St Thomas School (Auckland) - 14/11/2014

Findings

How effectively is this school’s curriculum promoting student learning - engagement, progress and achievement?

St Thomas School (Auckland) has high expectations for students and staff. Students achieve very well and experience rich, varied and meaningful learning opportunities. Student wellbeing is supported by pastoral care practices and close school/community interaction. The board and staff demonstrate a clear capacity and commitment to promoting ongoing school improvement.

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

1. Context

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

St Thomas School (Auckland) is a high performing state primary school for Years 1 to 8 students. Since ERO’s 2012 report, the board of trustees has appointed a new principal. He has worked effectively with the board, other school leaders and staff to sustain school strengths while promoting ongoing positive development.

A powerfully worded and graphic vision statement shows the school’s purpose and provides a strong cornerstone for its operation. The vision captures the importance of connecting with people and the school’s setting, and of promoting connected learning and personal development. It also specifies 'an unrelenting pursuit of excellence'. School practices and programmes reflect the vision well.

The school’s roll is 54% New Zealand European/Pākehā and seven percent Māori. It has large numbers of Chinese and Japanese students, and the rest of students identify with at least 17 other ethnicities. Over one hundred of the students are new speakers of English. The school embraces and celebrates the diversity of its students and their families.

The school’s continued roll growth has led to considerable building projects and upgrades. These physical changes are being very well managed. The resultant modern learning environments have supported steps the school is taking to provide a curriculum that reflects best teaching and learning practices and that are overtly responsive to students' immediate and future learning needs.

The school is well supported by its community and has continued to strengthen its partnerships with families. It is establishing meaningful and authentic links with tangata whenua and to the school’s historic setting. Many long-serving staff are well known by students and their families, helping to retain a sense of continuity during times of growth and change.

2. Learning

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

The school makes very effective use of achievement information to promote learners’ progress and achievement. Information about student achievement is collated and thoroughly analysed. School-wide trends and patterns are examined, and syndicate and individual class level data scrutinised. The rich information collected clearly influences the school’s strategic direction, curriculum development and allocation of resources.

The school has high expectations for student achievement. Publicly available data shows that students, including those who are Māori and Pacific, achieve very well in relation to regional and national achievement levels in reading, writing and mathematics. Students are well placed to meet the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) goal of 85% achieving at or above National Standards by 2017. School leaders and teachers make very good use of National Standards data to target groups of students for accelerated learning.

School assessment procedures have become increasingly rigorous and robust. Teachers know a lot about the learning of individual students. They use what they know to plan lessons that promote student participation and academic engagement. Teachers provide students with rich feedback about their work and appropriate next steps for their learning. School leaders have identified the need to continue to improve outcomes for groups of targeted students. They are also encouraging even more student ownership of their own learning.

Overall, students with special educational needs receive focused support for their learning. Students withdrawn from their classrooms for specialised literacy and mathematics programmes receive well targeted and effective instruction. These students often make faster than expected progress while on the withdrawal programmes. A good number of other special needs students have individual education plans (IEPs) and receive some in-class support from well informed and experienced teacher aides. Continuing to refine IEPs should help the school identify and celebrate with parents the more holistic, multi-faceted progress of children with special needs and/or learning difficulties.

New speakers of English are withdrawn for specialised English language support. The programmes they receive are appropriately linked to their classroom programmes and so help the students to progress in all aspects of the curriculum. The school has recently introduced the English Language Learning Progressions as an assessment tool. Focused use of these progressions should help all teachers to better identify, monitor, and plan for the progress of students who are new speakers of English.

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 student learning. The curriculum is carefully designed to incorporate the school’s vision, and to reflect the overarching essentials of The New Zealand Curriculum. Teachers demonstrate a very good knowledge and understanding of the curriculum. They facilitate student access to sports and cultural programmes, and environmental experiences. Teachers’ use of in-class experiential learning and education outside the classroom engages students in real and meaningful learning opportunities.

Programmes are closely linked to the school’s context and local environment. They increasingly make connections with bicultural New Zealand and the different cultures of students who attend. Programmes are relevant and include purposeful integration of information and communications technologies (ICT) to enhance student learning opportunities. A particular strength of programmes is how well teachers promote high order student thinking. Senior leaders recognise that a next step is to further explore ways to scaffold the learning of the school’s diverse range of students.

