A synopsis of our first Online Series event

By Diana Wilkes

Read and view the key messages shared by four amazing school leaders about leading their staff and communities through school transformation. This event took place on Wednesday 15th June, 4-5pm via Zoom.

The Tārai Kura Online Series is for school leaders of redevelopments and new school builds. The focus is on sharing innovation, provocation and current, future focused topics. 

Leading Change: Journeying with Teams and Communities through School Transformation.

In the first event of our online series we were joined by four extraordinary school leaders who have led their school community through school transformation – whether a rebuild, redevelopment or a new school build. Participants and panelists alike had the opportunity to reflect on these questions:

  • What strategies and approaches have you used effectively to support staff and/or community through school transformation? 
  • How did you gain commitment from staff?
  • How do you maintain or refresh staff culture through a change process?
  • What were the processes used to bring the community with you on the change journey?
  • What were some of the challenges of engagement and how did you overcome these?

This series features a flipped approach. Therefore, to allow time for interactive discussion with our speakers and each other, we invited participants to watch this video of our principal panellists prior to the event.

Tārai Kura Online Series 1 – Pre-Event Material Tārai Kura

The first half of the session was able to be recorded and included a short introduction from our four panelists and their response to the question: “What would be your one biggest piece of advice for those leading their staff through a new build, rebuild or school transformation project?”  and our tumuaki extraordinaire offered a plethora of advice!  The rest of the session took place in breakout groups so we were unable to record these.  Please view the first half of the session here:

Tārai Kura Online Series 1 – hui recording Tārai Kura

What were the big key messages from our speakers?

Ben Witheford, Tumuaki | Shotover Primary School | Queenstown, opened 2015

  • Take the time to find your reference point – to have a deep understanding re: what you are about, take time to define your collective voice.
  • Designing a team is a real priviledge and it is time consuming and has a definite flip side as each educator comes with a different perspective from their previous contexts so it is important to avoid making assumptions by taking the time to understand what you believe as a school.
  • Revisit, re-communicate, re-induct but know when to acknowledge that ‘good is good enough’.
  • Do your own thinking: yes, take time to visit and talk to others but make sure that you take the time to do your own thinking and contextualise this so it is collectively understood.
  • “Good artists steal” ~ Steve Jobs.  We have essentially stolen ideas from schools around the country BUT we have rethought about what each looks like for us at Shotover.

Ivan Davis, Principal | Western Springs College | Auckland, ongoing redevelopment

  • Our school is unique as almost the entire school has been rebuilt and we viewed this as a priviledge with the board chair stating: “what we want is something extraordinary!” Started planning in 2011 and moved in, in 2019.
  • As a profession we ‘know what we know and we don’t know what we don’t know” so our korero has been about how to collaborate and learn from others so visit other schools and discuss with architects what has been successful.
  • Engage with experts and then acknowledge that the answers are in the room.
  • Vision groups were established to map out a property design that aligned with what they aimed for pedagogically, this created ownership and increased engagement.
  • Every wall has potential to reduce flexibility and we characterise our school as one without classrooms (ākonga call it a “21st century Hogwarts”!).

Mel Bland, Tumuaki | Te Uho o Te Nikau Primary School | Auckland, opened 2019

  • 38 home languages spoken by our tamariki – embrace the diversity.
  • Be sure to constantly acknowledge the change leadership process because change is disruptive, so ensure that the change has emerged and is aligned with your vision and strategy.
  • Seek out people or organisations to support you with your own learning around change leadership.
  • All three of the 3 legged stool legs: leadership, people change management and project management, require your time, thought and focus.
  • Be prepared for the implementation dip and provide support for those who need it. 

Mike Anderson, Tumuaki | Waimairi School | Christchurch, redevelopment

  • 15th year at Waimairi – due to a massive disruption (the Christchurch earthquakes) a huge commitment to the community was required by leadership  – be brave and always look at any disruption as a blessing for your leadership development.
  • Every delay, every hold up, every Ministry push back is an opportunity to take pause and ‘go deep’ with everyone.
  • Ensure that as many people as possible understand the why behind what you do: identify your why, and then be like a 3 year old and ask ‘But why? But why?’ about the why!
  • Avoid worshipping at the alter of things e.g collaboration, as you can end up with a dominant model which over-privileges one special and powerful way of working.
  • Take your time with consultation: include students, whānau and staff, international travel, study tours, focus groups, external critical friends, brainstorming and ideating – capture this and communicate it regularly to make it robust and enduring.

An enormous thank you to Mike, Mel, Ivan and Ben for their time and contributions to this important whaakaro.

We hope you can all join us for our next Online Series event in Term 3.

Ngā manaakitanga,

Tārai Kura Online Series team

Judy, Stephen, Diana, Lex, Anne and Shona