Waikaka School - 14/12/2015

Findings

The school has a welcoming and family-like culture. Overall, students achieve well against the National Standards and enjoy a broad curriculum. Senior students have good opportunities to grow their leadership skills, take responsibility and work with students from other small schools. Trustees are focused on what is best for students.

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?

This is a small rural, Years 1 to 8 school. The school roll has increased, resulting in funding for three classes. Students stay with the same teacher for several years. This, plus small class sizes, means that teachers know students and their families very well.

The school has a welcoming and family-like culture. Older students play well with, and look out for, younger students. Students know and can talk about the school values of noho tahi/cooperation, mahi tahi/collaboration and tauwhainga/competition.

The school is well supported by parents and the wider community. Each year they raise significant funds for school resources. The community uses some of the school’s facilities, such as its pool.

Since the 2012 ERO review, there has been significant work to upgrade and improve classrooms.

The board and principal have taken some steps to address ERO’s recommendations. However, some important areas remain as areas for development. For this reason, ERO has requested a plan that clearly shows how the board and principal will address the next steps identified in this 2015 report.

2 Learning

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

Staff and trustees make good use of assessment and other information to help them make informed decisions as to how they can best support students in their learning.

Overall students achieve well in mathematics and writing when compared with regional and national trends. In these learning areas, most students achieve at the National Standards. Reading achievement is lower. An appropriate target has been set to lift achievement in this area. In 2015, some of these students made sufficient progress to catch up with their peers.

Teachers know the students well as learners and individuals. They use a range of assessment information and discuss their judgements with each other, especially for writing. Periodically they work with teachers from other schools to compare judgements.

Teachers provide detailed and useful information to parents about their children’s learning, especially for reading, writing and mathematics. Much time is put into high-quality assessment books for each child, each year. These include examples of students' work, assessments against clear criteria and useful next steps for learning. Comments in these books and in reports are written in easily understood language. ERO encourages the teachers to use the assessment books more in the class as a tool to help students better understand their progress and next steps.

Few students could confidently talk about their progress and achievement. However, they had frequent opportunities to assess their own work in areas such as the arts and physical education. These practices could be extended into core learning areas, such as mathematics and writing.

Key next steps are to ensure:

  • students have a better understanding of their progress, achievement and next learning steps and take greater responsibility in assessment processes
  • plans to lift the achievement of students who are below expected levels include sufficient detail about the strategies teachers will use.

ERO encourages the board to set a ‘stretch’ target. For example, they could set a target to increase the percentage of students achieving above the National Standards in mathematics or writing.

3 Curriculum

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

Students experience a broad curriculum and are well supported in their learning.

Teachers make good use of the local environment, people and places to enrich students’ learning. For example, local experts and parents often share their knowledge with the students.

Teachers work closely with other schools so that students, especially older students, have a wide range of social and learning experiences. For example, senior students join other rural schools for a special Years 7 and 8 programme. These senior students have meaningful opportunities for leadership and for planning and organising school events.

Students benefit from a particularly interesting and well-resourced junior-class programme. There is a strong focus on oral language and other literacy learning. In this class there is an especially close monitoring of students’ progress and frequent communication with parents about their children’s learning.

Curriculum reviews are regularly reported to the board. These tend to describe what is happening rather than looking deeply at how well curriculum areas are resourced and taught. Presently they do not include student input. Reviews should be extended to include other important aspects of teaching and learning, such as assessment practices.

The school’s curriculum was developed in 2009. This now needs to be reviewed so that it better reflects parents’ and the school’s priorities for learning. For example, staff members need to think deeply about what the school’s vision of cooperation and collaboration and the NZ Curriculum principles mean in terms of how students learn. Some curriculum guidelines and procedures need updating to reflect best practice for teaching and learning. The te reo Māori curriculum needs developing.

Key next steps

Teachers had identified some useful next steps. ERO agrees that teachers need to:

  • review the school’s inquiry approach to topic learning and develop guidelines for this
  • continue to build the use of digital technology as a tool for teaching and learning
  • better include a Māori dimension and language in students’ everyday learning.

Other next steps include to:

  • review the school’s curriculum guidelines
  • extend curriculum review to include review of other aspects of teaching and learning
  • ensure reviews are evaluative by considering deeply how well desired practices are in place
  • build understanding and use of ‘teaching as inquiry’
  • review and extend learning opportunities and the level of challenge for students with special abilities and/or talents.

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

Māori students are well supported in their learning. At the time of this review, there were four Māori students at the school. The principal informally consults with the parents of these students. Teachers have ongoing communication with parents about their children’s learning.

The school has useful procedures about how they will support Māori learners and value Māori culture. However, these need to be consistently followed.

Key next steps are to:

  • explore how the school might best nurture the pride and identity of Māori students
  • ensure that the outcome of annual consultation with parents of Māori children is reported to the board and leads to a plan of action.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The board and principal need to thoroughly address ERO’s recommendations to assure ERO that the school is well placed. Trustees and the principal have the capacity to do this.

The board is committed and long serving. There are easy-to-follow policies and procedures in place to guide school operations and manage students' safety. Trustees are focused on student achievement. They have sought parent views on various matters and responded to these.

The principal keeps trustees well informed about what is happening in the school and is now updating them about the implementation of the school’s annual plan.

The trustees and principal are presently reviewing their long and short-term plans (strategic and annual plans). Past plans have been well set out but needed to better identify priorities for developing school direction. Annual plans need more detail as to what and how changes will happen.

Teachers work well as a team, sharing ideas and discussing how to best support students. The principal has begun to improve the appraisal system so that it has a greater focus on improving teaching and learning. The board needs to be assured that non-teaching staff are also appraised.

Key next steps are to:

  • build trustee, principal and staff understanding of effective internal evaluation
  • ensure future strategic and annual plans clearly state the school’s priorities for development
  • continue to strengthen appraisal practices
  • ensure questions in parent surveys are sufficiently broad to get useful feedback
  • extend surveys to include staff and students.

ERO requests that the board and principal provide an action plan that shows how it is going to respond to the recommendations identified in this report.

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 school has a welcoming and family-like culture. Overall, students achieve well against the National Standards and enjoy a broad curriculum. Senior students have good opportunities to grow their leadership skills, take responsibility and work with students from other small schools. Trustees are focused on what is best for students.

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

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

14 December 2015

School Statistics

Location

Gore District

Ministry of Education profile number

4037

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

59

Gender composition

Boys: 36

Girls: 23

Ethnic composition

Māori

Pākehā

British

Asian

4

52

2

1

Review team on site

November 2015

Date of this report

14 December 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

July 2012

October 2008

March 2005