is to produce self motivated and caring learners and to achieve this requires trust, and that trust can only be developed where there is mutual respect.

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