Our Learning Highway

Think . . . Do . . . Discover!

These three words underpin all aspects of Riverhead School. They are the focus for Riverhead School’s Vision, Bump@r Expectations, Capabilities, and Learning Model.

Our ‘why’ is what drives us. This is informed by Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and Dr Julia Aitken’s model of developing a values and vision based approach to school development.

Our drive to action, our will to act, is driven by what we say we value and believe – our ‘heart’. If a practice is suggested from outside, our first question should be WHY? - How will doing this, using this practice, help us achieve what we say we value? As we explore new practices we constantly reflect on how well it enables us to achieve what we value.

As we created our future focussed curriculum, we used this process to develop who we are from our vision, values and beliefs, principles and practices. We are able to identify our values and beliefs which are the basis for particular practices, and we are engaged in reflecting upon how particular practices help us achieve what we value and believe.

Strategic Direction

Our Annual Strategic Direction influences ‘The Riverhead Way’ - how we do things. The Riverhead Way permeates our Charter, school wide targets, Teaching as Inquiry, and curriculum design/implementation. This is part of our self review annually with the staff and formally reviewed through consultation with the Board of Trustees, every three years. You will find this on the Riverhead Portal.

Powerful Learning

We believe powerful learning and innovation occurs through Thinking, Doing, and Discovering. We want our learners to think about, do something about it, and discover something new. Our ‘why’ is driven by this and we have 5 key components that are underpinned by our Riverhead School vision. They are:

We believe learners (teachers and/or students) working with each other will create more than one could individually. This has become a key driver of why we do what we do. Our teachers work collegially towards achieving a shared goal/purpose through authentic and connected learning. Collaborative and co-teaching practices involve teachers working together in teaching teams across the school, to plan, teach and assess learners. ‘Thinking’ together, ‘doing’ together and ‘discovering’ together!

Our purpose built Innovative Learning Environments (ILE), allow for this to be a reality. Traditional approaches to teaching and learning are no longer enough on their own to give our children the best education to prepare them for life. Innovative learning approaches such as collaboration have not replaced familiar teaching approaches. Rather, they have expanded teaching and learning practices to suit our learners.

We are constantly collaboratively reflecting on what the evidence says about quality teaching and learning by:

  • regularly reviewing the impact of our teaching practice on learning
  • actively seeking external observation and critique by colleagues and more experienced teachers and leaders
  • seeking and contributing to evidence of what works to improve learning outcomes and how we can apply that in our day-to-day practice
  • innovating when ‘what works’ doesn’t work for all learners or all the time.

Community of Learning - Whiria Te Tangata

Riverhead School is part of the Whiria Te Tangata Community of Learning with 9 other Norwest Schools. This is a collaborative working group who focus collectively on Key Drivers of Change.

The drivers are:

  • Collective Teacher Efficacy - Building teacher efficacy in collaborative ways of working
  • Culturally Responsive Pedagogy - Embedding culturally responsive pedagogy
  • Learner Agency - Developing learner agency
  • Powerful Learning Connections - Strengthening learning connections with parents, families, whānau, ākonga and teachers
  • Powerful Community Connections - Developing a local curriculum utilising the context provided by the local community, and economic opportunities.

We believe our learners have the power to act. This is achieved by them being personally responsible for discovering their potential. At Riverhead School we focus on the explicit teaching of agentic skills to enable learners to be able to identify, reflect and act on where they are at in their learning and what their next steps will be. Moving from teachers completely owning the learning process to learners owning more of it.

Through the Bump@r Learner Capabilities and Learning Progressions our students are developing autonomy and agency in their learning. Students are ‘Spectators’, ‘Passengers’, ‘Navigators’ or ‘Drivers’ of their learning and these are informed by the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum.

Extensive research has proven that students learn best when they are:

  • actively involved in decision making
  • initiating learning
  • collaborating together
  • making connections within and across learning areas.

We believe to be a connected and contributing member of society, in an unknown future, Riverhead learners need to be empowered to navigate, utilise and critically evaluate digital landscapes.

Along with strong foundations in reading, writing, mathematics and other learning areas, young people need other skills such as digital fluency, complex problem-solving and the ability to work with others both in person and virtually.

Through purposeful use of varied digital tools, we promote multimodal learning to achieve authentic learning outcomes. This manifests through informed decision-making about the effectiveness of tools, and creating new tools based on problem solving whilst demonstrating responsible digital citizenship. Digitally fluent learners experience opportunities to build on their capabilities through exploring, creating, accessing, analysing and problem solving in range of contexts.

Acceleration has become a core part of ‘what we do’ at Riverhead. We believe in identifying learners who need support in order to achieve their potential at an accelerated rate. We expose learners to new learning, at their expected curriculum level, that is focussed on individual needs. Data conversations inform our targeted teaching, focussing on the need that will create the greatest shifts.

This is achieved through identifying, planning, targeting, scaffolding higher levels of learning, front loading, timely assessment, student interests and home school partnerships. Research indicates that this is best practice and we have moved from using Teaching as Inquiry as the vehicle of accelerative practice to it now being embedded school wide in everyday teaching and learning program design.

An innovative learning pedagogy is driven by understandings around how authentic, personalised learning can enable our students to have increased engagement, ownership and agency over their learning.

