Category Archives: Uncategorized

What is the New Entry system?

In New Zealand, parents are free to send their children to school between the age of five and six at any point throughout the school year (which follows the calendar year). However by the time a child reaches six years old, parents are legally obligated to enroll their child into a school. However, the choice is theirs regarding what term, what week and even what day they want their child to start before the age of six. This means that New Entry teachers (similar to P1 and the other early year teachers) don’t start their year with their full class like in many other countries. Instead, children join them as the terms go on.

Like Scotland, children’s schooling officially begins at primary school. If it’s a ‘full’ primary school (like St Josephs), children stay there from five to 12 years old. If it’s a ‘contributing’ primary school they will move onto to an ‘intermediate’ school for their last two primary school years, from 11-12 years old. Intermediate schools, where they’re available, provide a bridge to the next step of secondary school (which is also sometimes called college, high school or grammar school).

The school years are numbered 1 to 13. Years 0 to 8 are the primary years and years 9 to 13 are the secondary years. Children in primary schools are generally aged 5 to 12 years. In some areas children go to an intermediate school for years 7 and 8. It can become more complicated if a child of 5 years starts school in the second half of the year. Schools sometimes refer to them as year 0 for the second half of the year. If they start school in the first half of the year they will be referred to as year 1.

This system obviously varies quite dramatically to that of Scotland’s and it’s taken me a few weeks to completely get my head around (in fact, I’m not 100% sure I’m quite there yet!). The topic of conversation of comparing new entry in NZ to Scotland came up in the staff room and to be honest, it seemed to cause rather a lot of confusion! As I briefly explained that all children at home start school together at the beginning of the academic year, which starts in August (this alone caused enough confusion as in NZ, the academic year follows the calendar year due to the seasons being the opposite to how they are at home!), and that depending on when a child’s birthday falls in the year they could either be four or five years old, it suddenly dawned on me why this could be so daunting to someone who hasn’t grown up in the country! It certainly was an interesting conversation, that’s for sure. However despite all the little differences in how and when children start school in either country, both are edging towards making children start school at a younger age. This appears to go directly against the philosophy behind the success of the education system in a country such as Finland, which is currently ranking number 1 in many different PISA results. I recently came across an article explaining why children in New Zealand might be starting school as young as four years old and what this means for schools, pre-school education and teachers…

For more information, here is the government’s help and advice page designed to help parents enroll their children to a school:

Week Three (27th March-31st March)

Overview: This week has been an important eye opener in terms of the commitment and effort put into the continual assessment of children’s literacy and numeracy skills. Each child in the class has a ‘home link book’ which allows for constant teacher-to-parent communication regarding reading homework, spelling words and any additional notes or comments that need to be passed along. As an extension of this, children take home an extra home link book at the end of each term full of examples of their work across the curriculum. This provides parents with a visual representation of their child’s learning and progress throughout the academic year. Keeping these up to date and accurate obviously takes a lot of work and this week I’ve had the pleasure of taking part. In particular, I’ve been helping Mrs Jackson with assessing children’s reading ability and ensuring that they’re currently working at an instructional level. This is done by completing a reading record evaluation for each child, an example of which can be seen below.

Example a completed reading record for a higher ability pupil


Reading Record: Basically, the child is asked to read the teacher a story or a particular section of a story. As they’re reading, the teacher follows on the reading record sheet and ticks above each word that the child reads perfectly or writes either sc (standing for self correction, meaning that the child originally made a mistake but noticed it for themselves and corrected that mistake), tc (standing for teacher correction, meaning that the child was unable to read a certain word and the teacher had to intervene), R (standing for repeated) or if a child read a word wrong and didn’t realise/didn’t make an effort to correct themselves, the teacher simply draws a line above this word and writes down the mistake that the child made. This process is repeated for around 120-220 words, depending on a child’s ability. After the child has finished, the teacher asks basic recall and comprehension questions to check for understanding and knowledge of the text they’ve just read. At this point, the child has finished their work and it is up to the teacher to make notes and assess the child’s reading behaviors that have just been observed. This is broken into three main parts: knowledge and understanding of the text, strategies that the child used to read and the fluency of which he/she read the text. Then, once the appropriate boxes and details have been filled out, the teacher looks back over the errors and self corrections made throughout the text and analyses whether the child understood the meaning of the misread word, can recognise the structure or used visual skills to identify the word. This is done by looking at the mistake they made and the word that was actually written and using professional judgement.

