St Francis School (Thames) - 26/06/2015

Findings

Students benefit from a broad curriculum underpinned by the school’s special Catholic character. Overall student achievement is above national comparisons in reading, writing and mathematics. Teachers and leaders are committed to strengthening ways students take responsibility for their own learning, and to developing closer relationships with the local Māori community.

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

1 Context

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

St Francis School is a state integrated Catholic school located in the Coromandel township of Thames. It caters for students from Years 1 to 8. The current roll is 95, fifteen of whom identify as Māori.

A new principal was appointed in term 4 2014. The transition from the previous well-respected and long-serving principal has been well managed, and there has been no disruption to the ongoing improvement of outcomes for students. The long-serving board chairperson is supported by a mixture of both new and experienced trustees who bring a range of skills and experiences to their roles.

The school’s vision and values have been collaboratively developed and are well articulated. They are underpinned by the school’s special Catholic character which guides and influences all aspects of school life. Students’ wellbeing is enhanced by an inclusive school culture, and the effective promotion of values such as love, honesty, respect and responsibility.

The school has a positive reporting history with ERO.

2 Learning

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

The school uses achievement information well to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. The majority of students are performing at and above National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. The overall levels of achievement are above national comparisons.

The board of trustees receives regular reports on student achievement which are well understood and used to make appropriate resourcing decisions.

School leaders use achievement information to track student progress and to identify and respond to trends and patterns. They set useful targets which focus on students who are at risk of not achieving, and align these with teachers’ appraisal goals.

The school has effective systems in place for identifying students at risk of poor educational outcomes and for monitoring their progress and achievement. There are a range of interventions in place to meet their needs.

Teachers use student achievement information to identify students’ next learning steps, respond to these, and to monitor progress and achievement. Teacher aides provide in-class support and supervise intervention programmes to effectively assist students with specific learning needs.

Students are supported to take responsibility for their own learning in a number of ways:

  • learning intentions for each lesson are clearly visible
  • there are opportunities for peer and self assessment
  • students set and monitor their own specific learning goals.

Parents receive two written reports per year about student progress and achievement in relation to National Standards. These are supported by parent/teacher interviews. The school has successfully trialled student-led conferences in 2014 and these will be extended to all year levels in 2015. Parents spoken to by ERO appreciated teachers being approachable to discuss their children’s learning.

ERO and senior leaders agree teachers that should continue to:

  • strengthen assessment practices to ensure consistency across the school
  • increase the range and strengthen the consistency of opportunities for students to take responsibility for their own learning.

3 Curriculum

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

The school curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning.

The St Francis School curriculum is significantly influenced by its special Catholic character and takes advantage of its history for the benefit of current students. The school was established in 1867 and has been led over the years by six different Catholic religious orders. The board and community is committed to maintaining the legacies of those groups for the benefit of current students. Through the tradition of St Francis the school places an emphasis on environmental education and on students being kaitiaki of their local environment. Because of the Mercy and Josephite sisters, the school has a strong emphasis on service to others.

Teachers incorporate local and topical issues in classroom programmes because of their relevance to students’ lives. Teachers effectively integrate literacy into the teaching of other learning areas such as science and social studies.

Students benefit from a range of extra-curricular opportunities in sport, music and performing arts. Camps for various age groups are a significant annual event for both students and parents. There are many leadership opportunities for students. Older students assisting younger ones is a common occurrence in the school.

ERO observed positive relationships and mutual respect between teachers and students. There are high levels of student engagement in their learning. Teachers display sound curricular knowledge supported by regular professional development, particularly in literacy and mathematics.

ERO observed a range of good teaching strategies used by teachers. These include:

  • cooperative learning activities
  • flexible grouping
  • practical learning using hands-on resources
  • effective questioning
  • specific feedback and feedforward.

Teachers have begun exploring more innovative ways of enacting the principles of ‘future focus’ and ‘lifelong learning’ from The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). They have initiated programmes for the Years 7 and 8 students which encourage self management. Teachers have a considered approach to the use of information communication technologies (ICT). They continue to build on and trial ways ICT can be used effectively to enhance teaching and learning.

Teachers should continue to:

  • strengthen systems to ensure a balanced coverage of the NZC to promote sequential learning
  • strengthen inquiry learning to promote students’ ability to follow their own learning interests and to encourage higher order thinking
  • develop an e-learning plan in collaboration with students and the school community.

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

Teachers have undertaken professional development in te reo Māori and bicultural education since the last review. They have established a tuakana/teina relationship with another local school which has provided them with guidance and support.

Teachers are committed to integrating relevant Māori vocabulary into topics that are being studied. The school’s religious education programmes also introduce students to vocabulary relevant to this area of learning. Teachers are committed to using Māori words and phrases incidentally in everyday classroom situations. Two teachers have undertaken a course in Māori spirituality, and Matariki has been celebrated in the school.

The school is committed to enhancing students’ Māori identity and to increasing bicultural understanding. School leaders agree it is now necessary to:

  • strengthen relationships with the local iwi, Ngāti Maru
  • develop a more systematic and sequential approach to the teaching of te reo Māori
  • seek further ways of integrating local Māori knowledge and tribal history into classroom programmes.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

St Francis School is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

The new principal, ably supported by an experienced deputy principal, is highly reflective. Teachers report that they are valued and supported by senior leaders who use staff strengths to enhance outcomes for students. Teachers work collegially, and regularly share good teaching practice and ideas about how to assist individual students.

The current board is focussed on improving student achievement. Parents spoken to by ERO are happy with their students’ progress, achievement and general education. There are many opportunities for parents to be involved in their students’ education and the school enjoys the support of the wider Thames community.

The board agrees that it would now be beneficial to strengthen school self review, particularly through deepening board understanding and ownership of the strategic planning process which includes meaningful collaboration with parents.

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

Students benefit from a broad curriculum underpinned by the school’s special Catholic character. Overall student achievement is above national comparisons in reading, writing and mathematics. Teachers and leaders are committed to strengthening ways students take responsibility for their own learning, and to developing closer relationships with the local Māori community.

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

Dale Bailey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

26 June 2015

About the School

Location

Thames

Ministry of Education profile number

1945

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

95

Gender composition

Girls 57

Boys 38

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

Asian

Other

62

15

11

7

Review team on site

April 2015

Date of this report

26 June 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

December 2010

June 2008

May 2005