Tuesday, 15 May 2018

What matters can't always be measured

The say that what you measure doesn't always matter, and what matters can't always be measured. I've been thinking a lot about that idea with reference to our school vision to be 'A centre of creative excellence'. This is a big bold idea, in part inspired by what Scottish educator Ewan MacIntosh calls a BHAG (A Big Hairy Audacious Goal).

So big is it (as it should be) that we broke it down into bite sized chunks (our strategic goals) which are currently:

1. To provide future focussed individualised learning
2. To create and sustain an inclusive learning community
3. To foster inspirational, risk taking and enterprising leadership in all members of our learning community

We felt that these were three key things that would need to happen if we were to progress on ur journey to being that centre of creative excellence. Each of these is then broken down into two annual goals:

Annual Goal 1: Embed the culturally responsive pedagogy ‘Learn Create Share’ to develop future focussed individualised learners.
Annual Goal 2: Assist every student to develop an appropriate individualised educational pathway

Annual Goal 3: To enhance staff and student wellbeing
Annual Goal 4: Increase community engagement

Annual Goal 5: Promote student leadership and followership capabilities
Annual Goal 6: Promote a growth mindset amongst students and staff

We have developed a series of measure for some of these things, but some are quite hard to measure. That doesn't mean that they don't matter though, and I have been quite taken by what I see as I move around our kura talking with staff and students.

Strategic Goal 3 is a great example. What does increased risk taking look like in a school? When I arrived at the school in 2016 I was told that students mostly didn't like to perform on the stage, or more generally in front of their peers. Having highlighted the need for all of us to take risks if we are to become more creative, what does this look like now? Every assembly has student performances. At the end of term 1 this year almost every year 8 and year 9 student was on stage performing. That looks to me like a culture shift amongst students. Putting yourself out there in front of people feels like a huge risk. What if they don't like me? What of they make fun of me? I could equally feel that way every time I speak in an assembly, or write a blog post. These fears are natural. What matters is being prepared to give it a go. And our students are increasingly developing the resilience necessary to do this.

And let's remember, taking risks by definition means there is a chance that we will fail. But that's OKAY as long as we try to make sure we don't make the same mistakes twice.

Similarly I try to encourage staff to take risks in their work. And again I emphasise that failing there is OKAY too. If we don't try new things, and experience failure every now and then, how are we to grow?

A number of staff have recently attended a couple of conferences, one in Christchurch, and one in Auckland. They all expressed the view, having listened to a wide range of presentations, that as a kura we are well ahead of many others in our development of better ways to cause learning (which after all is our prime purpose). This is affirming feedback for our staff who themselves are an outstanding group of professionals. 

Similarly I recently  attended a major conference in Melbourne. In the past I have sat in awe of our Australian and international colleagues. This time I felt that we had pushed our own practices, our own school cultures and pedagogies, well ahead of many of our colleagues.

Many of these things can't be measured, and that's my point. But focussing on what can be measured is often counter productive. Focussing on processes, or in our case on building strong relationships for learning, on good pedagogy (Learn, Create, Share), on encouraging responsible risk taking, on being culturally responsive in every aspect of our kura, these are the things that make a difference.

And does it make a difference? Yes. 

How do I know? When I look at assessment outcomes, I see NCEA results that continue to improve across all groups of learners (and yes I mean ALL). This is no chimera. This is real tangible stuff. Take your eye off results and focus on process. 

We focus on the things we can control. We expect the best of students and ourselves. Most importantly though we are focussing on things we can't easily measure. The results can look after themselves.









Tuesday, 13 February 2018

An idea whose time has come

They say that nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come, and Manaiakalani, and its pedagogy 'Learn Create Share', is an idea whose time has come. Teaching staff from right across the Uru Mānuka Manaiakalani cluster joined together for a shared 'Teacher Only Day' at the end of January 2018 before beginning their year's work with children. Our aim was to develop a better shared understanding of exactly what 'Learn Create Share' actually means, what it could actually look like, in classrooms across the whole cluster.

