Ngaruawahia High School - 12/12/2014

Findings

Trustees, with guidance and support from the LSM and Ministry of Education, have made positive progress in addressing difficult challenges facing the school. Many issues are in the early stages of resolution, including improvements in the quality of education, aspects of governance and management, and enhancing the school environment.

ERO intends to carry out another review over the course of one-to-two years.

1 Background and Context

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

Ngāruawāhia High School caters for students in Years 9 to 13 and is located in the township of Ngāruawāhia, north of Hamilton. Since the previous ERO review in 2013 the school roll has declined from 257 to 180 students. Most students identify as Māori and of Tainui descent.

This report follows concerns identified in the previous ERO report, including poor quality levels of school governance, leadership and teaching practice, and low levels of student engagement and achievement. A decision was made by ERO to assist the school to address these issues and to closely monitor their progress. The Ministry of Education (MoE) also had concerns relating to school finances and personnel. A Limited Statutory Manager (LSM) was subsequently appointed to support the school to address these concerns.

An acting principal and senior leadership team has been in place since February 2013. There have been changes to the membership of the board of trustees and significant changes to teaching and non-teaching staff.

The decline in the school roll has resulted in the removal of seven classrooms. The library has been refitted into a vibrant and modern learning space and there are plans to construct additional modern spaces. Overall however, the school site continues to pose a potential health and safety risk to staff and students. Many aspects of the interior learning environments, as well as exterior curbing and pathways, are in urgent need of upgrading or replacement. The board is aware of these issues and is working proactively with the Ministry of Education to resolve them.

This report identifies and acknowledges the progress the school has made in improving the overall quality of education for students as well as areas for ongoing review and development.

2 Review and Development

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

Priorities identified for review and development

The previous ERO report identified the need to:

  • improve aspects of governance and school leadership
  • develop a responsive curriculum to better meet the identified learning needs of students and lift their achievement
  • improve the quality of teaching practice across the school in order to better engage students in interesting and stimulating learning
  • improve the analysis, management and use of student achievement information
  • continue ongoing trustees' training to improve their knowledge and understanding of their governance roles and responsibilities.

Progress

The appointment of the LSM has been instrumental in supporting the school to address longstanding and dysfunctional school practices. Compounding the financial concerns were the high number of staffing positions in administration and teaching areas. A comprehensive review undertaken by the LSM has led to a significant reduction in staffing numbers. Strict financial controls and robust systems for monitoring income and expenditure are now in place. These practices, along with the assistance of the MOE, have contributed to a notable decrease in the school's current deficit position.

Raising teacher accountability and the quality of teaching has been a significant focus for trustees and the LSM. Teachers are expected to provide interesting and meaningful classroom programmes. Their ongoing progress and development are closely monitored through a robust teacher appraisal and attestation process.

During the review ERO noted a significant improvement in the overall tone and culture of the school. Students were friendly and welcoming, and in classrooms they demonstrated a positive attitude to their learning. Their participation in sports and school activities has significantly increased.

There has also been a positive improvement in levels of students' attendance and the number of incidents of serious behaviour has significantly reduced. There have been no suspensions since August 2013.

Levels of student progress and achievement show incremental improvement since 2012. The school is particularly pleased with the success of Year 12 students in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 2. A key factor contributing to improvements in NCEA results has been a new system for monitoring and tracking of students' progress and their credits. This process is allowing senior leaders to respond more quickly to the needs of students.

The junior school has seen the development of a blended junior curriculum that is flexible, innovative, and responsive to the needs of students. The school reports that the curriculum has contributed to a notable improvement in levels of attendance and engagement. It also reports that students now have greater ownership of their learning and expectations of the school.

Improved school relationships with community stakeholders including Tainui, contributing schools and other learning institutions have been a positive development. Of significance have been the discussions that have begun between the board of trustees and Tainui about the vision for secondary and tertiary education. The school is committed to working with Tainui to develop a shared vision and priorities for the future education of students from Ngaruawahia.

Key next steps

There remains a need for the school to continue to improve the quality or education for students. These relate to:

  • developing strategies to cater for the high number of transient students
  • ongoing development of the curriculum, particularly the senior curriculum, to better meet the needs of students
  • increasing the number of students undertaking te reo Māori in the senior school
  • improving the consistency of classroom teaching practices to ensure students are always provided with stimulating and engaging classroom programmes that meet their needs
  • ensuring high levels of standards and professionalism of teaching staff
  • ensuring the board receives regular, detailed analysis of school-wide achievement information, including clear recommendations for improvement to enable trustees to make well-informed resourcing decisions
  • improving achievement rates particularly at NCEA Levels 1 and 3 and for University Entrance.

Aspects of governance and management also require strengthening. These include:

  • an urgent need to address potential health and safety issues relating to many teaching and learning environments
  • increasing the school roll and improving the image and perception of the school within the local and wider community
  • implementing an ongoing programme of board training and self-review programme
  • ongoing reduction in budget deficits
  • initiating, in a planned and systematic way, the board's intention to review the school vision, values and charter.

It is important for the role of the LSM to continue to assist the board to address the issues identified in this report. ERO also recommends that the board of trustees and the Ministry of Education continue to work together to develop a transition plan for moving towards a full self-governing board. ERO also supports the LSM's intention to begin the process for appointing a new principal.

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 not yet well placed to sustain and continue to improve and review its performance because:

  • the school has yet to appoint a permanent principal and senior leadership team to provide stability, professional direction and expertise for ongoing school development
  • the board is relatively inexperienced in undertaking its governance role and welcomes ongoing training and support
  • the quality of teaching and curriculum management and implementation is variable across the school and there is a need to further develop the senior school curriculum to better meet students indentified strengths and needs
  • there is a need for a formal and systematic approach to ongoing self review
  • the poor physical condition of many classroom environments detracts from high-quality teaching and learning experiences for staff and students
  • ongoing formal intervention from the Ministry of Education continues to be essential.

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.

4 Recommendation

Recommendations, including any to other agencies for ongoing or additional support

ERO recommends that the board of trustees seek ongoing assistance from the Ministry of Education to continue the current formal intervention under Part 7a of the Education Act 1989, Section 78.

Conclusion

Trustees, with guidance and support from the LSM and Ministry of Education, have made positive progress in addressing difficult challenges facing the school. Many issues are in the early stages of resolution, including improvements in the quality of education, aspects of governance and management, and enhancing the school environment.

ERO intends to carry out another review over the course of one-to-two years.

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services

Northern Region

12 December 2014

About the School

Location

Ngāruawāhia

Ministry of Education profile number

127

School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll

180

Gender composition

Boys 53%

Girls 47%

Ethnic composition

Māori

NZ European/Pākehā

Pacific

72%

27%

1%

Review team on site

October 2014

Date of this report

12 December 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

March 2013

July 2009