Te Kauwhata College principal Deborah Hohneck is looking forward to seeing her students flourish under the Day Zero concept.

A typical school week will look a little different for Te Kauwhata College students this year. 

The school has introduced 'Day Zero'  every Wednesday where the students' regular weekly timetable  is dropped. 

The North Waikato school's principal Deborah Hohneck said the purpose was to schedule any school activities such as athletics, school productions and swimming to a Wednesday.

But when these activities don't occur, Day Zero  will be  used for  assembly, the school's mentoring programme and extra-curricular activities or classes to assist with the needs of students.

"It's done with the best intentions to build opportunities and minimise interruptions to the learning programme."

Hohneck said last year a team from the school investigated how they could broaden its curriculum. 

The team visited schools in the central North Island to get an insight on their methods. 

It was discovered there were a number of schools using "innovative learning programmes".

"In a similar way, it's happening in other modern learning environments... people learn best by bringing a contextual environment... we are just trying to capitalise on that idea," Hohneck said. 

Hohneck said the Day Zero concept was nothing new in the education system as it had been labelled with many different names like electives. 

"It's been around in one shape or another," she said. 

During that day at the college, students can participate in activities such as the school production, rowing or key competencies for the junior school.

There will be a range of things students could opt into, she said. 

"What we've asked teachers to do is present learning opportunities that they are passionate about that some students don't get an opportunity to do.

"It's hard to fit it into a regular Saturday, Monday or Tuesday...some students aren't able to do that because they are on the bus or committed to sports teams."

She said the extra-curricular subjects were important to allowing a student to become a "whole-learner".

"Some of these activities, if you get a focus, you can go further."

It will officially launch on Wednesday with swimming sports on that day but the concept will be viewed as a trial during the first term.

"It's not something cast in stone, if it's not working, we will cancel it."

New Zealand Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick said schools had the ability to adjust their curriculum and this was an example of that. 

"I wouldn't say having a whole day is typical, but other schools are doing similar things."

The primary school principal said at his previous school, they allowed students to be more involved in the curriculum and help direct the learning outcome.

And it proved to be successful.

"What that turns into… is a higher engagement and a higher level of success."

While academic learning was always a primary focus, secondary schools had started taking a different approach to the extra and co-curricular activities, Secondary Principals' Association president Sandy Pasley said. 

"First concern is the academic of course, but I think schools are recognising the important part of the co-curricular for a well-rounded learner," Pasley said. 

She said universities had become more selective and this approach also helped those going into apprenticeships.


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