St Thomas of Canterbury College - 27/07/2015

Findings

St Thomas of Canterbury College's special Catholic character is strongly reflected in all aspects of the school. Students from diverse backgrounds benefit from the highly inclusive and supportive culture. There are high expectations for students’ achievement and wellbeing and a sense of family and brotherhood among boys. The school's curriculum effectively promotes student learning. Achievement trends over time continue to be positive. The school is very well led and managed.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years.

1 Context

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

St Thomas of Canterbury College has a well-established history and traditions based on the Edmund Rice philosophy and values of social justice, compassion, service to others and excellence in education. The school’s special Catholic character is clearly defined by relationships, high expectations for students’ achievement and wellbeing that contribute to a sense of family and brotherhood among boys.

Developments since the 2012 ERO review include a number of new classrooms and facilities that are expanding opportunities for 21st century teaching and learning. The board is managing current plans for further refurbishment and rebuilding of other areas of the school. The school roll has continued to grow and reflect increasing cultural diversity.

In 2014, the school won a national Prime Minister’s Award for excellence in education.

School leaders and teachers are actively involved in a number of learning clusters that are focused on continuing to improve teaching, learning and achievement across the school.

Good progress has been made in addressing most of the recommendations from the 2012 ERO review. This includes strengthening the appraisal process and improving the writing programme at junior levels.

2 Learning

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

The school uses achievement information very well to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement.

National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) information shows that there is a continuing trend over time of improved achievement and number of endorsements across the NCEA levels. The school has met the national 2017 target for NCEA Level 2 achievement. Māori students achieve at levels similar to their peers at NCEA Levels 1 and 3. Leaders and teachers responded positively to lower achievement for Māori students at Level 2 in 2014.

School data for Years 7 and 8 in 2014 shows that all Year 7 and almost all Year 8 students achieved at or above the National Standard in reading. Achievement in writing is good. Leaders and teachers have introduced a range of strategies and resources to promote improvement in mathematics where achievement is lower. Māori students’ achievement is similar to their peers, particularly in reading and writing.

Leaders and teachers have improved school systems for tracking and monitoring student achievement. Students at risk of not making expected progress are provided with targeted support, including mentoring and individual learning programmes. Effective systems are in place to support students to monitor their own progress towards their personal and learning goals.

School leaders ensure that parents and students have ready access to information about students’ learning progress and achievement. Parents are also contacted regularly with updates about their sons' learning attitudes and attendance. Other data provided by the school shows good levels of engagement and retention of students.

Leaders of learning areas report to the board annually about student achievement and provide useful information about what faculties and departments are doing to continue to improve achievement. The quality of this information could be further strengthened by identifying the impact of initiatives and practices that have been introduced to support learning and raise achievement.

In order to continue to strengthen the actions being taken to improve achievement, targets could be further refined to provide a more precise focus on groups of students whose learning and achievement are at greatest risk.

Learning area leaders should report to the board about the progress and achievement of Years 9 and 10 students over time, and determine the strengths and needs of students during these two years.

3 Curriculum

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

The school's curriculum is very effective in promoting and supporting student learning. This is being further supported by a comprehensive redesign of the curriculum to ensure it is flexible, responsiveness to students’ needs and interests and reflects current good practice in teaching.

School leaders and teachers are taking a well-considered, planned and appropriately research-based approach to curriculum development. This is contributing to:

  • greater collaboration among teachers in the ways they teach and meet the specific learning needs of boys
  • changes to the timetable that enable increased opportunities and choices for boys
  • more flexible learning spaces that better suit students’ learning preferences and ability to manage their own learning.

Students benefit from teaching and learning approaches that effectively enable aspects of their culture to be incorporated into class programmes. Increased access to technology supports their learning in school, and from home.

Since the 2012 ERO review, the school has increased its links with tertiary and other educational providers to expand learning pathways for students as they move through the senior school. This is helping to increase options and choices for senior students. Senior leaders and teachers make good use of partnerships with local and wider community services and businesses to make learning experiences more relevant and purposeful.

School staff use well-embedded and effective school-wide systems to help students positively manage their learning and behaviour. There is a strong focus on older boys supporting younger boys with their learning and wellbeing. Students have many opportunities to express their views and take on leadership roles.

