St Mary's Catholic School (Papakura)

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1 Context

St Mary's Catholic School, Papakura, caters for children in Years 1 to 8. Māori children make up 22 percent of the roll, Samoan 14 percent and other Pacific groups eight percent. Filipino children are also a significant group in the school. About half of the children who leave St Mary’s after Year 6 go on to attend a Catholic secondary school. The principal and curriculum director work with three team leaders. Together they lead school staff, some of whom have been with the school for many years.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school is to have all children working together in prayer, learning and service. The school's mission is to provide a future-focused education for children, in a just and caring Catholic community and an exemplary learning environment. The values of respect, care and responsibility underpin school expectations. The board of trustees and school leaders plan under the two pillars of Catholic character and student achievement.

The school’s achievement information shows a positive trend in achievement for all children, including Māori and Pacific between 2013 and 2014. Approximately 80 percent of all children achieved the National Standards in literacy and mathematics. Māori children made gains, especially in writing and mathematics. However, there has been a drop in achievement in 2015. Māori children's achievement is still slightly higher than overall figures, which show 69 percent of children achieving the National Standards in reading, 63 percent in writing and 71 percent in mathematics.

School leaders and teachers have used the 2015 data as a catalyst for change and development. They have analysed achievement information and school conditions carefully to identify the factors that may have contributed to the drop in achievement.

In 2016 school leaders have taken specific and deliberate steps to enhance teaching and learning. There is a particular focus on raising the achievement of boys, Pacific children, and children in Years 7 and 8. The school's action plans provide a good basis for addressing disparities in achievement.

The school has been part of the Papakura Achievement Initiative, which focused on strengthening literacy teaching and learning. This along with other teacher professional development has supported the development of processes within the school for moderating assessment. The school has recently joined six other schools in the new South Auckland Catholic Schools community of learning. Working together with this group of schools, which all have similar achievement challenges, has the potential to support ongoing improvements.

Since the last ERO evaluation the school has responded to information gained from data analysis by: 

  • targeting groups of children in each class whose learning needs acceleration
  • improving the use of formative assessment and better tracking, reporting and responding to information about student progress and achievement
  • strategically appointing and using additional staff to support learning
  • developing strategies for increasing children's ownership of their learning goals
  • organising the school day to ensure an uninterrupted focus on literacy, mathematics and religious education during the morning block
  • establishing more focused processes for teachers to inquire into the impact of their teaching
  • making better use of digital technology, introducing computer devices for children and exploring e-learning approaches. 

There is, across the teaching staff, an increased sense of collaboration and collective responsibility for improving outcomes for children.

3 Accelerating achievement

How effectively does this school respond to Māori children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school has good processes in place for identifying Māori children who are at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes. These processes include assessing children's progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards, talking with children and their whānau, monitoring attendance, focussed observations and information sharing amongst teachers. Some of the children targeted for accelerated learning in class are Māori. However, because Māori children’s achievement is on a par with the achievement of their non- Māori peers, the school has not identified specific targets for improving outcomes for Māori children whose learning needs to be accelerated.

The school has taken steps to strengthen bicultural practices and support so that children feel pride and success as Māori. Tamariki Māori are represented amongst student leaders and have leadership opportunities in kapa haka and in pōwhiri. A poutama model for setting and achieving goals is well used and understood by children and staff. This model is useful for setting goals for accelerated learning.

Te Whānau o Hato Maria has been established to strengthen consultation and engagement with whānau Māori. This group, which includes a board member and two of the school's Māori teachers, provides enthusiastic leadership. This group has developed a plan for moving forward and is supporting teachers to develop a more culturally responsive curriculum.

It would be timely for the school to now develop a Māori education plan that aligns with the Ministry of Education’s Ka Hikitia: Accelerating Success 2013 – 2017. This plan should contribute to the school’s strategic planning and curriculum development and focus on accelerating learning progress for Māori children.

How effectively does this school respond to other children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school's approaches described above have also helped leaders and teachers identify that they need to develop more effective strategies to accelerate learning for boys, Pacific children, and children in Years 7 to 8.

Teachers’ inquiry processes and their sharing of teaching strategies is helping them to respond in a more focussed way to the learning needs of individual children. In addition, school leaders are monitoring the progress children who are in teachers' target groups. Data shows that some of these children have made accelerated progress. Children who have high learning needs are supported through individual development plans. The introduction of computer devices for Year 7 and 8 children is beginning to have a positive effect on some children’s engagement in their learning.

