Aberdeen School - 03/12/2014

Findings

Students are well supported by a team of dedicated teachers in an attractively resourced learning environment. Teachers have rich knowledge about students and provide many opportunities for parents to be informed about their child’s learning and all-round development. Students make strong progress and are well prepared to engage in future education.

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?

Aberdeen School is a large urban contributing primary, located in the Hamilton suburb of Dinsdale. It provides education for approximately 700 students in Years 1 to 6. While the make-up of the school’s roll continues to be predominantly Pākehā/European, it is becoming increasingly multi-cultural. The proportion of students who are of Māori descent is increasing and is currently 27%. The board and senior leaders are responding positively to these demographic changes.

Since the previous ERO review in 2010 there have been very few changes to staffing. The experienced principal is providing clear direction for the school community. He leads a strong school-wide focus on raising student achievement and is well supported by board and staff. The school is responsive to the changing composition of its student roll, and this is evidenced through an inclusive school culture that recognises and values cultural diversity. There have been several initiatives to raise the profile of biculturalism in the school environment and the curriculum. Several art works reflecting te ao Māori, and local geographical features have pride of place at the school’s entrance.

The leadership team which includes the deputy principal, literacy leader, mathematics leader and the Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO), work collaboratively to support and promote student learning. They are providing sound leadership for staff about teaching and learning in response to the evolving needs, abilities and interests of students at the school.

There is a high level of commitment to continuous improvement, and the board works closely with the principal to plan strategically for school development. A recent and current board initiative is to review the school’s vision for learning and teaching, placing greater emphasis on excellence. The board, together with staff, provides a safe and well-resourced environment for learning and teaching.

Aberdeen School has a positive reporting history with ERO. It continues to enjoy a high level of engagement with, and support from, its parent community that enriches the all-round learning and development of students at the school. The Parent Teacher Association is a very proactive group, which is instrumental in engaging with the community and contributing to the school’s positive profile.

2 Learning

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

School-wide systems and practices for the management and use of assessment are well embedded. Effective use is made of student achievement information to support and extend student learning at all levels of the school. A range of standardised/nationally referenced assessment tools is used at key points throughout each year to track the achievement and progress of students in reading, writing and mathematics.

The school’s leaders of literacy and mathematics collate and analyse achievement information for mid and end of year reporting, and at other times as requested. This information forms the basis of clear and concise reports to the board, assisting trustees to make informed decisions about school-wide planning and resourcing. School leaders identify achievement trends and patterns for year level, gender and ethnic groups, and advise the board about achievement targets for students who are achieving below expected levels (priority learners), annually. These target groups are closely monitored and progress reports are made to the board during the year.

Senior leaders (literacy and mathematics) work closely with the school’s SENCO to identify students who are ‘at risk’ of not achieving the expected level/standard (priority learners). Additional learning support is provided for individuals and groups at all year levels. Currently, the Mathematics Support Teacher (MST), who is also the Mathematics Leader, is working in depth with target groups to accelerate their progress in relation to National Standards. She liaises closely with the classroom teachers of these students, as well as the parents to support these learners. Māori students and boys in particular, are well represented in these groups. Similar small group reading/literacy support is provided for identified students, particularly in the junior school.

The designated team leader for each year level is responsible for sharing collated data with the teachers in their team. Patterns and levels of achievement are discussed and there is an expectation that teachers will differentiate the learning for students. Senior leaders now need to work more closely with team leaders on the diagnostic interpretation of assessment information. Consistent use of this information to plan more explicitly to meet the identified needs/strengths of students in their classes is likely to raise and accelerate achievement, particularly in writing.

The school has robust achievement data to show patterns of achievement and progress of students over successive years (2012-2014). At the end of 2013, the significant majority of all students were achieving the National Standards in reading and mathematics. In writing, the percentage achieving the standard was lower than that for reading and mathematics, despite writing being the professional learning and development (PLD) focus for teachers throughout 2012/13. School leaders acknowledge the need to improve leadership for learning in this curriculum area, and recognise that the successful strategies of the mathematics PLD now need to be adopted for further teacher development in writing in 2015.

A notable trend in school-wide data, identified by leaders, is the lower levels of literacy progress and achievement in some Junior classes. However, historical data indicates that student achievement levels track up through the middle school (Years 4/5), and by the end of Year 6 almost all students are at and above the National Standard in reading, and most in mathematics and writing.

The achievement and progress of Māori students is targeted and carefully tracked. While some shifts have been made, overall, the level of achievement for students in this group is consistently tracking slightly below that of their Pākehā/European peers.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is effectively promoting and supporting student learning. Since 2010, considerable work has been ongoing in the core curriculum areas of reading, writing and mathematics. School leaders have worked collaboratively with teachers to develop and document explicit guidelines and practices for assessment and teaching in these areas. An external facilitator was employed by the board in 2012/13 to support the work of the literacy leader and all teaching staff in the development of the writing curriculum. While teacher capability has increased it remains variable across the school, and leaders recognise the need to strengthen guidance and support to further develop the quality of teaching in writing.

