ACE in Schools

By Gregory Pierce, Principal Aorere College and Deidre Shea, Principal Onehunga High School
In 2009 Aorere College and Onehunga High School signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This document detailed how we would work together to offer a range of programmes to our local communities. The idea of working collegially and collaborating on community engagement made sense as we are located relatively closely together. Both schools are strong advocates of lifelong learning and the value of adult and community education both within and beyond the school gates.

With the changing nature of funding in early 2009 we believed working together would maximise the programmes we could offer. It also meant we could rationalise what was happening in our combined region, enabling us to work efficiently and effectively with the many providers locally. Most had been around for a long time, working hard to deliver the programmes that really do target those most in need and those that the government identified as priority learners.

Our first task was ensuring all organisations and groups understood how we could support their programmes; identifying what met government requirements and targeting those learners. As both of our schools had been involved actively in adult and community education for many years we had already developed strong local connections and community networks. With the assistance of existing groups, we scoped the providers and the learners, to put together a programme across both schools that supported literacy and numeracy outcomes. It has been successful in that both schools are able to work together to support each other and
support the learners. Programmes can be combined to maximise resource use and there is plenty of scope for flexibility.

Another significant advantage, and point of difference, has been our ability to employ a co-ordinator who manages the whole combined programme. This allows the programme to be streamlined and the resource to be put to best use where it is needed across the south Auckland region. A part-time relationship manager is now employed to work within the community. Their role is to work with existing, and new groups and organisations, in community engagement and provision. Regular meetings, support of programmes and the facilitation of the application process are important. We want to make sure that access to support is as easy and positive as possible.

We are extremely supportive of the ACE programme we deliver. Approximately 40 percent of our combined schools’ programmes are run from Aorere College and Onehunga High School. These classes are predominantly in the evenings to cater for the many learners who want to engage in courses that upskill them or give them a first step back into education. With courses having embedded literacy and numeracy we have slowly seen improvements and changes in the breadth and depth of learner confidence. The use of our school facilities enables parents and the local community access to resources they would not otherwise have available to them: marae, computer rooms, technical rooms, science laboratories, cooking rooms and art suites. Instead of sitting idle at night these specialist centres can be used productively. The other 60 percent of our programme is run off the school site by outside organisations. These programmes most often run during the day. Learners are usually in close proximity to community centres, halls, marae, and shared community facilities where they are able to participate in programmes that target priority learners and strengthen social cohesion. Literacy and numeracy remain the focus but we often run many of our Te Reo and ESOL classes from local venues as these students wish to attend during the day when they are free from children at home or family commitments. We are extremely grateful for the work done at grassroots level to support the many learners who access our classes.

Our strength in school provision and delivery lies in our ability to act as a community hub. We acknowledge the barriers to learning that many young people have experienced. Our goal is always to work with others in successfully engaging all learners in meaningful, productive, life changing adult learning opportunities. For many, a first step back into education is frightening. We provide wrap-around care to ensure these learners are able to choose how they engage and with whom. Each little step is a pathway for a better future for themselves and their families.

Article from ACE Aotearoa Autumn Newsletter 2018.