Once all these sections have been completed, the teacher counts up the number of errors made and the numbers of s.c’s. These numbers, along with the total number of words read, are put into an online reading record calculator to calculate the child’s accuracy, self-correction rate and whether the level that they’ve just read is independent, instructional or difficult. Of course, the aim of the teacher is to have all children working at the instructional level (90%-95% accuracy rate) so that the reading is challenging, but not too hard. This takes time and effort and is normally completed during the teachers release time. At the beginning, I found it challenging to remember all the different codes I was meant to use, record everything that I needed to, judge whether the error was made due to a misunderstanding of meaning, structure or lack of attention paid to the visual of the word whilst also carefully listening to the child’s reading all at the same time! I was grateful for Mrs Jackson taking the time to explain everything in detail and allowing me to take the time to feel confident in what I’m doing before completing my own reading records. I feel it is a valuable experience and insight into the work of a teacher beyond just classroom teaching.

Highlights and Challenges: A real highlight of this week has been witnessing the children vote for Golden Time. In other schools I’ve been in, it is often the teacher that decides what the class will do for their half hour of free time at the end of the week. However in Mrs Jackson’s class, there is a ten minute slot on a Monday morning dedicated to democratically deciding what the class will get up to. Children are able to suggest different ideas (here are some of my favourite examples of such suggestions: making s’mores using candles, lollie (sweetie) scramble and nurf gun wars with hand made targets…this was possibly my favourite one to take part in). Then once all the suggestions have been made, each child gets a vote as to what they want to do. Everyone doesn’t have to join in with the same thing at the same time, for example some kids really enjoy playing on their iPads during their free time, but generally speaking there’s always something pretty exciting going on that appeals to all the ages in Room 7. I was genuinely really surprised at how seriously the teacher took some of the suggestions (the nurf gun war being a prime example) and wasn’t quite able to picture how it would all work out. But I’m getting more and more used to the relaxed attitude of everyone in the school, and falling more and more in love with it. The children loved making the s’mores, they shared all the lollies equally after the scramble (admittedly, that did take some prompting) and the pyjama party was a big success. They’re allowed so much more free reign and as a result, are already showing real skills in self management at the young ages of 6 years through to 8. Of course allowing the children to have more freedom requires more work from the teacher but I really do think it’s worth it. I love the idea of allowing the children to be limited by nothing other than their imagination (of course there are some restrictions…although bringing in pet iguanas isn’t one of them…) and it’s something I would really like to take on and use in my practice. Spending so much time with one particular class has allowed me to pick up on the little details that make up the classroom as a whole. This has provided ample opportunity to observe and pick up little tips and techniques that I aim to use to further my future practice.

A challenge of this week has been getting used to all the different systems in place throughout the school. Getting involved with the different duty roles, understanding how assemblies are run and learning more about the behaviour management system works are all examples of the above. In particular, I’ve spent time familiarising myself with the organisation of the reading books (which ties in nicely with reading recovery) and this has helped me to understand the vast amount of organisation that goes into the overall job of teaching children to read. Assessing a child’s ability, matching this up to the correct level of difficulty of reading book (which requires an in-depth knowledge of the different levels available at the school, of which there are many), hearing the children read, correcting/encouraging them appropriately, ensuring that their ability progresses at an appropriate rate whilst simultaneously recording all this information are all important elements of teaching a child to read. And there’s not just one child in the class, there’s 27 of them! Although it has been a challenge to grasp all this new information, it’s also been a real highlight for me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about this aspect of a teacher’s role and I know that it will undoubtedly further my future practice. And that’s really what I’m aiming for in this placement, so I can’t really complain!

Audit of personal and professional skills:
This week has helped me to develop skills in research, evidence gathering and to adopt a rational and critical approach to choice and decision-making. Assessing the children’s reading required quick decisions in terms of the ‘type’ of mistake the child was making and what should be done in order to help them improve their reading skills. It took a few tries to gain confidence in my own assessment ability but through comparing the results of my running records to that of Mrs Jackson’s, I feel I got considerably better at accurate assessment the more I practiced. These are of course directly transferrable skills and although I may not use this exact technique in the future, the experience, practice and knowledge will undoubtedly strengthen my understanding when it comes to performing such tasks regularly and professionally.

