Thames High School - 02/10/2015

Findings

Students at Thames High School benefit from a wide range of academic, sporting, cultural and social opportunities. They participate and enjoy success within an affirming, inclusive and friendly school culture. School and board leadership is experienced and staff show strong commitment to helping students achieve their potential.

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?

Thames High School is a co-educational secondary school providing education for students in Years 9 to 13 from the township of Thames and surrounding areas. The student roll has remained stable since the last ERO review. Currently there are 584 students enrolled of whom 32% identify as Māori. There are 18 international students from a range of countries on the roll.

A strength of the school is the stability and experience of school and board leadership. The principal and trustees have a well-established relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Senior managers work collaboratively with curriculum and pastoral leaders and staff, providing a clear sense of direction and purpose for the school. Students benefit from a warm, safe and inclusive school culture that promotes positive educational outcomes. The school’s mission statement is ‘to inspire life-long learners who actively build a diverse, just and sustainable society’.

Developments since the 2012 ERO review include a significant increase in staff and student access to, and effective integration of, digital technology for teaching and learning. Teachers have continued to strengthen processes for reflecting on, evaluating and sharing good practice. Initiatives in curriculum design at the senior level have increased flexibility and opportunities for students to achieve success in a broad range of learning pathways. At the start of 2015, the school adopted a timetable that had fewer but longer teaching periods each day, with the intention of maximising learning time.

The school benefits from the community’s traditional inter-generational identification with Thames High School. This is reflected in close relationships and networks with parents, whānau and the community. School events and activities benefit from wide interest and support.

The board and school leaders responded positively to recommendations in the 2012 ERO report. There has been progress in the use of achievement information at all levels of the school. An increased focus on attendance, retention to the senior school and transition is benefitting all students. Aspects of evidence-based self review have also been strengthened.

2 Learning

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

The school makes effective use of achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement.

Staff from the pastoral care team, liaise closely with the contributing schools to gather comprehensive, relevant personal and achievement information on students entering Year 9. This information is well used to place students in appropriate classes and social groupings, and establish positive relationships with students and families in need of additional support for successful transition to high school. The school is currently working with contributing schools to give greater emphasis and importance to National Standards data at the time of entry.

All teachers have ongoing access to academic and pastoral information to inform their planning and build productive relationships with students and their families. Each curriculum area provides an annual report for the board and senior management which summarises achievement information with a particular focus on the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). These reports inform schoolwide self review and assist the board to set targets and guide decisions on resourcing and strategic priorities.

Students and families have ready access through the parent portal, to a range of important information, including progress, attendance, useful course and assessment details, achievement data and other information relevant to their education. This sharing of information is building productive relationships with parents and whānau so they can be partners in their child’s learning. Monitoring student progress in the senior school has been enhanced through the appointment of an academic dean, and several initiatives such as a 'direction day' with a focus on planning learning pathways, and the vertical whānau system.

At Years 9 and 10 the school gathers achievement information from a range of sources, including standardised tests, which is used to track progress. This information indicates that the proportion of students entering Year 9 at or above expected achievement levels is similar to national comparisons. The information also shows that students continue to make age expected progress through Years 9 and 10. School leaders recognise the need to review how the progress of individuals and groups of students is evaluated and reported to parents and the board.

The board and school leaders have set and closely monitored achievement targets for students at Levels 1 and 2 NCEA. Data for 2014 shows that the proportion of students gaining Level 1 and 2 qualifications has increased over time and is now comparable to national averages and similar schools. The proportion gaining compulsory Level 1 literacy credits is also comparable to national averages, while numeracy remains below. The school now recognises the need to set appropriate and challenging targets to improve overall student achievement for Level 3 NCEA and University Entrance qualifications. Three students attained National Scholarships in 2014.

Students at risk of underachieving are identified, closely monitored, and well supported through individual and group intervention programmes. The special education needs coordinator (SENCO) works effectively with experienced teacher aides, the pastoral care team and outside agencies to provide appropriate support for success in Years 9 and 10. Curriculum design at the senior level provides learning pathways to meet the diverse needs of all students.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning by offering a wide range of academic, sporting, cultural and social opportunities. The Ministry of Education funded Attendance, Retention and Transition initiative has resulted in improved attendance rates, increased retention of students to Years 12 and 13, and the integration of Vocational Pathways into career advice and curriculum documentation.

