Principals Address – 4 April 20144th Apr 2014
Tena Koutou Katoa
For those involved in Education one of our main priorities is the ongoing academic success of our young people. My focus for the last decade has been exploring national and international research, looking for successful ways to raise each student’s academic profile. What is most exciting for me is that, as a new person to this community, I can see the research applied in the South Otago Academic Programme (SOAP).
I am confident you are noticing the academic shift at South Otago High School. Last year the school embarked on SOAP as a pilot scheme. This is a tracking system where students are mentored to reach their individual potential in each subject. Many of you may be asking why this isn’t common place in every school across the country. The simple answer is that a school has to be aware of the need for change and have the courage to move forward.
2014 is a pivotal year in our journey. We are continuing the SOAP scheme to ensure that every student is challenged. In real terms, this means that your daughter or son should be talking to their subject teachers about their goals and targets for the year. This should clarify their focus in class and at home, especially as they head into summative assessments. The beauty of SOAP is that the target score is generated by a test administered by the University of Canterbury and referenced against over 18000 students. The target score is adjusted according to an individual’s ability in different subjects. The teachers and the Senior Leadership Team then use this target score to put support in place to ensure academic success.
One of the strategies we use to do this is the holiday catch up. Students identified as being at risk from Years 9-13 are required to come in during the holidays for extra tuition to help them reach their individualised target. This support, provided by teachers in the upcoming holiday period, provides the platform for success for the remainder of the year – please lend us your support in this exciting initiative.
SOAP also incorporates many new elements this year. Earlier this term I asked all senior students if they were aiming to get NCEA with an Endorsement – this is where a student gets 50 credits at either Merit or Excellence (these credits can come from any subject). At this stage we have over 100 young people aiming for this special target. As part of SOAP, teachers will mentor approximately ten students to track their progress and help them work towards their Endorsement. Whilst the mechanics are being finalized, we place great importance on the success of these students. Mrs Hutt, our Principal, will be working with the Year 13 Excellence students, I will be working with the Year 12 Excellence candidates and Mr Heller and Mr Ward with the Year 11 Excellence candidates. More information will be provided to students and whānau early next term.
In addition to this we are trailing a new initiative in the form of a fortnightly check on achievement and engagement. Teachers allocate every student a score out of five for their academic performance based on their SOAP scores and
another for their level of engagement in the class over that two week period. These are then forwarded to me to review and support the students as required. We are hoping that an online parent portal will be available later in the year so you will be able to track these scores and help monitor your son or daughter at home. Details on this initiative will be made available as soon as we can get the portal into the school’s electronic data system.
Any and all initiatives, like the ones we are undertaking, are an essential part of the education jigsaw puzzle. The big push from the Ministry of Education at the moment is the 2017 target of 85% of all students reaching Level 2 NCEA. In 2013 SOHS gained 78% at NCEA Level 2, as compared to the
national average of 72%. Part of the push from central government comes out of their awareness of the PISA results. This is an organisation that tests 15 year olds in 87% of the countries around the world and allows for comparisons across countries. Interestingly, before the 2013 test, New Zealand was ranked 6th in the world. This sounds wonderful but when we delve a little deeper Māori as a group were 27th and
Pasifika 42nd when compared to other countries. This disparity is alarming and is one of driving factors behind the 85% figure as there is a special focus on Māori and Pasifika achievement.
Regardless of outside influences and international studies, SOHS continues to focus on the academic success of your child. We use SOAP to regularly review the academic progress of all our students and put in place a variety of strategies to ensure not only that we raise pass rates, but that our best and brightest achieve their full potential. If, at any time you have concerns about your young person’s on-going academic success, feel free to make contact as soon as possible to discuss this matter. The staff here at SOHS are some of the most flexible, willing and committed to academic success anywhere. Our commitment is unmatched and our students are some of the luckiest I know.
Ka Kite Ano
Mr Paul McDowall