More shaking up Christchurch Education

I spent today at a meeting of the Canterbury Primary Principals Association (CPPA) – an all day workshop facilitated by Dr Cheryl Doig of Think Beyond. focusing on sharing ideas, dreams, visions and concerns about the future of education in Christchurch. 

Cheryl used the work of the SUCE group to frame a series of activities through the day. It included short provocations from the CEO of CERA, Roger Sutton, international perspectives (by video) from Stephen Heppell, Julia Atkin and Damian Allen and Elaine Ayre, plus a handful of local people, including myself. 

The day was expertly planned and facilitatted by Cheryl and her husband, David, and begain with a sharing of individual stories around group tables, exposing the extent of the problems being faced by schools in the city. I was in awe at hearing the stories of these leaders who collectively share a responsibility for the health and wellbeing of a significant number of the children and their families in our city. The role of principal in Christchurch has been hugely expanded as a result of the earthquakes!

During the day we faced the reality that we are in this for the long haul. It will be years before we can say we have addressed all the re-building issues we face in the city, and during that time each of these principals and the school communities they represent will need to be working together to face the challenges of, on the one hand meeting the urgent and immediate needs that they face on a day to day basis, and on the other, take time to raise their heads enough to engage in some of the visioning and future-focused thinking that is required to galvanise a shared vision for what the future of education in the city might look like. 

So what might that future be? Well, nothing was decided at this meeting – that wasn't the purpose. But lots of issues were exposed and have been taken away to be processed for the CPPA to follow up on in future meetings.

For me there was one theme that repeatedly underpinned a lot of the thinking and discussion. Whatever the final shape of education in Christchurch might look like, it will undoubtedly be based on the principle of a network, of connected-ness, of a 'learning system' in which individual schools are the nodes, and not the fortresses they are now. I look forward to being involved in further discussions and working groups as these dreams and ideas turn into strategic directions and then become realities!


2 thoughts on “More shaking up Christchurch Education

  1. Derek,
    The idea of a 'learning system' is really inspiring. Everything we know about learning, leadership and communities points to the importance of systems thinking and about allow people to contribute what they can through building strong networks. Unfortunately what we have in most parts of the country is a collection of autonomous, self-contained schools that aren't very good at sharing or learning from each other. You can't really call it a 'positive' but Canterbury schools now have the opportunity to show the rest of the country a new way of approaching education, and educators from around the country need to do what they can to support them in their endeavours. Kia kaha Canterbury!

  2. Sounds exciting Derek – as well as exhausting.
    I've recently been looking at Geoff Mulgan's TED talk on Studio schools ( and wondering how (whether) that concept might have to offer here in NZ. The concepts of connectedness, collaborative advantage, specialisation, individualising instruction, Youth Guarantee and the new vocational pathways work are all in there as well.
    Will follow further developments in CH with interest. Good luck to all concerned.

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