You see, collaboration, collective action, is such a powerful force for change and progress.



The day was a tremendous success. It's not very often that you will find over a hundred teachers from across six schools sharing, creating, learning in precisely the way we want our tamariki to learn, create, share in our kura. And why? Because we have huge disparities in New Zealand, we have become a land of 'haves and have nots', and providing equal opportunity is not the answer. The moral imperative behind what we do is what gets most teachers out of bed in the morning.

Manaiakalani is as much about addressing disparity as anything else, it is about accelerating achievement for those who have entered life with possibly fewer advantages than others, and most likely through no fault of their own. This image says it best:


And the results speak for themselves.  I've posted here before about the impact of Manaiakalani and the use of digital devices on achievement, with reading and maths achievement accelerated by 1.5x the national norms, and writing accelerated by 2x the national norms, over a period of three years. The impact is so profound the question that has to be asked is 'why wouldn't you?'.

But it's even bigger than that. Our school vision set in 2016, and reaffirmed by our forward looking Board of Trustees in 2017, is to be 'A centre of creative excellence'. It's NO coincidence that that vision aligns with the 'Create' that sits at the centre of the Manaiakalani pedagogy 'Learn Create Share'.

Another of our many challenges at Hornby High School is to build our shared understanding of what creativity looks like, feels like, sounds like, at Hornby High School. To that end, at the end of 2017 I gifted a copy of the same book to every member of staff (regardless of their role at the school). That book was 'Creative Schools' by Sir Ken Robinson.

Now I am a huge fan for Sir Ken, and you can see some of his thinking on creativity in schools here:


and here:



This IS out future. Artificial Intelligence is more and more rapidly replacing human beings at predictable routine tasks. Even such long revered professions as the law are not immune to this. So where does the future lie? We must focus in what makes us human, because that is what distinguishes us from the technology. At the heart of that, in my opinion, is our ability to empathise, and our ability to be creative.

So what is creativity in ur context? It can be the creative arts, but that is far too limiting a notion. It is about coming up with new solutions to problems, regardless of whether they are technological, mathematical, linguistic, or sporting. And by new we mean new to the learner, not necessarily new to all of humanity (although that would be a great bonus, and certainly isn't beyond the realms of possibility).

The willingness to do any of that requires responsible risk taking. No coincidence, yet again, that developing responsible risk takers sits as  apart of one of our strategic goals.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Crossing the Rubicon ....

In 49 BCE Juleus caesar crossed the Rubicon, a river in northern Italy (theoretically the boundary between Italy and Cisalpine Gaul) with his 13th Legion, a move that sparked the Roman civil war. The act gives rise to the saying 'crossing the Rubicon', meaning that an irrevocable step has been taken, that there is no return, that things can never be the same again. Caesar is reputed to have said 'the die is cast'.

Today teaching staff from five of the six Uru Mānuka Manaiakalani Outreach schools came together to improve their collective understanding of our manaiakalani pedagogy 'Learn Create Share'.



The cluster vision reads “Inspiring futures”, and our collective purpose of the day was to take further steps along the way to more empowering & consistent learning experiences for Uru Mānuka tamariki from Yr 1-13. Specifically we aimed to further develop our shared understanding of Learn, Create, Share.

It was the first chance for teachers from across the cluster to meet the members of the Uru Mānuka Trust set up to gather resources to support our work within the cluster. Garry Moore, Rose Crossland, and Jason Marsden (fourth trustee Janine Morrell-Gunn was unavailable to join us) all greeted the 112 teachers before staff got down to work to grow our collective understandings. The day included eight 'slams' in which teachers from the different schools shared examples of their practice that are making a difference to our learners.

The pedagogy offers a rich tapestry of opportunity that successfully engages and challenges  learners. What's more it is no coincidence that its central element, creativity, is also the focus of our school vision. We were challenged to come to shared understandings of what each term meant, a very powerful way of helping every one of us to develop our own understandings and practice.

