Wesley College - 26/11/2015

1. Background and Context

What is the background and context for this school’s review?

Wesley College is an historic state-integrated school on the outskirts of Pukekohe. The school caters for boys in Years 9 to 13 and for girls in Years 11 to 13. It offers both boarding and day school provision.

The school’s special character derives from its Methodist heritage. This includes a traditional commitment to providing for students of Māori and Pacific descent, and for others who would particularly benefit from the school’s strong Christian and pastoral care ethos. Students continue to demonstrate a high level of pride in the school and to affirm the respect they have for school leaders and staff, both past and present.

In 2011 ERO made a decision to work more closely with the school over a one-to-two year period to encourage improved performance in curriculum and teaching, analysis and use of student achievement data, self review and various aspects of school management. The Ministry of Education, through its Student Achievement Function (SAF) initiative, supported the school closely during this time providing guidance on teaching, learning and student achievement. While progress was made between 2011 and 2013 across a range of areas, further work was needed to embed and sustain these improvements. Limitations in the school’s capacity to maintain a rigorous and sustainable programme of self review, remained an ongoing concern for ERO.

Consequently, a further one-to-two year ERO review was initiated in 2013. Since that time a number of improvements have been evident in the areas of teaching and learning, governance, management, and self review. Changes in school personnel have also occurred. A new chairperson took over leadership of the board of trustees at the start of 2014 and considerable work has been undertaken at board level to strengthen governance practices. A new principal was appointed to lead the school from the beginning of 2015, following the retirement of the previous principal. The Ministry of Education has continued its support for the school through the SAF, further assisting the considerable progress made to address review and development areas identified in the 2013 ERO report.

2. Review and Development

How effectively is the school addressing its priorities for review and development?

The agreed review and development priorities for this ERO review focused on:

  • designing and reviewing the curriculum to promote increased student engagement in learning
  • analysing and using student achievement information to enable senior leaders and teachers to promote more responsive teaching and learning
  • self-review processes, and the school’s capacity to report regularly on the effectiveness of teaching and learning, performance appraisal processes and pastoral care provision
  • links between the school and hostel to further support students’ learning, progress and wellbeing
  • the board of trustees’ understanding of its governance role, and its capacity for reviewing school progress over time and for identifying and prioritising key strategic goals
  • ways in which the board meets its obligations to consult and report to its Māori community.

Progress

Wesley College has made considerable progress in addressing its areas for review and development.

Curriculum development

High priority has been placed on curriculum review and development to strengthen and clarify learning pathways for students. An emphasis on providing an extended range of subject options, including increased use of external educational providers, is providing senior students with more diverse opportunities to pursue their academic and/or vocational goals and interests. Improved careers guidance and access to academic mentoring for senior students helps ensure that students are able to make well informed decisions about learning pathways that lead to purposeful qualifications and help them achieve their future career aspirations. Work in this area is ongoing with plans to further broaden curriculum pathways in 2016.

Student progress and achievement

Improvements in curriculum have been accompanied by significant developments in school processes for monitoring and analysing student progress and achievement. Upgraded data management systems are being well used to provide in-depth analysis of a range of student achievement and wellbeing information. As a result, the school now has very good information about senior student progress in the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA). It also has improved information about pastoral care provision and student engagement in learning. Achievement information is shared widely with teachers and increasingly informs their programme planning and delivery as more responsive teaching continues to develop and strengthen.

While student achievement data in for 2014 showed improved literacy and numeracy performance and a significant lift in NCEA Level 1 achievement, there was an overall decline in pass rates from previous years. A more positive outcome is, however, indicated for 2015. The school’s close tracking of progress and achievement shows that the great majority of students have attained the required literacy and numeracy credits, and that many have achieved well in internal assessments, positioning them well for success in their NCEA studies.

Teaching and learning

Progress in improving teaching practice and the quality of learning experiences for students are also evident. The focus placed on teachers improving their practice and students being ready to learn has clarified and raised expectations for both teaching staff and students. Expectations for effective teaching practice are clearly documented. These expectations are well aligned to teacher professional development and performance appraisal processes. This provides a strategic and coherent approach for building teachers’ capability to implement effective classroom practices.

A strong sense of collective enterprise and shared ownership among teaching staff for developments in curriculum and teaching and learning has become evident, particularly during 2015. Middle managers and teachers express a strong sense of optimism and unity with senior leaders about school directions. Together, they affirm and promote the emphasis placed on identifying and responding to the needs and aspirations of learners.

Students are responding well to the increased clarity about expectations. They note improved communication with teachers about their learning, and increased support for them to become self‑managing, responsible partners in the learning process.

Classrooms observed by ERO were settled and productive learning environments. Interactions between teachers and students were positive and mutually respectful. An increase in students working in collaborative groups was evident together with increased opportunities for student contribution and leadership. Some high quality examples of teachers using open questioning to promote deeper thinking and reflection by students were observed. Senior leaders acknowledge the need for continued work to further consolidate and embed effective teaching practice across the school.

School-hostel links and pastoral care provisions

The restructuring of management provision in the school hostels, including the establishment of a new director of boarding position, is having a positive impact. Arrangements for sharing relevant information about students’ educational and pastoral needs between the school and hostels have been considerably improved. Better management of student study and prep times that includes improved student access to specialist teachers is facilitating more connected and coordinated approaches to supporting the wellbeing and educational achievement of boarders.

