Blomfield Special School and Resource Centre - 23/05/2012

1. Context

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

Blomfield Special School and Resource Centre is the sole special school in Northland. It provides holistic education and care for students aged 5 to 21, who have intellectual disabilities and related physical challenges. It consists of a base school with three classrooms, as well as transition classes for 16 to 21 year olds. The school also has satellite classes in three special needs units at the host schools, Manaia View, Morningside and Kaitaia Primary Schools. Fifty-two percent of the students are Māori.

A Limited Statutory Manager (LSM) was appointed in December 2009 to assume the board’s function in areas of governance, as well as to build trustees’ capability. The LSM has had a positive impact on school governance and management. He has taken a key role in managing the building project due to begin in 2012. The acting principal was appointed to a permanent position at the beginning of 2011.

Educators include the senior leadership team, teachers and teacher aides. The school also employs their own specialist team of occupational therapists, a speech-language therapist, a psychologist and a physiotherapist to provide services for students. Educators and specialists work across the base school and the satellite units. The school uses a transdisciplinary model where teachers, teacher-aides and specialists work together to accomplish a common set of goals for a child and his/her family, based on the needs of the individual child.

There have been significant changes over the past eighteen months, including the development of the Blomfield School curriculum, the introduction of a revised performance management system that focuses on effective teaching and learning, and improved assessment practices. Whole-school professional learning and development has contributed to a shared understanding of effective teaching and learning, and school direction. Senior leaders have worked hard to develop cohesiveness of purpose and attitudes across the school. Changes have been well led and managed.

2. Learning

How well are students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

Educators use effective strategies to engage and support students' learning. Students make good progress and achieve well in relation to their individual goals. Transition students, aged from 16 to 21, enjoy a programme that develops students’ independence, self management and life skills. Students in satellite classes are included in general education at their respective primary schools. They have good opportunities to socialise with students at host schools.

The process for developing students’ Individual Plans (IPs), formerly known as Individual Education Plans, has been reviewed. As a result of the review, teachers are now setting more specific goals for each student so that they are better able to evaluate ongoing progress and achievement. IPs are well monitored and analysed to ensure consistent practices across staff. Parents are now more closely involved in the development of students’ IPs.

Teachers use a variety of assessment tools and strategies, appropriate to each student, to develop their overall judgements. Good moderation systems are being developed. Senior leaders are developing their skills in the analysis of student achievement data. They have now set appropriate school-wide achievement targets in response to the collated information from IPs. The 2012 focus is on improving students’ ability to communicate.

The board receives collated student achievement information for the base school, and the three satellite units. Senior leaders and trustees agree that further analysis of this information would better enable them to make informed decisions pertinent to each location.

The school has introduced ‘three-way conferences’ as a means of reporting on students’ progress and achievement. This process involves parents, specialists, educators and students (as appropriate), and represents the growing partnership between the school and families.

Senior leaders and the board show an ongoing commitment to developing their understanding of the requirements of National Standards, as relevant to their school. They have continued to be proactive in their consultation with the Ministry of Education on ways to implement National Standards in their context.

How well does the school promote Māori student success and success as Māori?

The board has recently made a commitment to the principles of Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success: The Ministry of Education Māori Education Strategy. They are using this document as a guide to promote success for Māori as Māori. Their commitment is evident in the annual plan goals that promote a supportive learning environment for Māori learners. The Blomfield learning charter is well aligned with Ka Hikitia and the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum. Key people, including Māori teachers and trustees, provide appropriate guidance and support for the school’s direction.

Data analysis shows that Māori students are achieving as well as non-Māori in the school. Careful consideration has been given to enabling progress and improving outcomes for each student. Educators are developing confidence in the use of te reo Māori and are including aspects of Māori culture in the programme and environment. They work closely with all parents and have good knowledge of students’ circumstances and their families and whānau.

Senior leaders, teachers and the transdisciplinary teams are working well with Māori learners and their parents and families/whānau in a responsive way that reflects their joint responsibility for improving learning experiences for students. The school has established good networks with relevant community agencies to provide and facilitate advice and support relevant to Māori learners, their parents and whānau.

School leaders and the board acknowledge that they now need to ensure that all forms of reporting are well analysed. Improved analysis would assure the board of the effectiveness of initiatives for Māori students.

3. Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is student centred and very effective. Educators, specialists and support staff work well together to benefit students. The school has interpreted The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) through the lens of what is important for their students now and in the future. It is underpinned by the school’s values of cooperation, respect, responsibility, integrity and perseverance. The school’s vision for students is that when they leave Blomfield Special School, they will be visible, valued, accepted and included by their community.

As a result of the 2011 curriculum review and staff consultation, the school now ensures that the principles, values, key competencies and learning areas of the NZC are integral to unit planning. School leaders have consulted with parents and students to improve the quality and effectiveness of the curriculum. The school’s learning charter clearly interprets NZC’s expectations for effective teaching and learning. The performance management system, learning programmes, Ka Hikitia and professional learning are skilfully interwoven to provide a cohesive and adaptable curriculum.

Educators and specialists work collaboratively to provide an inclusive and holistic approach to students’ learning. Teachers respond well to the needs of their students. They frequently use students’ interests to achieve the IP goals. High quality teaching practices include:

  • interacting respectfully and responsively with students, in ways that are designed to challenge their thinking and responses, and follow their interests
  • recognising and building students’ capability as independent learners
  • encouraging students in many different ways to persevere at tasks
  • communicating effectively within a collaborative team of teachers, teacher aides and specialists who demonstrate a shared sense of purpose.

The transition programme for older students focuses on helping students to take responsibility for their own independence, and to build relevant life skills. There is a strong focus on competencies for future independence. These students regularly work in the community to gain work experience and develop employment and social skills.

The Outreach Programme is designed to raise the school’s profile and community knowledge and understanding of special needs education. It provides high quality support for special needs students on local school rolls.

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. The board is well led and committed to school improvement. Trustees and school leaders have engaged in a rigorous and comprehensive programme of self review, and have responded well to areas for development identified in ERO’s 2010 review. The LSM has been effective in developing the capacity of the board. Significant developments include:

  • the revised performance management system that is increasing teacher reflection and promoting teaching as inquiry
  • the deliberate cultivation of shared understandings about the school's vision and effective teaching and learning practices
  • work by school leaders and board members to raise the profile of special needs education and to bring about ongoing improvement in ways in which the school is able to serve students, families/whānau and the community
  • successful outcomes of initiatives to strengthen the school's financial management.

School leaders and the board agree that, in order to maintain and improve current provisions and operations, they could:

  • review senior leadership roles and responsibilities to reflect ongoing changes and developments in the school
  • continue to build on moderation practices to achieve consistency across all sites in developing overall teacher judgements about student achievement
  • further progress work on increasing reflective teaching practices, so that teachers are better able to evaluate their impact on outcomes for students
  • evaluate the impact of teacher professional learning and development
  • ensure that reports to the board provide trustees with good information about all sites to inform decision making.

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
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in three years.

Makere Smith

National Manager Review Services Northern Region (Acting)

23 May 2012

About the School

Location

Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number

1007

School type

Special School and Resource Centre

School roll

70

Gender composition

Boys 44 Girls 26

Ethnic composition

Māori

NZ European/Pākehā

British/Irish

Indian

African

Fijian

Cook Island Māori

Samoan

Other

36

25

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

Special Features

3 satellite units: Kaitaia, Manaia View and Morningside Primary Schools

Review team on site

March 2012

Date of this report

23 May 2012

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

February 2011

December 2009

December 2007