Whakatakapokai Care and Protection - 10/08/2016

Findings

Staff at Whakatapokai place a high priority on supporting students' social and emotional wellbeing and do this very well. They are less successful in promoting students' learning because of the lack of targeted programmes that meet the specific needs of individuals. The limited range of teaching approaches highlights the need for PLD that assists teachers to better meet students' individual learning needs. Relationships between residential and teaching staff require attention to develop a cohesive partnership that supports students' needs. Hands-on leadership, driving improvement focused self-review processes, would assist in addressing these concerns.

Processes for transition out of residential schools require review by CYF and the Ministry to ensure better continuity of learning that meets students' needs.

The timing of the next review will be decided in consultation with the Ministry of Education and Child Youth and Family.

1 Context

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

Whakatapokai is a Child Youth and Family (CYF) Care and Protection Residence, located in Manurewa, Auckland. It provides for safe and secure care for up to 20 young people. Their length of stay varies from a few weeks up to a year. The young people in residence are aged from 11 years with the average age being 13 - 14 years. Most are severely at risk, with varied and complex needs.

Teaching and learning is provided by Creative Learning Scheme (CLS) a private provider under contract to the Ministry of Education (the Ministry). Most teachers have little experience in mainstream schools. Students are divided into two classes. Student to teacher ratios are low to allow for attention to students' individual needs. Teachers are supported in classroom management by CYF residential staff. ERO found that the opportunities provided by these favourable ratios were not fully utilised.

The principal leads both Whakatakapokai and the neighbouring Youth Justice school, Korowai Manaaki, and has also had some wider responsibilities within the CLS alternative education programme.

2 Transitions

How effectively managed are the transitions students make into the residence?

Transitions into the residence are effectively managed to meet the students' social and emotional needs. There are clear processes and protocols for the differing roles of CYF and the school during students' transition in and out of the facility. School staff find it difficult to get useful information about the students' previous educational history when they arrive. Many of the students have been out of mainstream schooling for an extended period of time. Information available is often limited and what is available tends to relate to suspensions and exclusions, with little about achievement. There are also difficulties in getting relevant information from Group Special Education about previous support for individual students, including ORRS funding.

The effectiveness of transitions into the school are variable. Students don't start their schooling straight away when they arrive. After an initial settling in period of a few days in the residence students move to their designated class and are assessed by the class teacher for their competency in literacy and numeracy, cultural competency and how they interact with others. The placement in classes is decided by CYF residential staff, based on how individuals relate to one another rather than their learning needs. More input from teaching staff on groupings would enable teaching staff to better cater for students' needs.

Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) are prepared for students within ten days of their arrival at the residence. Teachers could make more explicit links to individual student goals during class time.

Staff maintain a strong focus on developing positive relationships with students. Their interactions with students are relaxed and non-confrontational, while providing and upholding clear expectations for appropriate behaviour. Praise, acknowledgment, incentives and rewards are all strategies used to develop constructive relationships. As a result students are taught in a calm supportive environment.

How effectively managed are the transitions students make out of the residence?

Processes to transition students back to the community are well managed in part. The school has clear and well documented processes for the transition of students out of Whakatakapokai. The CYF Care Team are responsible for the process. The team leader is part of the Care Team meetings for each student, which take place regularly throughout the student's time in the residence and at the school. The school provides relevant information to the team on the student's progress and achievement.

Information provided by the residential school is not well used to support students' transition to a new school. It is not always possible for the residential school to have direct contact with the destination school, particularly if the destination is outside Auckland. The final decisions about both residential and educational placement are made externally, at the local level, by the case worker and the local CYF office. The school does not receive information about the capacity of the local school to support the student and has no involvement in supporting the student once they have left the residence. Transitions often do not meet the needs of students to sustain their learning.

3 Curriculum

How responsive is the programme to the strengths, needs and interests of each student?

While staff collect information from students about their individual interests and strengths, this is not well reflected in the planning and provision for their learning. Planning reflects the needs of students as a group i.e. suitable curriculum levels across the range of curriculum areas. Planning shows that the literacy and numeracy needs of students are a high priority and there is some grouping of students in literacy and numeracy. The programme also covers key aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum. The content and way this is implemented is restricted in part by concern for safety and CYF requirements around this. This is particularly apparent in science, technology and physical education. Other residential schools do not have such rigorous restrictions on their curriculum. Some use is made of Te Kura to meet individual students' needs.

The range of teaching approaches is limited and while students are generally on-task enthusiastic engagement is not always evident. Extensive use is made of worksheet-type activities and of commercially produced workbooks. Teachers circulate and assist individuals involved in these activities. In other cases, whole-class, white-board and talk for an extended period of time was observed. The exception is in art where the teacher employs a variety of teaching approaches and engages students in learning through contexts that reflect their interests.

The restricted range of teaching approaches is an outcome of the limited teaching experience in mainstream schools of some staff. The recently appointed team leader has had experience in mainstream education and the principal has some ongoing contact with principals of mainstream schools. Other teaching staff lack this wider experience. As these students are the most vulnerable they need the best and most experienced teachers. It is significant that the teacher who was most successful in engaging students, drawing on their individual interests and catering for individual learning needs, has considerable experience in mainstream schools. He continues to network with former colleagues for ideas to improve his teaching practice.

