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Developing a strategic plan with students, whānau and teachers at Selwyn House School

Selwyn House School principal Dr Lyn Bird shares the school’s story of revisioning and reviewing their school charter.

To bring about change in teaching practice, school leaders needed to ensure that the teachers had ownership of the strategic plan and learners were placed at the centre. The end result of this process has been a strategic and annual plan that is owned by the school community; including teachers, students and whānau (family).

The Process

The school leadership team began by working with students, whānau and teachers to gather voice, and create ownership of the strategic plan. A significant part of this approach was imagining what life might be like for the Year 8 students in 2023. They gathered information by:

  • looking at the way the business and finance sectors operate now and how they may operate in the future;
  • exploring the field of information technology;
  • sharing research about the future from a wide range of sectors;
  • investigating best practices in education.

The team developed provocations for whānau, students and teachers to explore: Questions included:

  • What will school look like in 2023?
  • What will you be like as a parent?
  • What will a year 8 student be like?
  • What will the role of the teacher be?

Infographics, articles and presentations were provided to challenge people's thinking. Various forums were held to explore the questions above, including; teacher only days, community meetings, parent forums, student think tanks and pizza lunches. The aim of these was to:

  • develop forward thinking – without drawing conclusions;
  • record ALL ideas (to be revisited in an ongoing way);
  • encourage deep thinking about education.

World cafe was used in the meetings to enable a large group of people to all share their ideas. Foresight strategy tools were used to support thinking around the future.

The next step was to create videos to bring together the key ideas and comments from students, whānau and teachers. The student video contained thoughts about being a Year 8 student in 2023. The teacher video highlighted new ways of teaching and the changing role of the teacher in 2023. The parent video demonstrated the extent that parents wanted to participate in their children's learning.

Key learning

Dr Bird shared her learning from this process. Significant factors in a strategic plan’s success is:

  • involving whānau throughout;
  • including ‘voice’ – a lengthy but highly valuable process;
  • developing tightly structured processes, making it easier to progress;
  • harnessing the power of technology and learning analytics to inform and improve the planning process.

The leadership team found that when they had a 'finished' plan, developments in technology had moved so quickly, their forecasts for changes in education needed to shift forward from 2023 to 2020. This demonstrates the importance of constantly revisiting and reshaping their strategic plan.

The result

The ever–evolving  strategic plan for Selwyn house School encompasses a vision of learning that is individualised and takes place in authentic, rich contexts. An annual plan, developed by teaching teams, is based on and references the strategic plan. The teachers contribute to and have ownership of the annual plan; consequently the changes on all levels are organic and bottom–up, not management down. A cycle of review and reflection underpins all planning.

There have been changes made to the teaching and learning programmes, with teachers beginning to trial and prototype new ideas early in the process. This seems to have re–energised both teachers and students. Some of the new initiatives include:

  • the introduction of a new maths programme across the school, allowing for greater personalisation;
  • rich tasks allowing transdisciplinary application, producing innovative design and products;
  • teachers trained in 'Pause Breath Smile', resulting in mindfulness programmes across the school;
  • online global connections such as 100 Word Challenge and Twitter bookchat;
  • a greater bicultural/multicultural perspective evident in all units of inquiry;
  • student–led e–portfolio development from year 4 – 8;
  • flipped learning in Music and Food Technology.

A Selwyn House teacher and team leader describes the impact of the strategic planning process, and the new opportunities that have arisen.

"The School Annual plan has given teachers the opportunity to develop a focus on the areas targeted for enhancement and growth. Change in our practice has occurred through us reflecting on what we do well and celebrating success. From there we targeted goals to meet specific areas for future improvement. The collaborative nature of the Annual Plan meant we were engaged from the brainstorming to the fine–tuning of specific targets. We felt ownership through the dialogue and discussion and this supported us to sustain our engagement throughout.

Opportunities to reflect and evaluate as we progress forward have allowed us to share classroom evidence and integrate across class levels to meet the targets. Rich discussions at meeting times, means we are sharing ideas and resources widely and drawing upon each other collegially.

Students are experiencing opportunities, which develop and enrich their thinking in creative ways through discovery stations and personal projects. STEM subjects have had a strong focus with every girl having opportunities to explore and expand their thinking using technology and having hands on science opportunities."

A copy of the Selwyn House strategic plan will be available on their website from Term 3, 2017.

Additional Resources