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Lower Moutere School

Student wellbeing is central to all decisions around whole school development including the implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum, 2007.

Aim/Focus:

  • Through participation in the Student Wellbeing: Mental Health education contract engage whole school including students, staff,whanau/parents, caregivers and community in determining the direction of Lower Moutere School as a vibrant, supportive learning community.
  • Ensure that a strength based approach is used to support the wellbeing and development of our learning community.

Background situation:

Lower Moutere is a rural, full primary school in the Tasman District of Nelson. We have approximately 157 students and our decile ranking is 4.

Upon joining the Ministry of Education Student Wellbeing: Mental Health education contract in Term 4, 2007, our goal was‘to have children, staff and community working together towards common goals’. However on engaging in the contract, we soon realised the potential to link so much of the work we had been doing including Physical Activity (PA) and Professional Development around Behavioural Management. We could also see how the contract could support us in our development of The New Zealand Curriculum, 2007.

Process undertaken:

Attendance at the Student Wellbeing Workshops along with follow up PD sessions with both the staff and community allowed us to realise the importance of underpinning all that we do with a strength based approach – ensuring that decisions that we are making with students for their education now and in the future are the best possible decisions. We wanted to ensure that we were focusing on the strengths of our students and our school community and support our students in making positive, health-enhancing decisions.

Students were asked what they felt about school – their environment, relationships and what helps support their learning. Staff unpacked these interviews and discussed action required to ensure the wellbeing of all. Action included: giving students a greater voice in aspects of school-life; more “fun” events; development of playground areas and equipment; identification of previously unknown bullying “hotspots”, perpetrators and strategies to minimise likelihood of recurrence; a more proactive approach to finding activities that appeal to our more challenging students; and providing more leadership opportunities for ALL students not just identifying the ones that already have the skills.

Term 4, 2008, another Hui was held at the school with all members of the community invited to consider progress made and ‘next steps’. Participants began the day, in small groups, by capturing a photo story of what they believed the existing strengths of the school were. These were then shared as a whole. This clarified the positive things that were already happening within the school.

This was followed by a session on connections between the resiliency model and key competencies and how best to ensure that students are at the heart of all that is done in the life of the school.

The last component of the day was reviewing where the school is at in relationship to the health and wellbeing of students and what the future learning needs of the students might be. The review of the Health and Physical Education curriculum became the vehicle in which to follow a process of ensuring that what the community actually value and believe to be important in the student’s education is what is happening. Dr Julia Atkin’s model unpacked in From Values and Beliefs about Learning to Principles and Practice (2003),Seminar Series No 54, Incorporated Association of Registered Teachers of Victoria, was used to assist the process.

The agreed focus of learning for 2009 is ‘Relationships’. This will see staff developing their classroom programmes around this theme, school-wide “coming together” events such as Meet the teacher family night, camps, leadership building workshops for students, sports days etc. where a common message is shared, connections made and relationships strengthened, Professional development for staff in Human Rights in Education Programme and a further Teacher only Day on implementing the NZ Curriculum.

Outcomes

  • Increased community involvement in the school
  • Better home-school relationships
  • More confident and proud children – of both their home and school and the links between them (they feel connected)
  • Increasing responsibility for student behaviour and for the ongoing improvement of the school and community
  • A significant reduction in reported behavioural incidents
  • A greater desire to be involved
  • A staff bond and shared understanding and appreciation of what we’re about – much easier to implement things now!

Responsibilities

  • Lead Team – The lead team consisted of the Principal and the AP (also responsible for Health)
  • Staff – To be fully involved in the PD
  • Community (with BOT support) – To be involved where possible and support the school in improving wellbeing for all.

Reflection

Strengths

The involvement of all Staff and Board early on (TOD Feb 2008), including the cleaner. This promoted a shared understanding, a common language and a culture of everyone having an important part to play.

Having the support of a facilitator who encouraged us to take our own approach, provided resources, ideas and reassurance.

The timing was perfect for us – new Principal, new staff, revised NZ curriculum. Focusing on our strengths was a more optimistic, empowering and successful approach for making positive change in our school. It was so much nicer to grow our strengths and celebrate these than never get to the bottom of the needs to do list! It’s also an approach we use when we discuss the “needs” of students and problem solve issues – what are their strengths? What are the things that work really well? What could we build on/develop/change slightly to improve the situation?

Challenges

  • Involving students in the consultation/planning process wasn’t as successful as hoped initially but is improving with experience.
  • Keeping momentum but not overwhelming people.
  • Fitting all the new/growing knowledge, experiences, findings, needs and resources together into a “neat” package.

Future opportunities

The key themes to emerge from 2008 were Respect and Building Relationships. We were then introduced to Human Rights in Education and decided to use this as the lens to help us plan for and develop programmes around these themes.

In 2008, we drafted a proposal to employ a family/whanau worker to further support the link between school and our community. While funding applications have been unsuccessful to date, the Board and Staff fully believe in the proposal and will continue to look for ways to introduce it.


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