Māori student success at Albany Senior High School

Present and Future Learning

michaela . pinkerton

100% of our Māori learners had achieved at least NCEA Level 2 on leaving the school in 2014: achieving just as highly, or more highly, than non-Māori students.  These are impressive statistics given the rate of perceived underachievement of our Māori learners nationwide.

In response to a recent question posed to me, I’d like to share a little of what I believe contributes to this success.

Albany Senior High School is distinctly different from many schools. I believe it is these differences which create a culture where success is possible for our Māori learners. A brief list to illustrate some of the key features at Albany (ASHS);

  • Three lessons per day of 100 minute duration. (No more aimless wandering between 6 classes and the attendant time wasting. The opportunity to get really in-depth on a topic.)
  • 200 minutes per week allocated to individual academic mentoring and support in a small…

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Why my Children would attend Taumarunui High School if I lived in Taumarunui.

There is the risk of being called arrogant for writing for this blog as I do not live in Taumarunui anymore and my youngest son completed school last year. I no longer have to make a choice about my children’s education. However this is an opinion piece, not a new commandment – thou shalt support your local school. Not a bad idea though.

I will never forget that Taumarunui High School enabled and encouraged me to move from a state house in New Road to university and a career in education.

I could not let the comment on the concern about the ‘dress and demeanor of some students I see from time to time’ to stand. Go to the Hamilton Bus Centre fro 3:30pm on any school day and you will see that no school can control student dress all the time.

I too could call myself an educationalist. In the last 35 years I have taught in a variety of rural and urban schools in places like Ohakune, Otorohanga and Edgecombe and Hamilton. I worked with schools in Taumarunui while a Senior Advisor for the Ministry of Education. I write this not to show off but to support the contention that I know and understand rural communities and education.

Parents are always concerned about which high school to send their children to and rightly so. Some choose schools outside their communities to support their religious or cultural values, as is their right.

My clear contention here is to present the case that at the heart of central North Island is a school which is in my opinion leading the way nationally in preparing young people for the current century not the last one.

The last Education Review Office report said a lot of positive things like:

There is willingness among teachers and leaders to innovate, consider change and adapt.

A sustainable cycle of planning, improvement and self-review is established. Strengthened strategic and annual planning, based on evidence, includes demanding targets that require acceleration of student progress and reflects the desire for continuous improvement.

Noteworthy changes affecting learning since the 2011 ERO review included:

  • curriculum development, mainly associated with the introduction of junior and senior academies
  • timetabling alterations, including moving to four 75 minute learning sessions per day

This is clearly not a school going through the motions


As a teacher I am envious of the programme being offered to the students. There has been a real attempt to make education relevant and engaging. Check it out for yourself


Cloaked around this new approach to curriculum is the academy structure. A lot of schools say they have academies but Taumarunui HS is not just ticking boxes it is leading the way.

Don’t the Students look Smart and Happy

This face book page is an excellent window into what is really being offered at the school

The range of activities, the smartness of the uniforms and the smiles on the faces of nearly every student particularly struck me. It bought back a lot of memories about sports trips, drama productions and the like.


Ok I don’t see the students day to day but I am experienced enough as a parent and educator to recognise that this school is on the rise and if living in Taumarunui with teenagers I would be very happy for them to experience what THS has to offer. It is more than many schools around the country

Who just said, “digital natives?”


It has now been 14 years since Marc Prensky first used the term “digital natives” to refer to people born after 1980, never having known a world without the internet, and social and digital technologies. (Prensky, 2001) Since then, much has been said and written mostly to debunk assumptions which arose about said natives, namely that they would be arriving at school, or at least at middle school, already wisely blogging and tweeting their way to scholastic success. These students, it was claimed, would demand that their learning be peppered with wise use of technology and pedagogies to match and would shun Luddite teachers and educational institutions.

University of Leicester Medical students - one iPad per student University of Leicester Medical students – one iPad per student

Except that it didn’t quite happen that way. To quote Jones and Shao, “There is little evidence that students enter university with demands for new technologies that teachers and universities cannot meet” and…

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Fron Bandas and BBC to ULearn 2014: An unexpected Journey

When I started teaching in 1980 I used a banda machine. Then our school got a BBC computer. I bought a ‘book’ with multi choice questions from England. I moved schools and spent four years in the wilderness until 1987 – a room full of Macs and a teacher who wanted other subject areas to use the room! So began a love affair with digital learning – Sim City in geography, Oregon trail in social studies and lots of Hypercard stacks on New Zealand topics.

By 1993 the internet had arrived in New Zealand through Waikato University (Wainet) and email enabled us to organise geography meetings in a totally new way. Marking exams so I could by my first computer, great PD and the start of a new way of teaching in some ways. A sojourn to the Bay of Plenty and the  internet at home from an analogue exchange. An hour to down load the National Geographic home page! Back to the Waikato and teaching staff to use the internet – designed and printed licences. 2003 a pod of computers in the room, a data projector and inter write pad = a poor mans interactive white board. But teaching was a lot of fun. Diffentiated learning courtesy of  Gardiner and Bloom. A  year 10 boy runs to Social Studies class so he can get to work on a computer. I appreciate the enthusiasm but I have a roster! I knew then this was the way to go. Running courses IC social sTudies and IC nuTrition for teachers. Fun but need a break. Go to the MOE as a Senior Advisor but miss teaching. After four years join a distance learning school which hints at going online. 2014, yes! really going online. Two days a week writing social studies modules for full online delivery. A 34 year journey. Question: how long do you have to be an early adopter before you can call yourself digital native?

October 2014, Connected Educators month, bogging and tweeting, online MOOC from University of New South Wales on Learning to Teach online. Then came ULearn. But that’s my next blog….


Teaching on Line

Over the period of 8 weeks this term I undertook an online non credit course from the University of New South Wales entitled Learning to Teach on Line. It was a giant ( and I don’t use the term lightly) MOOC. Lots of readings and videos, discussion boards and very authentic practical assignments. The assignments were peer reviewed, which was a little challenging considering the range of people taking the course. Some would like to teach online, some were already and others were working in the online field at university level.

Apart from the great professional learning and discussion with people from all over the world it gave me a reverse perspective on being a distance learner and an online learner. A lot to reflect on there.

I have been writing online Social Studies modules to go live next year. Interaction with the teacher and other students is a key design feature. Variety of activities and interactions are integrated. As I go to ULearn early tomorrow morning I am very expectant. In fact a bit like Christmas Eve really!

Moving Reality into The Virtual World

As I start my first blog I reflect on the challenges ahead as I write online Social Studies modules for distance learners at year 7 to 10. I am setting up a google doc to enable distance students to undertake  Inquiry learning with a teacher not physically in the room! I intend to tie this to adobe connect sessions and email contact so we (the students and I) can interact as though we are in the same physical space as far as practical. I am thinking about how Modern Learning Environments may look in an online environment. I believe MLE’s are as much a concept and way of thinking as they are a physical setting. At ULearn next week and looking forward to lists of ideas to relect on.