The data is convincing, we are accelerating learning by double national averages over three years in writing, and one and a half times national averages in reading and mathematics, using the manaiakalani pedagogy, and digital devices. The Uru Mānuka cluster is the only one accelerating learning in all three areas.

We were also privileged to hear from Mr Pat Sneddon from the Manaiakalani Education Trust in Auckland. The MET is the 'Godfather' of the pedagogy and its evolving use of chromebooks and digital tools to accelerate learning.

For the cluster this was the day on which, I think, we 'crossed our Rubicon', on which we made progress that means things will never be the same again. The room was filled with rich learning focussed conversations across schools, and very importantly across the primary/secondary divide, as teachers discussed what good learning looks like, and how we use the technology and the pedagogy to create good learning, to accelerate achievement for our learners.

This is an amazing gift that we have been given, the chance to make a community wide difference. Well done to everyone who contributed and participated - these are extraordinary staff driven by a real moral purpose. Thank you!!!

As they say, some things once seen can never be unseen. Similarly the learnings gained today can never be unlearned. 'The die is cast'.

You can read reflections on the day from Gary Roberts, Principal at Hornby Primary School, here.


Monday, 6 November 2017

2017 Prize-giving address

Tihei Mauri Ora!
Ki nga kaumatua me nga kuia, tena koutou
Ki nga mana whenua ki Ngati Moki me Ngati Ruahekeheke ki taumutu, tena koutou
Ki te Kura Te Huruhuru Ao o Horomaka, tena koe
Tēnā koutou katoa

Our Board Chair, Mrs Kaye Banks, fellow Board of Trustees members, Te Taumutu runanga, The Hon Dr Megan Woods, Sam Johnson, honoured guests, colleagues, parents and friends, ladies and gentlemen, students of Hornby High School  - welcome to this 43rd senior prize giving of Hornby High School.

Whakatauki:
He pakaru a waka e taea te raupine mai
A damaged vehicle can be repaired

Kaye Banks, Jonty Ward, Donna Sutherland and Rochelle Jackson have served on the Board this past year, and they were joined by Mrs Penny Devine who was seconded to the Board.  George Wharerau was elected as the new student representative. Thankyou to you all for for time, work and wisdom, this is important work that you do.

Thanks to our outgoing student representative Rylu DeQuita for the term you have served on the Board.

In education, change is our norm, and this past year has been as challenging as any other in this regard. Hornby High School was one of the first Christchurch secondary school rebuilds ‘out of the starting blocks’, with the first sod turned in May and work now proceeding apace. Large holes have been dug, copious quantities of concrete poured, and steel work has risen from well engineered foundations.

The year has seen a number of staff movements. Mrs Helen Boothby spent the first two terms of the year on a Royal Society Fellowship in science leadership, and was ably replaced by Dr William Naylor. At the beginning of the year we were joined by Mrs Jan Handley (HOD Social Sciences), Mrs Jane Turner (History), Mr Tony Palmer (SENCO), and Ms Mel Lindsay (Year 7). Mrs Janette Merrin returned as HOD Health after a prolonged period working on contract with the Ministry of Education.
At the beginning of term 2 we welcomed Whaea Latoya Graham who joined us as our kapahaka tutor. At the end of term 2 we farewelled Mrs Sue Elley as Assistant Principal, as she left to take up the position as Principal of Belfast School. We welcomed Mr Simon Scott as Assistant Principal early in term 4.
Miss Lynda Seaton, our librarian, left us at the end of term 1 and Mrs Nicole Sowman joined us to fill that role in our very much reduced temporary library facility. We farewelled Mrs Lynda O’Donnell (ESOL and English) on maternity leave, and welcomed Mrs Karyn Langer working part time in the Art department, along with Ms Maryanne Ducray working in ESOL  .

