Birchville School

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School Context

Birchville School, located north of Upper Hutt, close to the Hutt and Akatarawa Rivers, caters for 180 students in Years 1 to 6. Of the learners enrolled, 44 identify as Māori. There are 101 girls and 79 boys. The school roll continues to increase.

The school vision is underpinned by the GEMS values of Growth, Empathy, Mana and Self Belief.

Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • achievement in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to school expectations
  • Māori student achievement in relation to school expectations
  • progress and achievement against annual planning goals related to raising achievement in reading, writing and mathematics for some groups of learners.

Since the March 2015 ERO report, there has been a number of changes to the board, leadership and staff. The new principal who was previously the school’s deputy principal, was appointed in 2017.

Birchville School is part of an active local cluster of schools.

Evaluation Findings

1 Equity and excellence – achievement of valued outcomes for students

1.1 How well is the school achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students?

The school’s achievement data indicates that the majority of students, including Māori and Pacific learners, achieve at or above the school’s expectations in reading, writing and mathematics. Māori and non-Māori achieve equally well, although a slightly higher proportion of Māori students achieve above school expectations than non-Māori in reading and mathematics. There is significant disparity for boys in reading and writing.

Most Year 6 leavers achieve at or above school expectation in reading and writing. In 2017, however, a significant number left not meeting mathematics expectations.

1.2 How well is the school accelerating learning for those Māori and other students who need this?

There is evidence of accelerated learning for some Māori and other students who need this.

2 School conditions for equity and excellence – processes and practices

2.1 What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

Trustees, leaders and teachers have a strong commitment to improving achievement for all students and to address the current inequitable outcomes. The school’s charter establishes a positive well-considered direction, with an appropriate focus on student achievement and in particular for those at risk of not meeting school expectations. Alignment from charter to classroom is clear.

The curriculum acknowledges and celebrates GEMS, which are closely aligned to The New Zealand Curriculum key competencies. The virtual Gems (or key competencies) are clearly articulated in the positive way the students (“real gems”) behave and interact.

There is a strong focus on collaboration as teachers build a shared understanding of effective practice. They share their learning and successful strategies to improve teaching. Useful systems and practices help them to identify students requiring support and to monitor their engagement and achievement. The school has established a good framework for engaging students in their learning. There is a positive social and emotional climate for learners. This has a supportive impact on their learning.

Māori students and whānau take leadership roles within the school community. Students are supported in their learning through kapa haka, te rōpu toa, the whānau support group, and actions through the ‘Te Reo Māori and the Mainstream Implementation Plan’. Teachers are continuing to increase their knowledge and understanding of Maori language, culture and values.

The newly established leadership team is strategic and has enabled the teachers and community to work collaboratively for the benefit of the children. Communication and consultation is very strong. Partnership is evident and effective.

Students transition seamlessly from the neighbouring early learning services. The positive, active relationships facilitate the sharing of knowledge to enhance the teaching of new entrant children. There is also a close relationship with the local intermediate schools and through cluster meetings teachers are informed of the ex-students’ progress.

Provision for children with additional needs is consistent with the positive, inclusive nature of the school. They benefit from programmes specifically designed to meet their needs, abilities and interests.

2.2 What further developments are needed in school processes and practices for achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

Further developments needed in school processes and practices for achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning are:

  • strengthening teacher inquiry processes to assist teachers and leaders to better identify, monitor and report accelerated achievement
  • complementing current self-review practice by building internal evaluation capability at all levels. This should enable trustees, leaders and teachers to better identify what is and is not working, and who for and to determine what changes are needed.

Many practices that are likely to be successful have been recently implemented. These now need to be embedded across the school and evaluated.

3 Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board 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 the following:

  • board administration
  • curriculum
  • management of health, safety and welfare
  • personnel management
  • finance
  • asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student safety and wellbeing:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)
  • physical safety of students
  • teacher registration and certification
  • processes for appointing staff
  • stand down, suspension, expulsion and exclusion of students
  • attendance
  • school policies in relation to meeting the requirements of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

For sustained improvement and future learner success, the school can draw on existing strengths in:

  • the school culture that promotes students’ social and emotional wellbeing and a strong sense of belonging
  • school leadership that fosters collaboration across the school and encourages community partnership
  • clear direction setting by the board of trustees, that provides a purposeful strategic direction focussed on improving student outcomes.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are in:

  • inquiry processes to assist teachers and leaders to better identify, monitor and report accelerated achievement
  • internal evaluation processes and practices [ERO will provide an internal evaluation workshop for trustees and senior leaders].

