Leading Edge schooling in New Zealand

If you want to see a school that has been designed soley from what good learning in today’s world is like then Alfriston College is the place to see. I’ve been here several times and each visit refreshes your spirit. The College began in 2004 and was the result of a commitment by principal John Locke and his beginning team to place the students at the centre of the schooling experience.

alfristonclass.jpgThey wanted to build a school that personalised learning in a knowledge age and strengthened personal relationships. For me the single most important value that underpins the school is “joy”. The community wants the schooling experience to be joyful, fun and life giving. The college is structured around the”whanau” (pronounced farnnow) which reflects a family environment. And it really works.

The built environment was designed to leverage the learning experience. You can see a one metre square granite block in the play area. All paths and horizontal and vertical walls have measurement spaces broken into metres. If you want see what 4 metres looks like in a physical sense, just look down where you are walking! the point is that every aspct of the schooling experience has to add some value for the learning and teaching.

At the heart of Alfriston College is a commitment to change the culture for schooling today. An integrated curriculum, flexible delivery, recognition of diverse learning styles and an ICT rich environment is fabulous. John says he didn’t want an industrial age school but a fundamental shift – a school for the knowledge age!

 After Alfriston we visited Summerland Primary in west Auckland. Recommended to me by a great NZ principal Mike Anderson – boy was he right. The principal, Luke Sumich and his team are passionate about teaching.


The key thing for me was the way the staff learned together and worked on PD in teams. They think about how the school design can support them in their work. The energy in the school is like a tornado.  Another example of how outstanding leadership and good practice makes all the difference.

3 thoughts on “Leading Edge schooling in New Zealand

  1. What you are describing in your school visits is inspirational to read – how much better to see these learning spaces and kids in action! These pockets of innovation prove that changes in the built environment work to support flexible ‘future’ learning. I hope we have the opportunity to hear more about this from teachers in these schools.

  2. I have just visited the Alfriston College website and took the opportunity to respond to the three big questions about secondary education. My thinking and understanding about learning in the 21st have been challenged by the variety of responses to these questions. I am now going to invite our school community to respond to these questions. We are working with young people to build skills and capacities to respond to the unexpected. Our schools need to be relevant, not at odds or out of step with the world of which they are a part. As Hedley Beare said, “Why spend your energy coaching an athlete in running when you know she intends to be a swimmer.”
    And Greg, thanks for a fantastic website.

  3. Thanks Delma, there’s much to learn out there! Try visiting Vince Campbell’s blog. It is an exampler for school leaders

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