These developments between the school and hostels sit within wider work by school leaders and teachers to further enhance the school’s existing very good pastoral care services. Outcomes of this work include better analysis, sharing and reporting of information gathered from within the school’s pastoral and health services network. Benefits identified by the board, principal and pastoral care team include a reduction in the number of students requiring intensive support, increasing effective restorative practices, and increased positive feedback from students about the quality of health care services.

Providing regular opportunities for students to input into wider reviews of pastoral care services should further strengthen the effectiveness of services for promoting student wellbeing and readiness for learning.

Key next steps

School leaders and ERO discussed key next steps for further supporting improved student outcomes. Many of these were identified by the principal and staff. They are well aligned to the school’s future

development priorities, and include further progressing:

  • effective teaching practice, including the use of strategies that challenge and extend students’ higher order thinking skills and knowledge of their progress and next learning steps
  • the school’s focus on culture, language and identity as part of initiatives to promote responsive teaching and learning
  • processes for monitoring the progress and achievement of students in Years 9 and 10
  • student and teacher access to digital technologies to extend and support teaching and learning opportunities.

3. Sustainable performance and self review

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

Wesley College is well placed to sustain and continue to improve its performance.

The board of trustees has been highly proactive in responding to the areas for review and development identified in the school’s 2013 ERO report. Externally facilitated board training, together with very capable board leadership and the strong commitment of trustees to act in the best interests of students, has strengthened the quality of school governance. Improved self-review practices and raised expectations for high quality evaluative reporting from the principal about student achievement and progress against key school goals are promoting well informed decision making. This is reflected in planning and resourcing priorities for improved student outcomes.

The principal demonstrates a sound understanding of self review and encourages strong collaboration across all areas of the school to maximise opportunities for staff to share knowledge and expertise. This is facilitating well-coordinated approaches for supporting student wellbeing, progress and achievement. Staff express confidence in the school’s directions and leadership. They demonstrate a sense of collective responsibility for helping students to achieve their goals and aspirations.

Productive steps have been made to improve consultation and communication with whānau Māori and to affirm the school’s commitment to its Māori traditions. Efforts in these areas have seen increased dialogue between the school and parents and whānau of Māori students. More strategic approaches for supporting Māori students continue to be discussed. These include conversations with representatives of local marae about ways to increase the number of Māori students studying te reo and tikanga Māori and other strategies for increasing opportunities for Māori student success.

Initiatives to improve teaching and learning have been well matched to school review and development priorities. Momentum for change has been particularly evident during 2015. Work commenced by middle managers and teachers in recent years has combined well with key focus areas for improved performance set by the incoming principal.

Over the past two years the board, principal and staff have systematically built on progress made during the 2011 to 2013 ERO review, demonstrating a much increased capacity to review the school's progress and to identify and respond to improvement challenges. Consequently, the school has considerably improved its potential for sustained and ongoing improvement in all areas of governance and management.

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. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code. ERO’s investigations affirm the school’s compliance with the Code.

At the time of this review there were eight international students attending the school. Students come from the Pacific regions, including the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

International students are accommodated in the school hostels, while also having homestay care arrangements to provide accommodation during weekends and term break times. Their education and wellbeing are well provided for by the school, and homestay provisions are appropriately monitored. International students report high levels of satisfaction with the school, hostel and homestay arrangements. They participate fully in all aspects of school life.

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school has six hostels operating on school grounds. The hostels accommodate 209 students (71% of the school roll). They are owned by the Wesley College Trust Board. The hostel owner has attested that all the requirements of the Hostel Regulations are met. Te Paea is used to accommodate female boarders, while Te Whare Maia, Te Whare Taina, Te Whare Pakeke, Harding and Denton accommodate male boarders.

ERO’s investigations of school hostel provision indicates that the hostels are well managed, with very good systems for monitoring student welfare. Particularly noteworthy are:

  • the recent strengthening of connections between the school and hostels to increase support for students’ wellbeing and educational success
  • the encouragement given to, and opportunities provided for, student participation in sporting and other co-curricula and leisure activities, both during the school week and for those remaining in the hostels during weekends
  • the opportunities for students to express their views and give feedback about hostel provision, including student membership on the hostel council
  • the very good reporting by the hostel council to the board on a wide range of hostel performance aspects, including pastoral care, health and safety, and support for learning.

The board of trustees and director of boarding continue to discuss the implications of changes in recent years to provide for female boarders and ongoing plans to further encourage girls to enrol as part of the board’s vision for extending the school’s co-educational dimensions.

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

Wesley College is working in effective and well-coordinated ways to promote student progress and achievement. Its focus on strengthening governance, leadership, teaching, learning and self review over the past two years has considerably improved the school’s capacity to identify and respond to the strengths, needs and aspirations of students.

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

Graham Randell
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

About the School

Location

Pukekohe, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

104

School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll

295

Number of international students

8

Gender composition

Boys      90%
Girls       10%

Ethnic composition

Māori
Pākehā
Tongan
Samoan
Fijian
Niue
other

16%
  2%
53%
21%
  3%
  1%
  4%

Special Features

Hostel boarding facilities

Review team on site

October 2015

Date of this report

26 November 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

June 2013
February 2011
July 2009