Mt Aspiring College - 04/11/2015

1. Context

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

Students at Mt Aspiring College learn in a caring environment where trustees and staff share a focus on building positive relationships for life-long learning and wellbeing.

Since the last ERO review in 2012 the school’s roll has increased significantly. The board and principal are planning for the challenges of future growth. The school reflects the increasingly diverse nature of its community. School leaders actively promote an inclusive school culture, aligned to the school’s values.

Opportunity to learn in the natural environment continues to be a significant feature of the experiences available to students at the school. The senior outdoor education programme continues to attract students from throughout New Zealand and overseas. Relationships between teachers, students and parents who participate in the wide range of in-and out-of school activities are enhanced by these shared opportunities.

Students enjoy and benefit from the strong links that the school has established with the community in the arts and through service projects.

A priority for the school has been to support teachers’ professional development to improve learning and teaching to provide a lifelong learning environment.

2. Learning

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

The school makes good use of achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, achievement and progress. Students are aware of the purpose of their learning. They:

  • get good feedback from teachers about how to improve in aspects of their learning
  • give teachers feedback about what is working well for them and what could be improved to extend their learning.

Teachers:

  • identify, support and monitor the progress of students at risk of not achieving
  • modify learning programmes and strategies to meet identified student needs
  • report fortnightly to parents about their children’s learning.

The school analyses and reports on the achievement of students who enter for National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualifications. These students achieve very well at the college. Over the last two years NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy results have been at or close to 100%. Achievement of Level 1 and 2 certificates in NCEA for 2014 was higher than for comparable schools. Students’ achievement in Level 3 and UE was lower in 2014. The school is aware of this and is working to support students to meet their goal, including those who need a different pathway to success as a Year 13 leaver. The school is well informed about the kind of work or further learning students go to after they leave the college.

Most students in Years 7 and 8 achieve at or above the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Highest achievement by these students is in reading with 90% at or above the standard. Some students’ progress in writing is an area identified by the school as requiring and receiving extra support. In 2014 the college set overall targets against curriculum levels for students in years 9 and 10. These targets are used to establish baseline data about student achievement and to show progress over time.

The next step for the school is to consider setting more student-centred targets that focus on the students or groups of students considered at risk of not meeting the school-wide goals.

3. Curriculum

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

The school provides a broad range of learning experiences and leadership opportunities for students, within subject areas and in the wider life of the school.

Documentation, including the school’s charter, refers to all aspects of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). This provides a good foundation for further development of the school's own curriculum. The school’s values support this development by identifying and defining qualities that are important for the school community. These values relate to the learner competencies described in the NZC.

Within learning areas, the curriculum is responsive to student needs and student feedback. Teachers collaborate with students to ensure that learning is purposeful and relevant.

Teachers:

  • show enthusiasm for their subject
  • use good quality teaching practices
  • focus on positive relationships for learning and reporting
  • support individual students to meet their own goals
  • use digital technologies to make learning increasingly available to students anytime, anywhere.

Comprehensive systems support the wellbeing of students for learning. Teachers know students well.

Students with high needs are well supported in their learning and overall development.

Recently formed professional learning groups are increasing opportunities for teachers to evaluate the impact of their teaching and share the effective teaching strategies they use to improve student progress and achievement.

Next steps for the school are to:

  • evaluate how well the deliberate approach to improve professional practice across the school contributes to ongoing improvement in student achievement
  • further develop a coherent, school-wide curriculum that links all aspects of the NZC and the school's strategic aims
  • provide an appropriate pathway for each student that takes account of their aspirations for future education and employment
  • strengthen aspects of the school’s performance management system.

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

Māori students make up 7% of the school roll. They have some experience of aspects of their identity, language and culture in their school life and learning.

All students in Years 7 to 9 learn te reo Māori. Te reo Māori classes are offered to all other year levels as an option. All Year 9 students visit a marae.

All students take part in haka and waiata house competitions. The school has a small, enthusiastic kapahaka group.

The school’s 2014 reports to the board show that Māori students made good progress in their learning.

A next step for the school is to increase the visibility of te ao Māori within the school so that Māori students see their heritage better reflected in the environment.

Whānau Māori would appreciate being part of the board’s plans to consult the school’s community about future directions. This consultation should also include how well current practices are contributing to Māori student success.

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 overall performance.

Trustees have a clear focus on the strategic and annual goals that have been set for the school. The principal, senior and curriculum leaders are guided by these goals in their reports to the board. There is alignment between annual plans, school targets, department plans and reports. The board has a useful process for reviewing and reporting against relevant Ministry of Education National Administration Guidelines.

Department reports and achievement reports to the board increasingly make good use of student achievement information to evaluate the effectiveness of programmes and strategies.

School leaders are aware, and ERO agrees, that they now need to embed new learning and practices from recent initiatives to support the school’s ongoing development as a learning community.

Overall, reporting to the board about goals and targets, at all levels, is descriptive rather than evaluative.

The next step for the school is to carry out planned, purposeful evaluation of the effectiveness of programmes and initiatives in improving outcomes for students. Such evaluation is necessary to ensure the quality and coherence of future developments in teaching and learning.

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

At the time of this review there were 39 international students attending the school, including one exchange student.

International students feel welcome in the school and are well supported on arrival and throughout their time at Mt Aspiring College. Students enjoy a high standard of pastoral care.

Their English language needs are identified on arrival and appropriate programmes are put in place. The learning and achievement of international students is closely monitored, in particular their English language learning. Staff members communicate effectively with each other and with students about students’ ongoing pastoral and learning needs.

The board receives regular reports on students’ achievement in English language learning programmes.

The next step for trustees is to ensure reports to the board regularly include how well international students are learning and progressing in their mainstream class programmes.

Provision for students in the school hostel

Mt Aspiring College owns the school hostel. The school hostel accommodates thirty Year 13 students, who make up 4% of the school roll. The hostel owner has attested that all the requirements of the Hostel Regulations are met.

The hostel continues to perform well. Hostel students and staff make very good use of school specialist staff, facilities and resources to support students’ learning and wellbeing.

Significant features of the hostel programme include:

  • building students’ independent living skills
  • the challenging outdoor programme that complements the school’s outdoor pursuits programme
  • the effective communication processes between families, the hostel and school.

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

The board, senior leaders and teachers have a strong focus on building positive relationships for learning. Initiatives have been introduced to support this goal and students benefit from the school’s unique curriculum. Student achievement at all levels is higher than, or comparable to, similar schools. The school now needs to review and document its curriculum so that its aim to build a learning community of life-long learners can be consistently implemented and the outcomes evaluated and reported.

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

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

4 November 2015

About the School

Location

Wanaka

Ministry of Education profile number

533

School type

Secondary (Years 7 to 13)

School roll

789

Number of international students

39

Gender composition

Boys: 51%

Girls: 49%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

Asian

Other

88%

7%

3%

2%

Special Features

School Hostel

Review team on site

August 2015

Date of this report

4 November 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

May 2012

December 2008

June 2005