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Patricia Davey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Central (Acting)

Te Tai Pokapū - Central Region

6 June 2018

About the school

Location

Upper Hutt

Ministry of Education profile number

2810

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

180

Gender composition

Female 56%, Male 44%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā 64%
Māori 24%
Other ethnic groups 12%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)

Yes

Provision of Māori medium education

No

Review team on site

May 2018

Date of this report

6 June 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review March 2015
Education Review June 2012
Education Review March 2009

Findings

The charter and curriculum framework provide clear direction for learners, teachers and trustees. Core values of growth, empathy, mana and self belief underpin the inclusive school culture for learning success. A collaborative leadership team sets high expectations. Robust evaluation of programmes and improvement initiatives are the next steps for trustees, leaders and teachers.

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?

Birchville School is located north of Upper Hutt, close to the Hutt and Akatarawa Rivers. The school has attractive grounds and age-appropriate playgrounds. Large and adaptable classrooms with modern furniture provide children with choices for their learning spaces. Close relationships with the kindergarten next door support transitions.

Since the 2012 ERO review, a new principal and deputy principal have been appointed and several trustees are in their first term on the board. Recently developed school charter values of growth, empathy, mana and self belief (GEMS) underpin school identity, priorities and expected outcomes for all learners.

Recent roll growth is concentrated in the junior school area which has four of the six classes. High rates of student mobility in and out of the school impact on continuity of learning for groups of children. Currently 29% of students identify as Māori.

School leaders and teachers are in the second year of involvement in Ministry of Education funded professional learning and development (PLD) programmes for improving teaching and raising achievement in mathematics. A schoolwide PLD programme to improve teaching, learning and assessment in literacy has commenced in 2015.

2 Learning

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

The school has recently made significant improvements in its approach to using achievement information to raise overall achievement and rates of progress across the school. Leaders have improved the collection, moderation and use of assessment information to more accurately ascertain all students’ levels of achievement and rates of progress in relation to National Standards, benchmarks and school expectations.

Leaders identify a need to improve consistency of assessment judgements and to accelerate progress of a significant number of priority learners in literacy and mathematics. Māori boy have been identified in 2015 as a target for increasing engagement and accelerating their progress and achievement. Improved schoolwide assessment schedules and guidelines for moderation provide a useful framework for leaders and teachers to track, monitor and report the progress of students.

Teachers use student information well to inform their planning to cater for learners' diverse needs and interests. They are increasing their efforts to involve students more in their own learning through the use of learning intentions, goal setting and students identifying their next steps. Explicit links to the school GEMS competencies foster students’ personal responsibility for their learning.

School leaders are receptive and responsive to using external evaluation to set and share appropriate targets for accelerating progress of significant numbers of priority learners. They model robust assessment processes which lead to targets that are challenging and relevant to diverse learners’ needs. A recently developed teaching as inquiry process to improve evaluation of effectiveness of teaching strategies in promoting student outcomes has been introduced in 2015.

Significant proportions of students enter the school with additional learning needs. Leaders of the junior classes particularly, plan responsive interventions and strategies to accelerate learning for these students. Some make good progress to achieve at expected levels over two years. Information about programmes and interventions for all learners with special needs is regularly reported to school leaders and trustees.

Priority should be given to developing measures to evaluate the effectiveness of all interventions and programmes used to accelerate the learning and progress of those entering school with identified needs. This should better inform decision making about school priorities, strategies and resourcing for raising achievement.

Surveys show that parents value the informative student reports and goal setting sheets shared in three way meetings twice each year. Planned actions for extending two-way learning partnerships with parents, particularly of targeted students, should be given high priority by leaders and teachers.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum statement is well aligned to its values, beliefs and expectations for learning and behaviour. These guidelines inform classroom expectations for successful learners. A recently developed behaviour management plan provides a useful framework for enacting school values and promoting student wellbeing for success.

Leaders have identified an appropriate range of initiatives and changes to promote improved teacher skills and performance. PLD provision is well informed by research and student achievement data. This is contributing to leaders and staff improving their curriculum knowledge and skills.