The Story of Rangi and Papa

Since coming to New Zealand, a real highlight has been learning about Maori people and their ancient traditions. Everyday children sing songs, recite the Lords Prayer and listen to simple commands in Maori and I absolutely love it! Any time we drive past a sign with an interesting name I (attempt) to pronounce it and I must admit, I’m proud to say that I’m slowly getting better. But what’s even more exciting is the story I learned today in school. This term the children have been learning all about the biblical story of Creation and this has generally been incorporated into at least one lesson a week. However today, Mrs Jackson told us a version of the ancient Maori story of how the earth came to be as it is now. Due to the fact that these tales have been spoken and repeated through hundreds of generations, each Maori tribe tells the story of creation slightly differently. Despite this, apparently most stories describe the movement from Te Kore (nothingness) to something, and from Te Pō (darkness) to Te Ao (light). The separation of the earth and sky is always a key feature in the different tribes stories, as is the talk of how the gods were responsible for making the natural world.

The Maori tradition of creation as taught in Room 7 (and retold by Eilidh Lamont…)

In the beginning Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the mother earth) were joined together in an eternal hug, and their children were born between them in darkness. The children wanted light and warmth and beauty to grow on Earth and so decided to separate their parents, to allow light to come into the world. Each child, a demi-god of the natural world, attempted to separate their parents but not one of them could manage. Well, not until Tāne, the god of forests and all that live inside them, used his mighty strength to push his father up and to hold his mother down. However despite his success in fulfilling the children’s plan, he didn’t want his mother and father to be sad or lonely without each other. So to keep them company, he planted beautiful trees, flowers and bushes for his mother (Papatūānuku) to enjoy. Then he gave his father (Ranginui) the moon and the stars to keep him company.

Excerpt from the version of the story told by Mrs Jackson



After looking into this in further detail, I found lots of really helpful websites that deepened my understanding, and my interest! For example, here’s an excerpt written by Mr John Waititi, who is well known for his work with Maori people in Auckland. He is at present Maori language officer to the Education Department.

“Then Tawhiri, the god and father of hurricanes and storms, was angry with his brothers, because against his wishes they had torn apart Rangi and Papa, and he was afraid that the world would now be too pleasant and beautiful. Because of this he followed his father Rangi to the sky above; and from there he sends the earth mighty winds, dense clouds, dark thick clouds, fiery red clouds, clouds of thunder storms, and clouds swiftly flying. In the midst of these Tawhiri himself sweeps wildly on, and makes war against the creatures that live on the earth.

But in spite of the evil rage of Tawhiri, the human beings who had been hidden between Rangi and Papa increased in number now, and flourished upon the earth; and it is from these first men that we are all descended.

And through all this time the vast sky has not ceased to mourn the loss of his wife the earth. Often in the long nights he weeps, and drops upon her breast those tears which men call dew. And often the loving sighs of Papa go up towards the sky; and when men see these, they call them mists.” (…for more, see

And for even more information, see:

Week One (13th-17th March)

Overview: When I reflect on my first week at St Josephs, the first thing that comes to mind is the incredible welcome I received. The staff, children and families made me feel comfortable and at home within the first hour. After being personally introduced to each staff member, the whole school, and many different parents of children in my class, I immediately knew that St Josephs is a special place! I met my class teacher, Mrs Jackson- a kind teacher that runs her classroom on mutual respect which is a fact that is made obvious through the children’s manor and relationships. However, despite being involved with St Josephs for a full week, I haven’t spent much time in the classroom as of yet. After finding out about my love for the outdoors, Mrs Fretwell (the deputy head) invited me to join the year 4/5’s on their annual school camp in Waitomo, the west coast of New Zealand. Every second year every class at St Joseph’s is given the opportunity to go to camp and experience a few nights away from home, stay in a Marea, challenge themselves and have a break from normal school life! After frantically packing with the help of my host family, early the next morning I found myself arriving at the Tokikapu Marae (Māori meeting grounds (see website at bottom of post with more information and details on marae’s) where we would be staying for the next four days. The camp was an incredible opportunity to learn more about New Zealand culture, the natural phenomenons that the country has to offer, make genuine friends, develop relationships with children outside of the class I’ll be working in and observe an incredibly experienced and capable teacher (Mr Liley) in a more relaxed and informal environment compared to that of a classroom. We went caving, abseiling, walking in the bush, adventuring, learned about glow worms (which are unique to Australasia) and searched for fossils on black iron sand beaches all within an action packed four days.  And that’s just the learning we did as a whole class! On a personal level, I learned an indescribable amount about the Māori people and their culture, New Zealand’s natural landscape, the organisation and work put in by both teachers and parents to make such a camp possible, as well as invaluable teaching tips and quirks.

