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By Ken Pullar, Vicki Smith, Trevor Storr & Darren Sudlow

Need for a pan-cluster Scholarship Mentoring Initiative (SMI)

Scholarship Mentoring is the provison of extra, expert tuition designed to prepare Y13 candidates for success in NCEA Scholarship examinations. Scholarship Mentoring while designed for scholarship success, is also likely to improve success at NCEA Level3 and also raise the aspirations of participants. Individual schools have always provided scholarship mentoring using informal methods in a variety of subjects. It is likely that very large schools, by the fact of having a larger pool of teachers and learners to draw upon, find the provision of scholarship mentoring classes less problemmatic than smaller schools. The scheme outlined below is designed to be suitable for all schools in Aorakinet, Cantatech, Otagonet and Westnet and address two key problems that have been highlighted in the Otagonet SMI: teacher expertise and sustainability.

List of Scholarship Subjects

The 2009 Scholarship subjects are:

Learning Area
Language and Languages Chinese
Te Reo Māori
Te Reo Rangatira
Mathematics Accounting
Mathematics with Calculus
Statistics and Modelling
Physical Education & Health Physical Education
Sciences Agricultural and Horticultural Science
Social Sciences Classical Studies
Technology Technology (generic)
The Arts Art History
Media Studies
Music Studies
Visual Arts - Design
Visual Arts - Painting
Visual Arts - Printmaking
Visual Arts - Photography
Visual Arts - Sculpture

The Otagonet SMI Experience


In 2005 the Otago Secondary Principals Association, was successful in obtaining a grant from the Community Trust of Otago, to establish and fund for 2 years for a scholarship mentoring programme. Two separate programmes were established – one for Dunedin schools, involving ‘face to face’ tutorials at different Dunedin secondary schools; and our own OtagoNet SMI programme using online technologies particularly videoconferencing, for the rural schools of Otago (including the non-OtagoNet Oamaru schools). Both programmes employed ‘expert’ teachers with strong scholarship experience, to run a series of one hour after school tutorials in Terms 3 & 4 to prepare students for end of year scholarship exams. These teachers are ‘paid’ over and above their normal teaching salary to prepare, run these weekly tutorials and provide feedback individual students (mark set work, respond to email, etc). Due to the success of both town and OtagoNet programmes, further funding was sort by the Otago Principals to extend these programmes beyond 2006. The University of Otago currently fund both programmes in a generous 3 year sponsorship arrangement which will run until the end of 2009. Since its inception, the OtagoNet SMI programme has grown both in terms of the number of students enrolling in SMI classes, and the breadth of scholarship subjects covered. This year, there have been 155 enrolments (up 70% from 2005), covering 12 subjects in 16 classes (in 2005 there were 9 classes). We had hoped that this year we would be able to offer any ‘spare’ spaces in our SMI classes to the rural schools of Southland and South Canterbury, but because of internal demand from the Otago schools very limited spare capacity was available – only Northern Southland College & Fiordland College have students in the programme.


There is widespread satisfaction among the schools with the SMI programme. While it is difficult to quantifying the precise success of SMI, undoubtedly the programme has lifted the number of scholarships gained by students in the Otago schools. It’s also extremely likely that the programme is assisting students gaining higher grades in Level 3 NCEA external assessments. Annual evaluations by SMI students and teachers have consistently indicated a very high level of satisfaction with the programme. This, with the low attrition rates (bearing in mind that these classes and associated work is all done in the students own time), indicate to us that the SMI programme is meeting a very real need amongst this group of very academically able students. The following excerpt from the summary of last year’s students’ evaluations highlight a number of other benefits:-

“To date this has been a successful programme. The exam results in January will give further insight about the extent of the success but the comments from both students and teachers are overwhelmingly positive. The students have enjoyed the interaction with others with similar subject interests in other schools. It is quite isolating for rural students in relatively small schools taking subjects at Scholarship level and this programme has certainly reduced that sense of being alone. The teachers have all commented on the enthusiasm of the students and they have certainly enjoyed being stretched by the able students in their best subject area. This programme does enable some teachers to teach at that top level and maintain professional freshness. One group (of students) found that the scholarship level was beyond them but requested that they be allowed to continue the extra lessons to help with their Level 3 studies. The needs of the student were put first and they continued enthusiastically.”

In many of rural schools it is difficult to find teachers with the necessary expertise and experience to adequately offer students the necessary extension work to enable them to go beyond the NCEA L3 of attainment in specific subjects. Through SMI, teachers from across Otago and beyond, are being employed to ensure every student capable of working at this very high level of academic challenge, has an opportunity of doing so. All our SMI teachers enjoy the experience and challenge of teaching these gifted students.

Our proposal


The proposed SMI addresses two key barriers to establishing a successful scheme: sustainabilty and teacher expertise. We believe that sustainability of the initiative will be achieved through devolving the real costs to participating schools. The cooperation of four South Island eLearning Clusters provides a pool of about 40 schools through which economies of scale can operate. We expect the cost per learner per SM course to be about $150. The Otagonet SMI identified teacher expertise as a limiting factor. By introducing the concept of 'Mentoring Teams' we aim to increase the capability of teachers to deliver suitable SMI programmes. This will result in the initiative being more resilient and able to withstand staffing changes.

What the Initiative will be like for participants

Learners will have access to the following programme which will run during Terms 3 and 4: Eight video-conference tutorials, 7 online tutorials, problem solving skills. The online tutorials will be made available using a LMS eg Moodle, or any other LMS that the teacher is able to use. The aim is to provide tutorial content and an online space for assignments and questions and answers. The VC sessions will support the work that occurs in the LMS. The possibility of more frequent VC sessions exists, but scalability problems are likely to prevent this happening. It may be possible to augment the VC sessions with Adobe Connect or audio conferencing.


