by PETER GRACE
Nine Catholic schools have become the first faith-based “community of learning” in New Zealand as part of a key government education programme.
Communities of learning are at the heart of a programme called “Investing in Educational Success”. Each school community is headed by a project leader.
John Paul College, Rotorua, principal Patrick Walsh told NZ Catholic on November 30 that he had been appointed project leader for the following two years for the Bay of Plenty group of nine Catholic schools.
After that, he told Rotorua’s Daily Post, he hoped to “pass the baton” on to the next principal. He was thrilled to be appointed project leader, he said. Getting the faith based project going had been in development for at least 12 months.
“We are the first faith-based ones,” he said. “We have had approval, the resources have been identified, and we are starting on February 11.”
The idea, Mr Walsh said, was to break down competition between schools, “where schools work in silos”.
“And the nine Catholic schools one is a good model, and it’s good to have a faith-based one, because we all have a similar philosophy of education.”
Two of the nine schools are colleges: John Paul College, Rotorua and Aquinas College, Tauranga. The other seven are primary schools: St Thomas More, Mt Maunganui; St Mary’s, Tauranga; St Joseph’s, Opotiki; St Mary’s, Putaruru; St Mary’s, Rotorua; St Michael’s, Rotorua; and Bishop Edward Gaines, Tokoroa.
Mr Walsh said the primary schools feed into either John Paul College or Aquinas College.
The Ministry of Education website says that “communities of learning” are groups of schools and kura that come together to raise achievement for children and young people.
Mr Walsh said the group would focus on improving reading and writing, maths and science. It would also work on identifying special needs students, so they could have what they needed to do as well as possible.
The Government has committed itself to providing $359m over the first four years of the programme, and $155m a year after that.
Mr Walsh said the programme made quite a few resources available to schools. According to the Ministry of Education website, it is expected that each community of learning will have four or five teachers working closely with other teachers to share their subject and practice expertise and to get the best out of the combined strengths of their colleagues.
“This would mean about one teacher in 50 would be in the role, so most teachers would not spend any more time away from their classes.
“Each community of schools will have resources available to release teachers to work together and to learn from each other.”
On November 18, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced a further 54 Communities of Learning. Those add to the 42 announced between December last year and August this year, making 96 such communities.

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