Finally tonight we farewell Mrs Wendy Toohey, a long time servant of the school. Wendy joined the staff of Hornby High School in 1988 and in her 29 & half at the school has taught Commerce subjects in addition to the role she has held over recent years as HOD Careers and Transition. Would you please join me in thanking Wendy for her years of service to the school?

In 2016 the school Board showed its own fortitude and foresight in building our educational foundations by adopting it’s brave new mission for our kura to be a centre of creative excellence, and on review in 2017 affirmed that mission. The mission shows great courage and a deep understanding of where we need to be to meet the needs of students’ futures rather than our pasts. This is also a Board with heart, a Board that places people at the centre of its thinking. I was proud to be a member of a Board that agreed early in the year to ensure that no staff member was paid less than the living wage. Thank you for being so forward thinking in these most critical governance tasks.

I do a lot of thinking about you our students and your future. It’s interesting that in some of that thinking I ended up with some old wisdom. I found myself thinking of the serenity prayer which comes from the Christian tradition. It says:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

And then, because I was a sixties child, the words of George Bernard Shaw spoken by Robert F Kennedy in one of his most famous speeches of the 60s came to mind:

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

To the students amongst you, your challenge is to dream. Your future cannot and must not look like our past. Not only is it yours to create, you have no choice but to change it if humanity and the planet are to survive. Change things. Don’t take no for an answer.

That means being confident as a learner and a human being, and that confidence comes when you are well grounded in values. Never forget the values that we try to live day by day in our school, hour by hour, minute by minute, for nothing else will serve you as well in life.

For those of us who work in education there is a parallel message. More testing is not the answer, and I applaud the announcement of the new government on National Standards. Education with passion and purpose, education that validates every student and every teacher, education that allows every student to pursue her or his passion, is the only game in town. Society and governments need to stop seeing students solely as economic units, and instead see them as the passionate human beings that they are. If we can feed their passions, and our own, we will build a more caring more empathetic society, a better place to be.

I am a fan of the writing and thinking or Sir Ken Robinson, globally acknowledged commentator on and agitator for educational reform. In his book ‘Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Schools” he wrote:

“In 1982, Wayne Gretzky was the top scoring ice hockey player in the world. His secret, he said, was simple. Other players tend to race to where the puck is. Gretzky said that he went where the puck was going to be. It’s hard to resist the thought that in the mad rush to standardisation, many countries are now dashing to where they think the puck is rather than to where it’s going to be.” End of quote .

We have an idea of where the puck is going to be, and we need to get there now.

There are many people and organisations that need to be acknowledged and thanked at this time of year. First and foremost are my wonderful colleagues. Regardless of whether they are teaching or non teaching staff they all do a wonderful job. Teaching staff deliver the learning, but that is not possible without all of the many support functions that sit alongside them: grounds and maintenance, security, administration and accounts, community and pastoral support, all completed by wonderful people. Thankyou.

I would like to once again make special mention of the extraordinary work that is going on within Hornby High School, and across our local cluster (Uru Mānuka), with the Manaiakalani programme. The word manaiakalani is a Hawaiian word translating as ‘Hook from Heaven’, and the approach to learning has been acknowledged globally as being a leading global force in educational improvement. It received special mention from The Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit in a paper titled “Driving the skills agenda: Preparing students for the future.” The pedagogy that underlies the programme, Learn Create Share, and the effect of digital technology in magnifying the impact of the pedagogy, have allowed learners in the Manaiakalani clusters across the country to accelerate their learning by between one and a half and two times the national average for all learners. I emphasise that the impact is magnified by the use of digital devices, Chromebooks, and it is now our school wide expectation that all learners arrive in class equipped with a Chromebook. The impact of the pedagogy and the technology are so huge that one would simply ask the question “Why wouldn’t you?”

In this regard there is another set of thanks that must be made, to the Principals and staff of our partnership schools in the Uru Mānuka cluster. The work you do is extraordinary. You pass to us ‘enabled learners’, children well equipped and ready to learn. Before Communities of Learning were fashionable, before collaboration became a buzzword, you were doing it, and you are still doing it. Thank you.

