Vardon School - 12/05/2015

Findings

Students at Vardon School benefit from a strong sense of belonging and learn in an inclusive school culture. There is a commitment to providing an enriching range of learning experiences and to improving student achievement. The logo, featuring a Manawhenua ancestor, is the foundation of a developing, locally-based curriculum.

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?

Vardon School is located in the northern side of central Hamilton, providing education for students in Years 1 to 6. The current roll is 341, 37% of whom are Māori. Students come from a large number of ethnic backgrounds. After a period of fluctuation, the roll is now steadily increasing.

A new principal, who previously held the position of deputy principal, was appointed during 2014. There has been a reorganisation of the senior leadership team and significant staff changes since the previous ERO review in 2010. There have also been some changes in members of the board of trustees. The majority of classrooms have been refurbished and the information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure has been extended.

The Vardon School learner concept incorporates aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum (TNZC) and brings together the school's aspirations. The school values of reflection, resilience, resourcefulness and relationships are promoted throughout the school. A strength of the school is the sense of belonging experienced by staff, students, parents and whānau.

The school has a positive reporting history with ERO. The areas for review and development identified in the last review are continuing to be developed. These included appraisal processes and the inclusion of teacher competencies in Tātaiako (Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners) in appraisal indicators.

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 to promote learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. The board of trustees receive information about student achievement in relation to National Standards and use this information to make resourcing decisions. This has included the establishment of low staffing ratios in the junior area of the school. Trustees also receive information as to the effectiveness of intervention programmes to ensure money invested in these programmes is well spent.

Leaders use achievement information to identify trends and patterns of achievement across the school. They set school-wide and syndicate targets to accelerate the progress of students who are at risk of low achievement. The targets are linked to teacher appraisal and inquiries by groups of teachers into modifying teaching and learning practices in order to improve student outcomes. Teaching teams use assessment information as a basis for discussions to promote better student achievement.

Teachers have participated in professional development to strengthen their skills in making judgements about each student’s progress and achievement in relation to National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. They identify students’ learning needs through the analysis of this assessment information. Teachers plan differentiated programmes for groups and individuals. They also identify students with special learning needs. A range of intervention programmes are supported by effective liaison with outside agencies. It is important that teachers utilise end-of-year National Standards information to respond quickly at the beginning of the following year to identified learning needs, particularly those at risk of poor achievement.

Parents are well informed about their child’s progress and achievement. This enables them to work in partnership with teachers to support children’s learning. They receive two written reports a year, supported by parent and student-led interviews. There are many informal opportunities for parents to meet with teachers to discuss progress and achievement. School leaders agree that there is a need to review the format of written reports to more clearly report progress and achievement in relation to National Standards.

In some classrooms, students are involved in goal setting and identifying next learning steps. It would be beneficial to develop consistency, across the school, of practices that enable students to be knowledgeable about and take ownership of their learning.

School achievement data for 2014 indicates that many students are achieving at and above National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. The school recognises there is a need to raise the achievement of a significant number of students. This specifically includes many Māori students, who are not achieving as well as non-Māori students.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum promotes and supports student learning, and prioritises learning in literacy and mathematics. There is a strong emphasis on supporting students’ social development. Leaders and teachers are currently reviewing the school’s curriculum. Leaders plan to include a curriculum overview to clarify links between The New Zealand Curriculum and the local curriculum, and to ensure appropriate coverage and balance of all learning areas.

Teachers are implementing a range of effective teaching strategies to engage students in learning. There are good examples of authentic contexts for learning, peer tutoring, students leading learning and tuakana/teina approaches to learning. Teachers maintain positive relationships with students and demonstrate effective classroom management skills, which contribute to purposeful classrooms and high levels of student engagement. Teachers have high expectations for students’ learning. Parents and students appreciate teachers’ approachability and commitment.

Students participate in a range of extra-curricular experiences including class trips, camps, marae visits and leadership opportunities. They benefit from various structured lunchtime activities such as sports, music, drama and ICT.

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

The school is committed to providing a te reo and tikanga Māori curriculum that responds to the needs of Māori students in the school. To this end, leaders and teachers are beginning to develop a curriculum which is ‘locally placed’, based on tangata whenua and the Waikato River. They acknowledge Waikato-Tainui dialect as manawhenua. The school recognises the need for high-quality, sustainable Māori language programmes, and are actively working towards developing this.

Senior leadership has been reorganised to ensure effective leadership of a Te Ao Māori team who have the responsibility to promote the implementation of te reo and tikanga Māori across the school. The school charter includes a clear and comprehensive set of actions to be undertaken by this group over the next three years.

There is a strong sense of loyalty and belonging amongst whānau Māori in the school. An active group, Te Whānau Atawhai, supports parents and students and has empowered parents to take increasingly significant roles within the school. It develops a strong sense of whanaungatanga for new families. The school has benefitted from constructive links with prominent Māori educators in the wider Waikato community.

Actions in the school charter should be strengthened with the implementation of a sustainable, sequential programme that the Te Ao Māori leadership team are involved with. Leaders need to ensure that professional development already undertaken in the use of culturally responsive pedagogies is embedded and sustained.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

Vardon School is well placed to sustain and improve its performance because:

  • the board of trustees are representative of the community, bring a range of skills to their roles, and provide effective governance
  • the new principal is establishing herself as professional leader of the school and is building a culture for shared decision making
  • there is a strong, collaborative senior leadership team, focused on improving outcomes for students
  • there are some good examples of self review, including teaching as inquiry. Leaders are reviewing their processes in order to develop a more systematic approach to self review
  • an inclusive school culture strongly promotes the wellbeing of all students.

There is an urgent need to raise student achievement in reading, writing and mathematics. To support accelerated progress of students at risk of not achieving appropriate National Standards, leaders and teachers should:

  • review aspects of assessment, including the timeliness of assessments, the appropriateness of the tools used, and how the data can be used most effectively by the board, leaders, teachers and students to raise achievement
  • include innovative and culturally responsive practices in teaching and learning programmes in response to identified student learning needs.

There is also a need to continue to:

  • strengthen appraisal practices to incorporate ongoing development and monitoring of teachers’ practices, aligned to school targets
  • extend formative assessment practices that support students to take more responsibility for their own learning.

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 at Vardon School benefit from a strong sense of belonging and learn in an inclusive school culture. There is a commitment to providing an enriching range of learning experiences and to improving student achievement. The logo, featuring a Manawhenua ancestor, is the foundation of a developing, locally-based curriculum.

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

Dale Bailey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

12 May 2015

About the School

Location

Hamilton

Ministry of Education profile number

2045

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

341

Gender composition

Boys 53% Girls 47%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

Other

47%

37%

16%

Review team on site

March 2015

Date of this report

12 May 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2010

March 2008

February 2005