Whole school buddy system

Published: 04 Sep 2017
Professional capability
Evaluation indicators
Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua


“It grew really quickly and teachers took responsibility. Now it is really embedded. We make sure everyone has a buddy. We still make sure they have time to do reflections. We still make time to make it easier.”

At Otumoetai Intermediate, all teachers are engaged in differentiated professional learning and development. Those with similar goals are ‘buddied’ with another staff member.

Key messages:

  • The deprivatisation of classroom practice is embedded across the school 
  • Working with a colleague enables clarity of focus and direction linked to outcomes
  • Frequent, structured observations to gather evidence and follow up discussions support improvement
  • Allocation of time and resource support the implementation of school-wide processes

Things to think about:

  • What structures, processes and practices support continual learning and collaboration in your setting?
  • What else could you consider?

The evaluation indicators this video illustrates

  • Domain 5: Professional capability and collective capacity
    • Evaluation Indicators
      • Organisational structures, processes and practices enable and sustain collaborative learning and decision making
      • Access to relevant expertise builds capability for ongoing improvement and innovation
  • Domain 2: Leadership for equity and excellence
    • Evaluation indicator
      • Leadership builds collective capacity to do evaluation and inquiry for sustained improvement

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

The buddy system is based on whose needs are similar. The goals are created. Then we'll buddy the teachers up in terms of who is working in a similar area, and they'll support each other in that.


I was intimidated by observations. Whereas coming into a culture that they happen with more frequency makes observations less intimidating and builds that culture of improvement and wanting to develop your practice.


It can be really scary, having someone come in and critique your practice, and actually say to you, well, really you could do that better, or you're not doing that right, or something like that. That is a daunting thought. But if you have that mind-set of, it's going to make me a better teacher, and it's going to result in improved outcomes for my children, when you get your head around that then it's a good thing. It's a really good thing.


We do try and have the buddies in different teams, working absolutely on the same goal, working together to make sure that the two of them in the two classrooms achieve what it is that they've set out to do.


Jill and I are both working on the connect part of our mathematical learning community work to ensure that we run a really good maths session.


So could we work it out?




Was it tricky, even though it looked like a tricky shape?




So if we used that principle that you'd come up with, that it's the area times the height, then it works?




Let's try another shape and see what you think.


Not being able to see what other people are doing, it would just feel quite unnatural. Like, you wouldn't really know where you're going. And I think just being able to observe other people in their practices adds a bit of clarity to what we're doing. It just gels together everything that we do.


I want to say that Johnny has made some improvements since the last time I was in there, and he's told me what his goals are for today's lesson and what he wants me to look at and see.


Why do we put it in front of the four?


I'm not sure about that.


OK, Lucy.


You might want to just quickly explain to Leo why you're putting the A in front of the four, OK?


I think it also heightens my awareness of things he might be doing better than me. I will look at him and think, that's not something that I've done, I could probably implement that in my practice.


We've developed the ability to be really honest and to be really black and white.


Having the data sheets tick, tick - what's going on, it's not just an opinion. It's gathered information and it's clear. And you can both look at the sheet, and you can both read it and understand it. It's not just, this was what I noticed and this is what I thought. It's based on evidence, what works, when you've released teachers to actually observe each other and talk about their practice. It's about them having a good oversight or understanding of what they're trying to achieve rather than just having a talk fest as two teachers together. So it needs good direction, and it needs people who have got the skill to be able to facilitate that.


You've got a core group of teachers that have been on site long enough that really see the benefits of it in terms of students learning. I think it's established because the whole school is doing it as well. You don't just have a few teachers working in isolation, trying to make changes to their practice. That everyone sees everyone else working, which really helps.


It didn't start off by being a voluntary thing, it grew really quickly and teachers took responsibility. So now it is really embedded. We still make sure that everyone has a buddy. We still make sure they have time to do reflections. We still make time to release them to make it easier to see each other if it's not that easy.