Otago Girls' High School - 29/10/2015

1. Context

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

Otago Girls’ High School provides high quality education for students from Years 9 to 13. As the oldest secondary girls’ school in New Zealand its buildings, displays and other connections to the past are clearly evident and part of students’ learning programmes.

Students learn in a very positive, settled and supportive school culture which promotes their engagement and achievement. In 2014 the school gained a New Zealand Foundation for Character Education Award. Teachers and leaders work well together, sharing ideas and teaching practice. They communicate well with each other and the students, using ICT effectively in the process. Some senior classes and activities are shared with Otago Boys’ High School.

The school is extending its connections beyond the school to better support its students. It has formed a wide range of community partnerships to help enhance students’ learning. Partnerships with parents/whānau have been strengthened. Students have increased opportunities for service and other experiences of interest beyond the school. Key examples include the:

  • recent introduction of student learning conferences with parents and teacher mentors
  • increased focus on global connections through the wide range of languages taught, trips, exchanges, teacher scholarships and a global-learning programme for students
  • establishment and use of an alumni association.

Students ERO spoke with were very positive about:

  • the changes they perceive in their school culture
  • the way their teachers care about them as individuals and their learning
  • how their learning and wellbeing are valued.

Since the last ERO review in March 2011 a new principal has been appointed. There are more Pacific students enrolled. An enrolment scheme continues to be in place. A school-wide programme to promote and celebrate positive learning, behaviour and engagement is well embedded. Pastoral and support systems for students have been restructured to better meet their needs.

2. Learning

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

The school is using individual student achievement information very well to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement.

Senior student achievement information shows that:

  • achievement across NCEA is increasing and is higher than comparative schools nationally
  • there is an increase in the proportion of students participating in NCEA
  • the proportion of school leavers with NCEA Level 2 is consistently greater than 90%
  • achievement in literacy and numeracy at all levels of NCEA is consistently high
  • the proportion of students gaining merit and excellence endorsements has increased over time for most levels of NCEA
  • the retention of students to 17 years of age is very high.

The school’s Year 9 and 10 student achievement information shows:

  • most students make good progress in literacy and numeracy
  • most students are achieving at levels likely to prepare them for successful completion of Year 11 NCEA Level 1
  • significant gains in student achievement overall between Years 9 and 11.

Students feel well supported by teachers with their learning. Senior students are well aware of their progress towards NCEA. Students know what they need to do to improve their levels of achievement. They receive high quality next learning steps from their teachers.

Teachers are improving assessment opportunities for students to better meet students’ needs. They use student achievement information to reflect on the effectiveness of their teaching. They closely monitor and support students’ progress over time.

Learning area leaders use student achievement information well to evaluate programmes and practices within their departments.

Senior leaders effectively use student learning information to evaluate how well programmes and initiatives are supporting students to learn and achieve. They have made substantial changes to class organisation and timetables to improve outcomes for students.

Trustees receive comprehensive information about student achievement across the school and are increasingly using this to help inform their decision making.

Next step

Senior leaders and trustees should review some student achievement targets to ensure a more specific focus is placed on students receiving additional support to progress their learning.

3. Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is very effective in promoting and supporting students’ learning. It provides rich and extensive learning opportunities for all students. Students are highly involved in academic, sporting and cultural activities. Teachers encourage and support students to take responsibility for their learning. Students have many opportunities for leadership. This helps ensure they are actively involved in and contributing to the school curriculum.

Key features of the curriculum include:

  • effective teaching, modelling and celebration of the school values of respect, positivity and integrity across all areas of the school
  • a wide range of learning experiences that reflect students’ interests and needs
  • a focus on offering students opportunities to develop global-citizenship competencies.

Students in need of additional help with their learning are effectively supported through targeted programmes and individuals attention. Support and resourcing for these learners has been strengthened.

Teachers provide students with multiple and varied opportunities to learn. They respond to student feedback and achievement information by adapting course content, assessment activities and their teaching practices.

School leaders have clear expectations for curriculum review, development and delivery. They are working with teachers to encourage robust evidence-based analysis of student outcomes. They create flexible and supportive conditions which allow for curriculum innovation.

Next step

The school is in the early stages of using the Vocational Pathways framework with students and teachers. ERO and the school agree that the next step is to:

  • investigate how well the current curriculum for senior students is preparing them to access pathways to future learning and work.

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

Māori students make up 11% of the school roll and Pacific students 6%. They achieve well in NCEA. Almost all students stay at school until they are 17 years of age. More students are choosing to learn te reo Māori and join the kapahaka group.

The school has strengthened its focus on raising individual achievement, celebrating success and retaining students to senior school levels. This is evident in the range of engagement and achievement initiatives for Māori and Pacific students. These include:

  • increasing opportunities for Māori and Pacific students to learn and share their language, culture and identity
  • successfully working with other schools, groups and experts
  • seeking and acting on ideas and opinions from Māori and Pacific students and their whānau/aiga
  • creating more opportunities for Māori and Pacific students to support and mentor their peers
  • ensuring te reo Māori classes are made available for students in Years 9-13
  • enabling more opportunities for students to gain NCEA credits for participation in kapahaka.

School leaders could:

  • extend how student survey information is used to inform planning and decision making for Māori and Pacific students
  • formalise overall planning to better show, review and report what the school is doing to best meet the needs of Māori and Pacific students.

4. Sustainable Performance

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

The school is very well placed to sustain and improve its performance. The charter, including the strategic plan supports school improvement.

Senior leaders effectively use internal evaluation to support school operations and student outcomes. They have a clearly defined process for this. Appropriate forums are provided for teachers and students to comment on how they are finding aspects of the school. Teachers are supported and expected to inquire into aspects of their teaching practice.

The principal and other senior leaders:

  • very effectively manage change, evaluation and innovation, and are mindful of student and staff wellbeing
  • make changes that are thoroughly researched and prepare and support staff to effectively implement them
  • promote and participate in professional learning
  • work well together as a team and support other leaders and teachers to make changes for the benefit of students.

The principal effectively leads and models a culture of inquiry. She uses close scrutiny to inform change. She is actively leading a global focus for students.

The board is representative, responsive and committed. Trustees are in the process of rationalising their procedures to support their policies.

Next steps

Trustees could strengthen their ability and confidence to inquire deeply into the information they are presented with. They should also consider how to best make all governance documents more easily available for all trustees.

The board and senior leaders agree that more formal monitoring and reporting against the school’s strategic goals and annual targets would be useful.

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 41 international students attending the school, including one exchange student.

International students’ wellbeing and learning needs are closely monitored and supported by experienced staff. The staff communicates very effectively about students’ ongoing needs and progress. The integration of international students within the school is promoted.

A next step is to reinstate reporting to the board on learning and wellbeing outcomes for international students.

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

Otago Girls’ High School provides very well for its students. There are high levels of student involvement in sports, cultural events, trips, camps and exchanges. Students achieve very well in academic and other pursuits. A positive, inclusive atmosphere pervades the school with everyone working together to best support the students. The school is very effectively led and managed.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years.

Chris Rowe
Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

About the School

Location

Dunedin

Ministry of Education profile number

378

School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll

817

Number of international students

41

Gender composition

Female:                100%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā
Māori
Asian
Other
Pacific

67%
11%
   8%
   8%
   6%

Review team on site

August 2015

Date of this report

29 October 2015

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

March 2011
September 2007
August 2004