George Street Normal School - 06/12/2016

1 Context

George Street Normal School is a large school in central Dunedin. It has close links with the University of Otago College of Education, and plays an important role in supporting teachers in training. Students come from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, including a small number of fee-paying international students. The school has developed a culture that is inclusive and welcoming, and where students have a sense of belonging.

The school is led by an experienced principal and leaders. There is a stable, collegial teaching team. Following recent elections there is a mix of new and experienced trustees on the school board. Extensive community support and fundraising have enabled a major building programme to take place. This provides multi-purpose and flexible teaching and learning spaces.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision defined by the school is for all children to be "Active learners, with Positive attitudes who are Proud to be the best me that I can be" (APP). These attributes are fully described to show what is expected of children at this school. The values are for acts of responsibility, kindness, honesty, respect, compassion, consideration and duty to influence children's behaviour. Each term one of these values is focused on in classroom programmes. Children were able to discuss with ERO how these are enacted in their daily lives at school.

The school’s achievement information shows that a very high percentage (over 90%) of children reach the National Standards (NS) in reading and mathematics, with a significant number achieving above the NS. The percentage of children reaching the NS in writing is slightly lower (approximately 80%). The data shows that generally girls outperform boys in writing. Children for whom English is a second language make very favourable rates of progress to reach the NS.

Achievement data over the last three years shows 89% of Māori and Pacific children reached the NS in reading, 75% of Māori and 81% of Pacific children in mathematics, and 59% of Māori and 85% Pacific children in writing. The trend over the last three years is showing an improving number of children reaching the NS. The school is aware of the disparity in achievement for Māori in writing and to a lesser degree in mathematics.

The school has sound moderation practices in place, particularly for writing. Expectations have been developed to support teachers to make consistent judgements about levels of achievement across the school.

Since the last ERO evaluation, the school has further embedded its 'strengths-based curriculum'. Particular priorities have been to improve students' achievement and the teaching of writing, mathematics and science. The focus on science was to engage boys more in their learning and to provide another interesting context for literacy and mathematical learning.

3 Accelerating achievement

How effectively does this school respond to Māori children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school responds well to Māori children whose learning and achievement need acceleration.

Over the last four years, the school has developed an initiative to support the learning of Māori children (Whānau iti). This has helped Māori students whose achievement needs to accelerate to feel valued in their language, culture and identity and has served to create meaningful connections with Māori whānau. The academic gains have yet to be realised but the school recognises the importance of first building students' sense of pride and wellbeing, and motivation for learning.

All Māori students whose learning needs to accelerate have an individual action plan with additional programmes and support provided. Results for writing in 2016 are indicating more students are likely to make accelerated progress and meet the NS. The school acknowledges that more targeted action and a closer alignment through targets, appraisal and teachers inquiring into their effectiveness is needed to reduce the disparity.

How effectively does this school respond to other children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school responds very successfully to the needs of students for whom English is a second language (ELL). Students are provided with tailor-made programmes. Their progress is closely monitored. Experienced teachers and skilled teacher aides support their language development.

Teachers know all students and their learning strengths and needs well. They work closely with parents to develop learning commitments for their children. This is in recognition of the power of all adults and children working together as partners in learning. Leaders monitor the progress and achievement of all students and support teachers to use students' strengths as the focal point for learning. All students whose learning needs accelerating have an individual action plan. Leaders allocate resourcing to ensure that students who need additional support are given every opportunity to succeed.

4 School conditions

How effectively do the school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices develop and enact the school’s vision, values, goals and targets for equity and excellence?

This school's curriculum and other organisational processes and practices effectively develop and enact the school's vision, values, goals and targets for equity and excellence.

This school's curriculum is designed to maximise all children's engagement in learning. Children's strengths and interests are explicitly recognised and built on in their learning. Children have opportunities to `teach' their peers and their teachers about areas of interest. They participate in a wide variety of rich learning experiences within and beyond the school. Children have many opportunities to support each other's learning in meaningful ways. They are well supported to know the purpose for their learning, how well they are achieving and what their next learning steps are. 

The curriculum clearly enacts the school's vision for learners and fosters a strong sense of belonging and wellbeing.  Children from all cultures feel that their identity and culture are valued and respected by children and adults in the school. All children benefit from learning about Māori culture and language, as well as the many cultures of children who attend the school. 

The school values the active involvement of children's parents and whānau and very effectively draws on the knowledge and experience in its wider school community to enhance learning opportunities for children. In recent years the school has been particularly successful in building strong connections with the parents of Pacific children. It also provides opportunities for Māori whānau to meet together and have input into school improvements. Strengthening these relationships with whānau and working together with them to find ways to support the learning and success of their tamariki remains a priority. 

Teachers know children very well as individuals and learners. They carefully and regularly consider children's wellbeing and learning needs when planning learning programmes. Teachers frequently evaluate how teaching is impacting on children's learning and what can be improved.

Teachers are further supported to continue to develop and improve their teaching practice through a programme of relevant internal and external professional development and robust appraisal processes. The school needs to ensure that professional development, appraisal and teachers' investigations into the effectiveness of their teaching are more focused on how to accelerate those students yet to achieve National Standards.

The cohesive and experienced leadership team very effectively supports children's achievement and wellbeing, and teachers' professional practice. These leaders set and model high expectations for teachers and children. They closely monitor and analyse children's achievement, engagement and wellbeing and use this information to plan for improvement.

The school has well-established practices and processes for evaluating the effectiveness of many aspects of what happens in the school. These include regularly seeking the views of students and parents and whānau.  School leaders and ERO agree that internal evaluation could be made more purposeful and useful by being clearer about the evaluative questions guiding investigations.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it?

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond effectively to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how well teaching is working for these children
  • act on what they know works well for each child
  • build teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children
  • are well placed to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children.

The leaders have a strong focus on creating the conditions for students to have high levels of engagement and motivation for learning. The principal uses current research to support this development. There are high expectations for effective teaching and learning.

The principal, leaders and trustees agree that the next steps to further reduce disparity are to:

  • broaden the achievement targets to include all students yet to reach the NS
  • more closely align systems, such as appraisal and teaching as inquiry, to the targets
  • ensure internal evaluation is more evaluative. 

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

6 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 the following:

  • board administration

  • curriculum

  • management of health, safety and welfare

  • personnel management

  • 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

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions

  • attendance

  • compliance with the provisions of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014

  • provision for international students.

The Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (the Code) was introduced on July 1st 2016. The school is aware of the need to update its policies and procedures to meet the new code requirements by December 1st 2016.

At the time of this review there were six international students attending the school.

The school is making good progress in aligning its policies and procedures to meet requirements for the 2016 Code.

7 Recommendation

ERO recommends that the board, principal, leaders and teachers address the next steps in the body of the report and 'Going Forward' section.

Dr Lesley Patterson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Te Waipounamu Southern

6 December 2016

About the school

Location

Dunedin

Ministry of Education profile number

3740

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

470

Number of international students

6

Gender composition

Boys: 54%

Girls: 46%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

Pacific Islands

Asian

Other ethnicities

64%

8%

4%

17%

7%

Review team on site

September 2016

Date of this report

6 December 2016

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

February 2012

July 2008

June 2005