What makes a great school?

We are often asked about the criteria ERO use to judge a school as great. Typically these are characterised in terms of ERO’s judgements as being on a 4-5 year return cycle. The basis of our judgements are well described within our School Evaluation Indicators framework.

The key domains of our framework include:

  • Valued learner outcomes
  • Stewardship
  • Leadership
  • Educationally powerful connections and relationships
  • Responsive curriculum, effective teaching and opportunity to learn
  • Professional capability and collective capacity
  • Evaluation, inquiry & knowledge building for improvement.

The schools that we have showcased in our online resources Improvement in Action | Te Ahu Whakamua and in the publications discussed in this issue of Insights, go beyond these factors. They all have a deliberate focus and intent on placing the learner at the centre of what they do. They set high expectations for learner outcomes and for teacher practice. A learner’s background is not seen as the barrier to learning or achievement but a base from which inquiry and learning is contextualised. As the figure below demonstrates many secondary schools in poor communities achieve outcomes across their student populations well in advance of schools servicing more affluent communities. We equally see this picture in many of the primary schools that we work with.

Note: Based 2016 NCEA data, “Low performance schools” are those that sit within one or more standard deviation (STD) from the mean while those deemed as “High performance schools” are one or more STD greater than the mean.

In bucking the trend these providers focus on identifying and addressing the individual needs of their learners, and in particular those learners who are at risk of poor outcomes. Student outcomes in these schools are viewed from multiple perspectives and take into account student engagement, wellbeing, progress and achievement. They focus not only on the latest results but have a deliberate improvement agenda building on previous years successes.  Within these schools individual learner progress is regularly monitored, reported and discussed by teaching staff. There is strong and effective leadership and attention is paid to ensuring that conditions for success as outlined in our indicators are actively attended to and shaped in a way that means they are highly sustainable organisations. This sustainability is supported through internal review and evaluation processes which constantly look at where further improvement may be required, and this is actively built into the schools planning cycle.

A summary of the criteria ERO employs to judge a schools performance can be found here. In subsequent issues of Insights we will elaborate further on the school improvement domains and what we are seeing as we continue to work across the many great schools we have in our system.