Cluster Merger Proposal: Cantatech and AorakiNet 2011

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Executive Summary

The purpose of this proposal is to detail the reasons for amalgamating Cantatech and AorakiNet and then examine how the new cluster/network would run.

The purpose of clustering, and how this might change with the NEN roll out is outlined. Cluster goals and principles have been developed that puts learner opportunities and system-wide collaboration as a focus of cluster activity. A vision statement will be developed by all participating members. A leadership structure consisting of Principals and two ePrincipals is suggested for 2011, with a move to a more distributed and sustainable structure from 2012 onwards. Next year is a transition to something that will be structurally quite different and will require less resourcing financially from 2012 onwards.

Proposed activity in 2011 consists of: supporting a VC programme of 23 classes, further development of our online space for collaboration and learning, the SCD regional ICTPD Blended Learning Project, development of professional networks (communities of practice) based on learning areas and other interest groups, Scholarship Mentoring classes, Gifted and Talented Project, Te Reo Maori Project.

Benefits of the future cluster to learners, staff and schools are: personalisation and flexibility of learning; opportunities to participate in professional development on the pedagogical application of eLearning; the ability to provide opportunities to learners and teachers that no individual school can offer.

The financial arrangements the cluster for 2011 have been outlined.

The key tasks of the ePrincipals for 2011 include: strategic leadership, providing support for teachers and learners, administering the online programme, leading the development of and supporting use of the collaborative online learning environment.

Key Benefits Key Financial Commitments
  • Access to virtual courses
  • Access to teacher professional learning
  • Access to online learning environment (including LMS)
  • A teacher for a virtual course or .2 staffing to a school that can
  • Site Supervisor one hour a week (at least)
  • $9525 administrative and leadership costs


Canterbury rev3.png
The merger of Aorakinet and Cantatech provides cluster schools with the opportunity to revisit the purpose and vision of participating in a regional cluster of schools.

Historically, clustering of schools has taken place for a simple reason: many schools find that without collaborating with other schools it is impossible to provide all the opportunities required by both their teachers and their learners. These opportunities are easily illustrated for teachers by the ICTPD and regional cluster initiatives and VC classes for learners.

The recent announcements concerning the National Education Network (NEN) are very exciting and provide an opportunity to reflect on or even change the models of education provision in New Zealand. Regional clusters of schools - often involving both Primary and Secondary schools in a particular region - have formed (e.g. Christchurch Loop, Wellington Loop etc.) to provide leadership around NEN connectivity. These loops/regional clusters of schools are now also beginning to explore how urban schools can collaborate to provide better opportunities for their school communities. In many ways, these urban clusters are fortunate: they will get fibre connectivity soon and they have the support of large local authorities. Schools (secondary or primary) in Christchurch, for example, will look to the GCSN for provision of services in a fibre-enabled world such as co-ordination/sharing of PD/ teacher collaboration/ online learning environments. Rural and provincial schools, spread across a wide geographical and political landscape will have to establish their own ‘anchor organisation’ (in the absence of MOE leadership in this area) for networked school collaboration if we are to be able to keep pace with developments in urban centres.

We propose the new SCD cluster could, over time, evolve in to such an organisation for rural Waitaki and Canterbury. At present the clusters are comprised of secondary and area schools. As the NEN develops the cluster will need to consider the benefits of extending membership to primary schools.  It will also be important to bring local government bodies on board with the concept of a regional network that can benefit schools and communities.  The structure of the cluster will need to be lean yet scalable to reflect changing membership and provide sustainability. A distributed leadership structure is likely to provide this capability. In 2012, to reflect this need, the current ePrincipal model will need to change.

The rationale of collaborating more closely than at present is driven by the recognition that ICTPD has increased the skill level of teachers (in ICT) but has has little impact on pedagogy and hence learner attainment. It is not difficult to list possible reasons for this:

  • leadership in schools has not signalled or supported pedagogical change
  • teachers have not experienced relevant models of changed pedagogy
  • teachers have had inadequate support in changing pedagogy

The proposed SCD cluster will provide support for schools in overcoming these barriers to change.

