Culture is the unique set of beliefs and practices shared by a group that are the essence of their special character. Stoll (1998) supports this idea when she talks about the mind-set of culture being, that’s the “way we do things around here”; school culture she writes is shaped by its history, community expectations and socio-economic background of students. I believe, without the shared beliefs the culture will fail, its leader(s) inspiring others in their exalting of their beliefs.
Cambridge High School (CHS) is a co-educational state secondary school (years 9 – 13), taking students from the town of Cambridge and surrounding rural areas. International students, both fee paying and exchange, are actively sort, the marketing making much of the 8.5 hectares of “attractively” planted grounds, “extensive” playing fields, swimming pool, community gymnasium, and canteen. CHS is Decile 9, however, is in a minority in New Zealand in that we take the whole community like rural schools, while at the same time being high-decile, more closely aligned to urban big-city schools. The School makes much of its tradition heritage, established in 1883, the school website for instance hosts a page dedicated to students who fought and died in World War 1. The school also emphasises its traditional core values and high expectations of student achievement. Our school motto (retaining the Latin) ‘Fortiter et Recte’ says “bravely and correctly”. Another way the school enforces its traditional outlook is through its gender dimorphic uniform policy, boys in polo-shirts and long socks, and girls in white (iron-necessary) blouse and pleated skirts.
The roll has reached 1540, with forecasts predicting the Ministry cap of 1850 within the next few years due to rapid population growth within the town (18,400, having more than tripled in 50 years from 5,284 in 1961). Waipa District Council forecasts close to 25,000 by 2030. An extensive rebuilding programme is imminent, with seven new classrooms scheduled for construction in 2018.
In 2011, Cambridge High reported (and replicated since) receiving more than $1m in extra funding; the bulk from voluntary fees, and the substantial input of around 50 International fee-paying students a year. In comparison, Putaruru College, my school at the time and just 30 minutes away, raised $194,006, one of the smallest totals in the region.
The largest ethnic group in Cambridge (and Waipa District) is European; the 2013 Census showing Pakeha at 94% and Māori 7.2% (Waipa 13.8%). The most common spoken languages after English are Dutch and Māori (1.6% each). On the roll 15% are Maori, staying roughly steady through to year 12 (dropping slightly in year 13), 1% Pacifica, 2.5% Asian & 3% “Internationals”. The school’s stated mission is to be inclusive and to provide a supportive environment.
Pedagogy follows the “Cambridge Way”: deliberate acts of leadership, planning and teaching across all levels of the school; discursive classroom practices in regular use; teachers responsive to students needs, interests and abilities; forming positive, productive learning relationships with students; being connected to and interact with the community. These supported by “The BIG FOUR”: Kia Eke Panuku (Building on Success); the mantra Respect, Responsibility, Achievement; Teaching as Inquiry; and BYOD. Essentially the seeking to develop a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations across all levels of the school, using data and evidence, takes an inquiry approach to effect change within class, and school-wide practices, systems and structures, towards long-term sustainable change. Added to the mix in the past 12 months is the day-to-day effect of joining a Community-of-Learning.
The Impact has been hard to quantify. Rapid growth in a dynamically changing socio-political environment has strained the good-will of teaching staff, who feel overcome with the roll-out of new initiatives. While NCEA results have been above-average for several years we are as affected as any in the country by our “long-tail” of disadvantage. Overall whanau expectations (in line with the decile rating) are high for UE outcomes, yet far fewer than “the expectation” either go to or stay in tertiary training. It all comes back to as previously mentioned the diacotomy of being a high-decile, is an extensively area intake.
Cambridge High School – 01/07/2014. (2017). Education Review Office. Retrieved from http://www.ero.govt.nz/review-reports/cambridge-high-school-01-07-2014/
Schools / Homepage – Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI). (2017). Tki.org.nz. Retrieved from http://www.tki.org.nz/Schools/(page)/school/profile?school=142&district=®ion
Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Understanding-school-cultures/School-Culture
What is School Culture and Climate?. (2017). YouTube. [Video] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-_NvhlcusQ