Waitakere College - 05/09/2011

1 Introduction

The Ministry of Education has asked the Education Review Office to prepare a series of reports on Services Academies at New Zealand secondary schools. This report is one of 16 individual reports prepared about the quality of education at the Ministry funded academies. A national evaluation report will also be prepared which will synthesise the findings from the individual reviews.

This review was prepared in accordance with standard procedures approved by the Chief Review Officer.

Terms of Reference

The specific terms of reference for this review are to:

  • evaluate how effectively the services academy supports student learning
  • identify the strengths of the services academy
  • identify the areas for development at the services academy.

2 Background

The Waitakere College Services Academy was established in 2010. Funding is provided by the Ministry of Education. The academy operates under a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out the annual funding arrangement and the expectations for performance.

The academy is staffed by the founding director who works closely with senior managers to manage and implement the programme. There is a very close relationship with the Head of Department for the careers and Gateway programmes, who acts as line manager for the academy director.

There are nineteen Years 12 and 13 students in the academy. They all come from Waitakere College as did the students in 2010. The year-long programme is focussed primarily on military skills, physical fitness and life skills. There is a strong focus on helping students to achieve National Certificates of Education Achievement (NCEA) credits in literacy and numeracy that will assist them to enter further training for the defence force, or other employment.

ERO reviewers visited the services academy facilities and observed classroom programmes. They spoke with the director, the principal and senior manager with responsibility for the academy, other staff who teach academy students, some parents and the students. The reviewers also examined documentation relating to the programme.

3 Findings

Areas of strength

Relationships. Students have developed respectful and supportive relationships with each other and with the director. They are proud of the team culture they have in the academy. They have learnt to work cooperatively for the benefit of each other. This has been particularly evident in their camping and fieldwork activities. Students have increased confidence when relating to adults.

Integration of the academy. The principal and director give the academy a positive and central role within the school. Students are encouraged to have a high profile. Their marching and flag ceremonies are watched by other students. They wear their uniform with pride. The academy room is centrally located and well resourced. The director and students are very well supported by the Gateway and careers staff, and by the Maori and Pacific Welfare Officers. The director and school staff work cooperatively and effectively to ensure the academy meets the needs of students.

Programme development. Students experience a challenging and interesting programme. Their academic studies are given importance within the academy curriculum. They are encouraged to focus on achieving the credits they need for the career pathway they have chosen. They identify fitness and clear expectations for discipline as being helpful to them. Students say the services activities are very demanding and worthwhile learning opportunities.

Student support. Students have good access to school systems that support their progress and achievement. The director is easily available to students for mentoring and advice. They receive extensive feedback about their efforts and achievements. Students are well supported by the school’s academic and pastoral systems.

Areas for review and development

Goal setting and monitoring. The system for monitoring progress towards achieving goals is not meeting the needs of all students. Students set goals at the beginning of the course that are often global and need to broken down into manageable steps. Some students find it difficult when several people are monitoring their progress towards meeting their goals. The director should work with other staff to ensure there is consistency for students, especially when evaluating their own goals.

Self review. While students’ academic achievement can be readily evaluated through analysis of NCEA data, there is insufficient student data gathered, including destination data, to fully evaluate the overall quality of the academy programme. The next step is to develop a strategic direction for the academy, and a plan and process for self review that identifies priorities, timelines and intended outcomes.

Teaching of literacy and mathematics. The effectiveness of teaching academy students literacy and mathematics in mainstream classes should be evaluated. Students find it more difficult to learn in mainstream classes because of academy activities that often take them out of class. The director believes students’ literacy and numeracy learning could be more effectively supported in academy home room classes. This would also enable him to have a closer involvement in each student’s academic programme.

Transition. The director carried out a review at the end of 2010 that identified the need to improve students’ transition into and out of the services academy. He is trialling some initiatives to help students continue their pathway to employment.

4 Conclusion

The Waitakere College Services Academy director, principal and school staff work cooperatively and effectively to ensure the academy meets the needs of students. Students experience a challenging and interesting programme. The next step is to set up a regular system of self review, based on a wide range of analysed data, to further improve outcomes for students.

Richard Thornton

National Manager Review Services

Northern Region

5 September 2011

About this Services Academy

Host School

Waitakere College

Gender composition

Male 10, Female 9

Ethnic composition

Māori 6

Pacific 9

Other 4

Review team on site

June 2011

Date of this report

5 September 2011