Otahuhu College - 31/03/2016

Findings

Otahuhu College is undergoing substantial change with a view to increasing student success. There have been some notable gains in student achievement and the school acknowledges the continuing need to prioritise initiatives to ensure all students benefit from a responsive curriculum and a broad range of learning pathways.

ERO intends to carry out another review with three years.

1 Context

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

Otahuhu College is a co-educational school that provides secondary education for young people from Years 9 to 13. Established on its current site in 1931, the school has long standing allegiances with the local community. The roll is predominantly Māori and Pacific.

Examples of proud school traditions include the rivalry among the four houses of Grey, Hobson, Seddon and Massey and the success of students in many sporting codes, and at the annual Polynesian Festival competitions.

The board of trustees reflects the diversity of the school’s community. The board’s chairperson has given service to the school for over twenty years. Trustees have worked on a number of upgrades to the college campus over the last three years including new facilities for the Te Kotuku unit for students with special learning needs, and a building project for a new science block. Major improvements have been made to facilities for the school pool. A weights room and fitness centre have been added to the gymnasium.

The 2012 ERO report commented on the high levels of positive community engagement in the school and an inclusive learning environment for students that was promoting a sense of belonging for all. The report also signalled that school change and development was required. One of the more urgent priorities at that time was for the board to work with its community to develop a strategic plan that had measurable goals and clear targets for higher levels of achievement at all year levels and for all students.

Effective consultation with, and feedback to, the school’s Māori community was also identified as an important area for improvement, to better respond to and implement whānau aspirations and goals for Māori learners.

During the last three years there have been major changes in leadership and teaching personnel at the college. A new principal was appointed in the middle of 2013 and, during 2015, three new senior leaders were appointed to the management team. A new position has been created for an assistant principal with responsibility for community and whānau liaison. A number of new heads of faculty, middle managers and teachers have also been appointed since 2012.

This 2015 ERO report affirms the areas of progress that have been made over the last three years. It also acknowledges the ongoing challenges for the board, school leaders and staff associated with managing and implementing change.

2  Learning

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

The school is using student achievement information increasingly well to track learners’ progress at NCEA levels. The board and new principal have set in place a vision for high academic attainment and new systems have been developed for the collation and analysis of school achievement data. The knowledge gained through data analysis is assisting groups of students to receive more targeted assistance, particularly those at risk of not achieving at NCEA qualifications.

Focus is also placed on increasing student success rates in University Entrance (UE) qualifications, with the board and principal acknowledging the importance of lifting performance in this area to create and sustain broad academic pathways for students.

As the school continues its efforts to raise student achievement, publicly available achievement information shows corresponding improvements in NCEA data for 2014 and 2015. The most current data shows overall increases in student achievement at NCEA Levels 1 and 3, with little change in overall success rates at NCEA Level 2 between 2014 and 2015, and a continuing decrease in UE attainment. Continuing increases are needed at all levels, however, to reach the government's student achievement targets for 2017.

NCEA data also shows some ethnic and gender-based differences. Improved outcomes are evident for Māori students, particularly at NCEA Level 2. The disparity between Māori student and school-wide NCEA achievement levels is reducing, and success rates for Māori at Level 2 in 2015 exceeded school-wide attainment levels.

The overall achievement of Pacific students in NCEA is generally above that for Māori and, given this group comprises the school's most dominant ethnic group, closely reflects school-wide data.

Gender based differences indicate the need to explore ways in which teaching and learning programmes can bring about improved learning outcomes for boys. Increasing the proportion of merit and excellence endorsements for NCEA certificates is also an area in which the school seeks improvement.

Most heads of faculties and teachers in charge of subjects are continuing to analyse and evaluate student achievement in NCEA standards at all levels. In many cases the practice of altering and modifying aspects of the curriculum’s delivery is helping students to make further progress.

Ongoing and significant challenges for school leaders and staff include:

  • ensuring that broad-based and appropriate achievement pathways are provided for those students whose aspirations and goals are not focused on university entrance
  • accelerating progress and lifting the achievement of students in Years 9 and 10.

Inquiries by teachers into why and how students succeed are part of teachers’ appraisals. These are contributing, in places, to positive shifts in student achievement and improvements to teacher practice. To help improve practice school-wide, senior leaders should provide regular opportunities for teachers to share the knowledge they gain from their inquiries.

School leaders should also continue to ensure there is appropriate academic and wellbeing support for students, as required. While there have been distinct improvements in overall student attendance and retention rates, the high numbers of stand-downs should be carefully analysed to determine the reasons behind this situation.

