Conclusion

All of these schools are effectively keeping students at school and engaged in their learning. They are demonstrating that exciting learning communities can be built over time; communities that provide all students with a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose and the motivation to succeed.

All of these schools believe that each of their students can and will succeed, and that it is their job to help them to do so; no matter what challenges may present themselves, there is a way. Staff and students work together to succeed, supported through appropriate resourcing from trustees, strong senior leadership and whānau involvement.

These schools are places of learning for all members of the community: trustees, principals, senior leaders, teachers, parents, whānau, but above all for students. No one aspect makes them succeed, they are a sum of all their parts. Those parts are held together by a strong vision, a vision owned and upheld by the whole community. Each community is built on a foundation of care; respectful and truly caring relationships exist between the members of the school.

It takes excellent leadership, extending beyond the principal through to key personnel in the school, to achieve this coherence, to manage change and to maintain the momentum and commitment to continuous improvement. Members of the community are empowered and energised. High relational trust exists in the schools, staffing is stable and the passion for young people and their learning is a tangible characteristic of the schools.

These schools have an unswerving focus on each student’s learning and hence to improving their outcomes. Students are the heart of the school. Senior leaders in the school make extensive use of the student management system’s capabilities to suit their needs. Data, both qualitative and quantitative, is extremely well recorded. Teachers, senior leaders and the board engage with this data, analysing it to identify needs, and to monitor progress and achievements across all levels of the school. Such scrutiny leads to sound self-review processes, informed both by evidence and research, and decisions are made that better tailor programmes and initiatives to meet the needs of individual students and the school.

Students in these schools are respected and empowered as learners. They achieve sound academic qualifications and are nurtured with a strong set of values to take into the world beyond school. All of this is achieved despite the fact that so many of their students come from low income families and is clearly against the trends shown for lower decile schools. Such respect, empowerment and success should be the right of all students in all New Zealand schools.

Recommendations

For schools

ERO recommends that boards focus on how well students are engaged with their learning by:

  • scrutinising engagement and achievement data
  • using the information to identify what approaches and resources are needed to keep every student experiencing success in education.

ERO recommends that leaders manage changes to establish a strong culture throughout the school where:

  • expectations for every student’s success are high
  • relationships within and beyond the school community are carefully nurtured, respectful and supportive
  • evidence and research are used to empower teachers to use and reflect on a range of approaches to effectively engage all students in learning
  • professional development and interventions are carefully selected and adapted to integrate with the vision and direction of the school.