Our curriculum - Learning Highway - is child-centred by design. Some delivery models and frameworks to support these theories include:

  • Riverhead School Inquiry Learning model - process driven
  • Problem/Action-based learning - exploring real world problems
  • Passion projects - like genius hour
  • Play based learning - exploration and discovery

We believe in our students discovering and developing their potential as inquisitive learners who are critical, creative thinkers. We achieve this by encouraging students to take learning into their own hands. They are responsible for making choices about what they will learn and explore. They have authentic experiences through play or action based learning, passions, and our Riverhead learning model.

Learning Highway

Our Curriculum design and implementation ensures we have coverage of the different learning areas and strands of the New Zealand Curriculum across a 3 year cycle. It is child centred by design and is embedded with the components of - Curriculum Overview 2018

Our curriculum has the following components across a year:

Action Based Learning

Action Based Learning promotes intentional learning, relation understanding, critical and creative thinking, and effective collaboration. Action learning is an approach to solving real problems that involves taking action and reflecting upon the results, which helps improve the problem-solving process, as well as the solutions developed by the team.

The action learning process includes:

  • a real problem that is important, critical, and usually complex,
  • a collaborative problem-solving team
  • a process that promotes curiosity, inquiry, and reflection,
  • a requirement that talk be converted into action and, ultimately, a solution
  • a commitment to learning.

We use the 6 D’s of solution fluency as a process for Action Based learning:

In Action Based Learning the teacher is a coach who is responsible for promoting and facilitating learning, as well as encouraging the team to be self-managing. The theory of action learning is used by business and organisations worldwide.

Riverhead School Learning Model - Inquiry framework

Our Riverhead Learning Model encourages reflective thought and action. It facilitates shared learning, promotes connections with prior knowledge and provides a broad range of opportunities for learning. Riverhead School’s Learning Model scaffolds students’ learning in order for them to become independent learners who think deeply. The planning of explicit teaching combines higher thinking and questioning skills. These include Bloom's Taxonomy, Thinking Hats, Solo Taxonomy, Graphic Organisers, and Multiple Intelligences.

Passion Projects

‘Genius Hour’ is a concept of Passion Projects. It allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students with a choice in what they learn during a designated period of time during school.

The teacher provides a set amount of time for the students to work on their passion projects. Students are then challenged to explore and complete a project that they want to learn about.

They spend several weeks researching the topic before creating a product that will be shared with the class/school/world. Deadlines are limited and creativity is encouraged. Throughout the process the teacher facilitates the student projects to ensure that they are on task.

Play Based Learning

Play based learning at Riverhead School is guided by the Walker Learning Approach. It is an exciting and refreshing philosophy that places the child at the centre of the curriculum and teaching strategies;

it ensures authentic personalized learning. It is based on decades of research on play-based and personalized learning and social constructivism.It is not a program or an inquiry model sitting discreetly or separately from other curriculum areas. It is a total approach to teaching and learning that combines the need for children to be active participants in their learning through hands-on and creative exploration and investigation that sits alongside formal instruction.

Walker Learning Approach

The main aims of this learning approach:

  • To build a bridge between the preschool years and early years of school.
  • For all children, particularly boys, to engage deeply and meaningfully with their learning environment.
  • For children to learn that the skills of literacy and numeracy are meaningful and useful parts of everyday life.
  • For children to have more authentic opportunities to learn social skills, conflict resolution, problem-solving, decision-making and independence.
  • For children to enjoy school.
  • For children to have opportunities that reflect their own culture as well as to have exposure to new concepts and experiences.
  • To move away from pre-planned sequences or predetermined topics.
  • For children to have more authentic and frequent opportunities to have their learning personalised and to build skills of personal reflection, intention and evaluation early in the school life.

-Play Matters (Walker, K. 2011).

Frequently Asked Questions:

What happens to formal literacy and numeracy blocks?

These still occur 4 days a week in a similar manner to the way they always have. Timing is more flexible with this way of learning. Our timetable rolls, allowing us to ensure that all groups we plan on seeing for the day, are. Modelling books are an important part of our literacy and numeracy learning - we use them to make notes about individual learning and ongoing goals. The groups are rotated on a fortnightly basis to ensure we have a good understanding of where ‘our’ children are.

Will the children be ready to move to the next year level and will they reach the standards or benchmarks?

This approach does not claim to get children ready any earlier or later than other approaches, the best determiner of that, is the child themselves. WLA does however see higher levels of engagement and enjoyment at school.

Parents have noted to us about how happy their child was and that they were more able to talk about their day than in the previous terms.

How will you get curriculum coverage?

While this is predominantly a child led approach, there is still plenty of space for teacher initiated investigations to ensure we are meeting our curriculum requirements. Teachers can add to interest areas, to ensure children are being extended and are moving on in their investigations.

How do we know where they are at?

Through anecdotal notes in modelling books, daily conversations about the learning that has taken place. We are looking at how we can ensure information is shared amongst ourselves so that there is consistency in teaching and learning.

A Typical Day:

Home Room - Roll, lunch orders etc…


Brainfood - poem, big book

Morning Meeting - Learning Priorities and workshops for the day

Investigations - Teachers observing or working with target children

Reading Workshops

Writing Workshops

Numeracy Workshops