Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Exemplary Excellence in a School


A few weeks ago a copy of Allan Peachey's What's Up With Our Schools came across our desk.  Peachey's brief bio can be found here.  He died of cancer in November 2011, after a stellar career in front-line, hands-on education.  His impatient contempt for educrats and teacher unions is legendary.  His success in leading Rangitoto College is still spoken of with great respect amongst serious educators.  

Here is Peachey's take on how to raise and maintain high standards of behaviour in a school.
It is not possible to completely eliminate bad behaviour but I have found that the time spent on this can be greatly reduced if the school and its staff articulate very clear, consistent and challenging expectations of the students, and pay attention to the basics.

The correct uniform is to be worn at all times, and if it isn't we will deal with it; we will not pretend that we haven't seen it.  Swear within earshot of a teacher, and you have sworn at the teacher; the penalty for that is exclusion from school.  Deal with these little things and the big things take care of themselves.  Graffiti is rare in our school, but when it appears it is immediately removed, and it is certainly not to be tolerated on classroom desks.  Zero tolerance works.  [Allan Peachey, What's Up With Our Schools: A New Zealand Principal Speaks Out (Auckland: Random House, 2005), p. 20.] 
Of course the reason one would maintain a standard of zero-tolerance over behaviour and would practise strict enforcement of the code is that teachers can then spend far more time teaching and extracting the best from students.

This has enabled us to focus on curriculum delivery at Rangitoto College--one how students learn and teachers teach.  In doing this, we were going in the exact opposite direction to much of the current educational thinking.  That had never worried me in the past and it certainly didn't worry me now.

I was fortunate to be leading a school with great student-management systems and a great climate of co-operation between teachers and students.  It would have been irresponsible not to have taken this opportunity to concentrate on what schools should really be about: teaching; learning; and the curriculum.  The results were to stagger even me.  [Ibid., p. 20f.]

Peachey has a lot to say about the critical importance of high quality teachers.  He went to extraordinary lengths to find them, recruit them, and mould them into the professional culture at Rangitoto College.  What a contrast with the current New Zealand teacher-union dominated culture--where seniority and advancement is a function of time-served in the profession, rather than on quality of work. 

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