The role of the Academic Institute is to help develop students into independent, flexible and confident learners who succeed within the school academically but who also are able to take the knowledge, skills and dispositions for success into University or the workplace. Our aim is for each of our students to make a lasting and valued contribution to society. The Institute does this by working with students, staff and parents in many and varied ways. It is not an entity to which a select few apply or gain entrance, but a holistic collection of ideals, policies and structures that are designed to benefit all students at Sacred Heart College.
The Revised New Curriculum creates the opportunity to develop the Key Competencies. Sacred Heart College has developed these in its students through the use of the Habits of Mind. Ultimately, the Habits of Mind allow students to develop the skills to solve complex problems as and when they encounter them. Staff professional development, which occurs every Thursday morning before school, is a key part of the role of the Academic Institute, and it is through these sessions that staff have been able to build up an understanding of what the Habits of Mind are and how best to develop them in the students.
In addition to the development of these dispositions is a very strong emphasis on success in NCEA. Results analyses are conducted every year by Senior Managers, Heads of Department and individual members of staff and allow for areas of weakness to be targeted and areas of strength recognised. We have developed a strong culture of success and the students compete against themselves and each other in aspiring to gain the very best results that they can. This has seen a consistent increase in student achievement at NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 and Scholarship over the last five years of which we are very proud. That same data analysis has led to a strong focus on improving Pacific Island and Maori achievement through working with parent/caregiver, staff and student communities. Results in 2012 show a real improvement in achievement levels for these groups.
A key developmental tool in motivating and encouraging our students to succeed has been the integration of DreamCatcher into the curriculum. DreamCatcher is a New Zealand-developed Career Management tool that integrates goal setting, subject selection, career research and transition into life after Sacred Heart. DreamCatcher is used in class by all students from Years 7 to Year 13 and plays a significant role in making sure each student’s subject pathway matches their ideas for their chosen career.
The Academic Institute is constantly evolving in response to the changing needs of students and staff. In 2014 the College began rolling out a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programme at Year 9. The aim of this programme is to further enhance student engagement that will hopefully, in turn, lead to deeper learning and better results. In 2016, students in Years 8 to 10 will be required to have an iPad, and students in Years 11 and 12 have the choice of an iPad or laptop. The programme of study has been adapted in preparation for a curriculum that blends the best of what is already done and on offer, with the best of what the iPad/laptop can offer. The College is looking forward to this exciting new direction and is intending to extend this programme to Year 13 in 2018.