Inglewood is a community in more than one sense of the word. People know each other like any other close-knit, mainly rural community but it is a community working together to raise an “Inglewood citizen” and has established a wide-ranging Community of Learning (CoL).
It was established in 2015 now includes 3500 learners from early childhood to tertiary.
Head teacher of Inglewood Kindergarten Sally Wooller says that though early childhood is not funded for CoLs, the benefit for the teachers and learners is significant.
She says of the CoLs meetings she attends:
“There is so much knowledge in the room….I have never been to meeting and not learnt something. To have a relationship and learn alongside people from all the learning spaces has been amazing and really rich.”
ICOL now comprises Inglewood Community Childcare Centre, TopKids Inglewood, Inglewood Kindergarten, Inglewood Playcentre, Te Rangiora Te Kōhanga Reo, Egmont Village School, Inglewood Primary School, Inglewood High School, Kaimata School, Norfolk School, St Patrick’s School Inglewood, Ratapiko School, Waitoriki School and WITT (Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki.)
WITT is one of the few tertiary providers that has joined a CoL in New Zealand.
Wooller says that the child is at the centre of everything the Inglewood CoL decides.
“For the children the benefit [of being in a CoL] is around consistency. This is in the values of our kahui ako [CoL] and our achievement challenges.”
She says that all the education providers wish to maintain their own cultures but that they have a collective vision.
“It is about all of us being responsible for the learners in our community..about building good people – an Inglewood citizen.”
She says that the early childhood not being funded for the CoL however, “is a barrier” and that it should be included if the Government is committed to ECE being part of a child’s whole-of-learning journey.
Wooller says it is hard for her to get to PLD and workshops run by the Ministry on CoLs because she is not funded for release time.
The co-lead of the CoL, principal of Kaimata School principal Richard Anderson says that the goals of most students in the region are to study towards employment opportunities.
“Our aim is to make them a great builder or a great nurse, right here in our region.’’
The CoL is led by four people Richard Anderson, Sally Wooller and Karen Patterson – principal of Inglewood Primary and Rosey Mabin – principal of Inglewood High School. They also receive support from a Ministry of Education Taranaki adviser.
Anderson says an advantage of CoLs is that they can learn better together rather than being in their own silos.
“It is going well. We have a glass-half-full philosophy, let’s get the best out of it and see what can do for kids’ achievement and welfare.”
He says a CoL requires a high-trust environment before it can work well.
“Unless we open hearts and minds to other people’s ideas expertise and activities then we are never going to learn”.
He says the transition to a CoL in Inglewood was relatively seamless because they already knew each other.
“We were already a community – sport, debating competitions ….so we had a head start…we already worked together.”
He says it is a lot of extra work but no-one is motivated by their own interests.
“That is why we are successful. We are about welfare and achievement of kids rather than a career path.
“We are still at the beginning – we need to think fast and act slow.
“Tomorrow’s Schools created competition… but now we need collaboration.”
He also says that early childhood needs to be funded for CoLs.
“We want a Community of Learning but we are not going to fund kindergarten?” he asks.
Being in a CoL also allows everyone to feed in what they think is needed in the area. WITT, for example, told the CoL that students coming to them needed more numeracy than literacy skills as it was holding people back in the trades.
“So they were delighted to see our achievement challenges.”
He says school can learn from kindergartens around, for example, play-based learning. It is good for the educators to experience all parts of a child’s learning journey to develop better understanding.
“The last time I was in a Year 9 English class is when I was in Year 9, the last time at a kindergarten, was when I was at kindy.”
Other ways to participate
Education Aotearoa asked the Ministry why ECE is not funded for CoLs and if there were any plans to do so.
Katrina Casey, Deputy Secretary Sector Enablement and Support responded that government funding for the Investing in Educational Success (IES) programme, under which Communities of Learning│Kāhui Ako (previously Communities of Schools) were formed, is specifically designed to raise the quality of teaching and leadership in the schooling sector.
“As such, there is no direct funding under IES for either early learning services or tertiary providers. There are however, a number of other ways early childhood education and nga kōhanga reo (services) can access funding to participate in CoLs.
“For example, where services are members of a CoL, they can access its shared Professional Learning and Development (PLD) funding. This can be used to help kaiako, teachers and educators build their involvement and capability to meet achievement challenges set by the community.
She says services can also talk to their regional education advisor about accessing Strengthening Early Learning Opportunities (SELO). This funding, she says, may be used to support clusters of services in a CoL catchment with curriculum delivery to strengthen the 0-18 educational pathway.
“Early childhood education qualified teachers, and kōhanga reo kaiako holding Tohu Whakapakari, are eligible to apply independently to the Teacher–Led Innovation Fund (TLIF) to develop innovative teaching and learning practices, including for projects involving transitions from early learning services to schools within Communities of Learning.
Some CoLs have also made funding available from their establishment allowances to help early learning services build strong partnerships with schools.
She says that the Ministry has been working with their stakeholders in the Early Childhood Advisory Committee on how ECE involvement benefits children, services and schools in CoLs and how this can be realised.
“Services are also working together to develop options that work for them, and the CoL such as umbrella organisations or association representing a nuPmber of services in a Kāhui Ako.
Early learning services can access shared PLD funding, Strengthening Early Learning Opportunities (SELO) funding and the Teacher-Led Innovation Fund to help them participate in CoLs.
NZEI Te Riu Roa has said that participation in CoLs should be voluntary, purposeful, demand-led and child centred.
A 2017 NZEI survey of principals on Cols revealed that many of those surveyed said that it was too soon in the formation of CoLs to make any firm conclusions about the impact that they were having.
They identified a key challenge in forming a CoL was pressure from the Ministry of Education in
changing rules and requirements and frequent Ministry staff changes. However, the opportunities
for collaboration and increased collegiality were identified as significant benefits of forming a CoL,
for over 50 percent of respondents.
Funding for participation in CoL processes was identified by 33% as what is needed to support better engagement with ECE.
According to the Ministry of Education website, as at April 2017 there are now 197 Communities of Learning in New Zealand covering 551,000 children and young people and 1630 schools. In addition, over 1,100 teachers and principals are in the new roles and the number of early learning services involved at the time was 184.
The first CoLs were formed in October 2015.