Horowhenua College Services Academy - 13/09/2011

Introduction

The Ministry of Education has asked the Education Review Office to evaluate the performance of Service Academies at New Zealand secondary schools. This report is one of 16 individual reports prepared about the quality of education at the Ministry funded academies. A national evaluation report will also be prepared which will synthesise the findings from the individual reviews.

This review was prepared in accordance with standard procedures approved by the Chief Review Officer.

1 Terms of Reference

The specific terms of reference for this review are to:

  • evaluate how effectively the service academy supports student learning

  • identify the strengths of the service academy

  • identify the areas for development at the service academy.

2 Background

The service academy based at Horowhenua College was established in 2009. Funding for the academy is provided by the Ministry of Education. The academy operates under a memorandum of understanding that sets out the annual funding arrangement, and expectations for performance.

The academy is part of the support and guidance faculty of the college that includes learning support, transition and careers. It has had three different directors over the past three years. In 2009 the academy provided a six month course. A new director was appointed in 2010 and a full year course introduced. 2010 was not a successful year for the academy. Another director was appointed in 2011 and his positive direction and contribution is acknowledged by students, parents and staff.

The senior academy in Years 11 to 13, is a course for students who have completed a minimum of two years secondary education, have an interest in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) or a related service industry and/or are at risk of leaving school without qualifications or employment. Most students come from Horowhenua College but some come from other schools and a few were not enrolled previously at any school.

A further academy option for a small group of Year 10 students at risk of disengagement was introduced in 2011. This occupies five periods every two weeks. Half the time is spent on drill and half on military skills.

During the course of this review ERO spoke with the director, the careers advisor, the principal and assistant principal, teaching staff, parents and academy students. ERO viewed some relevant documentation and observed the senior academy class in action.

2 Findings

Areas of strength

Leadership

The new director provides strong leadership for the academy. and in outdoor education with the Mountain Safety Council. He is well supported by the principal and academy teaching staff who have a shared vision and understanding of the purpose of the academy. They recognise the positive contribution the academy makes to improving student engagement and achievement.He has experience in the defence forces

Meeting individual needs

Academy staff have a clear focus on meeting the needs of individual students. Students participate in the academy for variable amounts of time according to their requirements. There are no fixed entry or exit points. Teachers provide students with individualised programmes for literacy and numeracy learning. Students have the opportunity to achieve National Certificates of Education (NCEA) at Levels 1, 2, or 3. They individually access a wide range of subjects through the school’s options. Students learn within an authentic context that encompasses their interests and aspirations.

Positive learning environmen

There are high expectations for students’ behaviour, attendance, progress and achievement. Students value the disciplined and structured environment, and close monitoring of their progress and behaviour. Positive, respectful relationships support students’ learning and development of social skills. A strong team culture is evident. Students spoken to have a high regard for academy staff.

Goal setting

Students benefit from goal setting that is linked to careers education. They work with the careers advisor to set realistic and manageable goals relevant to their career aspirations and interests. Individual students report on progress towards meeting these through presentations, making them accountable to the group in a way that reflects the academy’s military ethos. They are well supported by the careers advisor who maintains close links with the academy.

Physical fitness

Developing students’ fitness is a significant part of the academy programme. Students are responsible for managing and recording their progress towards meeting NZDF requirements. Progress is reported in students’ individual school reports. The structured Physical Training (PT) programme is supported by sports, self defence, health and nutrition, and adventure based learning. Students’ self esteem and sense of hauora/well-being is enhanced.

Areas for review and development

Self review

The academy has yet to develop systematic processes for self review. Although the director and principal continually reflect on academy operations and implement positive change, an effective self-review process should use a range of analysed achievement, fitness, attendance, key competency and destination data, and should seek student and parent views and opinions. It should link with clearly documented goals, specific to the academy, in the school’s strategic plan.

The director reports to the school board regularly on the academy programme, including credits to be covered, and resourcing issues. The board receives some information on student achievement in the academy. The usefulness of this information should be reviewed.

Professional support

The director and assistant director have not as yet been appraised. The director attends whole-staff professional development but has had no targeted professional development to meet his needs. A robust appraisal system would assist the development of staff skills, enhancing outcomes for students.

Partnership with parents

Parents spoken to by ERO were well informed about the academy’s expectations for attendance and behaviour, and were very supportive of these. It is timely for academy staff to consider ways of strengthening links with parents and whānau to develop a closer partnership to promote students’ progress in all aspects of the academy programme.

Participation in the wider school community

The academy students have a low profile in the college and community. The principal and director should explore opportunities for academy students to act as leaders and role models for other students in a range of activities within the school and participate more widely in community service. Such opportunities would assist academystudents to further develop their leadership skills and enhance the wider school community understanding of their many positive achievements.

4 Conclusion

The service academy at Horowhenua College, with its clear focus on catering for individual needs, provides effective support for students’ learning. There are some areas of for review and development that could improve the sustainability of the academy and further enhance outcomes for students.

Kathleen Atkins

National Manager Review Services

Te Tai Pokapū/Central Region

About this Service Academy

Host school

Horowhenua College

Gender composition

Male 15

Female 6

Ethnic composition

New Zealand European/Pākehā 9

Māori 8

Pacific 4

Review team on site

June 2011

Date of this report

13 September 2011