NEN connectivity will enable a more personalised approach to learning and rich collaborative opportunities for schools, teachers and students. For schools to work together in a cluster - and in particular to take advantage of shared online services such as a shared LMS or ePortfolio, they will need to consider changing some of the processes and protocols around which ICT is managed in individual schools.

Closer collaboration between schools, as part of cluster activity, could have the following implications:

  • commitment to use the cluster LMS and ePortfolio
  • commitment to explore strategies to enable schools to work together at a systems level (e.g. common meeting times and schedules, official recognition of cluster departments etc.)
  • commitment to share PD opportunities - advertised through a cluster calendar
  • commitment to developing and adopting cluster ICT policies
  • commitment to promoting collaboration between schools, teachers and learners at a strategic level within schools

In summary, cluster schools are at a crossroads. One path will lead to much greater collaboration between schools and has the potential to enable schools to benefit greatly from the NEN. The other path is less forward-looking and has as its single focus schools and learners as consumers of VLN / VC services.

Vision for the Cluster

The cluster vision statement will need to be developed collaboratively with cluster stakeholders.

Draft Cluster Goals:

To provide:

  • co-ordination and leadership of flexible online programmes of learning for students of all member schools
  • online, elearning, services for cluster schools

To guide schools in developing:

  • innovative teaching practices that harness the potential of eLearning to provide ubiquitous learning for all students
  • a personalised approach to learning
  • regional communities of learners

To develop:

  • communities of practice in which principals, teachers and technicians share and develop their professional expertise
  • a sustainable and scalable community of schools
  • cluster ICT systems and protocols

Draft Cluster Principles

Our principles guide how the cluster works and our schools interact.

Cluster schools commit to actively work together, rather than alone, when ever appropriate

  • Professional collaboration of BoT’s, Principals, Teachers, Technicians
  • Active Participation by schools

Cluster schools commit to promoting and adopting sound pedagogical practices

  • Innovation
  • Learner centred pedagogy
  • Personalised learning
  • Building a regional community of life long learners

Cluster schools commit to seek to reflect on and improve cluster activities

  • Provision of quality, flexible learning programmes
  • Access to technology, resources and expertise

Leadership Structure

  • Governance Group consisting of four Principals and the two ePrincipals
  • Management group consisting of ePrincipals plus other interested parties
  • Two ePrincipals
  • Move to a distributed model after first year of amalgamation

Cluster Activity 2011

Online Programme (VC)


Schools will have access to a broad range of courses within the COS (Community of Schools) as well through the Virtual Learning Network

  • 23 courses through the COS
  • Up to 300 courses through the Virtual Learning Network
  • Each school provides one course. If a school cannot provide a course then staffing is transferred to a school that can
  • Courses will be chosen according to what schools want and what a particular schools is able to offer
  • Courses set by the end of term two at latest and placed in school course handbooks for students to choose from as part of all courses offered by a school

eSchool (includes eTeachers, site supervisors and students)

  • Staffing - teachers at least four hours per week and site supervisors at least one hour per week
  • School based appraisal for each teacher which is linked into a structured professional learning programme run by an ePrincipal. Each ePrincipal will liaise with the relevant staff (who are running appraisal) in each school and will advise on the best ways to judge teaching and learning in a distance environment
  • Shared online area for all staff which allows access to relevant documents and information. This will also be a space for teachers to share expertise
  • eSchool meeting each term. Relevant online PD run at regular intervals (through VC and Adobe Connect)
  • Two PD days at the end of each year for all teachers
  • Expectations of engagement with professional learning
  • Induction programme for new teachers, site supervisors and students This will require more release time than the two days previously outlined. Student induction will involve more than just an orientation day. A student module will be available online for students to develop some necessary skills before they begin their course(s).

