Westmount School - Taranaki Campus - 13/02/2013

1 Background

The Chief Review Officer has a statutory duty to report on the performance of private schools throughout New Zealand.

ERO reviews of private schools are significantly different in process and more limited in scope and reporting than those for state and state-integrated schools, focusing as they do on the Criteria for Registration set out in section 35C of the Education Act.

Section 35I of the Education Act 1989 requires the Education Review Office (ERO) to review private schools and to report to the Ministry of Education on whether each school continues to meet the criteria for registration. The schools are privately owned and the legislative requirements are significantly different to those for state and state-integrated schools. Private schools are not required to follow the National Education Goals or National Administration Guidelines.

What does apply in place of the legislation imposed upon state schools by the Education Act is the contract between the persons paying for the tuition of the child at the school – the parents – and the school authority. Those are matters between the parent and the school’s governing body. More information about ERO reviews of private schools can be found on ERO’s website www.ero.govt.nz/Reviews-Process.

The criteria for registration are that the school:

a) has premises that are suitable, as described in section 35D;

b) usually provides tuition for 9 or more students who are of or over the age of 5 years but are under the age of 16 years;

c) has staffing that is suitable to the age range and level of its students, the curriculum taught at the school, and the size of the school;

d) has equipment that is suitable for the curriculum being delivered or to be delivered at the school;

e) has a curriculum for teaching, learning, and assessment and makes details of the curriculum and its programme for delivery available for parents;

f) has suitable tuition standards, as described in section 35F;

g) has managers who are fit and proper persons (as described in section 35G) to be managers of a private school. 

In 2004, the Westmount School National Trust (National Trust), based in Auckland, established ten educational sites around New Zealand, including one in Palmerston North, to develop learning environments conducive to Brethren philosophy. In 2007, Westmount School had a roll of 1375 students in 15 campuses. The educational content is based on The New Zealand Curriculum under the direction of the National Trust.

The National Trust and local trusts govern all campuses. The National Trust sets direction and writes policies and procedures for local trusts to follow. A national principal provides overall educational leadership. Each campus has a chief executive officer, local trustees and a campus coordinator (leader of teaching and learning). Heads of Department are spread throughout the campuses, as are teachers in charge of subjects. They communicate regularly, using video-conferencing facilities. Maintaining communication between staff in the school settings is seen as one of the ongoing challenges of the National Trust.

In January 2005, the Taranaki Campus at Hawera became part of Westmount School. Currently it caters for Years 3 to 13 students. Many travel daily from Whanganui and New Plymouth to the Hawera site. A lead teacher, junior school, takes responsibility for the education of Years 3 to 8 students at the Taranaki Campus and two satellite units in Whanganui and Inglewood.

There are now 12 fully-registered teachers and a roll of 131 students.

2 Criteria for Registration

Suitable premises and equipment

Trustees take all reasonable steps to provide a safe and healthy environment for students and staff in compliance with the applicable legislation, regulation or codes of practice, especially in the Health and Safety Amendment Act 2002. The local trust makes every effort to provide a safe environment for students and staff.

Since the June 2009 ERO report, considerable development has taken place. A learning centre, built at the Hawera campus, is supervised by a learning centre manager who also oversees
video-conferencing classes. Westmount Taranaki organises video-conferencing classes well. These lessons are closely supervised by the learning‑centre manager who links these to students’ personal learning-centre activities. As a result, independent study has purpose and meaning.

The school community takes great pride in maintaining the school facilities to a high standard. The grounds are well tended and provide suitable spaces to promote outdoor activities for students. Classrooms are well maintained and comfortable.

Trustees attest that buildings, furniture and fittings at the satellite sites are modern and well kept.

Staff and trustees have given consideration to further development of areas to cater for the delivery of soft materials and food technology to fully meet the requirements of The New Zealand Curriculum. Trustees are aware that the library is cramped and that many books are outdated. Provision of larger library premises and reviewing contents are likely to provide better support for students to carry out their inquiry-learning.

Suitable staffing

All teachers are fully registered, with one who is provisionally registered.

Trustees are firm in their commitment to maintaining small class sizes, with their desired teacher‑to‑student ratio being 1:14. All classes are below the desired ratio.

In 2011, a process to align staffing with student numbers and course requirements identified that some teaching positions needed to be disestablished. This resulted in considerable change to staffing and a drop in the morale of teachers. Since then, some appointments have been made to increase alignment of schoolwide goals and teaching roles. There is a growing confidence in campus governance.

Teachers are kept up-to-date each term through professional development provided at national and campus levels. All teachers attend at least one face-to-face session organised annually by national managers. Senior management provides full support for provisionally-registered teachers through their training period. In 2012, the focus of staff professional development is teaching at students’ individual levels, formative assessment and data analysis.

