By Mick Jensen
Next year’s intake of Year 9 pupils at Ashburton College are being asked if they want to be part of a new Innovation Class pilot programme which aims to “future proof” learning and better prepare students for life after school.
The pilot programme is based on an integrated learning model and will be staffed by teachers who volunteer and students who opt in.
Students will still have the option of following the traditional, well-defined single-subject approach.
Ashburton College principal Ross Preece said the pilot programme was an exiting step forward for Ashburton College in better equipping students for the future.
“We are moving to the stage now where students need to be more creative, need to be problem solvers and need to reflect on what they are doing.
“They also need to learn and practise collaboration, communication and other ‘soft skills’.
“Developing those skills under the traditional teaching model that’s been running for the last 150 years is simply not going to happen.”
Mr Preece said under the pilot programme lessons would be less defined and driven instead by student inquiry, interests and passions.
He said the subject lines in the Innovation Class would be a little more “blurred”, with students having more choice in their learning.
“The Innovation Class programme in Term 1 could incorporate, for example, the topic of Our Place. It could target specific local topics in maths lessons and focus on issues such as water quality, or genetics in science,” he said.
Ashburton College junior school principal Carolyn Clough said a lot of thought and discussion had gone into the pilot programme.
Next year’s Year 9 students would be “foreshadowing change” and “riding the crest of a wave” throughout their school years.
Mrs Clough said around 30 teachers had volunteered for the pilot and some of those had been involved in a “positive” mini trial in term 2 last year.
The pilot programme would expand each year to bring more students on board and be refined, as necessary, she said.
All Year 9 students would continue to have five one-hour lessons, whether they opted in or out.
There was also unlikely to be a top band class next year, Mrs Clough said.
Current Year 8 students and their parents are invited to an open evening on September 6. Presentations in the auditorium will take place at 5.30pm and 6.15pm and are followed by guided or self-guided tours.
Ashburton College will hold an enrolment week from September 17 to 21, with an online booking system for interviews opening August 29.
Mr Preece said Ashburton College was expecting up to 300 Year 9 students for the 2019 year.
“We’ll have to wait and see how many opt into the Innovation Class, but from 12 classes, it could be four, or more, we just don’t know yet.”
He said an announcement would be made early in term 4.
Ashburton College has 1150 students and 90 teachers. Projections show that the student roll will likely increase to 1600 pupils over the next few years.
A major rebuild and restructure of school buildings to accommodate those numbers is also on the cards, with larger, flexible learning spaces set to appear on the school footprint.