Strath Taieri School - 23/05/2016

1 Context

Strath Taieri School is a small, rural school where many students travel by bus to attend. Over recent years the roll has dropped as a result of changing demographics. Students learn in three multi-level classes. A community playgroup has facilities on site.

Students benefit from financial support from the local community and industry.

The school experienced significant changes in leadership and teaching staff in 2015. At the time of this review a new permanent principal had been in her position for six weeks.

A valuing of New Zealand's bicultural heritage is evident throughout the school environment, for example in the values pou at the entrance of the school.

2 Equity and excellence

The school's vision is `people who care to learn, learn to care'. Students are supported to be self-disciplined, competent communicators, lifelong learners, proficient in numeracy and literacy, able to work independently and co-operatively, and to have an understanding of New Zealand's cultural diversity.

The school's achievement information shows that in two of the past three years most students, including Māori, achieved well in relation to National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. In 2015 achievement levels dropped significantly in reading and writing. It is likely that disruption in leadership and staffing throughout 2015 impacted negatively on the achievement and progress of some students. The new principal, board and teachers have put in place appropriate targets and plans to improve student achievement in 2016.

Since the 2012 ERO review the school has experienced a reduction in roll which has led to the loss of one classroom. To keep class sizes small and to give students the best chance to gain early learning skills in the junior levels, the board has allocated funding for a third classroom four days a week.

Teachers at the school participated in a Ministry of Education initiative to accelerate literacy learning (ALL). This resulted in accelerated outcomes for students in writing. The board funded the programme for a further year. Changes in leadership and staffing in 2015 affected the sustainability of these improvements. It is vital that the principal and teachers refocus on the successful practices from this programme to support the 2016 literacy goals.

Participation in ALL also strengthened the way teachers evaluated the impact of their teaching on student progress and achievement.

Significant progress has been made in developing the infrastructure and teacher capability to make better use of digital technology to enhance students' learning. This remains an ongoing focus.

Very good practices supporting students to take responsibility for their learning have been maintained in the senior room. This could be further developed in the junior and middle classes and in school documentation.

3 Accelerating achievement

How effectively does this school respond to children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school has well considered processes and practices to respond to all children who need their learning and achievement accelerated. The implementation and effectiveness of these were hindered in 2015 as a result of ongoing staffing changes.

The school identifies children at risk of not succeeding in their learning through regular assessments, in-class observation and discussion with parents, whānau and children. Learning information is well used to identify strengths and next learning steps. Children with other needs, such as behavioural and social skill development are also identified and supported.

Teachers, children and parents/whānau work together to set meaningful learning goals. Teachers plan and implement a range of useful strategies to support children to meet these goals. They regularly review learner progress and share this information with parents and children. They share ideas with parents about how learning can be extended at home.

The principal is developing systems to more effectively track and report rates of progress in learning and achievement. This is intended to lead to further improvements in the way the school identifies and responds to these learners' needs.

The board funds professional development to enable teachers to respond to specific learning needs and continues to allocate funds to keep class sizes small.

Only a small number of children had their progress accelerated in 2015. The board, principal and teachers have made appropriate targets and plans to urgently accelerate the progress of more children.

The school has a Māori achievement plan which reflects high expectations for Māori children to succeed academically and as Māori. The plan was not reviewed and updated in consultation with the community in 2015, but has been prioritised for action in 2016.

4 School conditions

How effectively do the school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices develop and enact the school’s vision, values, goals and priorities for equity and excellence?

Children are well supported to become independent self-managing learners. This is particularly evident in the senior room and developing in the junior and middle years. Children know about themselves as learners, their learning goals, achievement and progress.

Children have many opportunities to learn through collaborative problem-solving, debate and discussion with each other. They identify with the school's values of respect, being proud, responsibility, aiming high and community. This was evident in the way they could talk about them and in their behaviour and relationships.

Teachers effectively use assessment information to provide children with appropriate challenge and to extend their learning. Teachers adapt their programmes to respond to interests and needs. Children's learning takes place in a wide variety of interesting contexts within and beyond the school.

Children's transitions into and out of the school are well managed. Pre-school children participate in a regular introduction to school programme. Senior students benefit from a well designed transition programme which prepares them for secondary education and living away from home. Past students contribute to this programme by sharing their experiences.

Aspects of te ao Māori are included in planning and students' learning experiences. The school has useful descriptions of Māori concepts of success. These could be more evident in class descriptions, teachers' planning and student profiles.

The principal has identified the need to review and update curriculum guidelines including how they best support children to take responsibility for their learning across year levels. She has also identified the need to build consistent practices and shared understandings about how to measure progress and achievement to make sure reliable information is gathered and analysed.

Teachers are highly supportive of each other and readily share ideas to improve outcomes for students. The appraisal process is being strengthened to support ongoing improvement for teaching and learning. Teachers reflect on the impact of their practices on student learning. They and the principal have identified that this could become a more collaborative and consistent practice across the school.

The principal has acted quickly to identify those things which will best support improved outcomes for students. This has included working with the board and staff to identify strategic goals, achievement targets and annual plans and refining systems and documentation. She is establishing positive, constructive relationships with students, teachers, trustees and families. She has developed a self-review action plan to enable change to occur in a timely manner.

The board is strongly focused on student achievement and well-being. They are well informed about achievement and progress. They use this information to make decisions about resourcing and staffing. The board has governed well through a difficult period, acting responsibly to ensure the well-being of students and staff. Trustees have sought professional development and external support as necessary. They have acknowledged that through this period regular cycles of self review have been disrupted and now need to be re-established.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children?

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children who need their learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond effectively to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how well teaching is working for these children
  • act on what they know works well for each child
  • build teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children
  • are well placed to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children.

Following a disrupted year the board, principal and teachers have a clear plan for the future. They are now better placed to provide children with stability and to focus on improving outcomes. They acknowledge that accelerating the progress of those who need extra help to succeed is a high priority.

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

6 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 the following:

  • Board administration.
  • Curriculum.
  • Management of health, safety and welfare.
  • Personnel management.
  • Asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student safety and wellbeing:

  • Emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment).
  • Physical safety of students.
  • Teacher registration.
  • Processes for appointing staff.
  • Stand down, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions.
  • Attendance.
  • Compliance with the provisions of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

23 May 2016 

About the school

Location

Middlemarch

Ministry of Education profile number

3837

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

41

Gender composition

Boys: 26 Girls 15

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

28

13

Review team on site

February 2016

Date of this report

23 May 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

May 2012

May 2009

February 2006