Here is the first in a series of three blog posts that chronicles the journey of a collaborative Professional Learning Group (PLG) at Epsom Girls Grammar School (EGGS) as they initiated a Tertiary Prep programme, beginning in 2016. Their programme has grown and morphed over the succeeding three year period, changing its name to the Year 13 Summit: Unicorns & Vacuum Cleaners, and delivering a programme that catered to all school leavers, not just those heading into tertiary study. Librarian Michele Coombridge and teacher in charge of the PLG, Jonathan Cameron discuss the programme’s creation and stages of growth.
The early days – inception
Michele: I was introduced to the concept of ACCOS – Auckland Central Community of Schools inquiry PLGs while meeting with our deputy principal, Tric Milner. I had recently had some good results collaborating in teaching and learning through Information Literacy workshops for the English 2.8 assessment, and by introducing a Year 10 programme using EPIC databases for research.
Noting my interest in the area of inquiry and research, Tric told me about the Tertiary Readiness inquiry Jonathan was about to undertake and suggested I might be interested in joining. I was quick to give mention to the work of Senga White, whose workshops I had recently attended and sent the links for her Tertiary Prep Programme website to both Jonathan and Tric.
Jonathan: In 2016 I took on an ACCOS In-School Leader position as I wanted to look closer at our current systems around helping our students better equip themselves for success outside of our high school environment. When Michele shared Senga White’s Tertiary Prep programme with me I was extremely excited. I felt that this programme summarised a lot of what I imagined I would be addressing in this new role. The Tertiary Prep programme offered an instant structure and way forward to a role that was extremely new territory and came with a lot of “unknowns”.
We structured our programme around Senga’s and worked with her resources to create our own version. We felt this was important as each school has its own specific culture and “clientele”. An EduCafe was held for staff as an opportunity for us to communicate the goals of our PLG and gain their input into the formation of this programme at EGGS.
Our programme was based around Senga’s six workshops, listed below:
Michele: Our PLGs are allocated time each week to meet together, which meant we had time to read up on some of the research around the learning gaps in tertiary transitions. We discussed the impacts on our own school and spent time working out what skills we could collectively offer in running a programme.
Jonathan is super-organised and was always two steps ahead with the plan and direction the work was taking. He had a clear vision for the content and framework of the workshops and encouraged us all to contribute, drawing each member out and identifying the way their strengths could be used in the delivery of the workshops.
I was really happy to be able to use some the information literacy resources I had developed for younger classes and adapt them for Year 13. I had been looking for a platform to introduce this for a long time. The Tertiary Prep Programme allowed me a space to introduce the concepts of academic integrity, evaluating and citing sources and using APA referencing at the Year 13 level.
In this first year of the programme, we ran the workshops for six weeks, presenting each workshop twice, at two different time slots. Student sign-up was voluntary and, while encouraging at first, numbers tended to dwindle as the weeks went on.
Jonathan: When we first advertised the Tertiary Prep programme to the students in an assembly we received around 200 expressions of interest via a Google Form that followed. When the first workshop came around though, we found that only 45-50 students actually made the commitment to attend. As the workshops were not compulsory and were a six-week commitment, I think that for many students this was one “extra” too much to fit into lives/schedules that are already heavily involved in learning, leadership responsibility, and extracurricular activities.
Whilst the students who attended these workshops gave us great feedback and indicated that they found them really useful, we were quite mindful, at the end of that year, that the workshops only catered to a small portion of our large Year 13 cohort. On top of this, many of the students who did attend the workshops were also students who would likely thrive at University regardless.
All of this prompted us to think bigger, and in 2017 our Senior Leadership Team gave us permission to run the workshops with the entire Year 13 cohort via a one-day conference that was compulsory.
We are extremely grateful for Senga’s programme and the advice and guidance she provided us in 2016. This is an incredible resource that all schools should be making use of!!