Your Questions Answered

Are you wondering what ‘Innovative Learning Environments’ are all about? Have you any questions you would like answered? Please use the form below to submit your question and then check back later for the reply.

Ngunguru School ‘Caves and Watering Holes’  Guiding Principles to our ‘Physical Design’


  • Why don’t we just rebuild a school with 6 individual classrooms like we had?

    We want the best for our children, the best progress, outcomes, well-being and relationships. We want our children to be self regulated lifelong learners. We have a chance (one chance!) to build a school for 2020 children, to meet their needs in an ever changing world, based on what we now understand about how children learn. My first car was a Morris 1000 van, great car but there is no way I would pretend it is an acceptable vehicle today .

  • Does this new design make teaching better and do teachers like it?

    Yes it makes teaching better, when teachers can work together, collaborate, share the responsibility, share their areas of strength and expertise, see one another in action the bar is raised. Teachers who have or are working in these environments do not want to go back to the isolation of a single class.

  • How will you keep track of my child?

    With many more eyes than we have in a single classroom. Evidence suggests that children are more responsible and self regulated in these new environments, not to mention they love the flexibility, freedom to move and spaces designed to meet their needs across the curriculum.

  • Will the innovative learning spaces (ILE’s) be all one year level, i.e., Y3 level, a Y5 level?

    No. At Ngunguru we teach according to ‘stage not age’ and the best way to do this is in multi levels (like we do now) it also ensures that teachers have a stronger grasp of the curriculum and knowledge of next steps for learning. There is also plenty of evidence that children are better learners when in multi age level rooms. The exact composition will be our current multi age groupings. One year 3-4 hub and One year 5-6 hub

  • Didn’t we try this in the 1980’s and fail?

    No. This type of learning environment has been in use around the world for over two decades. Ngunguru has the opportunity to create the best learning environment by seeing what subtle changes other schools have made over time. In the 1980’s there was no deep understanding about how to co teach, the environment was very noisy and teachers (and children) were simply thrown into the deep end. Furthermore the world we live in has changed dramatically since the 1980’s. The 1990’s was the decade where we really started to find out about how children learn and teachers teach best. We are now building our school to meet that need!

  • Will my child have the same teacher?

    Yes, each teacher will have their “home” group, i.e., class and this will be the teacher that you go to with queries or concerns. They will report to you and meet with you at Parent Interviews. Your child’s sense of belonging and security with their teacher remains. Like in early childhood centres such as Kindergartens and preschools there are also other teachers and adults in the learning spaces. Your child will have times when one of the other teachers in the hub will be teaching them. 

  • Will the teaching and learning programmes be the same?

    Yes, the focus remains on the teaching, learning and student achievement. We use a co-operative and collaborative approach and use teacher’s strengths. The teachers plan together and work very closely with each other.

  • Why are all the tables (or desks) and chairs different?

    Modern Learning Environments cater for the differing needs of our students. You will see some furniture that is the same, of different heights, e.g., kneeling benches, tables that you stand around, wobble stools etc. There is minimal formal seating.

  • With open spaces – How do you stop the talking and noises from other classes distracting the children working in the same block?

    In our newly built block, our ILE is are designed with new building materials and new technologies specifically to reduce noise. Variable spaces allow for quiet places and as always teacher management is the key to noise levels.

  • Why is there no room number?

    Our ILE’s are large spaces accommodating multiple teachers and students. The old single cell home room Number is no longer relevant.

  • Is reading, writing, maths still a focus? What will it look like?

    Yes, these are fundamentals of learning. As in our current rooms, we will have a strong group focus, based on ability rather than age.  We will still test to see what children know and what they need to know.  Juniors will still reinforce their learning with relevant reading activities, as they do now.

  • How do children normally transition when they get to high school and revert back to the ‘old’ style teaching methods and classrooms?

    Some kids love the new challenge of high school and some struggle.  One of the advantages of team teaching in our ILE environment is that children are used to working with several teachers.

    ILE teaches children to question and to work out what works for them.  This will help them settle into school, and quickly grasp which teacher’s approach suits them best, and how they can best adapt their choices and behaviour to get the most out of each teacher for them. Future Focused Teaching and Learning also helps children become more organised and stronger self-managers.

    Also, having experienced an ILE, our children will already have become used to moving around different teachers for different aspects of learning, so this won’t be new for them.

  • Obviously it’s a good learning environment for children who are self motivated…What about the kids who aren’t, or who are easily distracted?

    Keeping these children on task is an issue in a single-cell classroom also.  The advantage in an ILE environment is that there will be more eyes watching – with  2 or 3 teachers and a teacher aide, rather than just one teacher.  So there will be less opportunity to hide and more adults to assist.

    Also, with 2 or  3 teachers in the learning teams there is more chance that each child will find that they bond with at least one of those teachers, rather than spending a year or two  with a teacher that they perhaps struggle to relate too.

