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!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Teacherpreneurs, Twitter and Transformation

Teacherpreneurs are considered to be highly effective, connected and resourceful educators who actively seek opportunities to grow their skills, collaborate, share best practice, ideas and research. They have a passion and determination to improve education in their setting and beyond. What excites me is that teacherpreneurs  can develop leadership opportunities to influence positive change  to education systems  for the better. With the incredible rise in technology and more demand for student agency the teacherpreneur can enable change to determine a more relevant curriculum for learners. These leaders create opportunities for educators to connect, share, grow their knowledge and expertise and influence education systems to be relevant to our students future roles in their communities. Teacherpreneurs cross oceans and cultures to make connection with other educators and advocate to transform curriculum. Their focus is to co create new learning that is relevant, authentic, personalised and technology rich, building on the diversity and strengths of all learners

October is Connected Educators  month globally and in Aotearoa, New Zealand. 
Connected Educator Month supports educators to thrive in a connected world. Sharing and collaboration centred on personalising learning needs and strengths across our country and global networks.

Thinking about Connected Educators month has prompted me to update my reflective blog and share my own personal experience about the power of connecting on Twitter and how Twitter has facilitated amazing learning and  incredible experiences for me. Through Twitter I have connected with teacherpreneurs and innovative educational leaders from all over the world.

In 2013 I was a  new Twitter user. I only had a vague idea what it was about – but I set up an account for Freemans Bay School. I received a tweet from Lene Jensby Lange asking about our e-learning model at Freemans Bay School. Lene had checked out my principal’s blog and followed up with a couple of questions about our e-learning model

Lene is a founder of Autens Educational Design Consultancy in Denmark. This consultancy facilitates and leads innovation to support educational leaders to align their school vision with new and renovated school design.  I asked Lene if I could meet her in Denmark to discuss links between learning design and school design as part of my travel fellowship in 2014.  Not only did Lene agree, but she showed me around a whole lot of schools and organisations and I was able to stay with her and family in Copenhagen – where the conversations flowed into the night.

Since then we have been great twitter mates!  We often have tweet or Skype, problem solving and sharing perspectives and experiences. Networking with Lene led to being invited to become a member of the Global Schools Alliance.

The vision of GSA was developed by a group of global educators:
  • David Price, OBE (member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire)
  • Andrew Raymer (Founder and former Head of Matthew Moss UK)
  • Dr. Steven Edwards (White House and World Bank advisor)

GSA aims to have innovative schools collaborate and be part of a learning community that will influence education systems across the world.

Lene Jensby Lange
Global Schools Alliance
Dr. Steven Edwards
Vega Schools
Washington D.C., USA

Sandy Hooda
Vega Schools
New Delhi, India
The GSA Founding members selected and evaluated progressive schools from for the Alliance. Member schools are considered highly effective and innovative in their respective countries. These schools agreed to bring their experience and knowledge to work together to improve the standards of education globally.

The vision of Global Schools' Alliance is to ensure children experience a better quality of education no matter where they live. Our mission is to collaboratively improve education that engages and empowers learners within the context of their culture and language.

The founding school leaders are from eight top-rated schools internationally.

  • Muriel Summers, Principal, A.B. Combs Magnet Elementary School, Raleigh, USA
  • Mark Moorhouse, Headteacher, Matthew Moss High School, Rochsdale, UK
  • Natalie See, Principal, Hilltop Road Public School, Merrylands, AUS
  • Allan Kjær Andersen, Principal, Ørestad Gymnasium, Copenhagen, DNK
  • Sugandha Mathur Anand, Head of School, Vega Schools, Gurgaon, IND
  • Sandra Jenkins, Principal, Freemans Bay School, Auckland, NZ
  • Carl Jarvis, Executive Headteacher, EOS Teaching Alliance (Hartsholme & St. Giles Academies),    Nottinghamshire, UK
  • Barbara Cavanagh, Principal, Albany Senior High School, Albany, NZ

The  GSA first symposium was held in October in New Delhi and was hosted by Vega School founder Sandy Hooda.

Although each school at the symposium was from a uniquely different part of the world we all shared a vision  of working together to promote rich, innovative and personalised education. You can see from the following table of participants the diversity represented. It was humbling as well as inspirational to be part of this GSA symposium.

Ni Putu Tirka Widanti (Ika)
Yayasan Kul Kul
(Green School)
Bali, Indonesia

Green School is located in Bali jungle. It focuses on fostering green/ enviro school thinking.
Jeffrey Holte
Learning Coordinator
Liger Learning Center
Phnomh Penh, Cambodia

The Liger Learning Center, in the jungle in Cambodia, has one goal - to create change agents within their own country
Allan Kjær Andersen
Ørestad Gymnasium in Denmark

Ørestad Gymnasium (upper secondary school) has a framework for cross-disciplines and an extended use of IT-based learning by revolutionizing educational space in a structure without traditional classrooms

Melissa Daniels
Founding Director
High Tech Middle Chula Vista

High Tech High is a group of schools in San Diego, USA. These schools focus on effective use of technology and digital learning.
Andy Raymer
former Head of School Matthew Moss High School
Vega Schools Board Member
Rochsdale, UK

Matthew Moss is the "most radical school in England" according to Professor David Hopkins and was featured in Innovation Unit's influential publication "10 Schools for the 21st Century". a highschool in UK Mathew Moass  has a focus on child centered education through project work.
Barbara Cavanagh
Albany Senior High School
Auckland, New Zealand

Albany Senior High School has a focus on project based learning supported by coaching students to ensure the development of dispositions for learning and life
sj headshot.pngSandra Jenkins
Freemans Bay Primary School
New Zealand

Freemans Bay School has a curriculum design is focused on engaging, enriching and empowering learners.
Pawan Gupta
Board Member
Vega Schools
Dehradun, India

Pawan Gupta is a historian, thought leader and expert on the spirit of India. Pawan has established village primary schools in the Himalayas utilising cultural and historical perspectives relevant to these school communities

During the conference we visited the Vega School construction site and will be watching the development of these schools with interest.

On the final night  of the symposium  we attended a large meeting where Vega Schools had invited parents, politicians and media from Delhi to hear about schools in Global Schools' Alliance. The meeting also included the state of Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma.

The sharing of each other’s school vision was inspirational and refuelled our shared commitment to lead education that ultimately builds on learners’ strengths and diversity to equip them to contribute positively to their communities.

My twitter journey has connected me with a range of committed  primary and secondary educators  from all over the world. Twitter has enabled me to be meet and be involved with inspirational educators and projects across the globe.

These global leaders of education are committed to  transformation of  education in their countries. Student agency is the common thread of these schools’ curriculum – all engage in projects in some form or other.  All are advocating  to break down the homogenous systems of education, based on ranking and one size fits all models and developing systems that will strengthen diversity and learners talents in an increasingly globalised world. All are from very different cultural, social and political contexts. They have a shared mission to influence education systems to give our learners the skills and dispositions needed for their future lives.The GSA leaders  have taken the concept of teacherpreneur to a new level.