Administrative procedures

  • Online calendar for all events
  • All relevant information (pins, courses, timetable, etc) published online in Educo
  • Grades for NZQA centralised online in shared space
  • Common reporting dates and processes
  • Course evaluation term two and end of year. Results fed back to teachers and principals and used for school appraisal


Each school will be expected to market the online programme to students and parents so they are aware of what is available. This could involve:

  • All courses published in each school’s course handbook
  • Information published regularly in the school newsletter
  • eP at option evenings / meet with guidance group before options
  • Publishing achievement data and survey results which can then be accessed by schools
  • Ongoing update of community blog
  • Development of a website which will act as the public face of the COS
  • Development of distinctive logo

Collaboration Projects

  • Blended Learning Project
    • eLearning group in each school attached to BLP teacher
    • Each group connects monthly through VC to share expertise
    • Ongoing support and PD for each group from ePrincipals
  • Junior opportunities - G&T programme, Te Papa VC’s, etc.
  • Development of professional networks (curriculum groups, G&T, etc.) supported by video conference and web based tools.
  • Te Reo Maori provision

ICTPD Contracts

A number of member schools are part of an ICTPD contract. These contracts often result in teachers having increased ICT skills but little change in pedagogical practice. The new merged cluster complements more transitory ICTPD by providing a pedagogical regional focus.

Access to the OLE (Online Learning Environment)

All member schools have access to the shared online learning environment which currently consists of:

  • Moodle (LMS)
  • ePorfolio system (Mahara)
  • Google Apps for Education.

These are provided as part of cluster membership and are led, developed and managed by the ePrincipals and Glen Davies from Core Ed (contracted by the Ministry of Education).

Technical Leadership

Where schools ICT systems impact on the ability of learners and schools to collaborate, SCD will provide leadership and develop policies and procedures for schools to adopt so that technology helps rather than hinders collaboration.

For example, a cluster approach to usernames and email - so each cluster learner has a unique username and a current email address that is accessible from school will be important. Learners will be able to keep the same username and email address as they move through the educational system, from primary through to secondary school.

Other Parties

There will be other interested parties that may come into consideration for 2011 and beyond. There are one or two individual schools who could potentially join next year and WestNet is still a possibility for the future. They are interested in an amalgamation and a successful interim period next year would be very persuasive.

The formation of a regional cluster will likely be of interest to Primary schools (who may be interested, for example, in language provision) and local authorities (who have - or should have - an interest in ensuring local communities thrive). The cluster will need to be aware of, and take advantage of opportunities to engage with these potential partners.


  • Contribute at least one teacher at 0.2 FTTE for the online programme or transfer the staffing to another school
  • 2011 only cluster budget will be $200,000. This consists of 2 FTTE’s plus $20,000 operational costs. Staffing is payable in staffing transfer or cash. For 21 schools this is $9525 per school.
  • 2012 onwards - a distributed leadership model will substantially reduce the financial commitment required to operate the cluster.

Management of Budget

There will be one fund holding school that manages the budget for the cluster. Staffing for the ePrincipal roles will be transferred to another school if necessary. The fund holding school will be decided once the positions are.


Cluster benefits

Benefits to the learner

Much of the benefits for learner fit around developing a more personalised approach to learning

  • Broad subject choice
  • Flexibility. Students are not confined to a classroom for a certain number of hours on a given day, they can approach their coursework with flexibility
  • Fewer timetabling constraints on subject choice
  • Working with new people. The opportunity to work with students from a range of different backgrounds and from different parts of the country can be appealing to students who live in a small rural community
  • Self-paced learning. For slow and quick learners. This reduces stress and increases satisfaction
  • The opportunity to take responsibility for their learning and develop lifelong skills
  • Potential for more individualised learning with smaller course groups than in many secondary schools

Benefits to staff

  • Professional development in the pedagocial application of eLearning (whether fully online or blended)
  • Professional development in eLearning tools (Moodle, Google Apps, etc.)
  • An opportunity to teach their specialist senior subject regardless of numbers ‘locally’
  • Remote access to meetings and professional development
  • The opportunity to connect with like-minded teachers and develop professional networks
  • Access to afree online environment that includes an LMS (Moodle), Google Apps for Education and an ePortfolio system (Mahara)

