Translating a collective vision for education into practical change will be the next challenge for the Government as it looks to revitalise the education sector.

The first of two Education Summits was held in Christchurch over the weekend, bringing together about 800 people from across the community.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said he wanted participants to “lay the foundations for the future of education and learning” in New Zealand.

“It’s like building your new home. These foundations will form the values that will guide us as we seek, in the coming months and years, to add the walls, windows and roof for our new, modern education house.”

Summit sessions were designed to help participants “build” a common vision, Hipkins said.

“Education is too important to be left to politicians. To which I could add – to public servants and experts as well. No matter how well intentioned we are.”

As well as teachers and educators, a wide range of people took part in the summit – including iwi and Pasifika representatives, students, advocacy groups, employers, researchers, disabled people and families and whanau of children and young people who need learning support and education leaders.

Hipkins said the summit concept is not new for education in New Zealand, however one had not taken place since 1937 – then under the banner of the New Education Forum.

“I want you to be as bold and brave when it comes to your vision and your ideas for the future, as your predecessors were then.”

Throughout the weekend, participants discussed the future of education in ‘hubs’ – discussing ideas about ways of teaching, ways of learning, life-long learning, skills, competencies and behaviours, enabling self-fulfilling lives, and thriving as a society.

‘Breakout’ discussions led by educators and community members helped bring in new perspectives and ideas.

Those in attendance were also asked to rank values they deemed as most important in education. Collectively 10 top values were chosen — including hauora/well-being, creativity, family community/whānaungatanga, respect, and belonging.

Following the emergence of the top values, participants then brainstormed ways to link the values with their ‘hub’, creating big ideas and principles to guide the next steps.

Hipkins said ideas from the summits, as well as an online survey open to the public, will now feed in to task groups and working groups already reviewing parts of the education sector.

“Too often there has been change for changes sake, or change that didn’t seem to have any clear destination in mind. And too often people have felt excluded from the process.

“The approach involves a lot of co-design, a lot of consultation, and a lot of collaboration. So far more than 6000 people have engaged in an online conversation, and more than 1000 New Zealanders will be contributing their views in our summits.”

In the final panel of the summit, Valerie Hannon of Britain’s Innovation Unit said she was hopeful for the future after taking part in the weekend.

“New Zealand is starting from a position of strength. You will be a world leader.”

James Hargest College Year 8 team leader Holly Bradshaw said she felt “really optimistic” after attending the summit.

“That’s the feeling I’m getting from being there. It was really well organised and facilitated.”

She said she before the summit she was worried about how a conversation of 800 people would work.

“But the way it was done, it worked. It felt authentic. The questions we had to answer were really well thought out.”

She said she was now interested in how the “voice” of the summit would be transferred into the next stage.

“We do need to get more voice involved. We need to get it into the regions. I’m optimistic but I’m also really realistic that it may take some time for change, and that’s a good thing.”

At the summit, Hipkins also appointed “guardians” of the conversation, led by Judge Andrew Becroft, the Children’s Commissioner. Other members include Sir Lockwood Smith, Marian Hobbs, Professor Rawinia Higgins, Dr Debbie Ryan, Dr Welby Ings, Etta Bollinger, and Deborah Walker.

“Every single one of this group is a leader in their own right and all are passionate advocates for great education,” Hipkins said.

“They will provide a high-level overview to connect the vision from the education summits and national conversation with the development and delivery of the Government’s strategic education work plan during 2018, which includes Tomorrow’s Schools and the NCEA Review.”

The second summit takes place this weekend in Auckland, before regional discussions, hui and fono are held.

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