Sunday, October 20, 2019


I was delighted to receive an email last week advising that I had been nominated and have won, a SLANZA Principal’s Award 2019. The recipient of the SLANZA Principals’ Award is for a Principal who has enabled the successful development of their school library to support student learning and who has promoted the importance of excellent school libraries to the wider community. I have received this award for the advancement and improvement of the library at Freemans Bay School, and also for continued support of SLANZA Auckland.

Libraries have always had a key role in building, researching and sharing knowledge at a local, regional  and international level. Like classroom environments they also have had to change. Some educators are rethinking if they are relevant in schools today.

It is my belief that the roles of libraries in our schools and local communities has to be redefined. However, I still am of the opinion that the library should be a central resource hub in a school. It still has a role to play in education facilities and our modern world.

Books are important. They are wonderful to explore and useful for developing critical thinking. Libraries provide a place where learners can collaborate around books, explore them and discuss with others. I believe that libraries as learning spaces are needed more than ever. The school library as a resource hub is an essential part of the school environment where our learners can be engaged, enriched and empowered with another place to make virtual and real connections with learning.

This week the Board property committee and senior leadership team met with  Ministry of Education officials here in Auckland  to start on the procurement of the next building stage. This is exciting news and will help us to ensure that we have learning spaces for future roll growth. 

We continue to cater to a lot of visitors to see our amazing learning spaces and how we teach and learn at Freemans Bay School. We have been published in a new book now available on Amazon called Planning Learning Spaces. Its a great resource for anyone designing new learning spaces. Murray Hudson and Terry White have brought together educationalists and innovative school architects to inspire the design of more intelligent learning spaces.  It is a useful and practical resource.

Over the year we have visits from educators from New Zealand, Australia, Korea and Japan, UK, Scandinavia, Malaysia, India, Bali and USA.  We are very happy to share our expertise with others to inspire and innovate more relevant future focused learning environments to engage, empower and enrich learners. To book a visit - just go through the visitors tab on the website here.

 We are also very proud to have been shortlisted in the World Architecture Fair in Amsterdam in December of Education Facility and colour scheme. Watch this spot!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Learner Led Design

Freemans Bay School is recognised as a Microsoft Showcase School and is a Global Schools Alliance founding member. Late last year we made a video to support our application to continue being a  Microsoft Showcase SchoolThis short video clip shows the development of our school build and how the learner led design is reflected in both pedagogy and learning spaces. Our learner led design has a lens on digital technology, ELearning and developing a future focused curriculum. 

We also had an article published in Learning Spaces magazine. This magazine is published by Association of Learning Spaces and pulls together the views of designers, educators, architects and those interested in promoting modern curriculum through spaces and pedagogy.  The magazine is well worth subscribing to. The article, also shows our thinking around the learner led design at Freemans Bay School,

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Rebuilding our School: Reflections

Freemans Bay School
Engage  Empower Enrich

Freemans Bay School is one of the oldest schools in the New Zealand. Established in 1888, it is part of the Auckland City, Western Bays network that is expected to have long term population growth.

This means that more new schools will be developed in Auckland under the Ministry of Education Flexible Learning Environments policy. (FLE).
Having been through a total new rebuild at Freemans Bay School, I have been reflecting on where we could make systems improvements on designing and transitioning into FLE environments.

Now that we are at the end of our three year rebuild project, this post is around my thinking on:

What system changes need to be explored at a national level and school level to support schools in a learner led design process that will not only see the buildings completed but also support collaborative ways of teaching and learning in the new spaces?

MOEs policy of FLEs requires a systems thinking revision at  national level.

In UK and Scandinavia the first consultant that is appointed to any new education facility is the education design consultant. This person is the lead consultant who supports schools through the process of developing and supporting the school vision both at the design stage and beyond.

We need to rethink our systems nationally to ensure that school leaders and teachers are supported to work in collaborative and flexible learning environments in a strategic way.

Having visited many new and refurbished  FLE schools in NZ and overseas, I am interested in how our MOE design policies and procedures can be strengthened to ensure that the dots a joined between the school vision for learning and the design,  incorporating evidenced best practice to inform their decisions. This process needs to be resourced at a national and school system level.

It is important for schools to consider strategically how teachers, in their teams can transition into new spaces - contextualising new ideas concerning curriculum, pedagogy and co-teaching. If the teachers theories of practice are not aligned with appropriate practice in FLE spaces they may not engage in the shifts of practice required.
Meeting the increasing diversity of students is recognised as being a too bigger ask for one teacher working in isolation.

Hattie’s comprehensive study of factors affecting schooling concluded that the most powerful strategy for helping students to learn, was ensuring that teacher work in teams. (Hattie, 2009)

Asking teachers to make the shift to a collaborative learning focused environment in teaching teams, on a daily basis, adds a significant layer of complexity to teaching and ways of working.

When teachers have shared ownership of groups of learners they need to be able to spend time together to plan, research, implement and adapt their practice

In our NZ primary schools teachers already have 30 hours class contact time with 1 hour a week mandated for classroom release. Time is a significant barrier to the success of collaborative learning focused relationships. This issue needs to be addressed at a national and school level.

At FBS we have recognised that staff need to be strategically supported through the change process, to be prepared to collaborate to deliver a personalised learning curriculum. 

This support is provided through a mixture of vision led workshops focused on collaboration, coaching and teacher led inquiry. We have cut down the number of after staff workshops to ensure that teachers have time to meet and to discuss their learners needs.
In 2010 Linda Darling-Hammond et al researched how high performing countries organised successful professional development for teachers. The findings were ‘extensive opportunities for ongoing professional learning embedded in substantial planning and collaboration time in school’.

