Porirua Activity Centre - 21/11/2017

Background

Introduction

Porirua Activity Centre is one of 14 activity centres in New Zealand that cater for secondary school students (Years 9 to 13) who are at risk of disengaging from mainstream schooling and at risk of low educational, social and vocational outcomes.

Activity centres provide a specialised learning programme which will lead to increased attendance, engagement and achievement at school, social outcomes and successful transition rates. Registered teachers support students to increase their achievement and engagement in education guided by an Individual Learning Programme (ILP) which is responsive to the needs of each student.The ILP details the student’s learning goals and is developed in partnership with the student, teacher, parents/whānau and enrolling school.

A key component of the programme for activity centre students is to successfully transition back into the enrolling school or move on to further education or employment.

Tawa Collegeis the managing school for this activity centre. The school Board of Trustees holds governance responsibility for the activity centre and is responsible for providing high quality educational service in a physically and emotionally safe learning environment.

Terms of Reference

This review is based on an evaluation of the performance of Porirua Activity Centre in relation to the terms of reference developed with the Ministry of Education. The terms of reference are:

  • management and governance practices including planning, internal evaluation and professional capacity building

  • the use of information to plan and implement individual programmes for, and with, students, and to monitor their progress

  • support for students to achieve improved social and educational outcomes

  • educational and social outcomes for students, including the extent to which students’ learning has been accelerated

  • students’ experience of interagency support for them and their families

  • transitions in and out of the activity centre.

The key evaluative question is:

How effective is this Activity Centre at achieving positive outcomes for students?

Context

Porirua Activity Centre provides education for up to 20 students in Years 9 to 11 who require personalised support to re-engage in learning. Seven of the current twelve students identify as Māori and two as Pacific.

Since the 2012 ERO review, Tawa College has replaced Aotea College as the host school. Five secondary schools in the Porirua Basin enrol students in the activity centre. Three of these schools have relatively recently appointed principals. A principal group meets termly to consider strategic and ongoing matters related to the activity centre.

There have been significant recent changes to staffing. In 2017, the acting-director and teacher are new to the centre. Familiarising themselves with centre practices and building relationships with schools and external agencies to ensure effective support for the wellbeing and learning of students has been an ongoing challenge.

Since the previous ERO review, facility development has included creating an onsite art and technology area, constructing an all-weather surface for physical activity and upgrading the digital technology infrastructure.

The previous ERO report identified necessary development areas linked to curriculum, assessment practices, ensuring learning is responsive to individual needs and the level of involvement of some enrolling schools. In 2017, these areas are yet to be responded to effectively. Further development is required to allow the centre to be well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

Findings

How effective is the Activity Centre at achieving positive outcomes for students?

Although many students engage more positively with learning while in the activity centre, relatively few (approximately 25% in 2016 and 2017) transition back into school. Some move onto a pathway that provides further educational opportunities outside a school environment. Successes of some students, once they leave the centre, are known anecdotally and are celebrated. Data reported by the activity centre in 2016 and 2017, indicates many students do not make demonstrable progress in literacy and numeracy.

Adults focus on supporting students to attend regularly and develop competencies that will support sustained learning. Centre values of Kotahitanga (Togetherness), Manaakitanga (Caring), Akoranga (Lifelong learning) and Te Ara Whakatia (Making things right) are an integral part of daily practices. Students share and extend their understanding of these attributes as part of re-engaging with learning.

Some information is collected to show attendance, literacy and numeracy achievement and the development of social skills. Progress in these areas is commented on in reports completed by the director. Regular attendance and therefore continuity with learning, remain an issue for some students. More in-depth analysis of data related to the extent of progress, especially in literacy and numeracy, is needed to evaluate the impact of various strategies and the curriculum.

What is the quality of governance and leadership of the Activity Centre?

The managing board receives regular reports on the functioning of the activity centre. Reports include comments on attendance, engagement and achievement, but there is limited evidence-based evaluation of the impact on learners. Reporting should focus more on how well the activity centre is responding to the needs of students. This would enable the board to contribute more to improving outcomes for students.

The director has established goals for improvement of activity centre practice and identified actions to support these. There has been some review of outcomes. Greater use of outcome and progress data as part of reporting and review, including feedback from stakeholders, would support more evaluative consideration of effectiveness.

The managing principal and acting-director of the activity centre are focused on establishing an environment conducive to student learning and wellbeing. Roles and responsibilities of the managing and enrolling schools are documented in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Variable commitment by schools to the priorities and systems included in the memorandum impacts on the overall support individual students receive while enrolled in the activity centre.

The activity centre is well supported by the relationship it has with the managing school, Tawa College. The principal ensures the activity centre has access to suitable resources. He maintains a positive ongoing association with staff. Professional learning for teachers focuses on increasing capacity to respond to the varying and complex needs of students. Ensuring the appraisal process in place is carried out robustly and completed each year, would further assist ongoing teacher development and contribute to improved student outcomes.

The activity centre physical environment suitably provides for the educational, social and recreational needs of students. Systems for ensuring a safe physical and emotional environment need to be fully documented and available for all staff to readily refer to. The managing school should lead a review of current policies, procedures and practices to ensure they are fit for purpose. Centre-based procedures related to bullying and reporting suspected abuse of students need to be reviewed to ensure appropriate guidelines are in place.

