Blomfield Special School and Resource Centre - 15/05/2015

1. Context

What are the important features of this school that have an impact on student learning?

Blomfield Special School and Resource Centre in Whangarei provides education for students aged five to 21 years who have special learning needs. The base school operates three classrooms with an adjacent transition unit for older students. Seven satellite classes operate at four host schools in Whangarei and Kaitaia. The school vision ‘Discovering our Potential’ underpins a culture of high expectations, inclusion, extensive pastoral care and respectful relationships between the board, staff, students and families.

All except two students receive Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding which provides the highest level of support for students with significant learning needs. Teachers are supported well by senior leaders, a team of therapists, a psychologist, and many teacher aides. The school also provides an Outreach Service for other ORS funded students at schools in the north and far north.

The school continues to make significant progress since the ERO review in 2012. It has a growing roll that currently includes 51 percent Māori students. There was a very positive conclusion to the services of the Limited Statutory Manager in July 2012 with the embedding of new governance and management structures. The board has since had a modern learning environment built for transition students and established a new satellite class at Kaitaia College.

School leaders have revised the school charter and vision and they continue to seek new initiatives and specialised programmes to maximise students’ learning opportunities. They are currently focused on growing the ‘resource centre’ aspect of the school. The effective practices identified in the 2012 ERO report continue to be features of the service.

2. Learning

How well does this school use achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement?

The school uses achievement data very well to foster students’ engagement, progress and achievement. Learning for all students is guided by individual plans (IPs). Appropriate goals reflecting students’ abilities and their developmental and social needs are developed collaboratively between families, teachers, therapists and specialists. Teachers use a range of assessment tools to monitor incremental steps, enabling them to show students’ progress. Analysis of goal achievement indicates a significant number of students achieve their goals and all are making progress.

Achievement information is shared well to enhance students’ learning. Transdisciplinary teams, (team leaders, teachers, teacher aides and therapists) meet regularly. They discuss progress, potential learning barriers, successful strategies and possible initiatives for all students. This ongoing review contributes to the revision of individual student’s goals, and informs the setting and monitoring of school targets.

Learning is personalised and responsive to each student’s needs. Careful class placements and the integration of specialist programmes enable students to benefit from individualised, age-appropriate experiences with their peer group. Students respond well to teachers’ prompts and they celebrate each other’s successes.

In 2014 the school established teacher focus groups to enhance aspects of students’ learning. These groups meet regularly and have specific tasks and goals to strengthen students’ learning experiences, wellbeing and cultural identity.

Parents and whānau are active partners in their children’s learning. Daily notebooks enable them to talk with teachers about their children’s progress. Parents appreciate the school’s assistance to access external support agencies. They also value digital communication with the school, the assessment narratives teachers write and the extent to which their aspirations are considered.

The school reports achievement to parents against IP goals and the key competencies in The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). Narrative assessments also align students’ learning with the eight learning areas in the NZC. In this way parents are assured that learning outcomes are meaningful and reflect the breadth of a mainstream curriculum.

As they continue to explore achievement information school leaders agree they could consider extending their data analysis for additional criteria to help awareness of emerging trends or patterns in students’ learning.

3. Curriculum

How effectively does this school’s curriculum promote and support student learning?

The school curriculum is very effective in engaging students in meaningful learning. School leaders guide teachers to seamlessly integrate IP goals with literacy and numeracy tasks and whole school topic studies. The curriculum has a bicultural focus and aligns well with the principles of the NZC.

The transdisciplinary approach supports teachers to implement the curriculum effectively. Collaboration between teachers, teacher aides, therapists and school leaders results in purposeful learning tasks, calm and focused classrooms and a conscientious work ethic.

School leaders have established robust systems that focus teachers’ practice on promoting positive outcomes for students. The Measurement and Action Plan (MAP), developed in consultation with teachers in 2014, provides aspirational guidelines for teachers to enhance all aspects of their work and relationships. Teachers use digital logs to reflect on their practices and they benefit from a mentoring programme that challenges them to continually develop their skills.