And once again to the originators and principal drivers of Manaiakalani itself: Mr Pat Sneddon, Mrs Dorothy Burt, and Mr Russell Burt. Your work that has gone before us has truly created a hook for heaven, a force for educational change and improvement that addresses the issue of equity in New Zealand in a powerful and compelling way. You are trailblazers in what at times can feel like a bleak landscape. Keep your lanterns lit, keep your voices strong, keep that spring in your step. Tamariki across New Zealand need you.

Manaiakalani is a great example of the drive for change, change that is evidence based, change that works. It is an example of schools and their supporters saying that we are not prepared to wait for government agencies. All too often political and bureaucratic forces ignore the knowledge and skills of teachers and schools, suffering under the belief that they know better, a view interestingly at odds with the incredibly forward thinking national curriculum. We know what to do, and we will do it ourselves. To those government agencies I say, catch up if you can but we won’t wait for you, our tamariki are too precious, time is too short.

The most recent innovation is the foundation of the Uru Mānuka Trust, an organisation designed to make sure that the Manaiakalani programme is sustainable in the long term for all of the wonderful schools in our cluster. I would like to acknowledge and thank the trustees here tonight: Mr Garry Moore, Chair, Mrs Janine Morrell-Gunn, Mrs Rose Crossland and Mr Jason Marsden.  Mr Gary Roberts, You have all seen the potential for change that is manaiakalani, and have freely and willingly given of your time to make the world a better place. Principal of Hornby Primary School is deserving is special mention for the drive and passion that he has brought to the pursuit of this amazing educational vision. Thank you.

To our many supporting organisations, thankyou. As always, a special mention of the Hub and Hornby Working Men’s Club as long term supporters of our wonderful tamariki. Actions speak louder than words. By your actions you demonstrate your understanding of the desirability of investing in your local community and our collective futures by supporting our tamariki. Please be assured that you do make a positive difference.
Thank you also to our many other supporters:

L CERT Trust
Mainland Foundation
CSG Technology Limited
ISS Facilities Services
Westpac Trust - Hornby Branch
Orica Chemicals
Hornby Rotary Club
Couplands


Finally, to our prize winners, well done. Tonight we acknowledge and celebrate your attitude, your persistence and your achievement. The prizes we award acknowledge only one part of the wonderful achievement represented here tonight, and throughout the school.

I would ask you to take these words, which again come from the Christian tradition, but which reflect so much of our school message to you, regardless of faith and belief. Interestingly you can find the sentiment in almost any faith. This is an adaptation of the words of Sir Francis Drake, written in the fifteenth century:

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
Nothing could be more true in the twenty first century.

To our 2017 Prefects, thank you for your leadership and your commitment to the school, and to all of our leavers - please know that you take with you our best wishes, and the knowledge that at Hornby High School you have your turangawaewae, your place to stand. You are an outstanding group of young men and women. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Noreira tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Manaiakalani, Learn Create Share, and digital learning

The history of education in the twentieth century is littered with the corpses of what, at the time, seemed like good ideas. Most of them I suspect were driven by a political imperative, the political desire of some nascent politician to make her or his mark, to go down in the history books as the one who reformed education. All too often these good ideas have been drive by political ideologies that were possibly never fit for purpose.

I also suspect, as a matter of opinion, that they have at times not been driven by any moral imperative at all.

What I suspect we can also say is that often these reforms have at best been driven by what seemed to be a good idea, by what logic told people was correct, what would work, all based on some mental model that had come from who knows where.