Highlights and Challenges: In reality, the whole experience was a highlight for me. I loved getting the chance to see an area of the country I otherwise wouldn’t have and it was great fun spending so much time with the kids in such a relaxed environment. When I compare the camp to my own experience of school trips (my P7 class spent 5 days at Nethy Bridge Activity Center in 2006), my general consensus would be that school is much more relaxed than that of many Scottish primary schools. Health and safety takes a real backseat and kids are allowed to roam free and explore. Generally speaking, this seems to work excellently and children appear far more confident and sure of themselves as a result. However, we did have one wee girl get her finger stuck on barbed wire and another chipped her tooth after falling out of a tree (both of which probably wouldn’t have happened if greater attention was paid to keeping a close eye on the children at all times, but I guess that’s just pro’s and con’s!). I spent the first day considering what a unique opportunity going on camp was in terms of seeing more of New Zealand, but as time went on I realised how valuable the experience was in terms of furthering my practice. Mr Liley (the teacher in charge) displayed warmth, patience and kindness whilst also ensuring the children knew exactly where the boundaries lay. He told me in depth about the organisation and hard work he put into ensuring the camp ran as smoothly and effortlessly as it did and his hard work certainly paid off.

However, I did initially find it difficult being completely by myself on the trip. I had to really focus and work hard to make friends and ensure I was an asset to the group of adults. Additionally, going on camp so soon after arriving in NZ meant that tiredness was a real challenge too- I still wasn’t 100% over my jet lag and being thrown into such a high pace and full on experience so soon meant I had to really work hard to stay awake throughout the day! It was a good way to force myself to get over my jet lag though, having so many fun and exciting activities to do throughout the day and then plenty of dishes, setting of tables and other general chores to do throughout the evening meant I had plenty to keep myself occupied.

Audit of Professional and Personal Skills and Understanding: When I critically reflect over my first week, I suggest that the key skills I have used and developed so far are as follows:

Personal and Social Skills- Due to the fact that the decision to go on camp was so last minute, it meant I didn’t know anyone and people didn’t know me, I had very little time to be told what to expect and I was considerably younger than the other adults involved in running the camp. Before learning Whakatane on Tuesday morning, I made the decision to go into the experience ready and prepared to make new friends, do anything and everything asked of me, push myself physically (I was still getting over jet-lag, no mean task!) and to learn as much as I possibly could regarding both my practice and as an individual. In terms of the SPR professional values and personal commitment this required integrity, skills in adaptability, flexibility, openness, courage and friendliness. As a perspective primary teacher who knows and understands the importance of collaborative practice and generally getting along with people, I think this was a justifiably valuable experience in many different ways.

A practical example of how the first week of placement has positively impacted my personal and professional attitude would be when I consider how much I appreciate having friends in the staff room. During my MA1 placement, I found it took time and considerable effort on my part to make any sort of connection with the people in the school. However I realise now value and importance of continuing to put in such effort, in whatever staff room I find myself in in the future. The benefits of having good relationships in the workplace goes beyond the simple bonus of making break times more enjoyable, but increases successful collaborative practice, the sharing of ideas and the general improvement of individual practitioners. Although I still have a long way to go in terms of getting to know those at St Josoph’s, I feel excited about the prospect and look forward to becoming more involved and deepening my understanding of what goes on at the school.

Information on Marea’s:


Te Anga falls

Ruakuri Cave, 700 meters under ground

Placement Details

School Name: St Joseph’s RC Primary School.

Mission Statement: ”Faith, Excellence, Success, Laying the Foundations for Life” is an integral part of life at St Joseph’s. This is not only academic excellence but also striving for excellence in Catholic values.


Justification for choosing this placement: For my Learning from Life placement I will be based in a small Roman Catholic School in Whakatane, New Zealand. St Joseph’s is a small school of around 280 pupils made up of years 1 through to 8. I’ll be working primarily in Room 7 (year 2/3) with Mrs Jackson. I was very keen to go abroad for my LfL placement for two key reasons- I love traveling and I hope to teach abroad after completing my probationary year and so I wanted to experience school life in another country. I am particularly keen to work in a school for this placement because I am dedicated to furthering my skills for future practice and keenly interested in how different education systems work. I find New Zealand extremely attractive- both the country and their curriculum and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out a little more about a local school!

