Opportunity to learn: a sense of urgency

Published: 04 Sep 2017
Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua


“We have to make the most of every learning opportunity.”

In responding to its unique context Invercargill Middle School adopted a range of approaches to accelerate learning. Teachers share a collective commitment to making the most of every learning opportunity. 

Key messages:

  • Increased opportunity for focused teaching is provided for priority learners 
  • This time is structured and uninterrupted
  • Practice, routines and the language of learning is consistent across the school.
  • Learners develop the agency to be pro-active and disciplined in their approach to their own and others learning

Things to think about:

  • How well do you maximise learning opportunities in your environment?
  • What else could you do?

The evaluation indicators this video illustrates

  • Domain 2: Leadership for equity and excellence
    • Evaluation indicator:
      • Leadership ensures an orderly and supportive environment that is conducive to student learning and wellbeing
  • Domain 4: Responsive curriculum, effective teaching and opportunity to learn
    • Evaluation indicator:
      • Students have effective, sufficient and equitable opportunities to learn

This video is part of a series

This video is part of the series Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua. We created this series to inspire schools with examples of success in action. These examples highlight the benefits of fulfilling the evaluation indicators we use to review schools.

Remote video URL

We've got the Southern Institute of Technology and their apartments in our zone. So they can be bringing in students from overseas quite regularly-10 intakes a year which means that they can bring their children for free education. So we can have a lot of different children coming from a lot of different countries.

We also have a lot of rental properties in our zone, which means that the transient nature of the population can be quite high. So it means that we have a lot of different kids coming in with different needs. And we have to make the most of every learning opportunity.

We have to be able to start as soon as they arrive, and make the most of every day.

At middle school, learning is the most important thing. And Stan and Katie have built that culture up for the rest of us, that if for some reason learning isn't happening, what are we going to do to fix that?

How are we going to move forward?

And a lot of things that they've put in place over these years is moving us towards making learning the focus of everything that we do. So there are no interruptions that happen during the day, especially during learning time, reading, writing, maths.

We make sure that there's no visitors coming in, if we can avoid it. Because we're in the heart of town, there was lots of opportunities for us to go and do this, or this show would come, and- you know, all great stuff, but our numeracy and literacy time began to get a bit crowded. So we were struggling with interruptions a lot.

And that was one of the first things that Katie and Stan did, was took that out. So that time became sacred.

We make sure that the interruptions are minimal, that we're not going into classes asking for information or trying to pull kids out. So we have that urgency in everything that we do and everything that we plan.

Also maximising the time, so taking the children before school.

We have a lot of extra teaching before school, lunch time, and sometimes after school, when we don't have meetings. Most of our target children come to school early and have reading and maths before school, just to help them and give them a bit more one on one time and build our learning relationship with them.

From the time that the children walk into the door in the morning, they're not there to muck around. They're there to learn. That's what school's about, and they have that real sense of pride about that. They know what they need to do in the morning to get prepared. They know what they need to do the night before to be prepared. So that helps at home.

And I love that full sentence.

We are very focused on consistency. So as the child goes from a certain room to another room, you know, at the end of the year, there's the same language being used, the same way that we set out our books is being used.

We all do maths at the same time, reading at the same time, writing at the same time, so that the children don't have to come back to school at this side of the year, and relearn all these new routines and waste time. That's a big part of our accelerated progress is that consistency, and language, and vocabulary, and expectation.