Worst of all, again in my opinion, I suspect all too many of them have completely failed to address the things that we know cause learning. Well, now things are different. At least, they are different within the Uru Mānuka cluster, and within the Manaiakalani clusters across New Zealand.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Manaiakalani wananga hosted by Point England School, along with Principals and staff from almost all of the 50+ participating schools. We were presented with a rapidly growing, reliable and authentic body of research accumulated by the Woolf Fisher Research Centre (Auckland University). The data is clear:

Participation in the Manaiakalani programme for at least three years accelerates student achievement  by between 150% and 200%. Interestingly in our own cluster we are seeing gains of this magnitude within one year. So successful is the programme that it is being promoted globally as an outstanding force for acceleration in educational achievement. Here is what the Economist's Economic Intelligence Unit had to say. So successful is the programme that it is expected to expand to 100 participating schools in 2018.

Why is it so successful?


  1. It is based on a sound pedagogy - 'Learn Create Share'
  2. It uses technology to magnify student thinking, engagement, and so achievement based on that pedagogy 
  3. There is no 3. .. it's honestly that simple.

We are seeing a lot of debate about modern or flexible learning spaces, and about devices. These debates miss the point. Either of them will fail if we do not see sound modern pedagogy being used by competent teachers. These approaches are being criticised because they undermine relationships. Sorry - but feel free to hear the big red buzzer of 'fail' on that one. It doesn't matter what the physical environment, nor the technology in student hands. Good relationships come down to good teachers. Although as we say at Hornby High School, it's not 'relationships' that matter but 'Relationships for learning' that matter.

While in Auckland I was also privileged to spend all too short a time at Tamaki College, the secondary school which is a part of the original Manaiakalani programme. All I can say is 'WOW'. I saw a school filed with amazing young people, confident, polite and caring, and focussed on their own learning. They represent something that we can all aspire to.

The focus on the pedagogy must be single minded. It requires every ounce of skill that every teacher can muster.  At Hornby High School we are already seeing the benefits of Manaiakalani with the students that arrive from our partnership schools in the Uru Mānuka cluster. These schools are using flexible learning environments, these schools are using 1:1 Chromebooks. They are delivering into our hands students who are better able to manage their learning now than ever before, students who are more focussed on their learning than ever before, students who can manage their own behaviour and time better than ever before. How do we know? The research evidence gathered from sources such as the NZCER 'Me and My school' survey shows dramatic improvements in these attributes as measured by the survey. The observations and experiences of our Year 7 teachers confirms this. Does that sound like a failure of flexible learning spaces, and the use of digital devices?

Our Hornby High School vision to be 'A centre of creative excellence' is no coincidence. It was chosen partly because creativity is essential to human progress in the face of technological development. It was also chosen because 'create' is at the centre of the Manaiakalani pedagogy 'Learn Create Share'.

The Manaiakalani pedagogy and programme are being driven nationally by three gifted and visionary people: Mr Pat Sneddon, Mrs Dorothy Burt, and Mr Russell Burt. These are exciting times to be in education. Our tamariki are fortunate to have such people at their service, people who have successfully harnessed the collective focus of the staff of 50 schools so far, with that extra 50 schools coming on board next year.

Be aware though that perhaps the greatest failure in education has been the failure to sustain initiatives long enough for them to take effect. Often these initiatives come and go alongside our three year electoral cycle, yet change of this sort needs 8-10 years minimum to become truly embedded. If we are producing these results now, what might this look like in 10 years time?

Hornby High School, and the Uru Mānuka cluster, are in this for the long haul. Watch out world - we are about to unleash a generation of intelligent, critical, creative thinkers who won't take NO for an answer.

Robin Sutton
Principal




Thursday, 31 August 2017

On the pathway to creative excellence

Learn Create Share, the critical pedagogy of the Manaiakalani programme, develops students' key skills as they work towards creative excellence.

In the workshop today we found students of 9Mn learning new skills, creating a specific product (a balance toy) and sharing their work as they progress on their individualised learning pathways.




Students were learning critical skills such as self management and planning (the use of GANT charts to plan their work), the use of tools and machinery (drill press, and welding torch for example), and their imagination, as they worked towards the completion of their individualised product, and the sharing of their progress on their blogs.

The class was technology rich in both a digital sense, and the more traditional hand tools and machinery sense, as students had their hands on a wide range of tools and equipment. The engagement amongst the students was high as they focussed on their individual tasks.





