Tauranga Waldorf School - 12/08/2015

Findings

Tauranga Waldorf School students are encouraged to find identity, meaning, and purpose in life by forming connections with community, the natural world, and the spiritual values of gratitude, wonder and reverence. Students are developing skills and confidence to think independently as well as cooperating and working together harmoniously.

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?

Tauranga Waldorf School is a state integrated primary school located in a semi-rural environment in Welcome Bay, Tauranga. It caters for student’s from class 1 (Year 2) to class 7 (Year 8). The school is set on 16 acres of rural land that includes wetlands, native bush, community gardens and an organic farm. The roll of 182 includes 36 students who identify as Māori. The school grounds are attractive and well maintained, reflecting community pride and involvement.

The school’s mission statement is to practise Rudolf Steiner’s Art of Education to develop students who can stand as free individuals in and for the world; balanced in their feeling; clear, creative and flexible in their thinking, and practical and purposeful in their will. Students are encouraged to find identity, meaning and purpose in life by forming connections with their community, the natural world, and with the spiritual values of gratitude, wonder and reverence.

Since the 2012 ERO review there has been a change in the leadership structure including the appointment of a new assistant principal with responsibility for student well being. In addition there have been some staffing changes and a focus on building teacher capabilities in the Waldorf context. Buildings, including a whare, yurt and chalet, provide unique and high quality learning spaces that are consistent with the school's special character.

The school has a positive reporting history with ERO. Progress has been made in the areas identified for review and development in the previous ERO report relating to appraisal and teaching as inquiry. They continue to be ongoing areas for further development.

2. Learning

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

The school makes very good use of achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. ERO observed high levels of student engagement in meaningful learning contexts. Students are focused, engaged and enjoying positive relationships with peers and teachers.

A significant development since the previous ERO review has been the implementation of a Waldorf learning progression framework, developed in conjunction with the New Zealand Federation of Steiner/Waldorf schools. These progressions describe skills in literacy and numeracy through to Class 7 (Year 8). A memorandum of agreement with the Ministry of Education enables these learning steps to be aligned to the appropriate National Standards and fully meet the expected levels at Year 8. These progressions are used for reporting on individual and school-wide achievement.

The school’s achievement data over the last two years demonstrates a consistent pattern of achievement at Year 8 when progressions align fully with National Standards. In 2014, assessment data showed that a significant majority of Year 8 students met or exceeded National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Across the school, Māori are the top achieving cohort group in reading, writing and mathematics. Boys and girls are achieving at comparable rates in reading, writing and mathematics.

Senior leaders and teachers use a range of specific testing methods and detailed observations to identify students’ individual learning needs, and provide support for all students to develop as confident and competent life-long learners. The school has implemented a number of therapeutic initiatives including coaching, mentoring and a focus on wellbeing.

Trustees receive relevant information about student achievement from the principal. They use this data to make appropriate resourcing decisions and set targets to improve student achievement. ERO and school leaders agree that more specific annual targets are likely to enable the progress and achievement of students achieving below expected levels to be monitored and reported on. The school has developed highly effective and detailed systems for reporting to parents and students about levels of achievement and progress.

3. Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is well designed, successfully promotes and supports student learning, and reflects the uniqueness of the school and its community. Tauranga Waldorf School curriculum is derived from learning experiences that integrate a traditional Waldorf approach with a local curriculum. It offers a comprehensive foundation in world literature, history, mathematics, science, languages and the social sciences. Students are developing the skills and confidence to think independently as well as ‘discover the joy of cooperation and working together harmoniously’.

Teachers use highly effective strategies that are consistent with the school’s special character to engage and challenge students. There is an emphasis on student wellbeing as a pre-requisite for meaningful learning. There is also a planned approach to literacy and mathematical skills through storytelling, visual arts and practical learning. Teachers provide opportunities for all students to experience success and enjoyment in a wide variety of creative and authentic contexts. There is a clear focus on the spiritual, emotional and physical well being of students and an ‘unhurried approach’ to learning. Music, performances and creative arts for all students is an integral part of the programme as well as the inclusion of festivals and celebrations of seasons and events of historical significance.

Positive and reciprocal interactions between teachers and students were observed by ERO. Students appreciate the long-term relationships developed with their teachers and peers over a number of years. Classrooms are well-resourced learning environments with an emphasis on natural materials. Students experience a wide range of opportunities to learn outside the class room, including sporting, cultural, agricultural and horticultural activities.

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

The school effectively promotes educational success for Māori as Māori. Staff and whānau have developed an inclusive and well-planned approach to improving achievement, involvement and engagement of Māori students. An integrated curriculum that acknowledges and celebrates te ao and te reo Māori has been implemented throughout the school. Teachers have been up-skilled in te reo and tikanga Māori. Students have been given many opportunities to develop and practice their te reo in meaningful contexts including performing to peers, whānau and the community.

Achievement data gathered by the school show that Māori students as a group are achieving as well as or better than other cohorts in the school.

There is Māori representation on the board of trustees and this has increased iwi and whānau engagement. The school in consultation with whānau is developing a sequential approach to developing the language and a specific whakataukī has been chosen for each class.

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.

Aspects that contribute to school sustainability and improvement include:

  • a dynamic and charismatic principal providing professional leadership for students, staff, trustees and the community
  • a distributive leadership style that empowers the management team and staff
  • strong and respectful relationships between students and teachers
  • a culture of inclusion with high expectations for students and staff
  • a well-developed policy framework providing clear guidelines and expectations for all areas of school operations
  • trustees who are highly skilled and committed to the school and focused on improving outcomes for students.

Many board members are new to their roles and have sought training and guidance from an external facilitator to assist them to develop their knowledge about school governance, and clarify their roles and responsibilities as trustees.

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

Tauranga Waldorf School students are encouraged to find identity, meaning, and purpose in life by forming connections with community, the natural world, and the spiritual values of gratitude, wonder and reverence. Students are developing skills and confidence to think independently as well as cooperating and working together harmoniously.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

12 August 2015

About the School

Location

Tauranga

Ministry of Education profile number

1187

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

182

Gender composition

Boys 48%

Girls 52%

Ethnic composition

Māori

NZ European Pākehā

Other European

Asian

Other

18%

72%

6%

2%

2%

Review team on site

July 2015

Date of this report

12 August 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

May 2012

July 2009

June 2006