Dargaville Primary School

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School Context

Dargaville Primary School, situated in the town of Dargaville in the Northern Wairoa area, caters for children from Years 1 to 6. The school roll is 361 children, of whom 40 percent are Maori and six percent are of Pacific heritage.

The school board’s charter vision is for ‘Quality education, providing opportunities in a caring environment’. The valued outcomes for children’s learning are identified in the school’s learning culture, values and tikanga statements. They state that developing children as confident, self-managing thinkers and future citizens who demonstrate cooperation, respect and responsibility, are learning priorities. Part of this learning is developing an understanding and respect for the bicultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand and many cultures in our society.

The board’s priority development goals are set out under three key focus areas: quality education, providing opportunities, and a caring environment. Included in these plans are ongoing student achievement targets of 80 percent of learners at or above expectations in reading, writing and mathematics.

Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board, schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • achievement against school targets and expectations in reading, writing and mathematics
  • information about some indicators of student engagement, for example, attendance.

The school is undergoing leadership changes. The board of trustees has elected an experienced trustee as their new chairperson from the beginning of 2019. The current principal is retiring, and the board have recently appointed a new principal to start in Term 3. A new assistant principal, with responsibility for curriculum leadership, was appointed at the beginning of 2019. A more distributed leadership structure has also been introduced since the 2016 ERO review.

Evaluation Findings

1 Equity and excellence – achievement of valued outcomes for students

1.1 How well is the school achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students?

The school has variable success in achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students. In mathematics, most students achieve at or above expectations, with these levels steady over time. The majority of students achieve in reading. However, in schoolwide writing, results have declined over time with a small majority of students achieving at or above expectations in 2018. Achievement in writing is at a similar level for Year 6 leavers.

While the equity in achievement for Māori students is improving in mathematics, there is ongoing disparity for them in reading and writing. There is also ongoing disparity in achievement for boys in writing.

The small numbers of Pacific students make it difficult to conclude trends and patterns in equity and excellence. However, in writing there is evidence of disparity in success for Pacific learners.

1.2 How well is the school accelerating learning for those Māori and other students who need this?

The school has some success in accelerating learning for those Māori and other students who need this. Teachers and leaders identify and provide targeted learning to most of these students.

School analysis of annual student achievement reports show successful accelerated learning for a small majority of the targeted students. This analysis does not identify the accelerated progress of Māori students whose learning needs acceleration. However, the decreasing disparity for Māori in mathematics provides some evidence of greater acceleration for targeted Māori students in this learning area. The school has not yet analysed data to show how well the accelerated progress for groups and individuals is sustained.

2 School conditions for equity and excellence – processes and practices

2.1 What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

The board of trustees has developed more effective stewardship capability and strategies since the 2016 ERO review. Trustees work as a committed, collaborative board, having benefited from governance training and trustee experience. Their reflection on key school priorities has enhanced the development of a new school charter, which shows a clear future focus and a strong bicultural commitment going forward. These improvements provide a firm foundation for the next phase of school development and respond well to the recommendations of the 2016 ERO review. The new charter also supported the board’s decision making in a well-managed process to appoint the new principal.

School leaders focus on providing a school culture of care and inclusion that encourages student learning and social development. Relationships within the school are generally positive and reflect the school motto, “each for all - mo te katoa”. Children with additional needs are supported in their development, and high needs learners in Te Wahi Manawa special needs unit are included in the mainstream classroom programmes.

Leaders encourage innovation in teaching practice and invest in professional learning and development (PLD) of staff. The more distributed leadership structure provides new opportunities and increased collaboration about the learning needs of priority learners. Professional relationships are positive and focused on improving outcomes for students.

School programmes and teaching practices are increasingly responsive to the learners at this school. School leaders have documented a curriculum that aligns with the charter priorities and The New Zealand Curriculum. It includes local contexts for learning and guides the explicit teaching of the school’s values. Students are well engaged in classroom programmes, and education outside the classroom (EOTC) extends the range of activities that encourage their active involvement.

Teachers are open to new approaches that enhance student learning, and work collaboratively in syndicate teams to plan programmes and targeted teaching strategies. They draw on external agency expertise to support children with specific needs. Parents and other community members with particular knowledge or expertise, are also involved in providing the localised curriculum.

2.2 What further developments are needed in school processes and practices for achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

Trustees, leaders, and teachers need to develop a more strategic and coherent approach to inquiry and internal evaluation, using student achievement information, to improve the collective focus on improving equity and excellence. The board should review and refine its approach to evaluating school successes and challenges in raising student outcomes. This includes setting more useful student achievement targets, and more effectively involving whānau Māori in deciding what learning is valued for their tamariki/mokopuna.

To support the board’s internal evaluation, school leaders should evaluate and report on progress towards more equitable and excellent outcomes. These reports should more clearly identify where further improvement is needed, and what changes are recommended for more effective progress. At syndicate and individual level, teacher inquiry should be better developed and more focused on the effectiveness of teaching practices, particularly strategies intended to improve outcomes for priority learners.