The Learning Support department is working effectively to help advance the progress of many students who need individualised support. Substantial progress has been made in providing special assessment conditions in NCEA for those students who are eligible. Some good practice is also evident in regard to personalised learning programmes. The board and school leaders should now review the resourcing requirements of this department in view of the numbers of students currently on its roll, and their needs.

The recent positive verification of the school’s internal assessment policies and processes by NZQA indicates the school has made good improvements to its assessment practices over time. The NZQA audit confirms the integrity of the NCEA internal standards being offered in the school’s curriculum.

Key next steps

During the review ERO and school leaders had discussions about ways to accelerate learning throughout the school to improve student progress and achievement at all levels.

To improve opportunities for students to experience accelerated learning across the school, senior leaders and teachers should:

  • increase the focus on interventions and strategies to accelerate literacy and numeracy progress in Years 9 and 10
  • build on recent increments in student achievement to significantly improve student achievement rates in NCEA
  • focus particularly on lifting the achievement rates of Māori students at Levels 1 and 3
  • review the effectiveness of the streaming approach for Year 9 and 10 student groups
  • use data more deliberately to determine the specific learning needs of Year 9 and 10 students
  • encourage staff to work together on agreed, good practice approaches to accelerate learning for students.

A revised approach to the school's academic counselling programme, that included families and whānau in a learning partnership with their children, could be considered. More than 85 percent of parents attended conferencing meetings with students prior to 2014. The success of this programme has been commented on positively by ERO in previous reviews.

3 Curriculum

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

The Otahuhu College curriculum is undergoing significant review and development in order to become more effective and responsive. The key challenge for curriculum leaders and teachers is to re-examine traditional approaches to teaching and learning and to develop a curriculum that reflects modern learning practices and responds to students' diverse learning needs and pathways.

The review of the school’s curriculum is planned for the end of 2015 under the direction of a newly appointed senior leader. An important outcome of this review should be that it includes parent, whanau and learner's aspirations as well as the school's goals for student success at Otahuhu College. The new curriculum design should also incorporate appropriate and meaningful vocational pathways for students within the broader curriculum. Currently there is very good staff capacity within the careers and gateway department to contribute to this process.

Since 2012 the college has continued to provide good opportunities for particular groups of students. These include the following:

  • the on-going support that is being provided to promote students’ language, culture and identity through te reo Māori, Samoan and Tongan language options
  • the strategies in place to encourage more engagement in learning for Year 9 students
  • the effective guidance provided for students, including experiences that provide students with access to pathways to tertiary training or future employment
  • the rotation of options such as tikanga Māori, coding and financial literacy that are contributing more relevant and authentic learning programmes, particularly for junior students. 

In addition, a new appointment has been created for a specialist transition teacher. This is initially for Year 9 students and has strengthened relationships between the college and contributing schools.

Many middle leaders, teachers and support staff work hard to provide programmes that reflect the learning areas of The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). They support and show commitment to the students they teach.

Some departments are sustaining good teaching and learning practices that are contributing to improved student achievement, particularly from Year 11. In classrooms where traditional subject planning approaches and whole group teaching is the norm, students are less likely to experience positive, equitable learning outcomes. Senior leaders and teachers could consider more collaborative, cross-curricular approaches to raising student achievement in literacy and numeracy.

Year 9 students who are entering the college with low levels of numeracy and literacy would benefit from teaching and learning approaches that are better differentiated to meet their learning needs. In order to accelerate junior student progress before they reach Year 11, curriculum leaders and teachers should use student achievement information more deliberately to identify at risk students and develop programmes and targets to address their particular learning needs.

The pastoral care services for students have been extended, refined and developed over a long period of time. The pastoral team is highly focused on students’ individual needs and their long-term welfare. Outside agencies are being appropriately accessed to support school-based provisions.

Senior leaders should plan school-wide professional learning for teachers in 2016 that is collaborative, promotes the school’s strategic intentions and is more focused on the equitable professional improvement and development of all staff.

Key next steps

ERO and school leaders agree that the school’s internal evaluation processes should be more robust in order to build a broad based, responsive curriculum. Considerations for senior leaders to facilitate effective curriculum change include:

  • continuing to review the extent to which students, particularly at Year 9 and 10, have opportunities to engage positively in authentic and contextual learning
  • developing and implementing a culturally responsive curriculum that supports and promotes contexts for all Māori students to experience opportunities to succeed as Māori

strategically linking the school’s curriculum framework to purposeful pathways that provide
wide ranging opportunities for future employment or training.