At this point, it’s not 100% clear as to what my daily roles and responsibilities shall be. However what I do know is, I am fully committed to starting this placement with a completely open mind and a willingness to learn, a desire to be helpful and great enthusiasm to do well!

Learning from Life Placement Proposal Form

For the Learning from Life module, I have secured a placement in a primary school in Whakatane, New Zealand. Over the six weeks I will be working in a range of different classrooms to gain a broad overview and understanding of how life at St Josephs Primary School works. There will be the opportunity to observe a wide range of age groups, classes and teachers in action. As well as spending my initial time observing around the school, I will also be active in seeking opportunities to help and participate in classroom life- taking reading groups, performing lessons, helping with planning etc. Due to the time of year of the placement, there will also be an opportunity to attend a week-long activity camp. I think this will be a really interesting and valuable experience in terms of grasping important cultural elements of New Zealand’s education system.

I’ve chosen this setting because I find the learning ethos in New Zealand very attractive and I would love to experience it first hand. I am particularly interested in learning more about the importance of outdoor-learning and teacher autonomy in their education system. I love sport and I’m a big advocate of spending as much time outside as possible, something that I understand is emphasised in New Zealand and I would love to find out more about what this looks like in terms of a normal school day. As well as this, after graduating I would love to spend time working in New Zealand for a number of different reasons and I feel that this placement is a perfect opportunity to gain experience of what life as a teacher in New Zealand is like.

I feel the benefits of performing this placement abroad are many- learning more about a different culture, creating contacts in the teaching profession around the world, experiencing a completely different education system and travelling to an area of the world I’ve never been to before. In terms of what I can bring to the placement, I like to think that first and foremost my enthusiasm and commitment to learn and improve will be of benefit. After completing my first year professional placement, I feel I have a good understanding of what is required of me as a student teacher in terms of professionalism and dedication. I think my prior experience working with children from different cultures, for example when I taught for a year in Ghana and when I worked as a general councillor in America, will help me to feel comfortable and confident in a new and unknown setting.

SPR Goals

Social Justice

  • I aim to embrace and implement the schools behaviour policies so that the children have continuity and understand what is expected of them
  • I aim to encourage and promote the four capacities of the Curriculum for Excellence through example and encouragement
  • I aim to engage and remain up to date with world events and use this knowledge


  • I aim to regularly ask relevant questions to gain a better understanding of all elements of teaching
  • I aim to reflect insightfully and critically so that I am able to progress as a professional.

Trust and Respect

  • I aim to develop relationships with each individual pupil in my class and through this display trust and respect
  • Through relationship and good behaviour management, I aim to create an environment where the children feel save to engage and express themselves whilst learning
  • I aim to understand each child is an individual and therefore needs to be treated as one

Professional Commitment

  • I aim to show commitment and enthusiasm as part of my daily routine through the way I conduct myself, speak and interact with both staff and pupils and present myself in terms of appearance but also in the way I work
  • I aim to fully engage with the professional reading to show my commitment to growing as a professional as this is something I have struggled with in the past

How did my gender affect me at school?

In my primary school ‘gender inequality’ wasn’t a phrase I ever remember hearing. But I also don’t remember the divide between girls and boys being too overpowering. Growing up I was definitely more of a ‘tom boy’ than a girlie girl; I played football and I wore trousers as my school uniform instead of a skirt like the other girls. But it was never much of a problem!

Thinking about it now, the most obvious divide between gender in school was in the playground. Most of the boys played football during lunch (most of the girls weren’t allowed to play) and the girls played tig. I was desperate to join the boys but because I wasn’t one of them, I had to ask if I was allowed to play every single lunchtime where the boys were automatically put into one of the teams, no matter how good or bad they were at playing. It took me until P5 to be officially accepted into the Balloch lunch-time league. The day that someone said to me ‘och you don’t have to ask to play anymore, you’re one of us’ was definitely the most fabulous day of my primary school life.

Welcome to your WordPress eportfolio

Welcome to your eportfolio. This is where you will document and share your professional thoughts and experiences over the course of your study at the University of Dundee and beyond that when you begin teaching. You have the control over what you want to make public and what you would rather keep on a password protected page.

The eportfolio in the form of this WordPress blog allows you to pull in material from other digital sources:

You can pull in a YouTube video:

You can pull in a Soundcloud audio track:

You can pull in a Flickr page

Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

You can just about pull in anything that you think will add substance and depth to your writing.