Mt Richmond School - 23/09/2016

Findings

Mt Richmond School provides well for students with special educational needs, in close partnership with families. Comprehensive systems and ongoing professional learning support the management of this complex setting. School leaders continually explore ways to enhance school practices and provision for students and their families. 

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?

Mt Richmond School caters for students between five and 21 years of age, who have high or very high special educational needs. There are 10 classrooms at the base school in Otahuhu. There are also students in satellite classes at Bairds Mainfreight Primary School, Flat Bush Primary, Papatoetoe Intermediate and Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate. In addition, the school coordinates an Outreach programme that supports staff in a further seven south Auckland schools, where nine students with high needs are enrolled in mainstream classes.

Māori students make up 20 percent of the roll. Other students and the staff are from diverse cultural backgrounds. Many are recent immigrants and their families speak languages other than English at home. About half of the students are from Pacific backgrounds, with the majority being Samoan, Cook Island Māori or Tongan.

The board of trustees includes several experienced members, as well as newer trustees who are parents of current students. The long-serving principal manages a variety of challenges and complexities in this diverse setting. She works with four senior leaders and a group of administrative staff at the base school. This leadership team supports the staff of teachers, teacher aides, therapists and specialists, who work with students across the school sites. The school maintains working relationships with a wide range of external agencies as well as education and community networks.

The school’s vision is that their students will be all they can be. The principles of belonging, independence, generosity and mastery, make up a Circle of Courage framework to underpin the school’s strategic planning, curriculum and assessment processes. The school promotes a sense of belonging to the Mt Richmond family for all its students and whānau. Students at satellite schools also have a sense of belonging to those communities.

ERO’s 2013 report recognised the sense of community and connectedness at the school and the involvement of parents as partners in students’ learning. It identified effective management practices and the advocacy role of school leaders and staff. Areas for improvement identified in 2013 included data management and access, links with The New Zealand Curriculum and internal evaluation. ERO suggested the use of the Ministry of Education resource, Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners, to promote culturally responsive teaching practices. Some progress has been made in these areas. Since 2013 school leaders and teaching staff have been involved in a variety of professional development opportunities. The principal has led the introduction of new software systems for collating assessment data and for staff performance management. These systems are still being adapted so they can be fully implemented and effective in a New Zealand special school setting.

A building project to provide increased administration facilities was underway in 2013 and is now completed. However, the two additional satellite classes that were being planned in 2013 are still in the planning phase. As a result, there is considerable pressure on space at the base school, where specialist rooms are currently being used to house students who could otherwise be in satellite classes in their home communities.

2 Learning

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

Teachers and specialists use a variety of approaches and tools to gather information about students’ engagement, progress and achievements. Assessment data is carefully moderated and used well to identify and adapt teaching responses and strategies, monitor progress and report regularly to whānau and the board. Data shows that many students make incremental progress against sub-levels of The New Zealand Curriculum and most achieve their individual education plan (IEP) goals.

The school’s new software system collates information from most of the tools and processes used to gather information and identify goals and support strategies for individual students. These include a ‘happiness audit’ for each child, communications and behaviour analysis, therapists’ and curriculum assessments. Some students also have ‘PATH’ plans that align with the Circle of Courage dimensions. Other specific initiatives such as a Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities project and student engagement profile may also inform individual plans. Teachers and therapists review students’ progress and their planning on a regular basis. A review of IEP goals is reported formally to parents twice yearly.

Individual notebooks are a valued tool for daily communications between teaching staff and whānau. They provide good information about each child’s programme and the school curriculum. They sometimes include information about learning progress as well as shared strategies and resources for learner support.

It would be useful now to draw together all the information gathered through these discrete tools and processes to provide an overview in a more holistic, personalised plan for each child. This plan could include input from parents, specialist teachers and teacher aides, be used to guide day-to-day classroom programmes and practices, and be frequently reviewed and adapted in consultation with all involved.

3 Curriculum

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

The curriculum for Mt Richmond students is well designed to promote and support their learning progress. Curriculum documents have been reviewed so they are more clearly aligned withThe New Zealand Curriculum. Students have an extensive range of opportunities and learning experiences that are designed to help them to eventually transition into their adult lives in the community.

Careful enrolment processes support the development of trusting relationships with families. There is a strong focus on fostering students’ wellbeing, and promoting communication and skills for living independently. Students also have goals for literacy and numeracy, mostly within Level 1 ofThe New Zealand Curriculum. Incremental progress and successes are celebrated. Whānau appreciate the caring school environment where their students feel safe and included. School leaders are currently working with other special schools to develop curriculum provision for older students.

School leaders and teachers are beginning to develop modern, innovative classroom environments, and are exploring the potential of greater use of digital technologies. Music is a significant aspect of the curriculum. School events such as pōwhiri and productions provide students with opportunities for enthusiastic self-expression, dance and cultural performance. They illustrate students’ growing confidence and enjoyment of such occasions.

