Staffroom photos of students who were at risk of just missing out have helped an Auckland school achieve dramatic gains in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).
Glenfield College, a decile 6 school on the North Shore, put up boards in the staffroom profiling 38 students at level 2 and 25 at level 3 - about a third and a quarter of its 100-odd students in each year group.
All teachers were briefed regularly on how many NCEA credits each student was achieving, and on their sporting and other achievements, so that all staff could give special attention to getting those students over the NCEA line.
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The unconventional strategy paid off - Glenfield has lifted its level 3 pass rate in year 13 sharply from 69 per cent to 94 per cent, and its level 2 pass rate in year 12 from 81 per cent to 95 per cent.
The school was one of the biggest winners in the national NCEA school data, released by the NZ Qualifications Authority just before Easter.
National average pass rates rose slightly, reaching 86.5 per cent of year 11 students gaining level 1, 89.9 per cent of year 12 students gaining level 2 and 83.4 per cent of year 13 students passing level 3.
Anzia Singe, 17, who was one of the 38 level 2 students targeted for extra support at Glenfield College last year, said the "achievers programme" worked for her because she needed to balance her sporting and academic commitments.
She captained the NZ under-18 and under-21 tag football teams, and also played basketball, netball and touch rugby. That left little time for schoolwork.
"To be honest, I was quite behind," she said.
"With the achievers programme, and having my picture in the staffroom, it was good to get the encouragement from all the teachers that knew how I was going. They were just guiding me in my study and supporting me with my sports."
Principal C J Healey said Anzia was chosen for the programme because her sports threatened to stop her reaching her high potential in NCEA.
"Everyone then started to learn about Anzia's sporting commitments and understood her specific requirements, and everyone was then able to talk to her about how she was doing in sport and focus on the other grades," he said.
The photos were part of an integrated set of changes introduced when Healey became principal a year ago in an attempt to reverse years of low morale. The college roll has plunged from 1308 in 2004 to 507 last year and is now 465, as families have been lured away to higher-decile surrounding schools.
"My sense was that they [students] were lacking in a sense of efficacy and self-esteem," Healey said.
"That is why we introduced several initiatives. It was about aspirational targets, backing those up with systems to achieve them."
An existing mentoring system was revamped to make every teacher a mentor for an average of just 13 students each.
Mentors were carefully matched to each student - Anzia, who is Māori, was matched with the head of Māori studies; Filip Ograbek, whose parents are Polish, was matched with a Polish teacher who could speak to his parents in Polish.
The timetable was arranged to give mentors regular one-to-one time with each student. Mentors had to talk to the other teachers about how their students were doing in each subject so they could help the students set and achieve all their goals.
Parent-teacher interviews were also rearranged so that instead of spending five minutes with each subject teacher, each parent spent 20 to 25 minutes with their child's mentor every term.
Anzia's mother is now a regular visitor at school.
"Mum is involved with my schoolwork as well, she was aware of what I was doing," Anzia said.
And it paid off in NCEA.
"There was certainly a period where we put a red flashing light over Anzia and said we need to be concerned here because this is a young lady whose future is in her hands," said Healey.
"We just needed to ensure she got there. She got there very comfortably in the end."
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The table below shows 'percentage of participating students who achieved this qualification by the end of the academic year of interest'.