By: Simon Collins

Waitakere Community of learning leaders Bryony West, left, and Shona Smith lead a community of 12 schools that have won funding for eight extra teachers to work within and across schools. Photo / File

The Ministry of Education has welcomed a survey finding that about a third of teachers feel their teaching has been strengthened by new groups of local schools called “communities of learning”.

Secretary for Education Iona Holsted has disputed a New Zealand Herald report that the survey showed the communities, or Kāhui Ako, had “flopped”.

“The fact that 40 per cent of teachers report their Kāhui Ako gave them opportunities to collaborate and 34 per cent said it strengthened their own teaching practice is good news for our tamariki,” she said.

“In addition, as most Communities of Learning have only recently been established, we can expect these results to shift over time.”

The figures came from the first national report from a new, ongoing survey allowing teachers to comment anonymously on a wide range of teaching practices in their schools. The initial report was on responses from 4355 teachers in 335 schools.

The 3034 teachers whose schools had joined communities of learning (CoLs) were asked three questions:

  • How well is your CoL participation giving you opportunities to collaborate with other teachers? Answers were: 40 per cent “very well” or “well”, 46 per cent “not well” or “not well at all”.
  • How well is your CoL participation strengthening your own teaching practice? Answers: 34 per cent “very well” or “well”, 50 per cent “not well” or “not well at all”.
  • How well is your CoL participation supporting your capacity for inquiry? Answers: 34 per cent “very well” or “well”, 51 per cent “not well” or “not well at all”.

The lead author of the report, NZ Council for Educational Research chief researcher Dr Cathy Wylie, said the results were impressive considering that many communities of learning were only just getting under way.

“I have to say that I thought the proportions were looking quite good for something that is in the very, very early stages. It certainly can’t tell you that it’s flopped,” she said.

“This is really a complex policy, and it’s something that is going to take some years for it to really start to realise the hopes that people had for it.”

Many communities took some time to agree on “achievement challenges“, which then had to be approved by the Ministry of Education before the schools could appoint teachers to work within and across schools to achieve the challenges, such as raising students’ literacy and numeracy.

“Quite a lot of them were taking quite a lot of time because they had to establish relations of trust in a very competitive environment, and that took much longer than people might have realised,” Wylie said.

Although announced by former Prime Minister John Key in January 2014, the initiative was boycotted by the primary teachers’ union, the NZ Educational Institute, until key changes were made in July 2015.

The delay led to a huge underspend in what had been billed as a $359 million policy, with only $26m spent by February last year.

Wylie said she expected there would be “a shift upwards” in the numbers of teachers seeing gains from the communities when this year’s survey begins next term.

Source: NZ Herald 

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