East Otago High School - 29/06/2016

Findings

Students benefit from learning in small classes with low teacher-to-student ratios. A broad and flexible curriculum responds well to students’ interests, strengths and needs. Teachers use student achievement information effectively to monitor students’ progress and plan how to support their next learning steps. Trustees, students and parents are regularly informed about student progress and achievement. This review identified the need for improved strategic planning to support the implementation of new initiatives.

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

1 Context

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

East Otago is a small, rural school catering for Year 7 to 13 students from the local town and the surrounding areas of Palmerston. Students learn in small classes with low teacher-to-student ratios. The school is well supported by the community and shares many of its facilities with local groups.

The school’s values of respect, responsibility and motivation are helping to promote the vision of `Lifelong learners who strive for excellence in a safe and positive environment’. Stable staffing and high levels of collaboration also contribute to these desired outcomes.

The board and staff have made some progress on areas identified for development in the 2013 ERO review. The Year 9 and 10 students are now more aware of their progress and achievement. The board is better informed about the impact of learning initiatives.

A Limited Statutory Manager (LSM) is in the school to assist the board in developing systems to manage the school’s finances.

2 Learning

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

Teachers, leaders and trustees use achievement information in various ways to make positive changes to learners’ engagement and achievement.

Achievement information shows that:

  • 85% of Year 7 and 8 students are at or above the National Standards in reading
  • about three-quarters of the Year 7 and 8 students are at or above the National Standards in writing and mathematics
  • NCEA achievement is generally close to or slightly above national averages.

Students have a good awareness of their achievement through the fortnightly reports they and their parents receive. They set goals and have learning conversations with teachers about their achievement and progress.

Teachers and school leaders use achievement information well to:

  • identify and respond to learning strengths and needs of individual and groups of students
  • set targets for end-of-year achievement at class and school levels
  • monitor individual student achievement over time
  • modify courses.

Trustees use the achievement information reported to them to inform their resourcing decisions.

Next step

Trustees and school leaders acknowledge the need for deeper analysis of collated year-level learning information. Analysed data should be better used to:

  • provide clear and timely information to heads of departments, the senior leadership team and the board of trustees about how well year levels and targeted groups of students are progressing in relation to expectations, goals and targets
  • ascertain if students are making sufficient progress
  • identify common areas of strength and need
  • evaluate the impact of programmes, interventions and new initiatives on students’ learning.

ERO recommends that trustees and senior leaders review the wording of charter targets to show a greater focus on students at risk of poor educational outcomes.

3 Curriculum

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

This school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports students’ learning.

Students benefit from a broad and flexible curriculum. Trustees, school leaders and teachers are committed to providing a full range of learning opportunities. This includes many opportunities to learn beyond the school in areas such as outdoor education, sports, work experience, leadership development and community service. Students appreciate the considerable effort teachers and parents make to enable them to participate in these activities.

School leaders and teachers endeavour to ensure the curriculum responds to the needs and interests of students. This is evident in:

  • flexible approaches to timetabling
  • course design that responds to student interests, achievement and feedback
  • the introduction of new, customised programmes and learning pathways
  • splitting classes at the same level to allow for greater choice and for teachers to respond to different ability levels.

The school, in consultation with students, families and staff, has recently identified a set of core values and expectations that contribute to positive conditions for learning. These are called `The Eastern Way’. The school is in the early stages of promoting these school-wide.

The school has numerous, well-established practices for monitoring and responding to students’ wellbeing. Senior students meet regularly in small groups with a teacher. These sessions are effective for:

  • building positive relationships between teachers and students
  • building a range of self-management and social skills
  • preparing students for transitions to tertiary learning and employment.

Classroom teachers and senior leaders regularly communicate about the learning and wellbeing needs of students and plan appropriate responses. The school actively involves parents and whānau, and where appropriate the local runaka, in discussions about plans to support students.

Teachers are routinely evaluating the effectiveness of their teaching on learning outcomes for students and making changes to improve engagement and achievement. The school is in the early stages of introducing more formal guidelines for teaching as inquiry.

The opening of the new, innovative-learning environment in the junior school has resulted in the school beginning to explore new approaches to teaching and learning, including the use of e-learning. Some of these practices are reflected in the junior curriculum guidelines. As these practices and approaches become more established it will be important to ensure these are extended to other levels in the school in a planned way.

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

The school effectively promotes educational success for Māori, as Māori.

All students in Years 7 and 8 learn te reo and tikanga Māori as part of the school’s curriculum programme. Students wishing to further their learning in these areas beyond Year 8 can do so as an option.

A Māori staff member in a leadership role is a positive role model for Māori students. The school continues to maintain a close relationship with the mana whenua from the local marae. A kaumātua supports the school’s kapa haka group on a regular basis. Students are able to learn about tikanga Māori in meaningful contexts through pōwhiri at the marae, mihi whakatau, local history, stories, waiata and haka.

Teachers actively build positive relationships with students and their whānau.

A next step is for teachers to continue to build their confidence to incorporate bicultural aspects in their teaching so that Māori students gain a sense of how their language, culture and identities are valued and respected.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

When the next steps in this report are addressed, the school will be better placed to sustain and improve its performance.

The school has established some effective sustainability practices. These include:

  • good examples of internal evaluation, as seen in some unit evaluation reports, teacher reflections and the curriculum self review
  • regularly gathering and responding to students’ feedback about their experiences of the curriculum
  • teachers feeling well supported within the collaborative teaching team and the focused professional development made available to them
  • an improved appraisal process.

Next steps

The board, principal and school leaders need to put in place robust processes to ensure that the:

strategic plan has purposeful links to the long-term development of the school vision and curriculum and is supported by detailed plans

  • strategic plan clarifies what is most important to improve teaching and learning
  • other plans, such as budget and professional learning, are linked to the strategic plan
  • strategic goals are reflected in the appraisal goals for leaders and teachers
  • progress of planned actions is better monitored and reported at key points throughout the year
  • plans and actions are evaluated to show the difference made to student outcomes.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989.

The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

At the time of this review, one international student was attending the school. The student was living with a homestay carer.

The education, involvement and integration of international students in the school and community are closely monitored and supported. The students benefit from a high level of individual pastoral care.

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

Students benefit from learning in small classes with low teacher-to-student ratios. A broad and flexible curriculum responds well to students’ interests, strengths and needs. Teachers use student achievement information effectively to monitor students’ progress and plan how to support their next learning steps. Trustees, students and parents are regularly informed about student progress and achievement. This review identified the need for improved strategic planning to support the implementation of new initiatives.

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

Lesley Patterson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern

29 June 2016

About the School

Location

Palmerston

Ministry of Education profile number

371

School type

Secondary (Years 7 to 13)

School roll

163

Number of international students

1

Gender composition

Girls: 53%

Boys: 47%

Ethnic composition

Māori

Pākehā

Other

27%

71%

2%

Review team on site

May 2016

Date of this report

29 June 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Supplementary Review

May 2013

February 2010

November 2008