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Taking up the leadership challenge at Cobham School

E kore au e ngaro, te kakano i ruia mai i Rangiatea - Taking up the leadership challenge at Cobham School: Kim Nikora

Cobham school logo

Tu Rangatira challenges leaders to commit to ensuring an education that nurtures mokopuna to realise their full potential as Maori. Through Leadership and Assessment PLD, school principal Jane Portman has examined her leadership practices and then taken a journey to grow a professional way of being for the teachers in her school. 

Inquiry at Cobham

He kanohi matara

The focus was to implement Teaching as Inquiry as a tool/model to grow teacher practice and pedagogical capability to meet the needs of their diverse learners. The PLD used multiple levers to build individual and collective capabilities: a systematic approach to professional learning, a link between appraisal and the strategic goals and directions of the school and an examination of the place of the learner in the school context, curriculum and wider community. The PLD had an impact through professional inquiry into principal practice as leader of learning, leadership of the teachers as learners and teacher inquiry into the impact of their practice for students

The korowai of leadership

Placing the learner at the heart, the school vision grew from a moral belief in the capability and capacity of all community members to grow and learn over time. The first priority was to establish and maintain relationships of trust and respect. Sustainable professional expectations were established through modelling, professional dialogue and growing the shared responsibility for the learning and behaviour of all students.   

A strategic approach to mediating external pressures was taken. School culture shifts were strengthened through PB4L and effective relationships with support agencies. Accessing Leadership and Assessment PLD and New Zealand Curriculum PLD, provided the momentum and depth needed to create a local curriculum. Professional inquiry was embedded through prioritising time and space for people to lead their own growth in the skills, attitudes and pedagogical practices. Jane considered these pieces to her leadership puzzle for accelerating student achievement.

Mana a kura

Cobham Inquiry 2Although this has been a three year journey, accelerated progress is only just beginning to appear. Building a positive and safe school environment enabled the school to then build an effective learning culture. Substantial gains have been made in Reading, Writing and Mathematics across the school. National standards data confirms that from the end of 2013 to mid-2014, there has be a 33% increase in students reading at or above the National Standard, a 25% increase in students writing at or above the National Standard and a 33% increase in students achieving at or above the National Standard for mathematics.

Effective pedagogy and evidence-based practice, embodies the new professional learning and development approach that uses both assessment evidence and research evidence to make a significant shift in teacher practice and student achievement. Teachers engage in spirals of inquiry and recognize the shifts in their professional practice. They engage in reflective practice and learning conversations that strengthen the schools ability to raise student achievement and learning. 

“I am really reflecting on what I’m doing now, not carrying on in a tunnel. I am purposefully looking back at my practice, talking to colleagues, doing a bit of research and trying new things as a result of that research. The long term goal is student achievement. I am transferring my learning through my inquiry and really if this wasn’t there, I don’t know how effective I would be”  Teacher

Cobham School has taken a distributed approach to leadership, focused on challenging existing practices to build a strong local curriculum that embodies the school’s unique culture and way of being.This empowers both students and teachers to be proud of who they are and embrace learning in a safe and supportive environment. 


Changes for the learners






Strengthening teacher practice

Article contributed by Kim Nikora, Te Toi Tupu Leadership and Assessment facilitator. Further information about the Leadership and Assessment PLD Programme, see what is available on our website or contact Beth Dungey.