Te Kura learning programme helping most vulnerable

A new way of teaching is benefitting the country’s most vulnerable young people, a gathering of education leaders meeting in Dunedin has been told.

Speaking to the Education Leaders Forum conference today, the head of the country’s largest school said its personalised learning programme has already shown a marked increase in student achievement and well-being.

Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) Chief Executive Mike Hollings said the school had piloted its Big Picture programme for the past four years.

A pre-requisite for initial funding for the project was that it targeted only students at serious risk of educational failure.

“The Education Review Office has confirmed the progress made by students, and also found they achieved twice as much as students in a control group,” Mr Hollings said.

That success was recognised by the government in this year’s Budget, with its decision to put $2.6 million dollars towards Te Kura’s Big Picture programme.

The Associate Education Minister, Tracey Martin, said new funding would allow the programme to have a positive impact on more students’ lives.

Mike Hollings told the conference the project focused on getting children and young people to learn in a way that is relevant to them and the way they live. Their learning programme is based on their needs, interests and aspirations.

“It prepares them to be productive, positive and successful citizens.”

Mike Hollings says because Te Kura is an online distance education provider, it creates a different range of opportunities and challenges for teaching Big Picture to students.

He said the school’s online learning environment provides engaging, accessible, personalised learning opportunities.

“With the Big Picture learning approach, we are able to adapt it to each learner.

“They learn relevant skills and knowledge with learning that extends well beyond the traditional concept of the classroom.”

“Te Kura is unique in many other ways. We operate within a strong bi-cultural environment, we have a relatively large student population and our students live across the world.”

Although the Big Picture philosophy was developed overseas, Te Kura had adapted the definition and context for New Zealand students, whānau and communities.

Based on the success of the pilot, Te Kura is keen to scale up the offering of Big Picture learning to more students.

“We want to take all we learned from the four years and apply this benefit to all our learners,” Mr Hollings says.