A sound appraisal process is well established and rigorously implemented. The process incorporates appraisal against the teacher registration criteria, development of personal goals and classroom observations. It is linked to further professional development. Teachers receive informative observational comments that acknowledge effective practice and note next steps for development. A teaching-as-inquiry process is encouraging staff to reflect on their own practice. Teachers gather evidence to support their reflections. This is becoming well embedded in practice, particularly in the junior school.

Since 2011, a new campus coordinator has provided sound leadership and developed positive relationships with students, teachers, trustees and the community. Effective communication ensures all staff are aware of expectations for learning and behaviour. Teachers are supported to improve practice. They work well as a team, sharing and discussing teaching strategies for supporting the learning of all students as individuals. An environment of improvement is evident.

While campus coordinators do have opportunities to meet professionally through
video-conferences, a sense of isolation in their roles is evident. A platform where they can share good practice at face-to-face meetings would support their mutual personal development.

Suitable curriculum

Westmount School, Taranaki Campus is meeting its obligations under section 35A of the Education Act 1989 to provide a suitable curriculum.

Programmes of learning for all classes are clearly based on The New Zealand Curriculum within the framework of the Brethren ethos. The national office provides curriculum, planning and assessment direction for Years 7 to 13 and an overview for Years 3 to 6. Curriculum teams, under the guidance of heads of departments, plan classroom programmes at each student’s level.

Campus planning documents provide sound guidelines for teachers. Adaptations of the national documents are made to reflect local content. These can be seen in term overviews, unit and weekly plans.

Overall, trustees feel well informed by student achievement reports prepared by the campus coordinator and curriculum leaders. This enables trustees to make informed choices about resourcing and staffing. There is a strong sense of partnership between trustees and the campus coordinator.

Suitable tuition

In all classrooms observed by ERO, students were fully engaged in learning. Positive relationships are highly evident between students and with their teachers. Effective learning occurs in small groups where students can readily seek support related to their needs. Student work is of a high standard.

The key competency of self management (self-directed learners) is a campus goal. Students are self‑motivated and able to manage their own learning. Teachers place an appropriate emphasis on each student reaching potential, teaching them how to learn, providing a well-rounded education and preparing them for a way of life governed by Christian principles. This is focused on achieving personal excellence.

A junior school lead teacher has responsibility for Years 3 to 8 students. The campus coordinator chairs the learning support committee and is responsible for the schoolwide coordination of identified student learning needs and abilities. These needs are catered for within classrooms. A 'can do' learning-support framework is used to identify and implement a series of learning steps to meet the individual learning goals of these students.

Classroom planning is guided by clear expectations and is of good quality. There is evidence to show that teachers are using student achievement data to differentiate planning for individual needs and abilities. Understanding of how to further analyse and interpret standardised achievement data to determine individual learning needs and strengths has been a focus of professional development.

Teachers in the junior school continue to successfully use formative assessment information to plan instructional group and individual programmes in reading, writing and numeracy. Teachers share and discuss the purpose of lessons with students. Students’ portfolios are a useful record of progress and achievement. There is a focus on extending this practice schoolwide.

Achievement data is available to track the progress of Years 9 and 10 students. To provide more purpose to learning in Years 9 and 10, assessment criteria have been developed for the presentation of a middle-school certificate.

At the secondary level, the curriculum is linked appropriately to the National Qualifications Framework and follows the national Westmount Trust structure. Teachers offer extra tutorial times for senior students undertaking National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA).

In 2011, across the Taranaki Westmount Campus, 91% of students gained NCEA Level 1 and 100% gained Levels 2 and 3. University Entrance was gained by 67.4% of students. The campus coordinator works with Years 11 to 13 students to ensure course selection is appropriate.

Parents are well informed about the school’s operation and learning programmes. A strong partnership exists between the school and families. Parents are actively involved and participate in all aspects of school life.

3 Statutory Obligations

There are good systems in place for the school’s managing body to be assured that its other statutory obligations are met.

4 Conclusion

On the basis of the information obtained during the review, ERO considers that Westmount School Taranaki Campus meets the criteria for registration as a private school set out in the Education Act 1989. 

Joyce Gebbie
National Manager Review Services
Central Region (Acting)

13 February 2013

About the School 

Location

Hawera

Ministry of Education profile number

99262

School type

Composite (Years 3 to 13)

School roll

131

Gender composition

Male 53%, Female 47%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

100%

Review team on site

November 2012

Date of this report

13 February 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Private School Review
Private School Review

June 2009
June 2006