The school needs to invest in PLD to build capability and increase collective capacity in key areas. These include:

  • developing the new leadership group as leaders of learning
  • providing professional learning for staff on teaching approaches that increase students’ ownership and understanding of their learning.

The leadership development should aim to improve the quality of appraisal and inquiry processes, ensuring these processes focus on continually developing teachers’ practice and improving student outcomes.

Developing greater schoolwide inclusion of te reo and tikanga Māori, particularly in classroom programmes, is needed to honour the school tikanga expressed in the charter. This would provide a learning environment that is more responsive to the cultural heritage of Māori students and promotes their success as Māori.

3 Board Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the board 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 the following:

  • board administration
  • curriculum
  • management of health, safety and welfare
  • personnel management
  • finance
  • asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student safety and wellbeing:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)
  • physical safety of students
  • teacher registration and certification
  • processes for appointing staff
  • stand down, suspension, expulsion and exclusion of students
  • attendance
  • school policies in relation to meeting the requirements of the Children’s Act 2014.

4 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of Dargaville Primary School’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Developing.

ERO’s Framework: Overall School Performance is available on ERO’s website.

5 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

For sustained improvement and future learner success, the school can draw on existing strengths in:

  • the board’s charter framework that provides a strong foundation for curriculum and school development
  • the caring learning environment underpinned by values of cooperation, respect and inclusion
  • learning programmes and teaching practices that are increasingly responsive to children’s learning needs.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are in:

  • trustees, leaders and teachers developing a more strategic and coherent approach to inquiry and internal evaluation focused on improving equity and excellence in student outcomes
  • developing leaders’ capability and collective capacity to use appraisal and teacher inquiry processes to continually improve teaching practice and learning outcomes for students
  • developing teacher capability in using teaching strategies that increase student ownership and understanding of their own learning.

Actions for compliance

ERO identified non-compliance in relation to the appraisal of teaching staff.

In order to address this, the board of trustees must:

  1. ensure there is a meaningful annual appraisal of each teacher based on the Standards for the Teaching Profession established by the Teaching Council for the issue and renewal of practising certificates
    [(Part 31 Education Act 1989) – Standards for the Teaching Profession]
  2. ensure that these appraisals are signed as completed by the professional leader of the school.
    [(Part 31 Education Act 1989) – Standards for the Teaching Profession]

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

  • review and strengthen the policy framework for the school giving first priority to personnel policies and procedures, including performance management and complaint policies
  • consider the police vetting of volunteers for EOTC activities to ensure children’s safety
  • strengthen the use of in-committee processes to protect the privacy of staff and students.

Steve Tanner
Director Review and Improvement Services Northern
Northern Region
15 July 2019  

About the school

 

Location

Dargaville

Ministry of Education profile number

1009

School type

Contributing Primary (Years 1-6)

School roll

361

Gender composition

Boys      55%
Girls       45%

Ethnic composition

Māori  40%
NZ European/Pākehā  52%
Pacific  6%
other ethnic groups 2%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)

Yes

Provision of Māori medium education

No

Review team on site

May 2019

Date of this report

15 July 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review March 2016
Education Review December 2014
Education Review December 2011

Findings

Students at Dargaville Primary School are confident, articulate and respectful. They are generally progressing and achieving well in reading, writing and mathematics. Positive learning and working relationships among trustees, school leaders, teachers, students and community members are supporting ongoing school development.

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

1 Background and Context

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

Dargaville Primary School is located in the main township of Dargaville in the northern Wairoa district. It caters for children from Years I to 6. The school’s well maintained buildings and spacious, attractive grounds show the respect that the board, principal, staff, parents and whānau have for children’s learning and development. Community support for the school is strong.

The majority of children attending the school are Pākehā and about a third are Maōri. Te Wahi Manawa is a recently renovated space specifically for students with special educational needs. Children mix together well in an inclusive environment where they feel they belong and have a sense of confidence and security.

The long-serving, experienced principal has been part of the Dargaville community for a number of years. The leadership team now includes a newly appointed curriculum leader. Many middle managers and teachers have taught in the school for some years. They know the children, families and locality well.

The 2014 ERO review reported that the school was facing some challenges. Most trustees were new to the board in 2014 and there have been further changes to board personnel in 2015. A key recommendation in the ERO report was to build more effective, collaborative and professional relationships within the senior leadership team and board of trustees in order to move the school forward. A further recommendation was for the school to work in partnership with Māori whānau to promote equitable outcomes for Māori students.

The 2014 ERO report also noted that strong curriculum leadership was a priority to improve learning programmes and build teacher capability. An additional priority was to develop a community-driven strategic plan to review and refine the school’s vision for continuing success and sustainability.

