Blue Mountain College - 28/08/2012

About the School

Location

Tapanui, Clutha District

Ministry of Education profile number

391

School type

Secondary (Years 7 to 13)

Decile*

7

School roll

225

Number of international students

2

Gender composition

Female 52%
Male     48%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā
Māori
Other

85%
10%
  5%

Review team on site

June 2012

Date of this report

28 August 2012

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Supplementary Review
Education Review

November 2008
June 2006
November 2004

*School deciles range from 1 to 10. Decile 1 schools draw their students from low socio-economic communities and at the other end of the range, decile 10 schools draw their students from high socio-economic communities. Deciles are used to provide funding to state and state integrated schools. The lower the school’s decile the more funding it receives. A school’s decile is in no way linked to the quality of education it provides.

The Purpose of an ERO Report

The purpose of ERO’s reviews is to give parents and the wider school community assurance about the quality of education that schools provide and their children receive. An ERO school report answers the question “How effectively is this school’s curriculum promoting student learning - engagement, progress and achievement?” Under that overarching question ERO reports on the quality of education and learning outcomes for children and for specific groups of children including Māori students, Pacific students and students with special needs. ERO also reports on the quality of the school’s systems for sustaining and continuing improvements.

1. Context

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

Blue Mountain College is a relatively small rural school which most students travel to by bus. Priority is given to ensuring that the size and location of the school does not impact on students’ ability to participate in a wide variety of learning experiences. This includes an emphasis on promoting students’ wider-world view. The rural context links well to the school’s farm which successfully supports the agricultural programme.

The school has a positive culture. Respectful relationships are a strong feature across the school. Students are supportive of each other. Junior students appreciate the help of older students as they settle into the school. Students and their families are well known to staff. Teachers have clear expectations for learning and behaviour. The school’s values are evident in practice across the school. The school has a close and valued relationship with the local community. Students benefit from the effective use of local expertise and resources.

Most students have high levels of success in and beyond the school. This links well to the school’s vision statement. Many students are heavily involved in a number of sporting, cultural and service activities. The large number of students gaining Gold Duke of Edinburgh awards is testimony to students’ perseverance and the high levels of staff and community support they receive. A large number of senior students stay on at school until the end of Year 13.

2. Learning

How well are students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

Students are mostly well engaged in their learning and making good levels of progress.

ERO observed multiple examples of teaching that effectively motivated and engaged students in their learning. In these cases teachers:

  • established strong rapport with students
  • made links to students’ interests and special abilities
  • gave students opportunities to design the context of their learning
  • encouraged students to teach each other.

ERO also saw an example of poor engagement where students’ safety, learning and achievement is at risk. ERO discussed these concerns with the principal and endorses the planned strategies to address ERO’s concerns and monitor behavioural and learning outcomes for these students.

Areas of Strength

Student progress and achievement. Overall, most students are achieving very well and making good progress in relation to students nationally. Information in relation to National Standards indicates the majority of Year 7 and 8 students were at or above the standard at the end of 2011. The progress and achievement of these students in writing was a strength. The achievement of senior students in NCEA is comparable or significantly better than similar schools nationally. Almost all senior students leave with formal qualifications.

Support for learning. Students are well monitored and supported in their learning and achievement. Those students with specific needs are identified early and given additional support tailored to promote their progress. There are well-managed processes to coordinate the work of deans, teachers and teacher aides. The school also makes effective use of external agencies and support.

Monitoring and mentoring of senior students. All senior students ERO spoke to appreciated the high quality monitoring, guidance and information they receive from the senior dean. This process is flexible, student or teacher driven, and seamlessly mixes pastoral and academic support. Consequently students are highly engaged in their learning and are successful. The quality of these processes is likely to contribute to the very high number of students remaining and succeeding at the school until the end of Year 13.

Areas for review and development

Board’s planning and reporting targets for student achievement. Current board targets are wide and do not specify which group of learners are the priority. Teachers have good quality information and clearly identify which groups of students they need to target in their classrooms. The next step is to make better use of this information in setting the formal targets.

