In this spotlight, Red Hill School describes how they’ve addressed the equity issues and engaged whānau during a time when distance learning (learning from home) was particularly challenging.
Within the Papakura District, Red Hill is a varied neighbourhood with a diverse mix of nationalities, incomes, and whānau. Fifty-eight percent of our pupils identify as Māori, with 36% having Pasifika heritage, 4% European, and the remaining 2% having “Other” ethnic backgrounds. Kainga Ora manages many properties in our area that were scheduled for demolition and rebuilding prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Because the infrastructure isn’t in place, 60% of these properties don’t have access to fibre from the gate. Working online and learning from home during the two years of lockdowns became troublesome and inequitable for our community. We decided as a school to tailor our response to the pandemic and student participation in learning to the needs of the community we serve.
Kaupapa to disseminate learning materials: Paradigm of Distance Learning at Red Hill School
From the outset we knew that we needed to provide individualized learning materials for all 225 students on the School Roll.
It was crucial that we maintained the learning momentum we had established with our students while they had access to face-to-face learning as best as we possibly could.
Teachers worked together to create these learning packs (using the materials we had access to within the school) with a focus on material that could be completed independently with 2-3 activities at the next learning stage. These were clearly marked in each learning pack so that whānau knew that these were the “seek help” activities.
We identified that the best way to communicate with whānau was through social media, specifically Facebook. Everything was communicated by Facebook, Seesaw, email, text, and/or phone call. Whānau knew that if they didn’t respond, we’d have to knock on their door when we went about our “daily exercise” around the community.
We identified four cul-de-sacs within our community where students could remain socially isolated while whānau could have access to our staff members, face to face if they had needed any clarification or support with specific learning materials. Teachers from the junior and senior schools were paired to work in and around these four physical places.
Each duo set out with a portable whiteboard, markers, paper, and pens on a trolley. Whānau was made aware that we were on our way, where we would be, and that we would support them in any way we could to help them get through this scary and tricky time.
This was dubbed “Learning on the Berm Time.” Hula hoops were provided to keep children in their own space, and teachers moved from hoop to hoop in the cul-de-sac, providing whānau with much-needed respite.
All material was also made available online - for the for the few students who had access - and daily hangouts were held for all students. A small number of our staff members who worked from home were assigned the task of engaging with our online whānau.
Every afternoon, the staff members got together for a 30-minute hangout. This was a check-in to ensure that everyone understood who had been seen, who had accessed learning, and who required additional assistance. This was also an opportunity to provide feedback, tweak and adjust our strategy in response to constant whānau feedback.
Examples of Media Posts to our Red Hill School families:
- “There will be 4 staff members that will be delivering learning packs for your children between 11am and 1pm Friday 20 August. The areas we did not make we will complete over the weekend at the same time. We will be placing them either in or by your mailboxes. Please ask your children not to approach the staff when we drop these off, obviously this needs to be contactless. The staff at Red Hill School wish you all well and hope you are keeping safe during this time. Kia kaha!” (19.08.2021)
- “All learning packs have been delivered whānau. Remember to put them out when the second pack is to be delivered to be collected and marked. We will inform you ahead of time. Thank you. Good to see some of you at your doors this morning. Stay in your bubbles and have a safe weekend!”
- “Thanks so much for our packs, Matua Nigel. Off went the devices and out came the pencils surprisingly without any moans too yay! We hope everyone takes care and will see you all again soon.” (CP - Parent)
- D.T - “Well done Red Hill School”
- S.H - “Ka rawe Red Hill School. Noho haumara whānau!”
- S.B - “Well done - other schools in the area could learn from your example”
What we learned
We realized that by following this approach, the school is recognised as an essential service within our community. Whānau were able to articulate their needs and we were able to provide the necessary support as a school. Whānau began to rely on the school as a single point of contact for all services. Because of the relationships we’ve built, we’ve been able to maintain open and transparent communication with 90% of our whānau. We know who is within our local community, and they know how to access us.
When it came time for tamariki to return to school, most of our whānau felt confident in the school’s ability to keep their children as safe as possible, ensuring that students were soon returned to face-to-face learning.
We knew we’d have to resocialise the concept of school and reaffirm that it was a secure place to be when students returned.
- A focus on belonging and a sense of wairua - the reconnection to the school space was crucial in helping our students achieve the serenity they required to make meaningful learning progress.
- Make use of the Whare Tapa Wha model:
- Taha whānau
- Taha wairua
- Taha hinengaro
- Taha tinana
- Revisit the School Values - Tolerance, Responsibility, Respect, Honesty, Trust.
- Recreate the Community is Home Kaupapa
What did ‘success’ mean to us in our delivery of distance learning?
Whānau engagement with us was a benchmark used to identify how successful we were in our delivery of distance learning. We know that 94% of our students received fortnightly material to assist in their learning. 85% of our community had open dialogue with us with a focus on learning. As a school our interpretation of success was based on how quickly we were able to resettle our students back into the school setting. We knew that re-establishing relationships with our students in which they were willing to take risks in their learning was essential before we would address the need to accelerate student learning momentum.
It became evident that our school was a safe place for our students, and learning progressed swiftly. To make school a “desirable” place to be, learning experiences were deliberately designed, and all learning opportunities were mostly hands-on. It was also a conscious decision on our part to reconnect with our local community’s outdoor places. We wanted our students to feel a strong sense of belonging, which would help us reintegrate them.
Where to next?
We now have a streamlined set of procedures in place at our school that have become “the way we respond” to the Covid-19 Pandemic as it emerges. It has become an automated procedure that gives the students, staff, and community the stability and structure they all need.