NZPF Conference 2017 Visit



Shotover opened in February 2015 with 88 children in years 1 - 4.  The following year, we fully opened, taking enrolments right through to year 8.  The roll has increased 5 times and is now at 415 today.  We are the 6th primary school in the Wakatipu basin.  Our zone covers the residential subdivisions of Lake Hayes Estate, Quail Rise and Shotover Country, where the school is located.  We also serve the semi rural area known as Lower Shotover and Dalefield.

Shotover Primary's learning spaces conceptual design was based on the work of the establishment board with Melbourne architect Wayne Stephens.  The spaces are a contemporary design, the equivalent of 4 standard classrooms in Ministry property sense.  There are 5 spaces, or as we refer to them, habitats, in stage one, equivalent to 20 classrooms in a traditional sense.  

Shotover is master-planned to reach a roll of approximately 900 children.  This will occur over 3 stages of build.  The second stage is just underway and will be completed by mid June 2018. Below you can see the floor plan of the first and second stages.  This gives an idea of the changes in design we have made.  Completion of stage 2 will take our capacity to 650.  Stage 3 design will begin early in the new year.

Culture & Teaming

We recognised very early on that the adult stuff was a higher priority to develop and get right than the learning design.  Why?  Given the highly collaborative nature of the learning spaces if our adults weren’t on the same page then it wouldn’t matter much if the learning was well designed.  In essence the adults needed to know each other well and be agreed on their purpose so they could design great coherent learning.

This quote from Michael Henderson’s book, Above the Line does a nice job of summarising the challenge we all face when working with humans of all ages.

…human beings are messy.  They are excitable or unsure, courageous, afraid, passionate or bored - in short they are human.”

…human beings are messy.  They are excitable or unsure, courageous, afraid, passionate or bored - in short they are human.”
— Michael Henderson

So we have worked hard on developing the culture of the school, basing this on 3 main principles,

  1. it is dynamic
  2. it is shared
  3. being deliberate 

This means measuring the culture, through seeking feedback on a regular basis, surveying staff using multiple tools.  Regular coaching sessions of those in leadership. Placing value on leadership development.  learning about organisational culture. Designing some norms that all staff have agreed to and have permission to hold each other to.

After two years of learning we came up with a model of teaming that we are formally trialling in 2016.  This is a synthesis of research and experience on the ground with our learning spaces.  It uses the Herrmann whole brain model as its foundation.  The premise being that for a team to be highly effective in its mission then all four quadrants need to be explicitly designed for.  If a team is not performing then its likely that one or more quadrants needs attention.  It provides a focal point for leaders and team members to address challenges they are facing that is independent of the person. 

Google poured their not insubstantial resources into a project attempting to answer the very question, what makes an effective team?  They measured everything and then measured it again.  They were surprised to find that it wasn’t connected to personality, qualifications, experience.  They found the one attribute that had to be in effect for the team to perform was physclogical safety.  Without this Google concluded it was almost impossible to build an effective team.  I highly recommend reading this article its provides great insight.

The other significant tool we have used since opening is the Herrmann Whole Brain Model.  It has contributed to how we work together as a team, how we look at, analyse and interrogate challenges we are having.  It is used in our coaching sessions, leadership state of play checkin's, part of our induction systems and has formed the basis of our capacity based learning design.

Its power lies in having a consistent model for understanding self and then understanding colleagues across the school.  All staff regardless of rank and title complete their profile as part of the induction process.  This is either debriefed by Dr Julia Atkin.  Recently I gained HBDI certification and so new staff are able to be debriefed more quickly meaning they have a shared terminology to be used with their new colleagues.  This is designed to enable a sustainable process given the rate of staffing increase we are experiencing.

Powerful Learning.png

Powerful Learning


It was and it is important when building a new teaching team to ensure we had and have coherence about our learning design, about how we approach the task of learning.  We think its important to have many heads together working these questions through.  We also think its important to argue, debate and interrogate our beliefs around learning as opposed to argue, debate and interrogate our preferred practices or acts of teaching and learning.  To do this we relied heavily on the work of Dr Julia Atkin and her approach to beliefs, principles and practices.  The reference for this work is found at the end.

To this end we have agreed on what we believe powerful learning is and the principles that give life to this belief.  "This is... at SPS we value powerful learning.  At SPS our learning is designed around the principles and practices of powerful learning."  We are guided by the principles or learning to learn, environment, making connections, interest & motivation and relationships.  You can view the full graphic below.  This is what guides us as we design our learning and is still a work in progress.

We have also spent some time relooking at some elements of the NZC we have forgotten from time to time and are actually very powerful permission givers to an effective NZ educator.  For example P37 of the NZC gives permission to think very carefully about the needs of the children in their care and how to design learning to meet their needs.  To quote...“allow teachers…scope…make interpretations…meet needs, talents, of individuals and groups”  – New Zealand Curriculum, p37

allow teachers…scope…make interpretations…meet needs, talents, of individuals and groups
— New Zealand Curriculum, p37

Couple this with a drive to think carefully about our curriculum and not just take something we have seen, used of heard about and then implement.  More keeping with Lester Flockton's ageless advice, “Do your own thinking…”

Do your own thinking…
— Lester Flockton

In among all the dialogue, conversation, discussion and debate about the type of world our children will be entering and the uncertainty this could bring we think Peter Senge sums it up well, “Children need to come to a deep confidence that they can learn, that they can solve complex problems and that they can do this together.”


  • Michael Henderson (2014) Above the Line. How to create a company culture, that engages employees delights customers, delivers results. Link
  • Charles Duhigg (2016) What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team, Link.
  • Charles Duhigg (2016) Smarter, Better, Faster. Link
  • Ned Herrman (1989) The Creative Brain, Link.
  • Dr Julia Atkin (1996) From Values and Beliefs about learning to Principles and Practice. Link