Verdon College - 22/05/2017

Findings

Students benefit from a curriculum that is responsive to their needs, interests and abilities. Achievement information shows that students, especially senior students, achieve very well at Verdon College. Leaders and teachers prioritise building positive relationships with students. The principal, leaders and teachers are creating a culture of collaboration and improvement.

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?

Verdon College is a Catholic Years 7-13 co-educational secondary school in Invercargill. Its Catholic values underpin school life. The school is part of the Special Character Invercargill Community of Learning with other local integrated schools. It has strong networks with several other nearby schools and community groups. A Ruru Special School satellite class is on the school site. Students from this class participate in Verdon College activities.

The school culture is inclusive and caring. Relationships between students and between teachers and students are positive. The belief that every student can succeed is promoted with students and teachers. The school’s focus on culturally responsive leadership and teaching practices has been sustained and is evident.

Since the last ERO review in 2014:

  • the school roll has continued to grow with increased proportions of some ethnic groups, such as Māori and Filipino
  • use of ICT for teaching and learning has increased
  • there has been a whole-school focus on empowering teachers to initiate and lead change.

In response to ERO’s last report there have been some areas of significant progress. These include improving the quality of teaching practice and improving the ways in which staff collaborate and communicate. 

2 Learning

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

Overall, achievement information is used well to make positive changes to engagement, progress and achievement. There are examples of very good use of achievement information, especially to address gaps in learning, improve continuity of learning through year levels, and to support student engagement.

In 2015 and 2016, school information for Years 7 to 10 showed that approximately 75% of students achieved at expected levels in literacy and mathematics. Some reports on student achievement for Years 7 and 8 show that a number of students made more than one year’s progress in a year (accelerated progress) in literacy and mathematics. The school continues to address the disparity of achievement for Māori students in Years 7 to 10.

The school has continued to sustain high proportions of students gaining NCEA Levels 1 and 2. Almost all leavers achieve NCEA Level 1 and most achieve Level 2. The achievement of Māori learners at these levels is similar to or better than that of their peers. Achievement at NCEA Level 3 has decreased over the last two years. Retention of students into Year 13 remains strong. Over the past five years the number of endorsements has continued to increase.

There are multiple forums (formal and informal) for sharing learning information between teachers and between departments, especially in relation to student engagement and behaviour. Along with these information sharing opportunities, there is also a sustained focus on developing teacher capability to use data effectively to support learning.

The school is now in a good position to develop a more systematic approach to the use of data and learning information. This will support improved understanding and identification of:

  • whether or not students are making sufficient progress in relation to expected outcomes
  • the impact of learning interventions
  • teaching and learning strategies that are most effective in supporting learning and engagement
  • specific teaching priorities for groups of students.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports students’ learning. It is designed to respond well to students’ interests, strengths and needs. 

Leaders and teachers prioritise building positive relationships with students and getting to know them as learners and individuals. Students’ wellbeing, engagement and achievement are carefully monitored and supported. Students told ERO that teachers regularly provide additional and customised learning opportunities. The school has continued to develop and strengthen its extension programmes for gifted and talented students.

Teachers regularly collect the views of students about what they want to learn and how well the curriculum, including teaching, is meeting their needs. They use this feedback, along with a range of learning information, to design and adapt programmes and teaching strategies to better support students’ engagement and achievement. Teachers and leaders are currently working on improving the progression of learning for Years 7 to 10 students. This should help students to be well prepared with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their senior courses.

Students have the choice of a wide range of course options. They are well supported to make choices and identify pathways to work, and/or further learning. There is a high level of commitment in the school to ensure that all students can access the learning pathway best suited to their interests and needs. In recent years this has seen the development of new courses and the expansion of school-to-work programmes.

Teachers make effective use of digital technologies to enhance students’ learning and achievement. Teachers and students told ERO this is improving student engagement, supporting the development of students’ self-management skills and facilitating more effective communication between teachers and students.

School leaders and teachers are mindful and respectful of all students’ cultural backgrounds. They have purposefully built their understanding of the importance of culture in students’ learning, with a particular focus on Māori culture. They work collectively on developing teaching practices that are responsive to students’ culture and provide opportunities for students to experience aspects of their culture at school.

The school has identified, and ERO agrees, that there is a need for leaders and teachers in some learning areas to strengthen assessment practices to improve the reliability of teacher judgements about achievement.

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

The school is effectively promoting educational success for Māori, as Māori. Results show that Māori students achieve well at NCEA Levels I and 2.

The school continues to strengthen its cultural responsiveness in leadership and teaching practice as initiated through the He Kākano project. The principal champions biculturalism and success for Māori and ensures these are part of school plans and practices. As a result of this sustained focus the principles of manaakitanga/caring, whanaungatanga/inclusion, mahi tahi/working together and ako (where all are both teacher and learner) are strongly evident throughout the school. This can be seen in the way:

  • the school shows respect for the language, culture and identity of Māori students and their whānau
  • many features of Māori culture are valued, celebrated and increasingly incorporated into the life and learning of the school
  • the school engages with its whānau Māori, and the support the whānau give at school activities and celebrations.

The board of trustees recognise the value of carefully scrutinising the learning information for Māori students, in particular, to identify the impact of school and class programmes and where improvement may be increased.

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.

The school is improvement focused and bases school-wide professional development on sound research to build the collective capacity and capability of teachers and leaders. The principal has taken a considered approach to:

  • building teachers’ belief that they can make a positive difference to outcomes for students
  • building greater collaboration and communication within the teaching staff
  • distributing leadership that has led to teachers and leaders taking more responsibility
  • teachers initiating innovation and change.

ERO saw evidence of some effective initiatives that have been sustained in the school. The school successfully adapts new learning to enhance existing practices.

Over the last year the school has strengthened the teacher-appraisal system. School leaders and teachers continue to review and develop an effective appraisal process.

Next steps

Teachers, leaders and trustees have developed a range of useful evaluative practices. It is now timely for the school to strengthen these processes to evaluate how well the school is progressing in its intended direction for students and effective teaching practices.

The school is about to develop its strategic direction and plan for the next three-to-five years. To give this planning greater coherence and focus, the school’s development goals need to flow clearly into supporting plans, including department and professional working group plans, and into teachers’ and leaders’ appraisal goals.

The board of trustees need to carry out regular surveys of their employees.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code. The school has reviewed and updated its policies and procedures in line with the new Code.

At the time of this review there was one international student attending the school.

The school has good practices and processes for looking after 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.

Action

The board of trustees has not complied with the Ministry of Education requirements for the appraisal of principals. [State Sector Act 1988 s77c (NZ Gazette No 180:Dec 1996]

To improve current practice the board of trustees should annually set the principal’s performance agreement, and appraise the principal against the agreement, practising teacher criteria and the relevant professional standards.

Conclusion

Students benefit from a curriculum that is responsive to their needs, interests and abilities. Achievement information shows that students, especially senior students, achieve very well at Verdon College. Leaders and teachers prioritise building positive relationships with students. The principal, leaders and teachers are creating a culture of collaboration and improvement.

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

Dr Lesley Patterson
Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Te Waipounamu)

22 May 2017

About the School 

Location

Invercargill

Ministry of Education profile number

408

School type

Secondary (Years 7 to 13)

School roll

702

Number of international students

1

Gender composition

Boys:     52%
Girls:      48%

Ethnic composition

Māori
Pākehā
Pacific
Filipino
Asian
Other

18%
72%
  3%
  4%
  2%
  1%

Special Features

Host to a satellite class for Ruru Special School

Review team on site

March 2017

Date of this report

22 May 2017

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

January 2014
August 2012
July 2007