The board resources the curriculum very well. Beyond regular classroom materials, facilities such as tactile and sensory rooms and assistive communication technology enable students to develop their capabilities and derive pleasure from their learning.

School leaders have plans to continue developing teachers’ expertise in planning, assessment and classroom practices to strengthen the consistency of high quality practice.

How effectively does the school promote educational success for Māori, as Māori?

Māori students achieve very well in an environment that supports them as Māori. Their achievement of IP goals is at a slightly higher rate than that of non-Māori and this has been sustained over time.

The board has a strategic focus to empower Māori students to learn as Māori which has resulted in several initiatives have become embedded in school practices. These include integrating te reo and tikanga Māori in topic studies, the celebration of Matariki and other Māori events, developing a kapa haka group and the singing of waiata.

The school effectively involves Māori whānau in students’ learning. Successful strategies used in the Kaitaia satellites to engage whānau are now being used throughout the school.

School leaders have aligned teachers’ appraisals with the Ministry of Education guidelines, Tātaiako - Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners.

4. Sustainable Performance

How well placed is the school to sustain and improve its performance?

The school is very well placed to sustain and improve its performance. It has a knowledgeable and well-informed board of trustees who are guided by the best interests of students. Trustees understand their governance role and work closely with the management team to keep updated about school developments, student and teacher needs and to support the school’s vision.

The school has highly effective leadership. The principal and senior leaders (the BLT) are committed to growing staff expertise. They have established a distributed and collaborative leadership model to delegate responsibilities to team leaders, senior teachers and focus groups. The principal has also involved the school in the Ministry of Education initiative Learning Change Network for Special Schools. This is supporting the BLT to explore new programmes and strategies for students with high learning needs.

Restructuring of the school’s management systems has resulted in a cohesive operations framework. There is alignment between the mission statement, charter, annual plan, the MAP, staff performance appraisals and the curriculum. This clear focus positively influences teaching practices resulting in students’ progress and sense of wellbeing.

The school has multiple self-review processes that contribute to ongoing improvement. The board has a calendar for regular charter, policy and procedure reviews. The reviews relating to teaching and learning are less well defined at the strategic level. The BLT agrees that developing guidelines to indicate expectations for self review would provide a more cohesive overview of school self review.

The board and school leaders are managing the growth of the school roll and community needs. While demand for expansion is high, the board’s priority is not to compromise on quality for current students. Consequently, trustees intend to focus development on modernising learning environments with the next step being an upgrade of the base school.

Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board of trustees and principal of the school completed the ERO Board Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklists. In these documents they attested that they had taken all reasonable steps to meet their legislative obligations related to:

  • board administration
  • curriculum
  • management of health, safety and welfare
  • personnel management
  • financial management
  • asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student achievement:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)
  • physical safety of students
  • teacher registration
  • processes for appointing staff
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.

Conclusion

Leaders and staff at Blomfield School and Resource Centre have high expectations that students with significant needs can learn. Personalised goals and curriculum programmes are integrated well to support students’ strengths and needs. Collaborative relationships between staff and families ensure parents’ aspirations are respected. Cohesive governance and leadership supports the school’s high quality performance.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years.

Dale Bailey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

15 May 2015

About the School

Location

Whangarei, Northland

Ministry of Education profile number

1007

School type

Special School

School roll

86

Gender composition

Boys 55

Girls 31

Ethnic composition

Māori 45

Pākehā/European 28

British 2

Chinese 2

Fijian 2

Filipino 2

others 5

Special Features

4 satellite sites: Kaitaia College, Kaitaia Primary, Manaia View and Morningside Primary Schools. Also provides an Outreach service

Review team on site

March 2015

Date of this report

15 May 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review May 2012

Education Review February 2011

Education Review December 2009