School leaders encourage teachers to identify students’ individual abilities and specific interests to help engage them in learning programmes. Some teachers are particularly innovative and responsive in their programmes. Teaching programmes are supported by teacher aides, therapists and other specialists. Where these staff work in partnership with teachers, their planning and assessment for students makes a particularly worthwhile contribution to valued student outcomes. Teachers, teacher aides and therapists are keen to develop this collaborative practice in an ongoing way.

School leaders contracted an external evaluation to examine their practices. As a result they have included an expectation of culturally responsive practices in performance management systems. Teachers and teacher aides have successfully made students’ cultures and languages more visible in classroom environments. Leaders and teachers continue to explore the potential of culturally responsive practices to improve support for students’ learning and to promote students’ sense of identity.

Curriculum practices could be enhanced by:

  • continuing to develop a more integrated interdisciplinary approach to assessment, programme planning and evaluation for each child
  • greater clarity in curriculum and other guiding documentation for all staff, about the school’s over-arching expectations for high quality teaching and learning
  • supporting staff to develop skills for critical, evaluative inquiry into the effectiveness of their professional practice.

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

Māori students are supported well to achieve individual goals. Teachers include Māori themes, symbols and language in their programmes and environments to show that Māori students’ cultural identity is recognised and valued. The school has been advised by a kaumātua in developing school protocols, has engaged in consultation with whānau, and plans to continue strengthening these relationships.

The principles of the Ministry of Education’s Ka Hikitia: Accelerating Success 2013 – 2017 strategy are foregrounded in school planning documents. School leaders have developed a Ka Hikitia action plan for promoting success for Māori students. Goals are identified for leaders, teaching and systems, and include actions for strengthening relationships with whānau and monitoring staff capability and confidence. Leaders and teachers are just beginning to make use of the Ministry of Education’s document, Tātaiako, to develop more culturally responsive teaching and leadership practices that will help them to support Māori students and engage with whānau.

How effectively does the school promote educational success for Pacific students?

The school roll includes students from Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue, and Fiji. Some staff also have Pacific heritage and displays celebrate Pacific cultures. The school has some effective strategies for supporting Pacific students and school-wide practices help them to achieve their individual goals. A Pasifika education action plan outlines key 2016 goals for leadership, teaching practices, environments and systems that help Pacific students to experience success. This plan includes establishing a process for monitoring the development of practices that impact positively on outcomes for Pacific students.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain current good practices and to continuing improving provision for students, whānau and the Mt Richmond community.

The board and school leaders are experienced in and have high levels of commitment to providing education and support for students and their whānau. School leaders and staff establish strong partnerships with families and are proactive in providing support when needed. The board, whānau and staff have had opportunities to contribute to a creative ‘PATH’ visioning and strategic planning process.

The school’s charter and annual planning documents are comprehensive and extensive. They include indicators of success and organisational frameworks for monitoring performance and progress in many areas of school operations. School leaders use self review, research, and networks with other schools to identify successful practices and areas where improvements are needed to refine systems for staff and to enhance provision for students and their whānau.

The board is well informed about school developments, special initiatives and student achievements. The principal’s reports to the board against its annual plan often provide good information about the success or effectiveness of initiatives and strategies. The principal promotes and models a culture of professional inquiry and development.

A positive feature of development over recent years is an increasing openness about leadership, management and classroom teaching that is resulting in a growing culture of reflection and professional discussion. There has been a purposeful approach to extending leadership opportunities, coaching and mentoring, and building a sense of collective responsibility amongst teachers. This development of shared understandings and increasingly collaborative approaches has the potential to support continual, sustainable improvements.

Ongoing development would also be supported by:

  • refining and rationalising extensive systems and documentation to ensure they are manageable, effective and sustainable
  • continuing the process of developing performance management systems and documentation that provide robust evidence in relation to the requirements of the Education Council NZ
  • deepening evaluative inquiry, and the scrutiny of evaluation findings, to ensure that staffing, financial and physical resources are allocated in the most effective areas.

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

Mt Richmond School provides well for students with special educational needs, in close partnership with families. Comprehensive systems and ongoing professional learning support the management of this complex setting. School leaders continually explore ways to enhance school practices and provision for students and their families.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

23 September 2016

About the School

Location

Otahuhu, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

1379

School type

Special School

School roll

140

Gender composition

Boys 75% Girls 25%

Ethnic composition

Māori

Pākehā

Samoan

Cook Island Māori

Indian

Tongan

Kampuchean

Fijian

African

Chinese

Niue

Vietnamese

other

20%

4%

24%

16%

11%

8%

4%

3%

2%

2%

2%

2%

2%

Special Features

Satellite classes at Bairds Mainfreight Primary School, Flat Bush Primary School, Papatoetoe Intermediate School, Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate

Review team on site

June 2016

Date of this report

23 September 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

February 2013

October 2009

July 2006