The board, school leaders and ERO agree that the next step is for the school to continue with the review of the curriculum. This should include:

  • formalising a distinctive and overarching St Thomas of Canterbury College curriculum document
  • identifying how the Year 11 to 13 curriculum will be monitored and reviewed.

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

There is a strong commitment from the board, school leaders and teachers to support Māori students’ educational success. Considerable attention is given to meaningfully recognising Māori students’ talents, interests and culture.

Students have been well supported to achieve high levels of success in cultural competitions, such as national speech competitions. There is an increase in the number of Māori students who choose to go on to further academic study.

Senior Māori students provide significant leadership and are positive role models and mentors for younger students. Māori students have good opportunities for their views to be heard and responded to.

School leaders and staff have been part of ongoing professional development that has supported them to develop a stronger understanding of supporting Māori students’ educational success. Māori whānau work positively in partnerships with the school to develop shared strategies to improve outcomes for their children.

How effectively does the school promote educational success for Pacifica, as Pacifica

There is a high level of commitment from the board, school leaders and teachers to support Pacifica students’ educational success. Pacifica students’ cultures are recognised and valued within the school.

Pacifica students have experienced success in cultural competitions, such as a national speech competition. There is an increase in the number of Pacifica students choosing to go on to further academic study once they leave the school.

Pacifica students value the supportive relationships that exist between teachers and students and among students. Senior Pacifica students provide significant leadership and are positive role models and mentors for younger students.

School staffing includes teachers with relevant cultural knowledge. Teachers are participating in professional development about Pacifica education and culture. Some of this is being led by the school’s Pacifica parents and students.

A regular gathering for parents of Pacifica students supports them to be well informed about school plans, have their perspectives heard and work in partnership with the school in supporting their children’s educational success.

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’s sustained focus on student achievement and wellbeing is clearly linked to its commitment to the school’s special Catholic character and values. Trustees bring a very good range of skills and expertise, including cultural, to their roles, ensuring that the community is well represented.

The shared values and vision for successful outcomes for all boys is clearly evident across all levels of the school. Leaders and teachers have a strong and sustained focus on supporting boys to become young men of good character who know the value of service to others.

The principal and senior leaders provide high quality leadership and have demonstrated considerable resilience during times of significant challenge. Senior leaders effectively model the school’s values, have high expectations and provide support for staff and students. This is making meaningful contributions to the positive and reflective school culture.

Trustees and senior leaders use effective strategic planning processes to maintain a clear focus on priorities for improvement and future direction setting. School goals are very well linked to planning, appraisal and professional development programmes. The principal provides very good quality reports to the board that show progress against school goals. Improvements to the school’s appraisal system are likely to contribute to further strengthening teaching and learning practices.

School leaders use individual staff strengths well, and maintain a good focus on growing leadership across staff and students. Some new leadership structures have been developed over the last year to better meet students’ learning and vocational needs.

Self-review practices are well embedded across the school and reflect a culture of continuous reflection on ways to improve boys’ learning, achievement and wellbeing.

In order to continue to build on current good practice, the board could extend self-review practices to ensure that:

  • relevant board processes include the perspectives of wider groups
  • there is a more formalised approach to reviewing the quality and effectiveness of governance in relation to school goals and priorities.

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. There are currently twenty three international students attending the school.

The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the code. ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school’s self-review process for international students is sound.

Students are well supported by a dedicated and highly experienced teaching staff. They are provided with specific learning programmes and individualised support within classes and in small groups to assist their learning. There are extensive systems in place to monitor and address their learning and wellbeing needs.

School leaders and the international department staff now need to extend reporting to the board so that trustees are regularly kept informed of the achievement, progress, health and wellbeing of international students.

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

St Thomas of Canterbury College's special Catholic character is strongly reflected in all aspects of the school. Students from diverse backgrounds benefit from the highly inclusive and supportive culture. There are high expectations for students’ achievement and wellbeing and a sense of family and brotherhood among boys. The school's curriculum effectively promotes student learning. Achievement trends over time continue to be positive. The school is very well led and managed.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years.

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

27 July 2015

About the School

Location

Christchurch

Ministry of Education profile number

331

School type

Secondary (Years 7 to 10)

School roll

587

Number of international students

23

Gender composition

Boys 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

Māori

Pacifica

Asian

66%

17%

9%

8%

Review team on site

June 2015

Date of this report

27 July 2015

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

October 2012

February 2010

November 2008