14 Jun 2017

Students hiring teachers?

From Nine To Noon, 9:39 am on 14 June 2017

At Waitara High School in Taranaki, the students are taking over.

So far, they're getting a say in who gets hired and soon they'll be running the canteen.

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Photo: supplied

Principal Daryl Warburton is determined to involve his students in the running of the school.

When Warburton became principal last year, he asked them how the school could be improved. The answer - basketball hoops.

 Now a previously unloved patch of ground boasts two brand new height-adjustable basketball hoops [bought via fundraising] and has become the school's new "humming" hub.

"They only asked for a basketball hoop and I think they weren't quite envisaging the size and scale of what we put in. We put up two top-of-the-line hoops, we marked the courts and the place was really buzzing."

Warburton's philosophy is to encourage "belonging and belief".

"If we have a place where students belong, where they feel like they have some ownership and some agency in it, they have some say in what's being taught in the classrooms - then attendance lifts, engagement lifts."

Sending a student out with self-belief is more important "than a grade in maths", he says.

'Then the world's their oyster."

Recently one student brought a different perspective to an interview panel.

"We recently had some vacancies in our teacher aides, mostly to do with supporting special needs education. We had six interviews and one of our special needs students asking the questions and involved in the feedback afterwards "

"By the end of the day, the student was probably running the interview more than I was."

Soon, a small farm adjacent to Waitara High will produce food to supply the school canteen.

Students will be responsible for staffing, negotiating with suppliers and setting up contracts.

"Ultimately they will be involved in hiring staff, setting budgets - the top-to-bottom running of it, decorating the place, deciding prices."

There's no such thing as a bad kid, Warburton says.

"I've dealt with some pretty rough ones in my days ... When you respect them for where they come from and value their voice, then you've got motivation, heaps of it, you don't have to worry about that anymore."

 Waitara High School has been in statutory management since December 2015, but the Ministry of Education is currently considering lifting that.