Benefits to a school

  • Able to access 23 online courses through the cluster and over 250 courses through the Virtual Learning Network
  • Able to more effectively personalise learning for students
  • Professional development of some teachers in the pedagogical application of eLearning
  • Involvement in the Blended Learning Project running from 2010-2012
  • Able to develop self-managing students
  • Access to afree online environment that includes an LMS (Moodle), Google Apps for Education and an ePortfolio system (Mahara) for all teachers and learners.
  • Opportunities for teachers to collaborate through the LMS and Google Apps and therefore better cater to the needs of individual students.
  • Access to collaborative projects including:
    • a gifted and talented programme for juniors
    • development of online communities of practice for general teaching staff
    • A national Scholarship mentoring programme
  • Access by school leadership for eLearning advice and guidance

Statement of Commitment for member schools

The future cluster anticipates member schools will:

  • Contribute the necessary funds to run the cluster
  • Provide one course and a teacher (at .2 FTTE) for the distance learning programme
  • Transfer staffing to a school that can offer an extra course, if unable to do so themselves
  • Include a distance learning component in the eTeacher’s appraisal. Liaise with an ePrincipal in the development of a relevant professional learning programme and evaluation of teacher effectiveness
  • Include an eLearning component that is in line with cluster activity within their own strategic plan
  • Endeavour to attend cluster meetings, whether for Principals, staff or students
  • Provide a site supervisor with at least one hour a week
  • Promote the online learning programme with staff, students and parents through newsletters, assemblies, option evenings, course booklets and by liaising with an ePrincipal
  • Ensure the necessary physical environment and resources for students to be successful in the online learning programme. This would include regular and easy access to technology beyond the VC, including, computers, webcams, microphones or headsets
  • Explore strategies to enable schools to work together at a systems level (e.g. common meeting times and schedules, official recognition of cluster departments etc.
  • Promote collaboration between member schools amongst staff teachers and learners
  • Communicate what aspects of the cluster the school wants to get involved with in term four of 2010 (especially with reference to collaborative projects) and to commit to those over a period of at least one year

ePrincipal Leadership Tasks 2011

The tasks of the two proposed ePrincipals are outlined below

ePrincipal (South Canterbury) ePrincpal (Mid - North Canterbury)
Shared Roles

Contribute to VLNC  Interface with VLNIS and MOE
Interface with other clusters
Provide onsite support and PD for eTeachers, BLP teacher, site supervisors, eStudents (according to Geography)
Liase with Principals / school leadership (according to Geography)
Strategic Leadership Roles - Strategic planning, blue sky thinking, organise and lead meetings 



VLNC Council Member

VLNIS Working Group Leader


VLNC Sustainability Working Group Leader

Online Programme (Administrative)

Enrolments, timetabling, publishing and disseminating information online at the beginning of the year

NZQA - NCEA, MOUs, etc.


Online Programe (Teaching and Learning)

Lead professional development of teachers including running VC meetings and online PD

Liaise with schools in appraisal of eTeachers

Co-ordinate evaluation of teacher programm

BLP (more overlap of roles with the blended learning project)


MOE liaison

Technology support

Manage relationships and communication

Technological PL Overview


Liaison (Niki Davis, interested parties)

Project Scheduling

Coordination of PL Programme

Pedagogical PL Overview

Manage Relationships and communication

Collaborative Projects / Programmes

Develop and co-ordinate junior and senior opportunities including gifted and talented programme, Te Papa VC, languages, Te Reo Maori, scholarship mentoring

Collaborative Projects / Programmes

Co-ordinate PD programme and calendar for teaching staff through VC and Educo

OLE Technical

Primary role in managing and developing the infrastructure

Manage online technical support for schools and teachers (e.g. manage usernames and passwords)

Liaise with Ministry on technical issues

OLE Teaching and Learning

Secondary role in managing and developing infrastructure

Manage online support for teaching and learning (e.g. advise lead teachers in course development)