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Allenvale School

Narrative Assessment case study


Allenvale School is a special school in Christchurch catering for 120 young people with disabilities. The school has 80 staff comprising teachers, therapists and teaching assistants. Allenvale provides programmes for students aged between five and 21 across a variety of settings. The school is focused on meeting the needs of each student and engaging with parents, whanau and community. Senior students are often involved in work placements, polytechnic courses and a variety of community programmes.

A school wide approach to using Learning Stories

At the beginning of 2009, three Allenvale teachers were involved in the New Zealand Curriculum Exemplars for Learners with Special Education Needs project.

The school then became involved with Assess to Learn (AtoL) professional development. With the support of their facilitator, staff looked more closely at using Learning Stories as a whole school approach to learning and assessment.

Learning stories were introduced across the school in a very deliberate manner.

Teachers had conversations about students’ learning. Discussions revolved around what learning for students looked like. Questions included:

  • How do we know learning was happening?
  • How do we record learning?
  • How do we report learning to students and parents?
  • How do we involve students in their own learning?

Teachers discovered that much of students’ learning was unnoticed, unrecognised or unrecorded. Student achievement was not always being affirmed.

Teachers began to record brief accounts of a student’s learning. These were shared and feedback was provided. As teachers talked, they began notice, recognise and respond to the learning interests and needs of students in a different way.

Teachers then looked at formats for Learning Stories to enable them to interpret and record learning in relation to the New Zealand Curriculum, key competencies and learning areas. For a discussion of Learning Stories as an approach to narrative assessment, refer to Narrative Assessment: A guide for teachers, page 38.

Over time all members of the school community have become involved with Learning Stories including teacher aides and parents. Feedback has been very positive.


Learning Stories make a difference
  • Learning and achievement is shown in authentic contexts
  • Learning and achievement is seen in a positive and inclusive way
  • Learning is celebrated, strengthened and linked across contexts and over time
  • Teachers reflect on learning when writing stories and use this to inform their next steps
  • Parents receive timely and useful information about their child’s learning and achievement
  • Students see themselves as achieving through Learning Stories

Allenvale staff talk about Learning Stories

Please click on the link in each bullet to view the accompanying video clip (with transcription). 

Parents and students talk about Learning Stories


Josh is six and is in Megan Gare's class. Josh’s father talks about the importance of Learning Stories for both Josh and the family.

"Learning Stories give us a window into his life at school…There are lots of things happening with these Learning Stories that are helping him with his life and also helping us with our home life." Paul Niles, parent.

video clip >


Jessica is transitioning from school to work. Jessica and her mother talk about two Learning Stories

"When she has learned something new we hear about it... It is better than waiting for a school report… It adds to her confidence I think." Karen Agar, parent.

video clip >


Ashleigh is a senior student in Mhairi Joll's class. Ashleigh and her mother talk about her Learning Stories.

"I think that the fact that as a parent you are reading your child’s achievement and all those positive comments that are given… it gives you a real lift… it really does." Trish Kamana, parent.

video clip >



The Ministry and UC Education Plus acknowledge the work of everyone at Allenvale who has contributed to this case study.