Teachers are benefitting from current professional learning and development in mathematics. ERO observed group teaching across the classes, clear individual and group learning goals, and teachers’ recall and use of prior learning. Students are being encouraged and supported to articulate problem solving strategies. There is an expectation (as part of this model for PLD), that teachers will reflect on the effectiveness of their practice, using student achievement information as an indicator (teaching as inquiry). There are many opportunities at team level to share effective practice, and the MST is engaging in some coaching of teachers to model and build teacher confidence and expertise in this curriculum area.

The school’s present curriculum design takes an integrated approach to delivering programmes in the other subject areas of The New Zealand Curriculum (TNZC). As part of the school-wide Māori Education Strategy, in term one each year, contexts for learning and teaching that promote the culture, language and identity of Māori students are the focus for learning and teaching. The deputy principal is working with all staff to support their understanding of bicultural education, using the Ka Hikitia, Māori Education Strategy document.

Parents and students appreciate the scope of the schools’ curriculum. It provides opportunities for students to pursue an interest, to extend their learning and be challenged through the arts, sports and physical education and education outside the classroom (EOTC). The school’s house structure is a feature of its safe and inclusive culture, and provides many opportunities for students to take responsibility, assume leadership roles and learn about responsible citizenship.

Agreed priority for continuing development:

To plan and implement an inclusive curriculum review process with a view to:

  • clarifying agreed best practice for teaching and learning across all year levels (cohesion)
  • developing shared expectations for teachers
  • clarifying and documenting learning progressions for all year levels (continuity)
  • clarifying the place of information and communication technologies to enhance learning and teaching
  • maintaining the current emphasis on New Zealand’s bicultural heritage
  • including all principles of the TNZC, in keeping with the school’s vision for learning
  • This process should be well planned, integral to the school’s strategic plan, include parent voice, and result in high levels of understanding and ownership of the school’s curriculum.

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

Strong Māori role models are contributing to the promotion of educational success for Māori students across all levels of the school. There is Māori representation on the board and the staff, and across the school community there is a willingness to engage in initiatives to raise the achievement of Māori.

There is a proactive whānau group that meets regularly. A high level of liaison between this group and the board of trustees is leading to the progressive implementation of agreed goals for development in the strategy plan for Māori education.

Currently, there are two bilingual classes, with the development of a third class currently underway. A successful mentoring programme, led by the kaiako and tamariki from these classes, supports students and the teachers in the general classes to become more confident in the use of Māori language. Māori cultural protocols are being increasingly observed. A vibrant kapa haka group, noho marae experiences and pōwhiri are evidence of the school’s realisation of its plan to raise the profile of Māori students and their whānau in the school community.

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 because:

  • the board is governing effectively
  • there are well-embedded systems for self review and reporting
  • student achievement information is well managed and used to inform decision making
  • the leadership team is reflective and focused on continuous improvement
  • there is a strong and shared focus on raising student achievement and teachers demonstrate a high level of commitment
  • the board makes comprehensive provision for priority learners
  • there is a planned approach to engaging Māori students and their whānau in initiatives to promote success
  • there is ongoing, targeted professional development for teachers, designed to build their capability
  • the school’s environment for learning is safe, inclusive and well resourced
  • there is a high level of parent/community engagement with the school.

In order to strengthen sustainability, ERO and the school leaders have agreed on the following priority areas for development:

  • Build capability within the wider leadership team, including team leaders. This is necessary to empower all leaders to effectively lead learning across the school, contributing to consistent and cohesive teaching practice.
  • Review and make more robust, the school’s performance management systems and practices, with particular emphasis on processes for appraisal and attestation.

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.

The board must ensure that the principal implements a robust attestation process for all teaching staff against the relevant Professional Standards, annually.

[Teachers’ Collective Employment Contract; S 77c State Sector Act 1989]

Conclusion

Students are well supported by a team of dedicated teachers in an attractively resourced learning environment. Teachers have rich knowledge about students and provide many opportunities for parents to be informed about their child’s learning and all-round development. Students make strong progress and are well prepared to engage in future education.

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

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services Northern Region

3 December 2014

About the School

Location

Hamilton

Ministry of Education profile number

1680

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

698

Gender composition

Boys 50% Girls 50%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

Māori

Indian

Other

Pacific

Asian

58%

27%

4%

4%

4%

3%

Special Features

Two bilingual classes

Review team on site

September 2014

Date of this report

3 December 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

April 2010

May 2007

February 2004