All staff focus on supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of students. They demonstrate a genuine empathy and concern for their students. They provide clear expectations for an orderly classroom environment. Students know their boundaries. Relationships between students and staff observed were respectful and courteous.

The curriculum supports students' cultural identity and includes a te reo Maori programme. This support is underpinned by the residence whare and marae. Here students participate in powhiri and mihi whakatau. Students assisted with the decoration of the whare and participate in non-sleep-over noho marae.

How effectively is the programme improving students' engagement and educational achievement?

Most students make some progress in literacy and numeracy. Teachers measure students' progress against the baseline data collected when they first arrive at the school. The extent of progress is variable and, in some cases, difficult to measure because of the short time many are at the school. The principal acknowledges some discrepancies between results obtained using different assessment tools in literacy.

Students set goals in collaboration with their teachers but were generally not able to articulate their goals. The programme is in the main whole-class learning. The individual student goals have little relevance to the learning. Students do make progress on their goals, particularly the behavioral and social, but this is not as a result of a deliberate teaching programme. It is mainly influenced by the positive and supportive environment in both the residence and the school. Students identified the need for teachers to continually remind them of their goals and to focus classwork around these goals.

Students felt they were more successful with their learning than at their previous schools. They appreciated the boundaries and close supervision and support by teachers as contributing to their learning. Student engagement could be improved by catering more for individual learning strengths and needs.

4 Internal and External Relationships

How effectively do internal and external relationships support the programme for each student?

Many of these students have complex needs and behaviours that require teachers and residential staff to support each other to provide consistent approaches that fully engage student in learning. Concerns identified about relationships during the review suggest that further work is needed to strengthen relationships between residence staff and school staff

Some aspects of relationships between teachers and residential staff effectively support the programme for students. Students' ILP, developed by school staff, and Individual Care Plans (ICP), developed by residential staff, are fully aligned. The school has a clear and well documented process for developing the ILP, including input from the student and the ILP is incorporated into the ICP. A number of protocols are in place to provide regular exchange of information regarding students.

Residential staff do not actively support student learning. Their role in the classroom is one of containment rather than supporting the learning. They are concerned that on occasions teachers failure to be able to engage students results in them being returned to the residence for CYF supervision.

5 Sustainable performance

How effectively do programme leaders conduct internal evaluation?

Although data is collected it is not used to improve teaching and learning. Self review is driven in part by requirements for regular reporting to the Ministry of Education. The data includes progress in literacy and numeracy, and students' progress towards meeting their individual goals.

Professional learning and development (PLD) for staff is linked to overall CLS priorities rather than self review of the quality of teaching and learning at Whakatakapokai.

The school collects student voice on a termly basis but it is not clear that this has any impact on teaching practices. It is significant that students have identified some of the issues for development that ERO identified, including the quality of goal setting, the need for interest-based contexts for lessons and the limited range of teaching strategies.

The principal has had a wide range of roles within CLS, including responsibilities in their alternative education programmes, which in part have impacted on the time available to provide leadership for teaching and learning. In 2015 she spent some time in this school pending the appointment of a new lead teacher. It is of concern that during and prior to this time issues raised in the previous ERO report have yet to be successfully addressed. These include:

  • reviewing the effectiveness of teaching and learning
  • using students' interests to more effectively engage them in learning
  • a strengthened collaboration and cooperation between CYF and school staff.

Strong leadership is required to develop staff capability and raise the quality of teaching.

Recommendations

To improve student engagement, learning and achievement trustees and the principal should:

  • strengthen self review processes to evaluate the impact of teaching practices on student learning
  • provide teachers with leadership focused on raising the quality of teaching and learning.

CYF and school managers should actively seek ways to develop a cohesive partnership that better supports students' needs.

CYF and the Ministry should review processes for transitioning out of residential schools to ensure better continuity of learning that meets students' needs.

Conclusion

Staff at Whakatapokai place a high priority on supporting students' social and emotional wellbeing and do this very well. They are less successful in promoting students' learning because of the lack of targeted programmes that meet the specific needs of individuals. The limited range of teaching approaches highlights the need for PLD that assists teachers to better meet students' individual learning needs. Relationships between residential and teaching staff require attention to develop a cohesive partnership that supports students' needs. Hands-on leadership, driving improvement focused self-review processes, would assist in addressing these concerns.

Processes for transition out of residential schools require review by CYF and the Ministry to ensure better continuity of learning that meets students' needs.

The timing of the next review will be decided in consultation with the Ministry of Education and Child Youth and Family.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern 10 August 2016

About the School

Location

Manukau, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

4926

School type

Special School, Residential

School roll

Up to 20

Gender composition

 

Ethnic composition

 

 

Special Features

Care and Protection Residence operated by Creative

Learning Scheme

Review team on site

March 2016

Date of this report

10 August 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review