2 Review and Development

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

Priorities identified for review and development

In 2014 the school’s leaders, the Ministry of Education and ERO agreed to the following priorities:

  • review and refine the strategic direction of the school in partnership with the board of trustees, school leaders, staff, parents, Māori whānau and children
  • improve the quality of sustainable governance in the school
  • improve the quality of professional relationships and personnel management within the school
  • provide leadership to improve the design and planning of the curriculum and its delivery
  • undertake school-wide professional development to promote culturally responsive teaching and leadership practices
  • work strategically with Māori whānau to promote success for Māori children as Māori.

Progress

During 2015 the board of trustees and school leaders began community consultation to formulate a new strategic plan for 2016 – 2018 and a revised School Charter. In 2016 the principal plans to undertake professional development about strategic planning and this is likely to help shape the strategic development and review processes. To make the planning and review processes more rigorous good use should be made of available self-review and planning resources, including ERO’s School Evaluation Indicators.

The new chairperson of the board is encouraging current trustees to make a more long-term commitment to their governance obligations. The board has participated in some useful board training. As a result, the board is more confident and assured about its governance role, processes and responsibilities. The board is also making better use of self-review information to help with planning and decision-making.

Personnel management policies and procedures have been improved. Changes in school staffing have also led to improved relationships between trustees and the board and senior leaders. Most teachers now report that the professional climate and work culture in the school are supportive. Students and teachers enjoy positive learning relationships.

The senior leadership team is now better placed to lead school development. They have clearly defined and well understood roles. A new deputy principal has also been recently appointed with responsibility for curriculum development. The leadership team should now develop a shared strategic overview of the school’s direction with a focus on providing high quality educational outcomes for all children. To achieve this they will need to build a coherent curriculum that is well aligned to the national curriculum document. This represents a major goal for the school’s strategic planning.

Early steps towards consultation with a newly formed group of Māori whānau have commenced. The board and senior leaders are supportive of a whānau partnership developing, where bicultural approaches in the school curriculum can continue to be explored. The board sees clearly the value of reporting back regularly to Māori parents about children’s progress and achievement. Developing strategic goals and a supporting framework would help this partnership and ropu to become effective and purposeful.

Māori children are progressing and achieving in National Standards at levels comparable to others in the school, in both reading and writing. Over 70% of all students are at or above the National Standard in reading, and more than 65% are at or above the writing standard. However, in mathematics there is an achievement gap for Māori students with 66% of them at or above the standard compared with 73% of all students at or above.

Recent lifts in students’ achievement in writing, particularly at Years 5 and 6, are in part attributable to recent professional development for staff. Writing was also a priority for School Charter targets during 2014 and 2015. It may be timely to plan some similar initiatives to raise student achievement in mathematics.

Teacher performance, appraisal and registration systems should be reviewed and updated to reflect recent Education Council changes. An audit, undertaken as part of this ERO review, identified the need for teachers to keep a current evidential file to document their own teaching practice reflection and development goals.

Communication within the school is becoming more transparent and purposeful. To continue this positive development a next step is record the quality of educational discussions and rationales for decisions in leadership and management meetings rather than just recording tasks and events.

Key next steps

ERO, the board of trustees and school leaders agree that the priorities for the next phase of school development are to:

  • review the School Charter
  • continue the upskilling of the board so that trustees consolidate their governance and stewardship role
  • encourage and support Māori whānau to become part of board consultation processes and school partnerships in learning
  • develop teachers’ and leaders’ bicultural competencies through goals in the school’s appraisal system linked to the Ministry of Education’s document - Tātaiako : Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners
  • continue developing systems for school leaders and teachers to monitor and track Māori students’ progress and achievement, particularly in mathematics
  • develop and extend the school curriculum to reflect the vision and underpinning principles of The New Zealand Curriculum
  • make self-review at all levels of the school more evaluative.

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 well placed to sustain and improve its performance. The board of trustees now expects effective, collaborative and professional relationships school-wide.

ERO has confidence in the current board. Trustees are making significant progress in understanding their governance responsibilities and obligations. More evaluative, strategic self-review would now support focussed and efficient school leadership. The formulation of the 2016-2018 Strategic Plan will be a key document in the school’s future success.

The development of a responsive school curriculum continues to be a significant school priority. The Dargaville Primary curriculum should consider and explore more ways to foster student-centred learning. This should aim to provide more varied opportunities for students’ to think critically and creatively.

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

Students at Dargaville Primary School are confident, articulate and respectful. They are generally progressing and achieving well in reading, writing and mathematics. Positive learning and working relationships among trustees, school leaders, teachers, students and community members are supporting ongoing school development.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

9 March 2016

School Statistics

Location

Dargaville, Northland

Ministry of Education profile number

1009

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

358

Gender composition

Boys 196 Girls 162

Ethnic composition

Māori

Pākehā

Tongan

others

35%

59%

2%

4%

Review team on site

December 2015

Date of this report

9 March 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

December 2014

December 2011

December 2008