Mercer School - 22/01/2016

Findings

Students benefit from the school’s positive and inclusive culture. They enjoy a broad, meaningful and localised curriculum. This is successfully promoting and supporting students to actively engage in learning. The school roll has significantly increased, reflecting the community’s renewed confidence in the school and the principal’s emphasis on collaboration and parent partnership.

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?

Mercer School is a small rural school that serves its local community in northern Waikato. Students in Years 1 to 8 work in two age-related classes and enjoy opportunities to come together for some combined learning sessions. The school’s mission is to be a culturally dynamic learning community. The aim is to encourage students to reach personal standards of excellence academically, socially and physically. This vision drives school practices and developments.

Mercer School’s core values are called the ‘Six Kinds’. These values inspire the trust and confidence of students to meet challenges in their learning and are clearly evident in the respectful and appreciative student and staff interactions. An inclusive culture supports students to have a sense of belonging in the school and encourages them to positively contribute to the learning environment.

There have been several changes of principal since the 2013 ERO report. The current principal has been in the role for 18 months. He has made a positive impact on the school’s culture and reputation. As a result, the school’s roll has significantly increased over the past year. The majority of students are Pākehā and a third are Māori. Roll growth has allowed a third teacher to be employed.

Through the leadership changes, the board has continued to develop the school property, maintain sound financial management, and meet legislative requirements. Trustees and the principal welcome external feedback and use it to strengthen school self review.

2 Learning

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

Teachers monitor and evaluate students’ progress and achievement to support them to be successful learners. They use a wide range of appropriate assessment tools and information to help them make overall judgements about each student's progress and achievement. Teachers take advantage of opportunities to moderate their assessments with other schools and this helps them maintain the accuracy and reliability of their judgements.

The school’s information indicates that the majority of students, including Māori students, achieve National Standards. Writing and mathematics achievement is generally comparable to regional and national levels of achievement. Reading achievement levels are lower.

The school’s charter targets aim to accelerate the progress of students not yet achieving the National Standards. This year, professional learning has prompted changes to the way writing is taught. As a result, there have been pleasing lifts in achievement.

Students are encouraged to be confident learners and they engage well in class programmes. They are being motivated to take more responsibility for their own learning and progress through student-centred approaches to teaching and learning. Teachers encourage students to think about how to learn and how to build on their achievement. This is successfully extending students’ ability to use assessment information and to talk about, and evaluate, their own learning.

Teachers share a collective responsibility for promoting successful learning. They strategize together to help students who require additional learning support. The support these students receive is very good and features inclusive and responsive practices. Students requiring additional support also benefit from the well-tailored programmes that teachers provide to address specific learning needs.

Teachers provide parents with clear information about their children's learning. Parents have regular opportunities to discuss their children’s achievement. They also work in partnership with teachers to support students’ learning progress.

The principal and the board agree that a key next step is to investigate why the school’s reading achievement has, for the past three years, been lower than the school’s overall achievement in writing and mathematics. This is likely to require an in depth evaluation linking teaching strategies to student learning outcomes.

3 Curriculum

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

Students engage well in a curriculum that is successfully supporting them to become confident and connected learners. The broad curriculum has a strong emphasis on literacy, mathematics and learning skills. Teachers promote the values, principles and key competencies of theNew Zealand Curriculum. Meaningful curriculum contexts help students to make connections across the different learning areas and with their local environment.

Students are respected as capable learners who can make decisions about their learning. They develop a good sense of themselves as leaders and role models. Their perspectives are valued by teachers and included in curriculum programmes and reflected in the school environment.

Students benefit from good quality teaching and caring relationships with their teachers. Teachers know students well and they adapt their teaching practices to students’ learning needs and interests. Students and their families are well supported as they make transitions into and out of the school.

Teachers work collaboratively, regularly sharing and reflecting on the effectiveness of curriculum programmes and strategies. They have shared understandings about what constitutes effective teaching. Teachers value ongoing professional learning. They integrate knowledge of current theories and best practice into their teaching and learning programmes.

ERO endorses the priorities to develop the curriculum identified by the principal. These include:

  • continuing to review and adapt the school’s curriculum document to reflect teaching practice and curriculum developments
  • developing a sequential te reo Māori programme to grow students’ language knowledge
  • increasing student e-learning opportunities.

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

Māori students are well supported to have pride in their language, culture and identity. School data show the majority of Māori students achieve well in relation to the National Standards and their peers in the school. Their results are higher than Māori achievement regionally and nationally.

Māori students benefit from the reciprocal relationships between the school and local kaumatua. These relationships are helping to promote bicultural recognition and practices in the school. Aspects of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga are integrated within curriculum programmes and in whole-school settings including pōwhiri. Visits to a local marae affirm Māori students’ sense of identity as Māori and enrich all students’ knowledge and understanding of Māori culture.

The kaumatua and Māori trustees and staff are helping the school to gain insight into whānau perspectives and aspirations for their children. Whānau have many opportunities to communicate and build partnerships with staff and trustees to promote their children’s learning.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to make ongoing improvements that impact positively on students’ learning. ERO is confident that the school’s clear focus on student learning outcomes will guide future school developments.

The board, principal, staff and community share ownership of and commitment to the school’s direction. The principal and trustees value and are responsive to the perspectives of the school’s community. The school now enjoys high levels of community engagement.

The board provides well considered governance and stewardship. Trustees have a good understanding of their responsibilities on the board and they bring complementary skills and experience to their roles.

The principal’s leadership is strategic. He has quickly established a knowledgeable and reflective teaching team. His leadership inspires teachers’ and students’ confidence and motivates them to succeed. Shared leadership is a feature of the school. It helps to build capability and maintain shared expectations and understandings that support successful outcomes for students.

Teachers are supported well to think more deeply about their teaching programmes and practice. The principal is considering ways to support them to collect evidence of how the Practising Teacher Criteria are being developed in their teaching practice. This evidence would support the principal’s endorsement of teachers’ practising teacher certificates.

Trustees are considering succession planning in preparation for the 2016 board elections. They acknowledge that it would be timely to review and reorganise the board’s policies next year to align them more clearly with the school’s strategic priorities. Training regarding strategic planning and self-review and evaluation would also be of benefit for the new board.

The board and principal could more regularly review progress towards annual and strategic goals. They recognise the value of people responsible for these goals and targets playing a key role in reviewing and updating information about progress in strategic and annual plans.

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 benefit from the school’s positive and inclusive culture. They enjoy a broad, meaningful and localised curriculum. This is successfully promoting and supporting students to actively engage in learning. The school roll has significantly increased, reflecting the community’s renewed confidence in the school and the principal’s emphasis on collaboration and parent partnership.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

22 January 2016

School Statistics

Location

Mercer

Ministry of Education profile number

1372

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

43

Gender composition

Boys 25, Girls 18

Ethnic composition

Māori

Pākehā

Niue

Tongan

Middle Eastern

12

26

2

2

1

Special Features

Social Worker in Schools (SWIS)

Review team on site

December 2015

Date of this report

22 January 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

February 2013

July 2011

January 2008