DP, Billy Merchant describes how the senior leadership team operates at Pakuranga College. They follow a distributed leadership model. Their decisions are always based on improving student learning. He explains how they include their student digital council to seek student voice in planning decisions and evaluation of initiatives.
The way that our senior leadership team is organised here, we all have our own individual portfolios and within those portfolios are a number of initiatives that each one of us is responsible for but the direct team would be the principal, Mike Williams, myself, and the e-learning coordinator.
When we were devising the strategic plan, we didn’t want to have that kind of situation where we said, “Right everyone, we’re doing e-learning, let’s go,” with a blank piece of paper. First when we looked at other schools, Mike, the principal, and myself put the bare bones of it together. Once we’d got the structure of what we thought the strategic plan should actually include, that went back to our senior leadership team. “It was then beneficial for the other senior leaders to put their caps on and say, I’m coming at this from a professional learning point of view”, or, “I’m coming at this from an achievement, and a Māori, and Pasifika angle, and people could then come in and influence the plan once we’d actually put the bare bones down.
Mike’s very good at the whole distributed leadership so each one of us is empowered to take initiatives on, suggest recommendations, improvements, but they always come back to the team for debate, very robust debate and discussion. I think whenever we kinda get lost in conversations, it’s always let’s recentre this around students and their learning. We’re very big on student voice. The digital council has been vital, they’ve been a brilliant sounding board so our e-learning coordinator actually chairs that meeting in terms of getting the students together. They’ve been really influential in giving us some genuine student voice and some student feedback as to what’s actually going on in the classroom.
I think at times, you can look at the paper plan, you can assume that you’ve put everything in place so it must be working, but until you check those assumptions about what’s actually going on in the classroom. You can be lost in this lovely, little bubble where you think everything’s going really, really well. And, we’ve had some speed bumps along the way where students have said their teachers don’t actually do digital lessons, you know, so we have to go back and unpack that, go back to the teacher and find out why and is it a lack of confidence, it is an upskilling? Do you need someone to come in and work alongside you? But if we didn’t check that with our student voice, we would just happily skip home thinking that everything’s great. It’s been so beneficial to have that genuine, authentic voice to give us genuine, authentic feedback.