Twizel Area School - 20/06/2013

Findings

1. Context

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

Twizel Area School is unique in that it is an urban school in a rural setting. Students enjoy the family-like atmosphere and teachers know the students and their families well. Relationships amongst students and between students and teachers are warm and caring. The principal and staff have a strong focus on supporting the physical and emotional well-being of the students and their families.

Teachers take advantage of the school’s proximity to the mountains and lakes and make very good use of these as part of the education outside the classroom (EOTC) programme. Activities such as skiing, snowboarding, rowing, abseiling, tramping and a variety of camps are a regular part of the school curriculum. Seasonal changes also bring about different learning contexts. Students who spoke to ERO said they appreciate the many and varied opportunities provided for their learning.

Class numbers are low which mean that students often receive one to-one attention from their teachers and teacher aides. Distance learning is a well developed part of the school’s programmes. This is to provide senior students with a greater range of learning areas that small schools might not otherwise be able to provide.

The school is well resourced, has attractive grounds and ready access to community facilities that enhance students’ learning.

2. Learning

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

Teachers generally use assessment information effectively to identify students’ learning needs and next learning steps. Examples of this include:

  • teachers at all levels monitoring and recording students’ learning to inform their planning for students’ future learning
  • curriculum leaders analysing National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) data and adjusting programmes to meet the changing needs of students.

Findings

Assessment information is used by the senior leadership team to determine the school’s student achievement targets and to decide on teachers’ professional development needs. This information is also used to identify students who need greater challenge or extra support to succeed. The significant individual support students receive from their teachers and teacher aides helps them to experience success and enjoy their learning.

Since the last ERO review, the school has undertaken a considerable amount of work with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to improve assessment practices and systems for NCEA. This has involved:

  • extending the moderation and verification practices and processes
  • reviewing some systems and establishing others where gaps have been identified.

Areas for review and development

The previous ERO report noted that the good quality teaching and assessment practices observed in some classrooms should be extended across the school. The findings from this ERO review confirm that this is still a priority.

The principal has identified, and ERO agrees, that sustaining current improvements to NCEA assessment processes is an ongoing priority for the school.

In order for junior and middle school students to take more responsibility for their learning they need to be more consistently:

  • provided with information about their achievement, next learning steps and their role in the learning process
  • given greater choice about what they learn and the way they learn.

3.Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is effectively promoting and supporting students’ learning. Teachers have a strong commitment to meeting the needs of individual students.

Areas of strength

Students are motivated by the wide variety of interesting learning activities within and beyond the school. They benefit from the purposeful integration of the special features of the local environment in their learning. Students across all areas of the school are not disadvantaged by their geographical isolation and are supported and extended by meaningful learning. Middle school students are encouraged to develop self-managing skills through an individual mentoring programme.

In the senior school, the flexible, responsive curriculum and timetable are driven by students’ needs, interests and aspirations. Senior students:

  • have their curriculum options and choices extended through long-distance education programmes
  • make decisions about their learning pathways
  • are provided with high-quality career guidance and support from the teachers responsible for these programmes
  • are part of a useful mentoring programme that encourages their motivation and provides them with strong support to achieve their individual goals.

The school’s good relationships with local businesses help facilitate a wide range of work experiences and rich learning opportunities for students.

Areas for review and development

In order to ensure all students are being properly challenged in their learning, teachers need to review the level of differentiated teaching within their classrooms. It would also be useful for teachers in the senior school to monitor the impact that multi-level teaching is having on the quality of students’ learning.

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

The school has a range of processes to particularly focus teachers on providing for the needs and interests of Māori students. These include:

  • developing specific targets to improve the achievement of Māori students in writing and mathematics
  • developing, in some classes, individual learning goals for Māori students according to their particular learning needs
  • using the three-way-conferences with parents’ of Māori students to gather whānau expectations for their child’s education.

The board, principal and teachers need to explore further ways to develop the place of te Ao Māori in the school. The very good example in the physical education department could be used as a model for across the school. The kapa haka group, supported by the whole school, performs powhiri or mihi whakatau for visitors.

4. Sustainable Performance

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

The school has made some progress since the last review. However, there are still significant areas that need to be addressed.

Findings

Positive aspects noted by ERO during this review include:

  • the board is now receiving more regular and improved student achievement information that clearly shows whether cohorts of students have made good progress over time
  • some improvements to aspects of self review and appraisal
  • improving student achievement results across the school
  • greatly improved systems for staff recruitment
  • a strong sense of unity amongst staff members.

Areas for review and development

It is important for the board to review how well it is operating in relation to the school’s vision and strategic goals. ERO found instances of inconsistencies in the way the board and senior leadership team (SLT) operate. The board and SLT now need to review and strengthen school structures and processes including:

  • the self-review framework and processes
  • the robustness and consistency of current performance-management systems to support high-quality teaching and learning
  • the board’s operations, management and effectiveness so that trustees and leaders have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and the distinction between governance and management
  • creating an efficient system for ensuring that policies and procedures are regularly reviewed and up to date
  • the level of board cohesion, unity and clarity of communication
  • the board minutes, to ensure they capture the depth of discussions held.

The principal and board have already identified that several of the above areas need to be reviewed. ERO believes that in order to address these issues effectively, trustees will need to access specific training and support.

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.

The school has reported to students and their parents on student achievement in relation to the National Standards only once annually.

The board, with the principal and teachers is required to use the National Standards to report to students and their parents on the student’s progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards. Reporting to parents in plain language writing must be at least twice a year. Source [NAG 2Aa]

Recommendation to other agencies

ERO recommends that the Ministry of Education considers providing support for the board in addressing the leadership and governance issues identified in this report.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

ERO intends to carry out another review over the course of one-to-two years.

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

20 June 2013

About the School

Location

Twizel

Ministry of Education profile number

527

School type

Composite (Years 1 to 13), Area School

School roll

167

Gender composition

Boys: 57% Girls: 43%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

Māori

Pacific

Others

77%

17%

2%

4%

Special Features

Host school for technology education for Omarama School

Review team on site

March 2013

Date of this report

20 June 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

December 2009

September 2006

June 2004