The school has a very good tone, and a warm and welcoming climate. Students receive strong pastoral care and positive relationships promote learning-based partnerships. Teachers are improvement-focused professionals who collaborate well on behalf of students. Buddy teaching practices are well established within classes and between junior and senior students. Parent support is sought for special support programmes and to help promote the learning of their own children.

Students with special needs are well integrated into classroom programmes and have good opportunities to build friendships. Classrooms are purposeful and settled environments in which students can learn in their preferred ways. Playgrounds are busy, with opportunities available for students to engage in physical activity, creative play and quiet times where desired.

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

St Thomas School (Auckland) has many effective ways of promoting educational success for Māori, as Māori. A well designed two year strategic plan specifies significant and important intended outcomes. By making strategic appointments and maximising the skills of appropriate staff, school leaders have supported a genuine commitment to building the school’s bicultural responsiveness and capacity.

School strategies include networking with, listening to and connecting with whānau and the local Ngāti Whātua. These strategies help ensure Māori students see a wide variety of successful role models. Importantly, the strategies include building the involvement and leadership of Māori students within the school, and monitoring and promoting Māori student achievement.

The school recognises the positive impact that bicultural school practices, curriculum content and use of tikanga and te reo can have on promoting Māori student pride in their language, culture and identity. Good progress is being made in acknowledging all three within the school. Teachers receive encouragement and support to build their confidence in these areas. School leaders could now consider how the school’s te reo Māori teaching programme could be better maximised as a joint teacher/student learning programme, and how this programme could be reviewed in relation to both student and teacher learning.

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. Capable, vision-driven governance and leadership provide strong foundations and future direction for the school. High quality and outcomes-based planning and performance management support achievement of the vision.

The principal’s measured management of change has promoted collaborative and cohesive school development. Distributed leadership approaches have helped improve the quality of curriculum leadership throughout the school. New leaders undertake their roles with enthusiasm and are inspiring innovation within their areas of responsibility.

School self review is well implemented and improvement focused. The board and principal use school planning as a sound framework for reviewing the impact of developments. Teachers are increasingly inquiring into the effectiveness of their work and some exemplary examples of this reflection are available to support similar growth over time. Reviews increasingly include the voices of students and other stakeholders. As a further next step, annual curriculum reviews could refer back to how well previous targets have been met. They could place more emphasis on student learning.

Very good progress has been made in developing more meaningful and learning-related relationships with parents and whānau. School leaders and teachers are now exploring how they can continue to develop these relationships over time. School leaders hold meetings with specific groups of parents to consult with them, address their interests, share important new information or policy directions and hear about the aspirations the parents have for their children. These very good practices support the principles of collaborative learning relationships.

The board takes parental concerns seriously and is committed to improving the school’s relationship, communication and partnership with concerned parents. The board has recently reviewed its complaints policy and associated procedures. It has considerably improved its response time to complaints and seeks external advice when needed. In response to issues raised by some parents of children with special learning needs, the board has reviewed the school’s inclusive practices and implementation of the review’s key recommendations is underway.

The school has made significant progress over the past three years, and has the capacity and commitment required to support ongoing progress.

Provision for international students

The school is 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 two international students attending the school.

The school provides high levels of pastoral care for international students. Caring class and withdrawal teachers get to know the students well. Students receive good levels of support in English to help them join in class lessons successfully. Their progress is well monitored and they are well integrated into the school community.

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

St Thomas School (Auckland) has high expectations for students and staff. Students achieve very well and experience rich, varied and meaningful learning opportunities. Student wellbeing is supported by pastoral care practices and close school/community interaction. The board and staff demonstrate a clear capacity and commitment to promoting ongoing school improvement.

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

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services Northern Region

14 November 2014

About the School

Location

Kohimarama, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

1510

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

771

Number of international students

2

Gender composition

Boys 50% Girls 50%

Ethnic composition

Māori

NZ European/Pākehā

Chinese

Japanese

British/Irish

Indian

South East Asian

Australian

Filipino

Korean

other

7%

55%

7%

4%

3%

3%

3%

2%

2%

1%

13%

Review team on site

September 2014

Date of this report

14 November 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

March 2012

August 2008

August 2005