Students participate and experience success in a range of sports, and celebrated the winning of the 2015 Hillary Challenge for outdoor challenge. Performing and visual arts are valued and celebrated within both the school and parent community. Students are encouraged to take initiatives that have a focus on serving or helping others, as well as undertaking leadership roles.

Teachers successfully establish and maintain respectful and affirming relationships with their students. Classrooms are settled and conducive to learning and teaching. In recent years the use of digital technologies to enhance teaching and learning has become increasingly effective and consistent across the school. Sustained professional learning has promoted the sharing of best practice in e-learning amongst staff. Many examples of high quality teaching were observed where teachers:

  • shared the purpose of learning
  • used student achievement information effectively to inform their planning to meet differing learning needs
  • empowered students to take responsibility for their learning through structured feedback and advice about ‘next steps’
  • gave additional time and support to students to encourage their progress and success.

Senior and middle school leadership is effective and retains a focus on positive educational outcomes for students. School documentation provides clear guidelines for curriculum delivery and pastoral care. The Positive Behaviour 4 Learning (PB4L) initiative has resulted in improved communications based on shared values and restorative practices.

School and curriculum leaders recognise that next steps involve:

  • identifying, formalising and strengthening learning links across departments
  • professional learning and development for curriculum leaders.

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

Māori students continue to have opportunities to experience academic, sporting and cultural success. The Whare Wananga provides a focal point for the school’s te reo Māori, cultural studies programmes and kapa haka. Special guests are welcomed with a whole school pōwhiri. Initiatives have included an emerging Māori student leadership programme offered by Te Wananga o Aotearoa, and the mentoring of Year 11 Māori students with a focus on attendance and achievement.

The board and school leaders are currently involved in developing a memorandum of understanding with Ngāti Maru to enhance iwi/school partnership. The building of a new Whare Wananga at the front of the school is a significant project. In 2014, some trustees and staff undertook the ‘Te Pumaomao’ language and culture course. This learning was extended through a student-led initiative to improve the pronunciation of Māori names and words for all staff.

The school recognises the ongoing challenge of ensuring success for Māori as Māori, and raising Māori student achievement to the level of their peers. It is now important to develop a strategic approach that incorporates the principles of Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Māori Success, and enacts the school’s mission statement to building a ‘just and sustainable society’. This plan should include:

  • a clearly defined and shared commitment to realising the positive potential of Māori, as Māori
  • a critical self review of the bicultural dimensions in all aspects of the curriculum, operations and environment
  • the valuing of Māori student voice by providing opportunities to empower them to share, initiate and advocate
  • the strengthening of the relationship with whānau and iwi as integral partners in the education of their tamariki.

This strategic approach to promoting Māori success as Māori is likely to bring coherence, agreed expectations, and shared responsibility for sustainable growth and change.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance. Positive factors include:

  • highly effective governance by well-informed trustees who set and monitor clear strategic priorities for the school
  • the well-respected principal who models collaborative and inclusive leadership
  • the cohesive, knowledgeable and effective senior leadership team
  • curriculum leaders who are open to leading educational change in their subject areas
  • a strong and experienced pastoral care team that coordinates a ‘wrap around’ support network for students
  • dedicated teachers who have high expectations for students, and facilitate many additional opportunities for students to learn and succeed
  • a school culture that encourages students to participate, experience success and celebrate their achievements
  • self-review processes that are systematic and focused on school improvement.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students 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 the review there were 18 international students attending the school.

Thames High School has a well-developed international student department to support each aspect of international student education. There is an effective and affirming induction process which includes orientation time, the careful allocation of academic courses informed by each student’s ability to access the curriculum, and respecting parent aspirations for each student. The international dean coordinates pastoral care and liaises closely with the homestay organiser. She closely monitors student welfare and academic progress, and ensures parents are well informed. International students are well integrated into all aspects of the school’s academic, sporting, social and cultural life.

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 at Thames High School benefit from a wide range of academic, sporting, cultural and social opportunities. They participate and enjoy success within an affirming, inclusive and friendly school culture. School and board leadership is experienced and staff show strong commitment to helping students achieve their potential.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

2 October 2015

School Statistics

Location

Thames

Ministry of Education profile number

111

School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll

584

Number of international students

18

Gender composition

Girls 50%

Boys 50%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

Māori

Other European

Other Asian

Pacific

South East Asian

Chinese

Indian

Other

56%

32%

3%

3%

2%

1%

1%

1%

1%

Review team on site

July 2015

Date of this report

2 October 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

August 2012

September 2010

November 2007