Of special note was what educationists, in their jargon, call 'agency'. That is, the obvious management and control that students were exhibiting over their own learning.

These are all essential ingredients of any pathway towards creative excellence.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Learning to take risks

Last Christmas I saw the movie Moana. Maybe you did too. I loved it. It reminded me of this fabulous whakatauki:

Tēnā te ngaru whati,
Tēnā te ngaru puku

There is a wave that breaks,
There is a wave that swells

It got me thinking and reading about our Polynesian navigators.  These voyagers navigated across thousands of miles of ocean, able to move from one island to the next with no maps, no compasses, no sextants, none of those 'European' inventions that we might think are essential to long distance navigation. We would be insulting to label their techniques as primitive in some way. That implies superiority of the European tradition over the Polynesian, when these peoples were successfully travelling across those thousands of miles of empty oceans while Europeans were often still unwilling to sail beyond visible land masses along the coasts of the Mediterranean, or the Atlantic.

I was fascinated by how they did this. They used a whole range of techniques including use of the stars, the movement of ocean currents and wave patterns, the air and sea interference patterns caused by islands and atolls, the flight of birds, the winds and the weather. From this knowledge they were able to set out on their own journeys of discovery, journeys that involved great risk, journeys that created their own futures. And none of this knowledge was written down as we would know it today. No iPhones, no Apps, no text of any kind, this was maintained by oral tradition.

This got me thinking about our own journey, our journey towards our lofty goal as ‘A centre of creative excellence’. There are lots of similarities. We don’t have a map. While we have clever modern technologies they don’t tell us how to get there. That's down to us, the people. He tangata he tangata he tangata. We have a lofty aspiration, a hope, a dream, that this is somewhere out there, and we have to go find it.

Like the Polynesian navigators, we have to learn stuff. We are creating our own pathways, our own futures. The things we learn we have to share because working together makes us much stronger than we are as individuals. We have to believe we can do this. It’s called a growth mindset.

And like those Polynesian navigators we have to take risks. At this stage in our kids' lives they have to develop the ability to take risks, and to know which risks are worth taking. That’s a part of their school journey.

What does that look like? We had one fantastic example of what it could look like to learn to take risks. Two weeks ago we held our 2017 talent quest. The school prefects organised the event. The highest number of students that anyone can remember for many years came forward and auditioned. Of those, five acts went through to the finals. They now know what it is like to put yourself out there in front of a packed auditorium and perform. The prefects similarly know what it is like to put yourself out there for others to look at. For every one of us, putting ourselves in front of others, setting ourselves up for possible criticism, is a huge risk. We all tend to think that people will hate us, that people will be overly critical about us. That creates anxiety - the pulse quickens, the mouth goes dry, we start sweating. But that’s what we all need to do a little more often.

Our vision includes the word ‘excellence’. For those Polynesian voyagers nothing less than excellence would do. Anything else meant death, For us, for different reasons, nothing less than excellence will do. It is our future. For our students ‘excellence’ means success. It means success NOW. It means access to the sort of life they want. It means giving everything their best shot, because they are WORTH it. It means making sure that every assessment they tackle gets their greatest effort, every time. It means going into the exam room at the end of the year determined to give themselves their best shot, because what they do is for them, not for anyone else.

Who amongst our students will be the next millionaire? The next developer of a world changing app? The next national league or basketball star? The next great advocate for human rights? For the future of Te Reo?

'Learn Create Share' is all about just that. It's about learning to take risks, to create stuff, to learn while doing it, to share that creation with others. The 'creation' might be something physical like a 3D printed object or a sculpture. It could equally be a poem or an opinion written in a blog. The world needs more wealth creators not wealth consumers. It needs people willing to take a risk, to stand up and stand out, people willing to 'Learn Create Share'.

Like those Polynesian navigators, we are steering by our own stars, making our own way towards our destination as ‘A centre of creative excellence’.