Waikato Waldorf School ( Rudolf Steiner) - 26/05/2015

Findings

Students at Waikato Waldorf School (Rudolf Steiner) access a rich and varied curriculum based on Rudolf Steiner educational principles. Spiritual, cultural, social and academic aspects of student development are promoted. Core literacy and mathematical skills are complemented by a strong focus on the creative arts, movement and natural learning environments.

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?

Waikato Waldorf School (Rudolf Steiner) is an integrated composite school located in the north eastern suburbs of Hamilton. In 2013 and 2014, the school included a class of students in Year 9. This class has not been continued in 2015 as part of a strategic decision to consolidate and grow the primary sector of the school. The current roll is 169, and includes 25 students identified as Māori who affiliate to iwi throughout Aotearoa.

The community of Waikato Waldorf School have indicated that they want the curriculum and operations to reflect the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Within this approach, the school seeks to develop free human beings, who are able to reflect upon themselves, embrace a love of learning, and develop meaningful purpose and direction in their lives. The core values promoted are goodness, beauty, truth and reverence.

The school is governed by a board of trustees that includes appointed representatives of the Rudolf Steiner Schools Waikato Trust (RSSWT). This group works closely with the associated early childhood centres, and the wider national network of Rudolf Steiner schools. As part of their special character the school does not levy a fixed attendance due, but promotes a parent pledge system to allow parents to contribute in accordance with their individual situation and available resources.

The experienced principal is well supported by a recently expanded senior leadership team to provide effective educational leadership. The professional team of teachers work in close partnership with school leaders and parents to provide a programme that meets the developmental needs of the students, and encompasses spiritual, social, physical and academic domains.

The school has a positive reporting record and responded constructively to recommendations in the 2012 ERO report. The use of achievement information to track the progress of students as they move through the school has been strengthened, and the performance management system encourages teachers to reflect on their practice.

2 Learning

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

The school makes very effective use of a wide range of information on student development and achievement to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. Very detailed curriculum documentation guides teacher planning and assessment throughout the school.

A feature of the school is the comprehensive sharing of information by teachers with parents about the purposeful curriculum and the holistic progress of each student. This process is greatly enhanced by each teacher, subject to staffing, moving through the school with the same group of students, at least to class 5 (Year 6). Teachers develop deep knowledge of their students and their families through accumulated experience and shared learning. Each class has a parent meeting every term and there are frequent opportunities, both formal and informal, for parents and teachers to meet.

The end of year report to each parent includes a summary of the main and block lessons covered. There is also a detailed report on the student’s social, attitudinal and cultural development. Finally, the teacher provides a ‘Learning Steps Achievement Report’ on the student’s achievement in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to expected levels and standards. Through a Memorandum of Agreement with the Ministry of Education (MoE), Rudolf Steiner schools report against approved ‘Learning Steps’ which are aligned to the appropriate National Standards.

School data for the end of 2014, indicates that a high proportion of students achieve at the expected ‘Learning Steps’ Levels. In general, girls tend to achieve at higher levels than boys, especially in reading and writing.

School leaders report that an increasing proportion of students on the current roll are identified as having additional learning or developmental needs. The board supported the allocation of additional time for a deputy principal to fill the role as Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), who works closely and effectively with classroom teachers to identify, support and monitor these students. The school uses teacher aides in addition to Rudolf Steiner interventions such as ‘Sound Therapy’ and ‘Extra Lesson’ (movement therapy). Sharing good practice among teachers on the most effective strategies to support students at risk of not achieving their potential, and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions, are recognised as next steps for the school.

The principal provides an assessment schedule to guide the gathering of student achievement information. While teachers retain detailed cumulative achievement profiles files on each student, the principal collates school-wide information for reporting to the board, and advising on annual targets and resource allocations. The 2014 target related to a group of students below expected achievement levels in their writing. While the target group made expected progress, overall school levels of achievement in writing did not improve as intended.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum strongly reflects the prescribed Rudolf Steiner programme, and is delivered through multi-sensory experiences with a particular emphasis on the creative arts as a learning medium. The school makes effective use of visual analogies to describe their three fold dimensions of learning and development through promoting the willing (tinana), feeling (aroha) and thinking (wairua) of students. This approach promotes high levels of engagement and the personal motivation of students in their learning. The early years focus on concrete, experiential and discovery learning approaches, and more abstract learning concepts are introduced in the senior years.

Learning environments are uncluttered and make intentional use of nature and natural materials to create calm and aesthetically pleasing spaces. The regular daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms to the school programme supports students learning and sense of belonging. Transitions into and from the school are carefully considered and responsive to student needs. Classrooms are well resourced. Consistent with Rudolf Steiner philosophy, computers or electronic devices are not used by students until the higher grades, where there is limited use for specific purposes.

Teachers successfully establish and maintain affirming, respectful and nurturing relationships with students. They use their holistic knowledge of students to plan and deliver the curriculum while integrating literacy and mathematics throughout the programme. The curriculum is enriched through a particular focus on movement, drama and music, celebrating seasonal festivals and regular visits and excursions.

School leaders bring strong curriculum and assessment knowledge as they lead teaching and learning in the school. They promote collegial working relationships among staff, promote worthwhile initiatives and provide encouragement for professional learning and reflection. The principal has been active in developing productive partnerships with educational networks with other Rudolf Steiner and other local schools. She recognises that useful next steps are to include more current evidence-based, good practice in teaching and learning, and to strengthen aspects of the performance process.

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

Many aspects of the Rudolf Steiner philosophy are in sympathy with Te Ao Māori, and so promote the identity, culture and language of all students, including Māori. Daily rituals acknowledge the spiritual essence in all human beings and in creation itself. The principles of reciprocal learning and teaching (ako), the importance of relationships (whanaungatanga), place-based awareness (tangata whenua) and learning through love and values (manaakitanga) are highly evident in the school.

The board has committed special character funds for the employment of a part-time teacher of te reo and tikanga Māori. There is an expectation that all teachers will support and model commitment to te ao Māori. The school has held Kai Tahi evenings where parents can share food and discuss matters related to the education of their children.

The school recognises that important next steps in further promoting Māori success as Māori are to:

  • implement a structured and sequential approach to teaching and learning te reo and tikanga Māori
  • seek a greater balance of local and Māori knowledge within the traditional more European- centred curriculum.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance. Factors include:

  • the trustees who maintain a clear vision for the purposeful and planned development of the school. This includes a systematic and considered approach to self review and decision making
  • the principal and school leaders who effectively model and promote the Rudolf Steiner philosophy for students and their families
  • an inclusive and welcoming school culture
  • the productive partnerships between the staff and the families of students, that supports the rich and varied curriculum.

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.

In order to improve practice the board should develop and implement a schedule for reporting by school management, so trustees can be assured they are consistently meeting all legal requirements.

Conclusion

Students at Waikato Waldorf School (Rudolf Steiner) access a rich and varied curriculum based on Rudolf Steiner educational principles. Spiritual, cultural, social and academic aspects of student development are promoted. Core literacy and mathematical skills are complemented by a strong focus on the creative arts, movement and natural learning environments.

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

Dale Bailey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

26 May 2015

About the School

Location

Hamilton

Ministry of Education profile number

539

School type

Composite (Years 1 to 13)

School roll

169

Gender composition

Girls 89 Boys 80

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

Australian

Other European

Other Asian

75%

15%

4%

4%

2%

Review team on site

March 2015

Date of this report

26 May 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

March 2012

July 2009

June 2006