National Standards processes. Reports to parents about National Standards are inconsistent. There is variation in the way in which teachers inform parents about how well their child is achieving and progressing in relation to the National Standards for their year. Teachers should make sure that reports make it clear how parents can assist with their children’s learning in relation to the literacy and mathematics standards.

3. Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning.

Quality of teaching. The majority of teaching ERO saw was of good to high quality. The more effective teaching occurred where teachers:

  • set specific expectations around the school’s learning culture
  • varied the approaches they used to engage different types of learners
  • made the learning purpose of the lesson clear and linked back to this during and/or at the end of the lesson
  • used high quality questioning to encourage students to think for themselves
  • made good use of targeted resources, equipment and local examples.

The next step is for school leaders to find ways to ensure that, in terms of teaching, best practice becomes common practice.

Areas of Strength

Nature of the curriculum. Some aspects of the school’s curriculum are particularly well suited to support students’ learning pathways. Senior students have a wide range of curriculum choices. This includes courses that link well with individual student interests and the local environment, for example the recently reintroduced agriculture course. The school’s curriculum is flexible and responsive to learning opportunities for students. A comprehensive, school-wide careers education programme is contributing to students’ success within and beyond school.

Support systems. Students benefit from a wide range of effective support systems. For example:

  • senior students are closely monitored and mentored
  • teacher aides are well used for tailored/targeted assistance
  • there is good communication between the pastoral and guidance staff
  • specific help is ongoing for students participating in e-learning
  • students are well supported as they transition into, within and beyond the school.

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

The school very effectively promotes Māori student success and success as Māori. Māori students are successful academically and culturally. Results for Māori students in NCEA at the end of 2011 were significantly better than for Māori students nationally. Achievement of all Māori students is closely monitored and supported where necessary.

All teachers have recently taken part in a significant professional development programme related to raising the profile of te ao Māori. The whole school takes an active part in formal welcomes to visitors. Māori students ERO spoke to appreciate the active support they receive from the principal and staff in all aspects of their school life.

The report to the Māori community that was prepared at the end of 2011 is comprehensive and highly informative. It covers academic, cultural, and welfare matters relating to Māori students and reports on what is done to encourage and support them. This report is a model of good practice in formal reporting about the success of Māori students.

4. Sustainable Performance

How well placed is the school to sustain and improve its performance?

The school is very well placed to sustain and improve its performance. There are many factors that contribute to this conclusion.

The effective, sensitive leadership of the principal unites the school. The principal is open, reflective and committed to ongoing improvement. Trustees strongly support the principal. Their commitment to ongoing improvement and student success underpins their actions. Staff indicate that they generally feel well resourced and supported.

Students benefit from the school’s extensive and effective use of external agencies and expertise. They appreciate the strength of school systems to look after them, both academically and pastorally. The high levels of student success, including success for Māori students, and the depth of community support and other strengths identified in this report underpin the confidence expressed in this section of the report.

Area for review and development

Aspects of self review and reporting. Current reviews do not always included well-analysed information. Less emphasis on describing what was done and a greater emphasis on results and how effectively they were achieved would help identify if additional resources are required and what might happen next. Such reports may also be useful in identifying good practices to be kept or suggesting new initiatives or approaches.

Self review should also cover aspects of school activities seen as traditional or standard practice. Examples could include the value and contribution to student success arising from the Year 12 work-experience week, the weekly sports programme, and student goal setting. Micro reviews could investigate the effectiveness of the teacher professional learning groups or the clarity of the links between the goals in the school’s annual plan and each department’s annual plan.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. At the time of this review there were 2 international students attending the school.

The school offers international students a variety of interesting opportunities to become involved in school life and the life of the local community. Key staff know the students well and provide appropriate pastoral care. The school has some creative ways of catering for students’ needs and interests.

The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

ERO’s investigations found that the school’s self-review process for international students is not sufficiently robust for the board to be able to demonstrate overall compliance with the Code. ERO recommends that when a full review is undertaken, particular attention is paid to the section related to welfare (Part 14).

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
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.
  • To improve current practice, the board of trustees should conduct regular, anonymous surveys of students, staff and parents.

The school is unable to demonstrate that it complies with the monitoring and review section of the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students. This is something the board must address.

Section 28.3 Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students 2010.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Graham Randell
National Manager Review Services
Southern Region