Whangarei Adventist Christian School - 26/11/2015

Findings

Whangarei Adventist Christian School is a small integrated school on the outskirts of Whangarei. The school’s special character is evident across all operations. Teachers plan collaboratively, and have strengthened their bicultural practices. The principal and the board must provide more effective leadership and governance to support school improvement. 

ERO intends to carry out another review over the course of one-to-two years.

1 Background and Context

What is the background and context for this school’s review?

Whangarei Adventist Christian School is a small state integrated school in the Whau Valley area of Whangarei. It provides special character education for students in Years 1 to 8. The school currently operates two classrooms, although students often work and learn together as a mixed age group.

Many families choosing to enrol their children at this school have connections with local Seventh Day Adventist Church communities. Adventist Christian values and beliefs permeate all aspects of the school day. The school roll has declined over recent years and this is an ongoing concern for the board.

ERO’s 2013 report highlighted concerns with aspects of school management and governance. Concerns were also identified in curriculum implementation and the quality of teaching and learning. In addition, the report recommended the need to strengthen bicultural practices.

ERO has worked with the school since 2013 to support ongoing improvement. While there has been some progress in addressing these matters, there has been a lack of urgency by the board and principal in attending to many of the areas of concern.

2 Review and Development

How effectively is the school addressing its priorities for review and development?

Priorities identified for review and development

Strengthening assessment and reporting practices:

  • improving the validity of student achievement data
  • meeting requirements for reporting to parents in relation to National Standards
  • making better use of student achievement information in school decision making, goal setting and evaluation. 

Developing consistency of effective teacher practice:

  • consulting the school’s community about curriculum programmes
  • extending student ownership of learning across the curriculum.

Strengthening bicultural and local perspectives in the curriculum:

  • increasing teachers’ use of te reo and tikanga Māori in their practice
  • reporting on the progress of Māori students to the board and whānau.

Developing a working partnership to improve governance and management:

  • reviewing school policies and procedures
  • ensuring strategic planning documents guide school operations
  • undertaking regular self review and documenting plans for on-going improvement.

Progress

Students learn in attractive classroom environments. Teachers display information that can be helpful for students and can support their learning.

Teachers have participated in significant professional learning and development to promote greater student ownership of learning. They are also considering how effectively they make judgements about students’ progress and achievement. Students reflect on their efforts as a result of this new learning for teachers. The need to continue this work is ongoing.

A school curriculum that reflects both The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) and Seventh Day Adventist special character has yet to be developed. This work is necessary to clarify what students should be learning. A well-considered curriculum would also provide guidelines for good quality teaching, and ways for student learning to be evaluated.

Good progress has been made in promoting bicultural contexts and local perspectives. A teacher provides expertise and leadership in promoting te reo and tikanga Māori. Aspects from te Ao Māori are integrated into other learning areas. Students visited a local marae during Matariki, and are increasingly using the protocols of whakatau to welcome visitors.

School leaders have consulted with whānau of Māori students. Aspirations that whānau have for their children have been shared with the school. These sharing opportunities appear to have been well received by parents.

School trustees and managers are working together more effectively. Trustees have undertaken training about aspects of school governance. The review and rationalisation of policies and procedures is underway.

The board has developed some self-review processes. For these processes to improve school performance, trustees must inquire into important matters and ensure that the review process is robust. Strategic and annual plans are not yet guiding school direction or school improvement. 

Key next steps

ERO is not confident that sufficient progress has been made to improve outcomes for students. In order to sustain recent initiatives and make ongoing improvements, the principal needs to provide professional leadership and priorities for:

  • developing a shared understanding about good quality teaching and learning
  • setting high expectations of teachers and students
  • strengthening the use of formative teaching practices
  • promoting greater student understanding of their progress and achievement so they can set appropriate goals and plan for their learning.

To promote good learning opportunities for students, teachers need to reflect on the impact of their teaching practice. These reflections should help teachers consider:

  • learning opportunities that better engage students
  • differentiated planning that appropriately supports and challenges students to achieve
  • making programmes more student centred and student-led.

To provide effective governance, trustees need greater accountability, reliable information and regular assurance that:

  • the school is consistently meeting its legal requirements
  • strategic and annual planning is effective, and that progress towards achieving the stated goals is reported.

3 Sustainable performance and self review

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

The school is not well placed to improve its performance. Progress has been made in addressing ERO’s concerns in the 2013 report. However, greater urgency and accountability is needed to establish and embed practices that promote better outcomes for students.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has provided support for the principal. Teachers have participated in professional development programmes to support curriculum development and to improve their knowledge of current teaching practice. Teachers speak positively of these opportunities and there has been some positive impact on classroom programmes.

It is essential that the principal and board provide effective leadership and governance to guide school improvement. Strengthening the principal’s appraisal process could be an important step in the improvement process.

The board, principal and teachers must build their capacity for critical reflection to support robust self review at all levels of school operations. 

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 meet legal obligations the principal and board must:

  • report to students and their parents on eachstudent’s progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards at least twice a year, in plain language.

National Administration Guideline2A (a)

4 Recommendations

Recommendations, including any to other agencies for ongoing or additional support.

ERO recommends that urgent and ongoing MoE support is considered to assist the principal and board address the legislative, leadership and governance improvements identified in this report.

Conclusion

Whangarei Adventist Christian School is a small integrated school on the outskirts of Whangarei. The school’s special character is evident across all operations. Teachers plan collaboratively, and have strengthened their bicultural practices. The principal and the board must provide more effective leadership and governance to support school improvement.

ERO intends to carry out another review over the course of one-to-two years.

Graham Randell
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

26 November 2015

School Statistics

Location

Whau Valley, Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number

4154

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

19

Gender composition

Boys      11
Girls         8

Ethnic composition

Māori
Pākehā
Australian
African
Filipino
Korean

  5
  9
  2
  1
  1
  1

Review team on site

September 2015

Date of this report

26 November 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

September 2013
September 2010
December 2007