Tarawera High School - 26/11/2014

Findings

The students of Tarawera High School are responding well to the hard work of the school board and staff to make this new school provide positive outcomes for the young people of Kawerau.

ERO is likely to carry out the first full review of the school after 12 months as part of the regular review cycle for new schools.

1 Introduction

A New School Assurance Review is a review of particular areas of school performance and is undertaken to specific terms of reference.

New School Assurance Reviews are generally undertaken within the first year of the school’s opening and may include reporting on particular issues raised from external sources.

Terms of Reference

This review is based on an evaluation of the performance of Tarawera High School’s Board of Trustees and management. The terms of reference for the review are to provide assurance:

  • to the elected board and community that the school is well placed to provide for students
  • that the school is operating in accordance with the vision articulated by the board of trustees.

2 Context

Tarawera High School opened as a new school for students on 1 February 2013. It caters for students in Years 7 to 15 who would previously have attended Kawerau Intermediate School and Kawerau College before these schools were closed.

Initial planning for the new school was undertaken by an establishment board (E-board), governance facilitator, the principal and deputy principals. An elected board of trustees is now in place.

A building programme to provide modern learning environments for all students is about to begin. One block has already been refurbished.

3 Findings

Tarawera High School has made significant progress since its opening in February 2013 and is well placed to provide for students. The school is operating in accordance with the vision articulated by the board of trustees to “support rangatahi to fulfil their potential and aspirations in a culture where young people are supported to grow, strive, achieve and serve”.

Students are very positive about their school and the pathways in learning provided for them. School leaders’ deliberate focus on building positive relationships as the basis of engagement in learning has been very successful. Student attendance rates are climbing. Students enjoy the innovative timetable and curriculum pathways that enable them to explore learning areas in depth and make broad choices for their future. Teachers encourage learners to succeed and students respond positively to their high expectations. As a result, students are highly engaged in learning and speak very positively about teachers’ commitment to their achievement and wellbeing.

The challenge for staff in this new school has been to design a curriculum that will engage the young people of Kawerau in meaningful education. The carefully considered timetable and curriculum design provides a framework for learning that is working well. It enables students to learn in a variety of settings and to take advantage of vocationally oriented course offered by other providers. Support from local industry has expanded the practical application of science in the school and provided a greater sense of the purpose of academic learning. Students spoke positively about the meaningful learning experiences available.

Teachers are continuing to prepare for the modern learning environments that are to be built shortly. They are developing expertise in digital teaching and learning. An integrated curriculum is used for Years 7 to 10. The next step is to document the learning programme for Years 7 to 10 more fully to provide clear expectations for all teachers about curriculum delivery and assessment practices.

Careful processes are in place to monitor student achievement. NCEA results in 2013 were disappointing and reflect the prior history of the school. Staff are confident that students are likely to achieve much better results this year and are providing timely information to students about their progress towards goals.

Assessment in the junior programme is reported in relation to the National Standards in Years 7 and 8. The challenge is ensuring that students in Years 7 to 10 are supported to reach the curriculum levels needed to provide success in the senior school. Specific programmes are in place at all levels to provide additional support for students who are at risk of not achieving.

School entry data showed significant gaps for learners in numeracy skills and the board has employed additional staff to work in this area. The staff are working together to develop learning progressions across the school.

The school caters very well for students with high special learning needs. One of the first areas of the school to be redeveloped is the unit that provides specialist support for high and very high needs learners. Specialised equipment and highly skilled staff help achieve positive outcomes for these learners and their families.

The board has given high priority to having systems in place to ensure the well-being of students within an inclusive and positive culture. There are good systems for pastoral care. Restorative practices are in place. Positive behaviour for learning (PB4L) is about to be fully implemented. Students value being able to access the school nurse and there is a social worker available to support learners and their families. Strong links are in place with other community agencies to ensure that there is a network of support for young people, including a well run Teen Parent Unit.

Senior managers are now a highly effective team who have worked extensively to implement the school’s charter, strategic and annual plans, curriculum, teaching and learning. They are a cohesive and collaborative team that focuses on providing successful educational outcomes for students. Developing leadership capacity more strategically in other staff would now be a worthwhile next step.

Staff are collegial, and are realistic about the challenges in raising student achievement and building success for all students. The challenges of working in a new school, including developing systems and resources, and dealing with uncertainty, have generally been well managed. The implementation of the new appraisal system will provide staff with good opportunities to consider how they can contribute to the growth of the school most effectively.

The elected board are positive about the future direction and vision of the school. The chairperson has carried the legacy of the establishment board’s hard work forward in partnership with the kaumatua, the principal and the senior leadership team.

The board are eagerly waiting for the new building programme to begin. They are keen to ensure students of Kawerau have all the facilities and opportunities a new school should provide for them. It is through this provision that the aspirations and vision of the board, staff, students and the community can be fully expressed.

The elected board has worked extensively to develop a school charter to reflect more clearly the community’s wishes for this new school. They are continuing to develop partnerships with the school’s community to get input into the school’s curriculum, the school direction and the future of the town’s children. Supportive relationships are in place with local industries, businesses and service organisations.

The board’s aspiration is for a school culture underpinned by the philosophies of whakawhanaungatanga and manaakitanga that acknowledge tangata whenua while valuing all knowledge, language and culture. The school’s core values, manaakitanga, ako, ngakau pono and awhina, are captured in their acronym MANA to express the school philosophy. These values are designed to form the basis of the partnerships between the school, the students, the home and the community.

The challenge now for the board and staff is to ensure that the school curriculum and timetable offers all students a clear academic pathway to succeed as Māori. It is important that the school can offer an academic Te Reo Māori language programme that progresses from Years 7 to 13. While this is particularly important for students coming into the school from bilingual or full immersion kura, all students would benefit from access to qualifications in te reo Māori.

Students enjoy opportunities to take part in kapa haka within the school and externally in competitions. Whole school haka powhiri and the integration of cultural elements in existing programmes is a very promising start towards a bicultural curriculum. The school is making good use of community tutors and expertise to provide breadth of opportunity. Continuing to build opportunities to provide Māori performing arts in the curriculum and timetable will enable students to gain achievement credits from cultural activities where they have strengths.

The school’s new buildings make provision for a contemporary styled multi-purpose wharenui rather than a purpose-built marae. Developing this space to ensure Māori culture, language and identity are at the school’s heart and central to its philosophy for students, whānau and community is a challenge that trustees, school leaders, staff and students are keen to accept as they develop this new 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.

Conclusion

The students of Tarawera High School are responding well to the hard work of the school board and staff to make this new school provide positive outcomes for the young people of Kawerau.

ERO is likely to carry out the first full review of the school after 12 months as part of the regular review cycle for new schools.

Dale Bailey
National Manager Review Services
Northern Region

About the School

Location

Kawerau

Ministry of Education profile number

661

School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll

470

Gender composition

Boys      56%
Girls       44%

Ethnic composition

Māori
NZ European/Pākehā

86%
14%

Review team on site

September 2014

Date of this report

26 November 2014