Oxford Area School - 19/05/2014

1 Context

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

Oxford Area School is a large, rural school providing education for students from Years 1 to 13. The school is experiencing roll growth. This is resulting in increasing diversity amongst its students. For example, there is a growing number of Māori students attending the school.

Since the September 2010 ERO review, two new deputy principals have been appointed. They have played an important role in promoting improvements to teaching and learning.

School leaders have initiated, and staff are working together on, many new initiatives and approaches to help improve students’ learning and wellbeing. Ongoing improvements to the school’s culture have been promoted by professional learning and development (PLD).

The school works closely with local community groups and agencies in ways that successfully support students’ wellbeing and extend their learning. Senior leaders are actively working with outside agencies on improving outcomes for some students school wide.

In 2014, the school is participating in PLD provided by the Ministry of Education (MoE) to support the school’s efforts to raise the achievement of older students. Extensions to school buildings are also planned.

2 Learning

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

The school is increasingly making better use of student achievement information to help make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement.

Findings

The board, school leaders and staff have a strong focus on raising student achievement and acknowledging and celebrating student success. For example, closer monitoring of students’ ongoing progress to help identify and support those at risk of not achieving the National Certificates for Educational Achievement (NCEA) has helped to raise achievement.

Students achieve best in reading. School achievement information shows that National Standards results were higher in 2012 than 2013. Achievement is higher in Years 1 to 6 than in Years 7 to 8.

School leaders have developed a more systematic approach to gathering, analysing and sharing achievement information. They are also placing appropriate emphasis on making sure this information is accurate and increasingly used to target, support and modify programmes.

School-wide student goal-setting processes, including 3-way conferences with students, parents and teachers have significantly increased parents’ engagement with the school. A well-coordinated range of additional learning support is helping the school to respond well to students with the greatest needs.

There have been some recent improvements in achievement for students in Years 12 to 13. For example, there are increased numbers of students gaining NCEA Levels 2 and 3 and more students gaining NCEA certificate endorsements. Achievement in Year 11 is lower than other year levels.

Areas for review and development

In order to further support the school’s efforts to raise student achievement:

  • school charter targets should be set to lift the achievement of all students performing below the expected levels and include how school leaders plan to address this
  • school leaders need to improve the way they track the progress groups of students make over their time at the school.
  • further analysis of student leaver qualifications, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the additional learning support provided for students, should help inform school self review
  • more regular and formal communication between school leaders and the senior assessment manager is needed to assure leaders that senior assessment is being well managed
  • the school’s analysis of senior achievement information should also include all students enrolled at the school, not just those who participate in NCEA.

Senior leaders have identified, and ERO agrees, that greater provision needs to be made for analysing and reporting student achievement in Years 1 to 8 in areas beyond literacy and mathematics.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is helping to promote and support most students’ learning. Current curriculum initiatives have the potential to further promote student achievement.

Findings

Recent school development has resulted in a well-developed and understood vision for learning. The school’s curriculum incorporates well key aspects of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC).

A feature of the school is the strong pastoral support it provides for students.

The school provides students in Years 1 to 8 with a well-balanced curriculum. The variety of learning pathways for students in Years 9 to 13 continues to be extended through revisions to the school’s timetable and the inclusion of courses that take into account senior students’ interests and choices. Some courses, such as agriculture, outdoor education and introduction to trades, lead directly to vocational pathways.

Teachers are extending the range of practices they use to promote student learning. School leaders are giving appropriate focus to building teachers’ capacity to reflect on and improve their teaching practices.

Targeted internal and external PLD for staff has contributed to a more positive learning environment for students. This has resulted in greater school-wide consistency in the way teachers respond to students. An outcome of this has been a reduction of behaviours that get in the way of student learning.

Areas for review and development

School leaders have identified, and ERO agrees, that they need to further develop the school’s expectations for high-quality teaching and extend systems for ensuring that these expectations are being consistently met.

Evidence of classroom programmes being modified to respond to the unique characteristics of students was stronger in some Year 7 to 13 classes than in others. School leaders need to make sure that all teachers use the school’s planning tools in ways that help them to meet the specific learning needs of their students.

