Elizabeth Forgie - Part 1
Kerikeri High School Principal Elizabeth Forgie shares their Te Kotahitanga journey, its impact on student learning, on teacher practice, and on the school and community.
Elizabeth Forgie: “Kia ora koutou the Te Kotahitanga whānau. 2010 has been a very difficult year at Keri Keri High School, we had a devastating school fire, um, that cost us, um, four classrooms and a learning common, all of our science preparation. And it’s just been amazing that our staff have been so fantastic that we’ve just kept picking ourselves up and we’ve kept moving right along. But, we’ve stuck to the knitting, ah, and the story that I’ve got to bring to you today is a, a really good story. Um, and so Keri Keri High School, it was, that was last summer obviously when we do the powhiri for all the new students, our cohort at Keri Keri High School of Year7 students, because we’re lucky enough to be Year7 to13. Our cohort of Year7 students is around about two hundred, um, and then we always have new kids to the district, all of our new staff, um, and our new internationals to powhiri at the start of the year.
"What are we like? We’ve gone from 790 in 1993 as you can see and now we are over 1400. We’re very proud of our bi-culturalism and there are more Māori in the school as the years go on and we’re nearly up to a quarter. We have a good international arm, ah, and mainly our international students are European or South American and they’re attracted by our sailing academy. Um, ninety teachers as you can see and this is a very cool photograph, um, because it shows Keri Keri High School in relation to the Bay, um, and you can actually see Cape Brett, um, up in the top right hand corner, and watch the inlet as it wends its way up, ah, to, and you can actually make out our netball courts there bang smack in the middle. So that kind of positions Keri Keri High School in relation to the Bay of Islands.
"Why did we so want to be a Te Kotahitangi school? Well we’re just like New Zealand and New Zealand has these fabulous PISA results and we’re consistently in the top of the world but what those PISA results masks is that tail of under achievement that we all know about, and Keri Keri High School was exactly that. We had very respectable overall pass rates but what those pass rates masked, if you have a look at that, in 2005 we were nearly 65%, um, Māori 43 and then you look at level 2 it was unforgivable. That we were getting up to 60% and then Māori were 28.6. And actually to our eternal discredit we hadn’t really gone under our statistics and realized that, that was the real picture. That masked the picture for Māori and it, and it's also that thing about, ‘what is good for Māori is good for all,’ because if Māori are doing better in their one fifth the whole school's going to do better. And it was fair to say that many Māori students felt that Keri Keri High School wasn’t there for them.
"We were one of the schools that was lucky enough to be a phase three trail school and having such a big school we had to do it a phased implementation so the first year was around about 30-35, 33 and, ah, they were the volunteers. Then the second year Joan and I shoulder tapped and said, ‘You are an HOD, you’re a leader of learning, we need you in.’ And the third year we made it compulsory at Keri Keri High School and as you can see from then on any new staff member at Keri Keri High School, their constructive participation is non negotiable. It was tough going and some of you may have seen that we had a very difficult year, it was getting on towards the end of 2006, we had some high profile resignations, um, and to be fair looking back on that, I think that we underestimated what it was like for people to have someone in their classroom with a clipboard. Because teachers experience up until then had always been that, that was about attestation. That was about judgment and we didn’t have a strong culture and that’s a small c, um, around working with people to improve our performance, and if we didn’t get an A+ we’d failed. And of course teachers are made up of the examinations succeeders, and actually to get, ‘Oh, well you’re doing quite well but there, here’s some feed forward,’ ‘What do you mean feed forward? I’m, I’m a good teacher, I get good results, I don’t,’ you know and so we had to work our way through establishing a culture where it was okay and helpful to give constructive advice. And looking back on it I think that that’s where it turned and where some people found it very, very challenging.”