According to Stoll (1998) "School culture is one of the most complex and important concepts in education" (p9). When considered alongside the impact of the socioeconomic status of learners, particularly the research that supports the correlation between low socioeconomic status and poor education outcomes APA (2016), it quickly becomes apparent that these factors play a significant role in determining the educational outcomes and experiences of our learners. At the same time, these factors can also shape the beliefs, practices and well being of the teaching staff working in a school.
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What Does This Look Like in My School Community?
A quick look at 2013 Census data held by Statistics New Zealand shows that the area in which our school is situated is one where most of the population are European, with the next biggest ethnic group being Asian, and only a very small percentage of Maori or Pacific Island decent. Almost half of the people living in our area were born overseas. Just under one fifth of the community are aged 15 or under. These statistics are reflective of our school community, a Decile 9, with a broad range of ethnic groups. We have only a very small number of Maori and Pasifika students, and a growing population of students from Asia - particularly China and South Korea. Interestingly, despite only a small proportion of the wider community being aged under 15, we have a rapidly growing group of Year 1 students (5 year olds), plus our school community is increasing on an almost weekly basis due to a housing boom in our area.
As a school we are aiming for a culture where all feel welcome, included and accepted. Where we embrace cultural diversity and strive to remove barriers to learning. Embracing the indigenous culture of New Zealand is valued and actively encouraged. We are committed to supporting both our staff and our students to be life-long learners and have the capacity to reach their full potential. It is a place where teachers are supported and expected to continue to build their professional knowledge and engage in current best practice. One of the key factors in everything we do is the question: "Does this benefit our students?"
To achieve this we do the following:
- Deliver a competency based curriculum
- Translate signs, newsletters, and announcements into Hangul (Korean) and Madarin
- Teachers and Senior Leadership are upskilling in Te Reo and Tikanga
- Senior Leadership participate in all PD that the staff participate in
- An active and growing Kapa Haka group
- Minimising costs to parents for things such as stationery and EOTC events
- Our Vision and Values are visible, living documents
- Parent groups for ELL families, among others
- And much, much more.
An Issue To Consider
Stoll and Fink (1996) as cited in Stoll (1998), identified a series of norms that can have an effect on school improvement. In considering these 10 norms I certainly agree that these are all norms to which we aspire and, for the most part I'm pleased to say are evident in our school, particularly when considering the professional environment. Having said that, I would argue that risk taking is something we continue to work on - we expect it from our students, but at times our teachers find this hard to do. As a SL Team we have been considering this, and looking at ways in which we can support teachers to feel confident to do so. It is our culture of life-long learning and reaching your potential in an environment where you feel supported that is driving us as a team. What we still need to reflect upon is - what is it that we are doing or not doing that is making this difficult for teachers? Furthermore, if we have teachers who are finding this a challenge, what does that mean for our learners?
APA. (2016). Education and Socioeconomic Status. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/education.aspx
Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Understanding-school-cultures/School-Culture