How is your school addressing the needs and aspirations of its community?

Justin Hickey, February 2023


How is your school addressing the needs and aspirations of its community?


In the last few years I have been fortunate enough to have been the recipient of several research grants. As part of this I have read many education and social research articles both international and national. This has allowed me to be aware of, and follow many international and national trends in education. It has also meant that I have been exposed to many different perspectives of what education could look like as we attempt to navigate the uncertainty that surrounds the future needs of our ākonga. 


There are many organisations that have discussed and provided evidence to help us recognise the need for change and the tools to implement them. Organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provide The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, which governments use to help them measure the effectiveness of their education systems for preparing students for further study or work. Google for Education provides a series of reports which outlines what it thinks are the Emerging Global Trends in K-12 Education.There is also ‘New pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL), which is a global partnership between families, teachers, school leaders and policy makers worldwide who are working to transform and change pedagogies and learning environments. All these organisations recognise that there are global changes occurring which we need to prepare our young people for. They also help inform governments around the world as they develop policies for their education systems. 


However, as far as I can see, there are also mixed messages about which perspectives we should be addressing. Our involvement in the PISA study is only in reading, mathematics and science. We did not participate in the assessment of global competence or financial literacy. Google for Education recognised eight global trends, yet here in New Zealand we have analysed only three. The three that we have analysed are Life Skills & Workforce Preparation, Digital Responsibility and Emerging Technologies. With close to 50 participating schools in New Zealand, NPDL also offers its global perspective on what we need to be focusing on to ensure we are providing our young people with the best opportunities for the future.


There is also another perspective, and many would argue, a more relevant and important one that needs to be addressed and that is the perspective of our local iwi. Every school in New Zealand sits on a site that has a long history and within that history, a very significant story that belongs with it. Making a commitment to, and working with local iwi is seen by many as a priority and one that ‘shows you recognise mana whenua and value their knowledge and ways of being’. (Embracing cultural narratives n.d)


For me personally, all perspectives are relevant and important for our ākonga to learn, but who decides that is of utmost importance to me. In my opinion, it has to be the decision of the key stakeholders which are the ākonga themselves, their whanau, the kaiako and of course, the Board of Trustees. Hearing from them all and designing a local curriculum which is informed by their needs is the best way to ensure our ākonga are being prepared to be positive contributors to their community. We are incredibly fortunate that our New Zealand Curriculum not only offers the flexibility for individual kura to determine what their needs are, but supports them to design localised curriculum to meet them. As Dr Tim Bell says,


“The New Zealand curriculum is different to many other countries, in that it's not a checklist of things that have to be taught. It's more of a framework, and schools work out themselves how their learners should engage with the ideas.”

Google for Education (n.d.b). Future of the Classroom: Emerging Trends in K-12 Education NZ Edition


I have had the opportunity to experience an environment where this approach has occurred. It took the courage of a school leadership group to do something different. It engaged with ākonga, whanau and kaiako to create an environment that represented the needs of all stakeholders. In doing so it also transformed the engagement and participation of all stakeholders to something where everybody felt invested in the learning process.


The best way for our ākonga to experience success as learners is for them to be supported by an environment that meets their needs. This can be achieved by looking at it through what Brookfield (2017) refers to as the ‘Students Eyes’ as well as through a Theory and Research Lens which can support the views of the key stakeholders. In doing this, you create a meaningful and purposeful learning environment that represents the perspectives of the key stakeholders in our ākonga’s lives.



Brookfield, (2017). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.


Google for Education (n.d.a). Future of the Classroom: Emerging Trends in K-12 Education Global Edition. Retrieved from gen-website-other-future the classroom


Google for Education (n.d.b). Future of the Classroom: Emerging Trends in K-12 Education NZ Edition. Retrieved from gen-website-other-future the classroom


Ministry of Education. Educational Leaders:Embracing Cultural Narratives.

OECD. (2018). PISA 2018 results: snapshot of students' performance in reading, mathematics and science,

OECD. (2019). What 15-year-old students in New Zealand know and can do.