A school developed teacher toolkit sets professional expectations, promotes consistency in teaching programme planning, classroom practice and curriculum implementation. Next steps are to review and update teaching guidelines for each learning area across the school curriculum.

In most classes students are highly engaged in their learning. Teachers establish a positive tone by promoting, reinforcing and praising expected behaviours for learning. Students are encouraged to use the flexible modern learning environment to suit their needs and style. Student voice is welcomed and listened to through their participation in surveys and committees and input into programmes.

Successful transitions programmes support students to make expected progress in their first year. Older transitioning students are welcomed and supported to join the Birchville learning community.

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

Opportunities for Māori to achieve and improve their educational success as Māori are effectively promoted across the school. The school charter appropriately places high strategic priority on promoting cultural identity, language and achievement of all Māori learners.

Trustees and leaders actively support initiatives to strengthen partnerships with whānau and hapu. Cultural competencies for teachers of Māori learners have been well integrated into the school’s values and expectations of teachers. Whanaungatanga and Tangata Whenuatanga values in particular underpin partnerships with whānau to promote pride and recognition of tikanga Māori. Leaders continue to strengthen relationships with hapū through the local marae.

The principal takes an active role in leading tikanga Māori programmes and initiatives in the school. Te reo Māori classes have been established to build the language capability of staff, students and whānau. Weekly timetabled kapa haka classes provide opportunities for success for Māori learners and pride in the school’s bicultural perspectives for all students, staff and the community.

Leaders identify that these initiatives are an important component for promoting and responding to Māori wellbeing and lifting overall achievement to be similar or above that of their peers.

The schools’ next steps are to:

  • strengthen partnerships with whānau to establish shared aspirations for success of all Māori learners
  • continue developing trustees’ knowledge of national policies and expectations to develop their understanding of approaches for promoting higher levels of Māori achievement
  • implement plans for pōwhiri to welcome new students and their whānau to the school.

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. This is evident in effective school leadership, increasing depth of self review, productive partnerships with the community and recent strategic initiatives to improve outcomes for all learners. The recently reviewed charter embraces a distinctive school philosophy, culture and priorities closely related to community aspirations.

A highly committed board represents the diverse community well. It has a close working relationship with the principal. Trustees’ decisions place high importance on promoting students' safety, successful participation and enjoyment in the life of the school.

The principal and deputy principal have raised expectations for agreed teaching practices and responsibilities since the previous ERO review. They model and promote leadership accountability and shared responsibility amongst staff and the community.

Recently strengthened teacher appraisal and inquiry processes are used appropriately to improve performance through robust observation, feedback and support to improve teaching practice. Trustees invest additional resources to provide targeted and sustained PLD to improve educational outcomes for learners across the school.

Self review underpins schoolwide improvement. Robust inquiry and review by senior leaders against targets and the results of the annual plan appropriately inform measures and initiatives to improve school performance.

The school has a welcoming and friendly atmosphere and tone. Regular use of digital communications promotes and extends learning partnerships with parents and whānau.

Next steps for the school are to:

  • increase leaders' and teachers' use of evaluation to determine the effectiveness and impact of programmes and strategies to raise student achievement
  • develop closer alignment and explicit links between school goals and targets and leaders' and teachers' appraisal goals
  • track and monitor priority learners’ rates of progress and achievement and regularly report these to trustees
  • build trustees' capability and confidence in using student engagement, progress and achievement information to review charter goals and inform decision making.

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.

In order to improve current practice the principal should report analysed attendance information to the board to inform their planning and resourcing decisions.

Conclusion

The charter and curriculum framework provide clear direction for learners, teachers and trustees. Core values of growth, empathy, mana and self belief underpin the inclusive school culture for learning success. A collaborative leadership team sets high expectations. Robust evaluation of programmes and improvement initiatives are the next steps for trustees, leaders and teachers.

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

Joyce Gebbie

Deputy Chief Review Officer Central

20 March 2015

About the School

Location

Upper Hutt

Ministry of Education profile number

2810

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

143

Gender composition

Girls 57%

Boys 43%

Ethnic composition

Māori

Pākehā

Other ethnic groups

29%

57%

14%

Review team on site

February 2015

Date of this report

20 March 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2012

March 2009

March 2006