Initiatives aimed at improving the written language skills of students in Years 1 to 8 have had mixed success. School leaders and teachers need to further analyse the factors that are contributing to this and explore further ways to improve achievement.

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

The school is developing processes that will help Māori students to better achieve success as Māori. Further work is needed to raise educational success for Māori, particularly in Years 1 to 8.

Findings

There have been some significant school initiatives since the 2010 ERO review in relation to promoting bicultural awareness, tikanga Māori, and building relationships with the parents of Māori students and the wider Māori community. These have included:

  • establishing a whānau group as a forum for parents of Māori students to share ideas and give advice
  • some leaders and teachers extending their knowledge and use of te reo and tikanga Māori through PLD
  • developing a strong kapa haka group which performs with pride and enthusiasm
  • increasing opportunities to celebrate cultural diversity such as the school’s culture day and community hangi.

There is a growing sense of partnership that is providing a good foundation for developing a school culture in which Māori students feel their culture is valued.

Areas for review and development

Māori students’ achievement patterns are lower than their peers in Years 1 to 8. It will be important for senior leaders to continue to extend and monitor closely the plans in place to raise their achievement.

To help build on recent initiatives ongoing consideration should be given to the employment of suitable staff eg kaiako for te reo Māori and the establishment of a place within the school where aspects of tikanga Māori can be further nurtured.

School leaders need to build on work begun to extend teachers’ knowledge of the best ways to further include Te Ao Māori across the curriculum.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is extending its capacity to sustain and improve its performance.

Findings

The school’s senior leadership team works collaboratively and in ways that make good use of individual strengths. Leaders give suitable emphasis to reviewing management structures as the school roll continues to grow. Senior leaders are increasing leadership opportunities for teachers by extending the delegation of responsibilities. This is helping to build leadership capacity and more sustainable practices.

School leaders have introduced a variety of well-targeted and planned initiatives to improve aspects of teaching and learning. While some of initiatives are still in their early stages, they have the potential to bring about positive change.

School leaders undertake a variety of curriculum reviews that are providing some useful information for decision making. Appropriate priority is being given to teachers becoming increasingly reflective about their teaching programme and practices.

The board uses a range of good governance practices. It contains a suitable mix of experienced and less experienced trustees who bring a variety of skills to their roles. A positive working partnership exists between the board and senior leaders.

Trustees are improvement-focused and receive regular reports about aspects of student learning and achievement. The proposed major revision of the school’s strategic plan is timely given factors such as the challenges associated with a growing school roll.

Areas for review and development

It is now critical that school leaders make sure that recent and planned initiatives result in ongoing improvements to teaching and learning. To help ensure this occurs, self-review practices need to result in:

  • more regular and rigorous evaluation of the quality of teaching
  • greater opportunities for gaining feedback from students and parents about teaching and learning
  • better systems for making sure recommendations arising from self reviews are acted upon.

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 nine international students attending the school.

ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school has thorough processes for identifying, monitoring and supporting international students’ learning and wellbeing.

As noted in the 2010 ERO report, the board should receive reports, at least annually, on the quality and effectiveness of programmes and practices in supporting the learning, progress and wellbeing of 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.

There are a number of areas in which the board and senior leaders need to extend practices to enhance their quality. These include:

  • regularly finding out how safe students are feeling at school
  • giving ongoing consideration to any safety issues arising from roll growth, particularly in technology classes
  • documenting an Education Outside The Classroom procedure to support the implementation of the school’s health and safety policy
  • more regular reporting to the board from the principal about how well the school is meeting its legal obligations.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

19 May 2014

About the School

Location

Oxford, North Canterbury

Ministry of Education profile number

310

School type

Composite (Years 1 to 13)

School roll

551

Number of international students

9

Gender composition

Girls 51%

Boys 49%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

Māori

Pacific

Asian

Other Ethnicities

84%

7%

1%

2%

6%

Review team on site

March 2014

Date of this report

19 May 2014

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review
Education Review
Supplementary Review

September 2010
September 2007
November 2004