Excellere College - 18/04/2016

Findings

Students at Excellere College experience an inclusive, caring school environment. Students achieve well in National Standards and NCEA levels. Teachers know and cater well for students’ wellbeing and learning needs. Continuing to promote useful relationships with parents and whanau has been identified as a priority.

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

1 Background and Context

What is the background and context for this school’s review?

Excellere College in Whangarei is a small, state-integrated Christian school catering for students in Years 1 to 13 and is located on ten hectares of farmland. The college is governed by a board of trustees that includes representatives from the New Zealand Christian Proprietors Trust and the Whangarei Education Christian Trust. Arise Church maintains a connection to the school as the landlord.

The board appointed a new principal early in 2013. During the 2014 ERO review they identified a number of significant concerns, many of which the new principal had also recognised. The governance structure was also changing, and needed to be consolidated.

As a result, school leaders and trustees agreed that students would benefit from ongoing evaluation from ERO and external professional learning and development support to be provided by the Ministry of Education (MoE). Over the past two years useful professional learning opportunities have resulted in staff increasingly focussing on accelerating student achievement and on cultural responsiveness.

During 2015 ERO has worked closely with school leaders and evaluated the school's ongoing progress.

2 Review and Development

How effectively is the school addressing its priorities for review and development?

Priorities identified for review and development

ERO and the board of trustees agreed on the following key priorities:

  • improving curriculum design to further respond to individual student learning requirements
  • developing shared leadership approaches and robust performance management
  • strengthening teaching to accelerate student learning and to promote success for Māori as Māori
  • implementing robust and timely self-review practices.

The school has addressed the key priorities for improvement well. They have made very good progress to improve student achievement and well-being. Over the past two years, careful strategic decision making by the principal and board has begun to result in improved outcomes for students.

Progress

Improve curriculum design to further respond to individual student learning requirements.

The school has completed a well-considered two-year review of the curriculum. The curriculum has a strong and coherent focus incorporating the special character and The New Zealand Curriculum. Planned subject progressions for Years 1 to 10 offer students better preparation for National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA).

Curriculum leadership in Years 1 to 9 is becoming more connected to students' interests and focused on providing continuity and challenge in their learning over time. Curriculum planning is shared effectively between teachers, and the recent introduction of digital planning approaches is further promoting collaboration and cooperation between colleagues.

Senior school curriculum pathways are broader and more individualised to meet students' learning interests and aspirations. Students now have good opportunities to gain entry to tertiary education.

The school has identified that further roll growth could enable them to offer students a wider range of specialist subject learning on site. Currently the school offers students a good range of subjects using distance learning, in partnership with teachers from other schools. Individualised in-school support systems are helping students develop independent learning skills alongside self-management and research strategies.

Developing shared leadership approaches and robust performance management.

The principal has successfully distributed leadership responsibilities and increased leadership accountabilities. Deliberate and strategic leadership decisions, using achievement and well-being information, now inform school improvements.

The senior leadership team is more cohesive and developing shared responsibility to promote and accelerate student achievement. Leadership decisions are shared with staff, resulting in a more settled and collaborative staff culture. High expectations with clear performance expectations are in place to evaluate the quality of leadership.

Performance management has been transformed. The process is robust and now involves the ongoing collection of evidence with increased expectations of teachers to use evidence to inform their decision making. Ongoing appraisal is linked with the school vision, goals and achievement targets to improve learning outcomes for students.

Strengthening teaching to accelerate student learning and promote success for Māori as Māori.

There is a greater focus on promoting student learning and improving the consistency of good quality teaching. This work continues to progress through relevant and well-chosen professional development by external providers. Teachers have widened their participation in educational networks to strengthen teaching practice.

Robust and reliable achievement information is now available. Moderation practices continue to be strengthened school-wide. Very good systems track students’ progress overtime and, while there is a disparity between some groups of students, the school is responding appropriately to set relevant targets for groups of students who are yet to make accelerated progress.

School achievement information in relation to the National Standards shows that teaching in Years 1 to 8 is increasingly effective in accelerating Māori student progress. In Years 9 and 10 further work is required to set more specific targets to accelerate outcomes in reading, writing and mathematics. Improving Māori student achievement is a high priority for the board and the school has evidence to show outcomes are beginning to improve.

Almost all students continue to gain NCEA qualifications at Levels 1, 2 and 3. The school consistently exceeds government targets and has implemented a flexible and personalised approach to help students succeed. The school has appropriately identified that further work is required to accelerate achievement rates in University Entrance, NCEA endorsement and Scholarship results.

Implementing robust and timely self-review practices.

School leaders are developing a strengthened culture of using self-review information, including achievement information. The school has developed appropriate action plans to improve school performance. They are beginning to improve the quality of evaluation of student outcomes in these plans.

The board and principal have developed very clear and well considered strategic and annual plans. They have developed useful systems to include the outcomes of self-review with these plans, goals and targets.

Student and family input now informs self-review through consultation. Consultation with Maōri whānau has resulted in the development of a whānau group to help inform school plans, policies and targets. Through self review school leaders have also identified that further professional learning and development is required to increase the quality of teachers’ te reo Māori as part of their ongoing work to become more culturally responsive.

3 Sustainable performance and self review

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

The school is well placed to sustain and improve performance.

The school has demonstrated:

  • effective leadership in implementing systems to provide the conditions for students to be successful
  • high expectations for accelerated student achievement
  • positive responses to students’ learning strengths and needs
  • more stable governance structures, including plans for succession, to continue to strengthen the stewardship of the school
  • greater student focused decision-making, using student contributions
  • use of effective self-review processes to set future priorities and monitor school performance.

Key next steps

ERO has suggested and the board and school leaders agree that to continue to enhance outcomes for students the school will focus on:

  • accelerating Māori student progress and achievement and refining school targets to focus on specific students who are yet to achieve equitable outcomes
  • enhancing the collaborative culture and extending partnerships with families/whānau
  • further developing culturally responsive teaching and learning approaches with students
  • deepening student understanding and commitment to the vision and values of the school
  • continuing to strengthen performance management and school evaluation practices.

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.

Conclusion

Students at Excellere College experience an inclusive, caring school environment. Students achieve well in National Standards and NCEA levels. Teachers know and cater well for students’ wellbeing and learning needs. Continuing to promote useful relationships with parents and whanau has been identified as a priority.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

18 April 2016

About the School

Location

Kamo, Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number

429

School type

Composite (Years 1 to 15)

School roll

180

Number of international students

2

Gender composition

Boys 52% Girls 48%

Ethnic composition

Māori

Pākehā

Korean

other

36%

53%

3%

8%

Review team on site

February 2016

Date of this report

18 April 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2014

December 2011

July 2008