Staffing the Scholarship Mentoring Scheme with suitably experienced teachers will be critical to its success. Two aspects of staffing are problematical. Firstly recruiting the initial tranche of teachers in the range of subjects required and secondly, retaining them or providing for resiliency of teacher supply when, for example, a teacher moves to a position out of cluster, retires or is on maternity leave. Together the two problems combine to present a significant challenge to developing scholarship mentoring capability in the eLearning clusters.

This SMS will mitigate both challenges by organising teachers into subject teams and encouraging a team approach to teaching resource development and mentoring delivery. For example, an experienced Mathematics SMS teacher would be able to lead a team of 3 other less experienced Mathematics teachers.

Business Plan

Teachers who teach in the SMI should be paid for the extra responsibility and work that they undertake. The payment is necessary to attract suitable teachers to the initiative. Payment may also bring the extra duties within the terms of the PPTA Secondary Teachers' Collective Agreement. The Otagonet SMI paid teachers approximately $1800 ($120 per session fro 15 sessions) over and above their usual teaching salary. This payment was ex-gratia. The larger South Island eLearning Cluster Scholarship Mentoring Initiative that we propose will need to formalise payments to teachers so that accountability, performance management and tax liability concerns are able to be met. Our model involves a payment for teaching a full SMI course of 1/2 a Fixed Term Management Unit (FTMU) which, for 2009, is $2000. Teachers may decide to team-teach a particular SMI course, in which case they will be paid in proportion to their contribution to the course, e.g. a pair of teachers sharing the delivery of a SMI course equally will receive 1/4 FMU each ($1000).

Each SMI course needs to generate enough income from schools to provide for 1/2 FTMU ($2000) which will be paid to the teacher who delivers that course. With a working minimum enrollments on a SMI course of 12 students, the fee charged for each enrollment is $170. This results in a course income of $2040. A range of course enrollments, fees and incomes are given in the table below.

Fee charged per enrollment ($) Minimum number of enrollments Total course income based on minimum number of enrollments ($)

We need to make some key decisions on the finances - these include:

  • What is the minimum class size and hence enrollment fee?
  • Do we enforce the minimum number of students for each SMI class or do we work towards an average SMI class size that will make the scheme break even overall?
  • What we do with excess money (redistribute to schools in proportion to the number of enrollments, minus an administration fee?)?

An alternative business plan model, one that uses an average SMI class size is given below. The minimum number of total SMI enrollments paying a set enrollment fee for a particular number of SMI courses can be calcualted using the formula:

Enrollment fee($)
Total number of SMI courses
Minimum number of SMI enrollments

SMI Diagram
The SMI diagram, left, outlines the SMI business plan. When a school enrolls a student on a SMI course, the school sends the enrollment fee to Mt Aspiring College, Wanaka. The fees are collated for each course and redistributed to the SMI teachers 'home schools' so that the SMI teachers can be paid 1/2 FTMU. The payment to teachers is based entirely on the number of SMI courses taught, not the number of students enrolled in the class. Therefore a teacher who has 14 students in their class will be paid the same as a teacher who has 17 students.
To ensure the SMI scheme generates enough income to be sustainable, the minimum number of students required for a course to be financially viable depends on cost charged per enrollment. For 2009 the cost is $??? and the minimum number of students n.

SMI Bond Scheme

To participate in the SMI scheme, each school will pay a $200 bond. This will be used to enable SMI courses to run that otherwise might not be financially viable. The bond, or a proportion of it, will be returned to schools at the end of the scheme.

Next Steps

SMI Event Deadline Date
Review SMI Policy & Procedures End of week 1 of Term 2
Cluster Leaders identify available mentor teachers willing to take SMI classes
(i.e. identify the pool of available teachers)
End of week 3 of Term 2
Meeting of Cluster Leaders - identify SMI 'Course Lead Teachers' and the pool of teachers for each subject. Determine probable SMI course menu Beginning of week 4 of Term 2
LMS class sites are established End of week 4 of Term 2

Training (online pedagogy; use of VC and LMS) of prospective SMI tutor teachers begins Runs from week 4 through to end of Term 2
(& ongoing support offered in T3 & 4)

Set up VLN class pages. Check new student self enrolment is ready to be used End of week 4 of Term 2
Send out SMI info & begin accepting enrolments Beginning of week 6 of Term 2
Sort of likely classes(criteria for selection procedures for oversubscribed classes??)
Invite other clusters to enrol students (on to 'VLN 'waiting list'; accepted if space in classes) students
Beginning of week 9 of Term 2
SMI classes and mentor teachers finalised;
schools invoiced for students they have enrolled;
Timetable for VC tutorials finalised (& VC bridge bookings done); LMS logons set up
Week 10 of Term 2
Final information sent to students, schools and SMI mentor teachers for the start of programme in Term 3 End of week 10 of Term 2
SMI Tutorials commence week 1 of Term 3
Student withdrawals (& late enrolments) End of week 2 of Term 3
Payment of SMI tutor teachers (via their schools); Student evaluation of SMI programme Term 4
Final SMI tutorials end of week 5 of Term 4
Analysis of Scholarship results late January 2010

Protocols and Documentation

The following documentation is based on that of Otagonet's SMI scheme.
Structure and Operation
Remuneration and Expenses


Trevor Storr

Aorakinet Director of eLearning


Waimate High School


03 689 8920

Darren Sudlow

Cantatech eLearning Leader


027 217 1121

Ken Pullar


027 446 8532

vicki smith


021 778 067