Whitikahu School - 08/09/2015

Findings

Whitikahu School is an integral part of the community. The rich curriculum is focused on student wellbeing and achievement. Students achieve well and receive appropriate additional support. Teachers know students and their families well. Respectful, caring relationships promote strong home-school partnerships. Students are confident, articulate and proud of their school.

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?

Whitikahu School, located northeast of Hamilton, caters for students in Years 1 to 8. At the time of this ERO review, there were 81 students enrolled, 21 of whom identify as Māori. This historic school is attractively presented in spacious grounds with mature trees and an arboretum. Many families have multi-generational connections with the school.

The school has continued to maintain the many positives aspects reflected in the 2012 ERO report. The school’s mission statement is to ‘promote students as life-long learners ready to face challenges, explore opportunities and make informed decisions about their future’. The school's values and vision are highly evident in the life of the school.

Since the 2012 ERO review, staffing and trusteeship have remained consistent. Upgrades to buildings and grounds have enhanced the learning environment for students. Staff have participated in ongoing and relevant professional development, which has strengthened teaching practice and strategies for improving literacy outcomes for students. Trustees have benefitted from ongoing training that has increased understanding of their governance roles. The principal and deputy principal have participated in professional development to enhance their leadership skills.

The board of trustees has recently reviewed the school charter, in consultation with staff and parents. The vision, values and mission statement are closely linked to The New Zealand Curriculum, and revised school goals are being regularly monitored.

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 well to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. The board of trustees continues to be well informed about student progress and achievement. They use this information to make decisions about appropriate resources and personnel to support students to achieve success.

While school leaders set generalised targets in the charter, they identify and carefully monitor individual students at risk of low achievement. Teachers provide appropriate support and intervention programmes to accelerate their progress. The principal agrees that targets should continue to be focused specifically on students who are at risk. This would enable teachers to more clearly identify and report on the progress and achievement of these students.

Teachers use a good range of assessment tools to make judgements about student achievement. They are continually reviewing and building their moderation skills through collaboration with other schools. Teachers use achievement information well to inform teaching and learning that responds to the identified learning goals of individuals and groups. They use a range of strategies to motivate students and make use of learning intentions. Leaders have identified the need for teachers to further investigate ways to support students to take ownership of their learning.

The school reports that in 2014 the majority of students achieved at or above National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. The overall achievement of Māori students is comparable with their peers in reading and mathematics. Teachers are integrating innovative practices to address the identified needs of groups of students in writing in order to accelerate their progress. They plan enrichment programmes to enhance new entrants’ understanding about early literacy and mathematical concepts. The school caters well for the significant number of students entering and leaving the school during the year.

Parents receive regular information about student achievement in a variety of ways. Parents spoken to by ERO value the school’s open-door policy and the many opportunities to share information about their children’s learning and wellbeing.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning. Teachers maintain an appropriate emphasis on literacy and mathematics. The curriculum is underpinned by the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum and ‘The Whitikahu Learner’ concept, which incorporate important values for this community.

A particular strength of the school is the caring, collaborative and inclusive learning environment. Positive and responsive relationships are evidenced among students and teachers. Teachers have high expectations for student achievement and success. Students demonstrate high levels of engagement, enjoyment and belonging. They value and benefit from the tuakana-teina relationships across the school.

Staff and trustees know students, their families and the local community well. This knowledge is reflected in the deliberate use of meaningful learning contexts that are centred around the local and wider community. Students benefit from a rich curriculum that includes activities such as visits to Tauhei marae, exploring the source and course of the Waikato River, and wilderness adventure experiences. Teachers collaboratively plan integrated learning units that culminate in a community celebration of learning. Planning of these units could be strengthened through the inclusion of goals to help students develop their skills, tools and strategies to support lifelong learning.

Students enjoy an environment where it is safe to take risks and to celebrate their individuality, both in and out of the classroom. Senior students demonstrate high levels of leadership as they take responsibility for many aspects of school life. They are socially mature and able to express their ideas effectively. Useful strategies support students to transition successfully to secondary school and new entrants to transition into the school.

Staff work collegially and engage in professional conversations to investigate strategies to enhance student achievement. As a result of recent self review, the school has developed an effective teacher appraisal and endorsement process to refine teaching practice, respond to student needs and align with strategic goals. It would also be beneficial to develop a performance agreement for the deputy principal, focused on further developing leadership responsibilities.

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

The school effectively promotes educational success for Māori, as Māori. Students’ culture, language and identity are promoted through:

  • respectful, responsive teaching practices
  • regular opportunities for students to participate enthusiastically in kapa haka and waiata learning and performances
  • incorporating significant aspects of the local environment in the curriculum
  • building a positive relationship with the local marae and kaumātua through discussions, marae visits and guidance at the local reserve.

Māori students take leadership roles and benefit from the range of opportunities provided by school programmes and activities. Teachers are currently working towards developing a sequential te reo Māori programme across the school and incorporating Education Council guidelines such as Tātaiako into school practices.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

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

  • trustees are representative of the community, have a range of relevant skills and are providing clear vision and direction for the school, in consultation with the community
  • trustees are supportive of the principal and staff, and focused on supporting initiatives to raise student achievement
  • the experienced principal continues to be very committed to student wellbeing and achievement. She knows the community well and works with the deputy principal to ensure effective delivery of the curriculum
  • teachers work as a team, with a shared vision for student outcomes, in inclusive and productive learning environments
  • leaders and teachers are committed to providing a safe environment for staff and students
  • school-wide self review is leading to considered change that reflects parent and whānau aspirations
  • the high level of commitment to, and involvement of, parents in the school is enriching the curriculum experienced by students.

The next steps for continuing school improvement are to strengthen:

  • the board’s ongoing evaluation of its effectiveness in governing the school
  • teachers’ formative assessment practices to enable students to be confident self managers of their learning.

It would also be beneficial to continue to review and refine the curriculum to include learning pathways and progressions, and ensure adequate coverage in all learning areas.

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

Whitikahu School is an integral part of the community. The rich curriculum is focused on student wellbeing and achievement. Students achieve well and receive appropriate additional support. Teachers know students and their families well. Respectful, caring relationships promote strong home-school partnerships. Students are confident, articulate and proud of their school.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

8 September 2015

About the School

Location

Hamilton

Ministry of Education profile number

2090

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

81

Gender composition

Boys 43

Girls 38

Ethnic composition

Pākehā 43

Māori 21

Indian 8

Other Asian 4

Other 5

Review team on site

July 2015

Date of this report

8 September 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review December 2012

Education Review November 2009

Education Review September 2006