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

The college should work towards strengthening success as Māori. School leaders and teachers should continue to prioritise work to identify successful ways to help realise the potential of, and accelerate the success of, Māori students in the school. While there have been improvements in the rates of Māori leaving with at least a Level 2 NCEA qualification, the overall achievement of these students in NCEA continues to track below that of non-Māori in the school and needs specific targeting at a strategic level.

Te reo Māori is taught from Year 9 to 13 and Te Whare Tahuhu is the focal point on the campus for Māori identity. The kaiako is highly committed to students who have opted to study te reo and has also implemented a short te reo/tikanga introductory programme for all Year 9 students. She also acts as an advocate for the wider group of Māori students in the school.

A successful kapa haka group and haka waiata competitions for the four school houses are well embedded features of school culture that are enjoyed and appreciated by the whole school community.

Māori whānau are interested in a partnership with school leaders that will improve educational outcomes for their children. There is a high level of capability in this group and some offer expertise from the educational sector.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The board and principal are taking steps to monitor the ongoing implementation of change as well as the organisational conditions that will sustain and improve school performance in the longer term. Over the last two years the college has experienced significant structural and personnel change while making some early progress in lifting levels of senior student achievement.

The principal and the new senior leadership group have the capability to work collaboratively and productively together. Each senior leader brings a different skill set to strengthen and build leadership capacity. As a team, and to support school development, senior leaders should carefully monitor the broader effectiveness and outcomes of change with a view to ensuring that all students are well served by the board’s priorities.

The board of trustees is receiving more frequent and coherent information from the principal about school-wide patterns and trends in student achievement in NCEA. Data is also indicating improvements in retention rates and participation across the school. The board should also be informed about the increased numbers of stand downs in recent years and any other relevant data that might disconfirm positive trends. This information could greatly assist board decision making in terms of the allocation of appropriate interventions or resources. 

A key priority for the board and the principal is to foster a climate for collaboration and shared understanding of the school’s strategic direction. Trustees as a group should seek support, including additional board training, to develop a more learner‑focused strategic plan and better understand their stewardship role. Trustees and the principal agree that the policies currently guiding the school would benefit from review. ERO's 2012 review findings also showed that the board's cycles of policy review and updating should be more regular.

The implementation of school change has led to some movement of staff, including to promotion or retirement, and as a result of previous overstaffing. Some students and parents talked to ERO about the disruption to learning created by staff movement. Change has also impacted the way systems and processes for supporting and developing effective teaching and learning are being implemented within the school. Improving the relevance of curriculum programmes and the quality of outcomes for groups of students are ongoing priorities.

Personnel management processes are not yet being implemented consistently across the school. Consistent and more effective use of appraisal and inquiry processes by senior and middle managers should help to further extend and consolidate the professional capability of teachers.

A review of student and staff wellbeing is planned at the close of 2015 in order to encourage greater levels of partnership within the school. ERO supports this positive initiative.

An Education Council audit took place during ERO’s review and affirmed the teacher registration processes that are currently in place.

To further improve school capability and sustainability the board and senior leaders should make greater use of internal evaluation to support effective future planning at all levels in the 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.

During the course of this review ERO identified an area of non-compliance. In order to address this, the board of trustees must:

  • consult with the school’s Māori community about the school’s policies, plans and targets for improving Māori achievement. [Source: NAG 1(e)].

This action was also included in the school’s 2009 and 2012 ERO reports.

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should ensure that they:

  • review the accessibility and use of the school's complaints policy and communication procedures to ensure the needs of parents, whanau, staff and the community are being met
  • evaluate the effectiveness of interventions for promoting student engagement in learning.

Recommendations to other agencies

ERO recommends that the Ministry of Education consider providing support for the board and school leaders in order to continue to improve learning outcomes for students and to strengthen school governance, change leadership and management.

Conclusion

Otahuhu College is undergoing substantial change with a view to increasing student success. There have been some notable gains in student achievement and the school acknowledges the continuing need to prioritise initiatives to ensure all students benefit from a responsive curriculum and a broad range of learning pathways.

ERO intends to carry out another review with three years. 

Graham Randell
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

31 March 2016

School Statistics 

Location

Otahuhu, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

88

School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll

1152

Gender composition

Girls       54%
Boys      46%

Ethnic composition

Māori
Pākehā
Samoan
Tongan
Cook Island Māori
Indian
Fijian
Niue
Tokelau
other

13%
  1%
31%
26%
  8%
  8% 
  4%
  4% 
  1%
  4%

Special Features

Te Kotuku special education unit
Te Kura o Waipuna Activity Centre

Review team on site

November 2015

Date of this report

31 March 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

December 2012
October 2009
August 2006