TO THE PARENTS AND COMMUNITY OF WHANGAREI HEADS SCHOOL
These are the findings of the Education Review Office’s latest report on Whangarei Heads School.
Whangarei Heads School 16/05/2014
What are the important features of this school that have an impact on student learning?
Whangarei Heads School sits beneath Mt Manaia, overlooking the Whangarei Harbour. The school provides good quality education for students from Years 1 to 8. It has a long history of providing education in the district. Students and families are proud of the school and its long-standing and inter-generational connections with the community. Students are predominantly Pākehā, with a small number of Māori students.
The board ensures the school environment is attractive and well maintained. The school’s vision and values underpin the positive tone of the school and support student wellbeing. The board of trustees and staff promote a safe learning environment.
The board has responded positively to the recommendations of the 2010 ERO report. The many noteworthy features identified in that report have been maintained.
How well does this school use achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement?
The school has developed useful processes that help teachers to use achievement information and make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. Students enjoy learning. Teachers interact with students in positive and respectful ways. Teachers use responsive teaching practices to promote student-centred learning and develop students’ emerging interests.
School achievement data shows that most children, including Māori students, achieve well in relation to the National Standards. Students make expected progress over time and some children make accelerated progress in reading, especially those who participate in learning support programmes. The board and staff are continuing to improve and clarify their reporting to parents on students' achievement in relation to the National Standards.
Achievement information is shared with students and they are becoming increasingly confident to talk about their learning. Students’ learning journals are a rich record of their work and are used to complement formal reporting to parents. Students are setting their own goals in discussion with their parents and teachers. Students are increasingly leading these discussions.
The board receives good information about students’ progress in relation to the National Standards and the New Zealand Curriculum. Trustees use this information to set relevant achievement targets that are focused on improvement.
The school identifies its priority learners and appropriate strategies are used to help these students to accelerate their learning. Strategies include those aimed at supporting student wellbeing.
School leaders have identified the importance of having regular professional learning conversations with teachers that:
- focus on looking at outcomes for students and on critiquing the effectiveness of strategies used to provide targeted teaching for students who need specific support or extension
- help teachers to extend the teaching strategies they are using to enhance students’ ownership of their learning
- strengthen moderation processes used to make overall judgements about student progress and achievement.
How effectively does this school’s curriculum promote and support student learning?
Whangarei Heads School’s curriculum promotes and supports student learning and engagement effectively. Students are confident and capable learners who are positive about their school. They enjoy positive interactions with each other and their teachers. An inclusive culture is promoted that supports student wellbeing. Students know each other well and help each other within tuakana (older) and teina (younger) relationships. Individual difference is valued and accepted.
Students value and appreciate the range of meaningful and authentic learning experiences in which they can enjoy success. Student leadership opportunities enable students to be role models, lead assemblies and participate in mentoring programmes.
Positive features of the school’s curriculum are:
- teaching programmes that make good use of local contexts and the rich resources surrounding the school
- approaches that build on students’ interests, extend their thinking and inquiry, and allow them to direct their learning
- students accessing information and communication technologies (ICT) to support their learning
- parent volunteers and members of the wider community contributing to the curriculum.
The board have recently set up a modern learning environment to promote self-directed learning for students in Years 7 and 8. Trustees recognise the importance of students making decisions about their learning as a basis for fostering their interest in, and enthusiasm for, extending learning.
A notable feature of the school’s curriculum is the cross-curricular environmental education programme that encourages and values kaitiakitanga (guardianship of local resources). Students know their role in looking after the local environment.
The principal believes it is timely to review the school’s health and physical education curriculum to reflect current initiatives being used to support student wellbeing. This could include reviewing related policies and procedures. The board also acknowledges the need to review the questions they ask when consulting with parents and whānau about health and physical education programmes. Using current research about student wellbeing should help the board with this review.
How effectively does the school promote educational success for Māori, as Māori?
The school has some initiatives in place that positively promote educational success for Māori, as Māori.
Māori students report that they feel valued and safe at school. They have positive relationships with their teachers, participate well in the life of the school and enjoy opportunities for leadership, including those connected to school pōwhiri and kapa haka.
Parents of Māori students are supportive of the school. The principal and board acknowledge the importance of establishing a Whānau Māori parent group to further promote educational success for Māori, as Māori within the curriculum. Actions to support this initiative could include:
- discussing current research about promoting Māori students’ language, identity and culture with the board and teachers
- reviewing the school-wide te reo Māori programme to ensure there is a progression of language learning within the programme
- investigating local iwi education plans that promote Ngāti Waitanga.
4 Sustainable Performance
How well placed is the school to sustain and improve its performance?
The board is well placed to sustain and improve school performance. Trustees have participated in some training to support them with their governance role and have a good understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Experienced trustees provide very good support to newer board members. Board decision-making focuses on improving student outcomes based on good quality information.
The experienced principal uses good processes to develop leadership capability within the school. She identifies strengths in staff, parents and members of the community and ensures this expertise is used well. This approach values the contributions of others and fosters the skills and talents people have.
Professional learning and development is having a positive impact on teaching and learning programmes. The principal meets with a cluster of local school principals who are focused on raising student achievement, especially in writing. This collaborative approach is strengthening professional dialogue within the cluster group.
Staff participate in local networks and training that build their capability and are focused on positive outcomes for students. Teachers are committed to new learning and participate in professional conversations at school that enable them to reflect on and critique their practice. This recently introduced aspect of professional practice continues to develop and enables teachers to inquire more deeply into how they can improve outcomes for students.
Parents and the community have high expectations of the school. They appreciate that leaders and teachers are approachable and enjoy reciprocal relationships with them. The board consults regularly with the community.
The board and staff use self review to identify areas for development. To enhance this work, reviews could identify actions that focus on improving student progress and achievement.
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
- 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