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Horowhenua schools thrive under collaborative approach

Thursday 26 April 2018

Horowhenua secondary schools thrive under collaborative approach

Horowhenua’s colleges are thriving, and their principals credit greater collaboration with making the difference.

Principals Grant Congdon of Horowhenua College, Bruce McIntyre of Manawatu College and Mark Robinson of Waiopehu College have reported increases of between eight and ten per cent in the numbers of students achieving NCEA over the past five years.

Combined data from the three colleges show that NCEA Level 1 achievement in Horowhenua rose from 76 per cent in 2013 to 86 per cent in 2017. Over the same period, NCEA Level 2 achievement rose from 80 per cent to 88 per cent, and NCEA Level 3 achievement rose from 76 per cent to 86 per cent.

Mr Congdon said families have noticed the improved performance and fewer parents are choosing to send their children out of Horowhenua for a quality secondary school education.

“Just two weeks ago the parents of a Year 9 student told me they’d intended to send their child outside the District for secondary school. But they’ve seen the improved performance of local schools and now they have the confidence to enrol locally. I was delighted to hear that.”

He said the improved confidence in local schools will be important for Horowhenua’s future as the District’s population grows and more people with young families move into the area.

“The way people perceive our schools will be an important factor in drawing people to the District and encouraging them to develop strong ties to our community. It’s an economic and social priority as well as an educational one.”

The three principals began working more collaboratively about three years ago, when Mr Congdon and Mr Robinson were appointed to their roles.

Traditionally, the three colleges in Horowhenua competed for students, with little collaboration among schools.

Mr Robinson said the competitive model wasn’t working for the students, their families, or the colleges.

“We set about creating schools that would complement each other, not compete. As principals, we agreed that we wanted Horowhenua to have three great colleges to provide three strong options for the people of our community. That meant working together for the benefit of all three colleges.”

The principals maintained regular communication, as well as working together through forums such as Education Horowhenua, a group which brings together educators from across all sectors to improve education outcomes for children and young people in Horowhenua.

Under the collaborative approach, each college develops a curriculum with a focus according to the values and characteristics of the school and its board. For example, each college offers different subject and extra-curricular options.

“The idea is to offer parents and students three different, high-quality, secondary school options. In this way, parents can choose the school that’s the best fit for their child’s strengths and weaknesses. Some families decide to send siblings to different schools to best meet each child’s individual needs,” said Mr McIntyre.

Now, when parents approach one of the colleges about enrolling a student, the principals encourage them to consider all three options and make an informed choice.

“It’s about openness of choice, and shared trust. I encourage families who come to see me to visit the other colleges before they make a decision about enrolment. I trust my colleagues to do the same, and I know that they do,” said Mr Robinson.

Cr Barry Judd, chair of the Community Wellbeing Committee, praised the collaboration as an outstanding example of what can be achieved when leaders work together.

“Education Horowhenua is part of the Community Wellbeing Committee, and I’m tremendously proud that these forums have been able to support the leaders of our secondary schools in the collaborative approach that is delivering these results.

“Bringing leaders together to promote community wellbeing through better collaborative working is exactly why the Community Wellbeing Committee exists.”


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