Schools need to consider how they can support the daily collaboration of the teaching teams and additional PLD opportunities, based on best practice, that promote their school vision around learning in their  FLE environments.

What system changes to we need to have at a national and school level to support teaching and learning in FLE environments?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Vision Led Design

At Freemans Bay School, we strongly believe that it is important to have a clear vision for learning that prepares students for their future. The five-year olds who start school this year will be graduating from Highschool around 2035. We need to think about what sort of spaces they will be working and studying in and join the dots between education space, curriculum design and developing attributes needed for their future world. The Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) design of our new buildings promote flexibility, collaboration, creativity, choice and personalised learning.

Our school vision of "Engage, Enrich, Empower" underpins our plan to align school design and collaborative and flexible ways of teaching and learning. We want our students to experience learning spaces like the modern activity based designed office spaces that many parents experience in their work spaces today, rather than the factory typing pool or hierarchical silo offices of the past.

The item on TV1’s ‘Seven Sharp’ show last week, looked at ILE through a very narrow lens. It was disappointing that the article was so one sided. It did not refer to the New Zealand Ministry of Educations research and evidenced based policy on ILEs accessible on their website. Nor did it refer to any of the research underpinning the global movement towards ILE in education and workplace design.  The  OECD Handbook on Innovative Learning Environments pulls together recent research on ILEs. You can also click here for some of the latest research on ILEs.

The ‘Seven Sharp’ article seems to be promoting teaching in single classrooms in the same way as  in the 1960s or back in even further. The sentiment of, “It worked for me so therefore why change things”, does not have the depth of thinking required to influence schooling design.  It is important to rethink last century school design and align with what we want to happen today. Joining the dots on the best evidenced conditions for learning and attributes required in the workforce beyond 2035 is a priority for school design.

Typical 1960's single cell classroom
Sir Ken Robinson, in his 2010 Ted talk,” Bring on the Learning Revolution”  promotes that for students to meet their creative potential in our schools we must shift from standardised schools to schools that personalise learning and create conditions where learners can discover their passions and flourish.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


This weekend I was thinking about the design of our second stage of our new school build which is due to commence after Easter.

We have some interesting spaces  planned,  that are designed with learning in mind, particularly how the brain works and how to activate brain pathways for learning to happen. 

My colleague Lene Lensby Lange in Copenhagan explained to me that all school designs in Denmark must include encouragement for movement. This is because we know that if learners are encouraged to physically move around their learning environment they will learn more efficiently as there is a relationship between movement and activating brain pathways.

Lene has shared some recent design elements from schools in Denmark in the photos in this post.

We are very pleased that in our design of learning spaces in our next build at Freemans Bay School, we will include some design elements seen in Scandinavia and UK. These will include a slide from one level of the building to the next, climbing walls through travelling spaces, floor patterns to encourage movement, elevated seating for climbing, a cave space to crawl into and a treehouse hut to climb up the stairs to.

These design elements are included as thought has gone into the most important client, young children, and the  way they are motivated to learn. The design encourages the learners to move around the building in different ways . The design will encourage learners to climb, crawl and run around installations. These spaces will encourage new ways to motivate and engage students in collaboration and creativity in their learning. They will also motivate them to engage and attend school.

The vision behind our design elements is different to many other schools in New Zealand and Australia as they deliberately explore the relationship between play and learning. We are exploring the interaction between developing the skills for learning and the way children learn. We are thinking about how school design encourages the users to incorporate physical challenges in their learning and to learn with others in different collaborative ways.

The thinking behind our new learning spaces is based on the relationship between play, physical movement and learning. We believe that opportunities for physical exercise and the way learners will use the spaces will provide motivating spaces for new ways of teaching and learning,

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The shift from teacher led to learner led education
Freemans Bay School is involved in the construction of building a new school. This involves demolishing current buildings and designing new learning spaces that will give traction to learner led personalised education. You can view these web cams to see the development over the last nine months and also how we have to meet the challenge of carrying on teaching and learning on such a tight construction site.

Freemans Bay Cam-1 to March 2017

Freemans Bay Cam-2 March 2017

The design of buildings is not enough. To change learning culture and practices collaboration is needed from design phase to evaluation of new practices. This process needs to be resourced. Unless teachers are prepared and provided with the necessary time and expertise to develop new ways of working, the newly renovated spaces will not move them to innovative technologies and teaching practices.

It is important that every school embarking on a school redevelopment or those building new schools, consider how to realise their vision for teaching and learning through a collaborative process with their school communities and project team.

Ideally the design team needs to focus on what the learning will look like to determine design elements that will support the school vision around learning. For schools to utilise design to reflect their vision of learning in terms of space and pedagogy they need to collaborate to agree what actual practice in the new learning spaces will look like. This important process needs to be led and resourced.

Last year our Ministry of Education introduced staffing support funding for schools who were involved in significant capital works projects.

A school can access a maximum of $50K of capital works funding in the first year and $25K in the second year to support the principal with additional staffing. There is a $3m threshold for projects likely to need this support funding.

At Freemans Bay School we have accessed these funds to resource hiring professional development consultants to  focus on resourcing teachers to collaborate around what the learning experiences in the new spaces will look like.

We will be moving our first group of learners into their new learning hub on May 1st this year and these teachers and learners will be able to test their newly developed ideas around new ways of working to give traction on the shift from teacher-led education

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Connected Educators

October was "Connected Educators" month. I was invited to collaborate to on a project to develop an e-book with a group of highly motivated people, all who have a interest in education based here in New Zealand.


The chapter I wrote is about the amazing opportunities that I have enjoyed through connecting with others through Twitter.

Enjoy the book!