Education: Takapuna Grammar School
Local Schools Working Closely Together
It's a fact that parents on the North Shore have a great choice of schools for their children, arguably the best in New Zealand. It is refreshing to learn that schools are working closely together to further enhance the opportunities for our kids.
An example of this is the close relationship between Takapuna Grammar School (TGS) and Takapuna Normal Intermediate. It is referred to by the principals of these schools as "conversations around learning."
Owen Alexander has been the principal at Takapuna Normal Intermediate for 12 years. Simon Lamb, the principal at Takapuna Grammar, is in his ninth year. The two share similar philosophies on what great teaching and good learning is, and the winners are the local youngsters.
I met the two at Takapuna Normal Intermediate in early June to see first-hand what education 2012-style is all about. And I can tell you it has changed a great deal since this 49 year old had children at intermediate school.
The biggest change is the impact that the World Wide Web is now having on how kids learn. It is a powerful tool that is slowly eliminating the need for text books.
At Takapuna Normal Intermediate I ventured into their modern library to see the youngsters learning. The area for the computers (predominantly Apple) is comparative in size to the area for books. Apparently every student has their own online portal within a secure online area housed in the Cloud. This online tool is called KnowledgeNet (www.knowledgenet.com) and is home (via user name and password access) to most of their work – resources, homework and their very own blog. One of the Takapuna Normal Intermediate students showed me the work she was doing and the way she could navigate around the computer was amazing. She demonstrated her own KnowledgeNet work portal and showed me how her maths work was being done via an online tool called MyMaths (www.mymaths.co.uk). Amazing.
Takapuna Normal Intermediate principal Owen Alexander explained that many of the kids already have smart phone devices in their pockets that provide online access. He can see a time in the not too distant future when it is common practice that they will use these devices for school work as well.
"Email is becoming old-hat to today’s students, with social media having a big influence on the way they communicate. They have Facebook and other forms of social media and many have their own blogs. The same is happening at school. Via the Internet they can now communicate with the world. Our (Takapuna Normal Intermediate) students recently spent one week teaching English to students in Columbia online. The next week the Columbian kids returned the favour with Spanish lessons."
Due to its availability, online video is also now a strong tool for teachers to lead subjects. It is a visual world for young people these days and video is obviously a great way to enhance their learning.
Technology is also a strong feature at TGS. The school made an investment in a locally developed internet video conferencing system called FaceMe and this is used by students to communicate with others all over the world.
"FaceMe is a great tool for our students," explained Simon Lamb. "We use it to teach English to students in countries like Japan and Korea. It was even used recently by a school music group to perform for a school based in Korea."
We should be proud of the way Takapuna Normal Intermediate is leading the field for our kids in providing international learning standards. Four years ago, the school was the first state intermediate in the world to adopt the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.
"IB is a perfect match with the New Zealand curriculum and it enables us to benchmark, with not only schools in New Zealand, but also internationally," explained Owen Alexander. "It is great that IB is going to be introduced by Simon and his team at TGS from 2013, which means our students now have a local pathway and TGS can grow that. IB offers a conceptual approach to learning."
"Students have a world view now due to the tools at their disposal and IB certainly enhances their opportunities on the world stage," adds Simon Lamb. "With TGS having IB from next year, local students can now follow this programme from year seven at Takapuna Normal Intermediate through to year 13 at TGS. Owen and I have education philosophies that are closely aligned, and IB is an example of the resulting collaboration benefitting students. Pastoral care is very important so we are very keen on our staff working closely and having support systems that also work together."
Other examples of the two schools working together are: the TGS Japanese teacher also teaches at Takapuna Normal Intermediate and gifted children at Takapuna Normal Intermediate receive tuition in maths from TGS teachers. The two schools also share resources in marketing to attract international students.
It's all great news for North Shore parents.
Visit: www.takapuna.school.nz and www.Takapuna Normal Intermediates.school.nz.