  • Where is the research about innovative learning environments?

    There is increasingly strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of it. Collaborative learning, team teaching, co-teaching, using ICT in learning and peer teaching are all recognized as effective methods with strong research about each of these areas.

    Also noted that New Zealand is not the first country to adopt this approach.  It is tried and tested in some European countries.

    On our website under the heading Our School you will find a tab headed Innovative Learning Environments. This contains a large amount of information including research that you can view.

  • How will the school help students from losing self esteem if they are grouped with younger children, considered a year below, in reading, writing or math groupings?

    Children know if they are struggling – and they often prefer working in groups at the same academic level, rather than working above or below their ability. In addition, in our multi level classrooms children just view themselves as one class. They seldom make the year group distinction. Children are also only ever placed in a group with children one year younger than them. There may be some instances though, where a gifted younger student works with older students for some subjects. This is just what happens now. Where we are team teaching in the senior school, we have discovered that while a child may not understand something explained by one teacher, another teachers’ way of explaining it might ‘click’ with the student. Yet another ILE advantage.

  • How much of an age range could there be within a reading or writing group (particularly if a child was quite low in a group)? Will the school be able to pre-empt recovery support in these skill areas, how? Will the system give support to children who don’t fit into funded help, how?

    As noted above, we will be grouping children according to their ability.  The new learning areas will most likely contain no more than two-three year groups but this depends on numbers. Parents need to remember that even in a single year class e.g. Year 5, that there may be an academic spread of 4 or 5 years e.g. reading ages of 7-12. Multi-level teaching doesn’t necessarily mean a vastly wider ability spread. Success breeds success, and children will naturally move to work with children who are at the same level as them and share common academic goals.  Children will be grouped according to the ability, and we will use the different teachers strengths to consolidate and extend pupils abilities and passions.

  • How will the different reading, writing group teachers develop and maintain a valid relationship with parents, as room teachers seem to know your child so well?

    This is being given a lot of time and discussion amongst staff currently.  Children’s needs and self esteem is paramount, and will always come first. There will be information about how this will work closer to the time.  However, it is likely that the ‘home teacher’ will always be the first port of call for day-to-day issues.  If you have a question about a specific topic, e.g., reading then the home teacher may arrange a meeting for you with your child’s reading teacher, if they feel that would be more beneficial.

  • How will my child’s needs be catered for in a bigger class?

    Over many years we have been working in ways that involve children as central to the learning process. We have adapted the philosophy “it takes a village to educate a child” and within our school all children are our children.  We believe as teachers we have a collective responsibility for supporting each other to work at ensuring all our children experience personal levels of success and wellbeing.  Our teachers already plan collaboratively; they meet regularly to discuss the learning needs of children in their care, to problem solve where children are “stuck” in their learning and to share new ideas. At times teacher aides are employed to support children working in specialised programmes; children have been crossed grouped to other classes to work with others who are operating at their learning level.  Teachers will continue to be responsible for the planning, assessment and reporting needs of their reading, writing or maths groups.

    They will continue to monitor the social wellbeing of not only their home group, but contribute ideas and insights for the development of all students in the learning space.  In a larger group, children have access to more teacher expertise.

  • Why are we trialling collaborative teaching before the new block is built?

    Elements of co-operative and collaborative practice has been in our school for many years. In 2018  we formalised this with all staff beginning to explore the ideas of co teaching and collaborative ways of working that would allow them to operate more effectively together in an ILE environment.

    As with all new learning, this is a time of change, of trialling an idea, evaluating it, making changes and moving forward.

     Many of them had already worked alongside other teachers in a buddy classes, or job share, with teacher aides and parent helpers and were used to working with other adults in the room. It is a natural progression to run their classes across 2-3 rooms, to cross group for different learning areas and to utilise each teacher’s strengths and passions. Our new build simply allows us now to do so more easily.

  • What are the benefits of teachers working together in collaborative ways with a larger group of children?
    • Better student teacher ratios and more opportunities for individual attention as children can be flexibly grouped to meet their learning needs
    • Children have access to a wider range of instructional techniques
    • Teachers report that they are more challenged, reflective and aware of their practice when working alongside another professional- we lift our game when working with our peers!
    • Improved social relationships- children have more space dedicated to a particular activity; there are opportunities to interact with a wider range of student and to find the “like minded” others that you may not find in a smaller mix of children. 
    • Reported increased levels of personal responsibility seen in children as they learn that they are in charge of their learning and in control of making learning decisions (this choice empowers us)
    • A more community orientated classroom
    • More opportunities for teachers to dialogue and problem solve, to help overcome student related issues
    • Daily professional learning opportunities as teachers observe each other teach
    • Children are “known” at a deeper level by more than one teacher