Critically analyse issues of socio-economic factors, school culture and professional environments in relation to practice
“School culture is one of the most complex and important concepts in education” (Stoll, 2000 p9). Almost anyone who has walked into a school will agree with this statement. Each school has a defined character that meets a visitor head on. At Koraunui we are unashamedly a multicultural school which celebrates difference and inclusiveness.
“School culture is influenced by the school’s pupils and their social class background.” (Stoll 2000 p 10)
The Education Review Office (2013) listed the following as important factors, which have an impact on learning at our kura:
· Students come from a diverse community
· Students are taught in either English or bi-lingual Māori mediums
· There is a high level of parent participation in the school
All three points are true but there is more. We are a decile 3 school and poverty is a very real issue for us. We have families who cannot afford to feed their children and live in damp, overcrowded housing. A hungry child cannot learn and so the basic needs must be met. We have normalised the issue of food, providing for all who come but poor housing creates health issues.
We have 45% Maori and 12% Pasifika students. The diversity brings life and joy to our school. We learn from each other and celebrate our wide variety of cultures. We run the Hutt Valley Polyfest, which involves all staff and in 2016 had 30+ schools participating. Although a HUGE effort, this brings our community together and working hard towards a common goal brings cohesion, recognition and appreciation for each other’s strengths. We are a beacon school for students with special needs. The families love the inclusiveness and the students learn to accept and acknowledge difference.
It is not all a bed of roses though; there are cultural divides, misunderstandings, occasional violence and widely differing expectations from our parent community.
We need to look carefully at the cost of schooling, $5.00 is the maximum we can charge for a school trip and the idea of 1:1 devices or a trip to Mindlab are out of reach unless we can access alternative funding. Gargiulio identifies that a teacher who is an educated person is unlikely to “understand the perspective of a child from an impoverished background”. I am still learning this lesson and am regularly confronted by issues of inequity within our society. So how do we then develop students who will become competent 21st C learners and citizens?
1. We work hard to build positive relationships with our students and their whanau
2. We empower ourselves with professional development which then leaks out into our classroom and into the wider school community.
3. We are a ‘Glasser’ school basing our behaviour management systems on Choice Theory.
4. We have recently picked up PB4L and KIVA to support behaviour management.
5. Teachers walk the talk. We have staff meetings on our local marae, we learn te reo and other Pasifika languages and we use them. Through this we role model learning, risk taking and mistake making to our students.
6. We trust each other and we support each other through our differences.
7. We expect our students to succeed.
The children are at the centre of our world. They are our priority and we hold high expectations for them. We try to expose them to experiences and ideas beyond their immediate environment. When your family is multi-generational unemployed, or your next-door neighbours are a gang, your life experiences differ from those of children in more affluent suburbs. Providing hope, belief, love and opportunities then becomes critical to foster the possibility of future change. In relation to practice, this makes you a social worker, a teacher, a friend, a trusted adult or an untrusted adult (depending on the situation).
When I look at Stoll and Fink (1996) Norms of Improving Schools. I would tick every box on this list. We create shared goals annually, we take shared responsibility for success and we measure the success in multiple ways. We believe we can improve our academic results and work collegially to achieve this end. Gargiulio (2014) alludes to the importance of education in alleviating poverty in society and to the crucial role low decile, multicultural schools play in achieving high educational outcomes for their students. The BOT and management team support us to take risks in our teaching. We model ourselves as lifelong learners and we celebrate achievements. Best of all, we are open to change; we talk with each other when there is a problem and try to come up with a resolution together. (Stoll, L. and Fink, D. 1996)
Gargiulo, S. (2014). Principal Sabbatical Report. Auckland.
Office, E. R. (2013, November 04). Koraunui School 04/11/2013. Retrieved from Education Review Office: http://www.ero.govt.nz/review-reports/koraunui-school-04-11-2013/#1-context
Stoll, L. &. (1996). Changing our schools: Linking school effectiveness and school improvement. Buckingham: : Open University Press.
Stoll, L. (2000). School Culture. Set, 9 - 14.