“The landscape here really isn’t red or orange,” says principal Steve Berezowski (right), who last term was the guinea pig in a new principal exchange programme. He swapped his 540-student school in Gisborne for Richmond Primary, with a roll of 308. “It’s green in Adelaide,” he told EA last term.
There were many similarities between the two schools, he said, such as, school structure, teaching styles, class sizes, and the focus on literacy and numeracy but he was particularly impressed with the level of teacher resourcing at Richmond. “It’s basically the same number of teachers – with 200 fewer students.” Much of this is achieved through “non-instructional time”, where full-time teachers have 250 minutes of release time a week. Classes are usually released to specialist teachers, say, in art, drama or PE. Part-time teachers get 50 minutes of release time for each day taught.
Teachers also become entitled to generous long service and retention leave after seven and 11 years, which combine to 13 days a year off in term time. “Teachers accumulate it and take a term off, or even two terms.” He’s noticed there are a lot more older men in classrooms. “That’s men in their 40s or early 50s – you don’t see many of them in New Zealand.”
At the same time, the volume of high stakes testing required by the federal and state governments is high.
He’s enthusiastic about the exchange programme, which has been set up by the Ministry of Education here and the South Australian government. “I have seen a couple of programmes here that I’ll be investigating. And the teachers [in Australia] seem pleased to have an outsider’s perspective. I’m really enjoying the challenges. There are benefits at both ends.”