How effective are the selection and transition processes?

Most students selected to attend the activity centre settle quickly into the centre and to their learning.

Enrolment guidelines and the transition process are comprehensively documented. The respective responsibilities of all stakeholders are clearly defined. Clear expectations for engagement and respectful relationships are shared with students and whānau. Two school terms are viewed as optimum time to be in the centre, but there is flexibility for individual situations.

Two intake meetings each term involving representatives of schools, discuss potential enrolments and the progress of current activity centre students. Well-considered processes are in place to ensure students are well known emotionally, socially and cognitively. Whānau are welcomed and encouraged to partner with the centre in support of their children.

Some students are enrolled without having a close link to their enrolling school. The associated lack of in-depth knowledge of individual learning strengths and challenges reduces the effectiveness of transition for some students.

Information received from schools during the transition process is of variable quality. The ongoing involvement of teachers from the enrolling school and other agencies once students are part of the activity centre can also be variable. Schools need to ensure they maintain an ongoing active involvement with individual students to maximise the chance of success both in the centre and as they return to school or further education.

How well does the Activity Centre identify the social, emotional and academic needs of each student?

The information the activity centre receives to allow them to know the social, emotional and academic needs of each student in a timely manner is variable. Enrolling schools provide a range of relevant material that includes attendance, agency involvement, behaviour goals, academic achievement (particularly reading and mathematics), school support person(s) and school reports. Students and whānau are encouraged to share their aspirations.

Students emotional and wellbeing needs are effectively supported by both centre staff and external sources. Regular access is available to school counselling services, nurse, dentist and various specialist services. Accessing timely support for some students can be a challenge, particularly in relation to mental health issues and specialist learning support.

How well do the specialised learning programmes meet the needs of each student?

Learning programmes do not always effectively meet the needs of students.

In 2017, formal individual learning programmes (ILPs) have not been completed for all students. Discussion takes place with students, parents/whānau and enrolling schools to consider goals and progress. Some of this is documented, but not to the minimum standard for each ILP as outlined in the MoU.

Formal learning plans should be prepared for each individual student to shape curriculum, track progress and plan for future education, training and employment. The ILP should set challenging and appropriate expectations for learning, social and emotional development for each student. Regular formal review should be carried out in partnership with students and whānau.

The centre is focused on the importance of social and pastoral support as a pathway to improving engagement and achievement of students. Non-teaching staff are an integral part of the programme provided. Adults are caring, collaborative and model inclusive attitudes. The learning environment is managed in ways that support participation.

Teachers employ a range of strategies that promote engagement in learning. There is an ongoing focus on developing and maintaining positive relationships involving students and adults within the centre. Expectations related to individual student behaviours and relationships with others are well-known and regularly shared in group sessions. A restorative approach assists students to reflect on and modify behaviours to those that are more suited to sustained engagement in learning.

Opportunity to learn across a range of curriculum areas is provided. Literacy and mathematics are prioritised. Regularly timetabled classes also include science, technology, life-skills, te reo Māori and careers lessons. Regular excursions and access to external programmes supplements the onsite curriculum. Students are able to maintain involvement in enrolling school cultural and sporting activities.

Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu – The Correspondence School (Te Kura) programmes are not currently being used. Consideration should be given to using these programmes to enable the range of student abilities and interests to be responded to more effectively.

Overarching guidelines to support assessment, teaching and learning within the activity centre context are limited. The Porirua Activity Centre curriculum should continue to be developed and documented to provide a framework for personalised learning and a basis for monitoring and evaluating progress.

How effectively are students prepared for their future pathways?

Few students transition back to school. The destination of some other students is not well known.

The centre needs to evaluate the success of programmes in preparing students for future pathways. Review should focus on how well students are supported to re-engage with their school or move to another pathway after being in the centre. This should include consideration of engagement, attendance and academic progress. In addition, formally tracking students beyond their time in the centre would assist internal evaluation of the effectiveness of a range of activity centre practices.

Transition plans are put in place for students as they move back into school or onto further education. Information about students’ progress while in the centre and the support they require is shared. Some students participate in tertiary provider ‘taster’ courses to assist them to decide tertiary training opportunities they may wish to commit to. Possible future pathways are regularly considered in association with whānau.

Processes to maintain communication with schools have been strengthened. Weekly reporting includes comments related to learning behaviours, attendance, social skills, whānau involvement and the curriculum programme within which students are involved. Students’ eventual transition from the activity centre would be assisted if comments also included more detail about progress in literacy and numeracy.

Recommendation

ERO recommends that the managing school board of trustees and centre director regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum, using evidence of student outcomes, to determine what works and what needs to change to promote success for all.

Patricia Davey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Central (Acting)

21 November 2017

About the Activity Centre

Location

Porirua

Ministry of Education profile number

6127

Activity Centre roll

12

Gender composition

Male 9, Female 3

Ethnic composition

Māori
Pākehā
Pacific

7
3
2

Review team on site

August 2017

Date of this report

21 November 2017

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review
Special Review
Special Review

March 2013
January 2009
June 2005