School leaders and trustees are establishing a group to support and consult with Pacific families. This should provide an opportunity to strengthen partnerships with families to better support the school's focus on raising Pacific children’s achievement.

While recent initiatives have the potential to have a positive effect on children's learning, it is too early to see their impact. The school has yet to develop explicit plans for accelerating the achievement of all children who are at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes. More evaluative inquiry into how effectively teaching practices and specific initiatives are accelerating children's progress would be useful for teachers. This information could also help the board and school leaders to make decisions about the allocation of resources.

4 School conditions

How effectively do the school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices develop and enact the school’s vision, values, goals and targets for equity and excellence?

School leaders’ and teachers’ engagement in professional learning since ERO’s 2012 review, and more recent initiatives, have established a strong foundation for enacting the school’s vision and priorities for equity and excellence.

The board, school leaders and teachers are committed to promoting children’s wellbeing and achievement. Children have a good understanding of positive behaviours that support their learning and social competence. Notable features of the St Mary’s school community are connectedness and trusting relationships.

The board is becoming more skilled at scrutinising and using data to inform its decision-making processes. Trustees have a good focus on the future and what is needed to support children's learning. This includes the current building project where the aim is to create innovative and modern learning environments. The views of the Māori and Pacific communities are represented at board level.

School leaders are using data to inform their decisions about how to accelerate children's progress. They make good use of professional networks and encourage teachers to examine the impact of their teaching. There is a focus on building leaders’ and teachers’ professional capability and sharing leadership more widely across the school. School leaders are strengthening their cultural responsiveness and their partnerships with whānau to help promote equitable outcomes for children.

Children are secure in their Catholic identity. They appreciate the diversity of their community and the way that aspects of their cultural backgrounds are integrated in the life of the school. Children in leadership positions in the school are advocates for others and think carefully about their roles and responsibilities. They are keen to contribute to school decision-making. Children support each other in their learning and are developing a growing understanding about setting goals to support progress.

The school’s curriculum focuses particularly on literacy, mathematics and religious education. Trustees and school leaders are conscious of maintaining a broad curriculum that reflects all aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum. They recognise that it is timely to refresh the St Mary’s curriculum documents to better reflect recent developments and the school's direction.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children?

Leaders and teachers: 

  • know the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how teaching is working for these children
  • do not always or systematically act on what they know works for each child
  • have a plan in place but have not yet built teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children. 

The school has established a variety of deliberate strategies for enhancing children's learning. There is a strong sense of collective commitment to addressing achievement challenges. Processes for identifying and monitoring overall achievement, and that of specific students, are well established.

In order to strengthen the school's capacity to provide well for all children whose learning needs acceleration, the trustees, principal and curriculum director agree that next steps for development should include: 

  • long-term strategic planning and a clearer strategic focus on accelerating learning
  • reviewing and refreshing the St Mary's curriculum to better reflect recent and planned developments
  • continuing to distribute leadership more widely and build teachers' understanding of effective modern learning practices
  • establishing a systematic and responsive cycle of robust internal evaluation at all levels of school operations that will help to monitor the success of initiatives for accelerating learning. 

Action: The board, principal and teachers should use the findings of this evaluation, the Effective School Evaluation resource, the Internal Evaluation: Good Practice exemplars and the School Evaluation Indicators to develop a Raising Achievement Plan to further develop processes and practices that respond effectively to the strengths and needs of children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated.

As part of this review ERO will continue to monitor the school’s Raising Achievement plan and the progress the school makes.

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

6 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 the following:

  • board administration

  • curriculum

  • management of health, safety and welfare

  • personnel management

  • 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

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions

  • attendance

  • compliance with the provisions of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014

  • provision for international students.

7 Recommendation

ERO recommends that the school leaders work with external advisers and the South Auckland Catholic Schools community of learning to develop more specific targets and strategies for accelerating learning and to establish robust internal evaluation processes.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

29 June 2016

About the school

Location

Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

1502

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

289

Gender composition

Girls 53% Boys 47%

Ethnic composition

Māori

Pākehā

Samoan

African

Filipino

Indian

Middle Eastern

Cook Island Māori

Tongan

other Asian

other

23%

27%

14%

5%

5%

5%

5%

3%

3%

3%

7%

Review team on site

May 2016

Date of this report

29 June 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2012

June 2009

June 2006

1 Context

What are the important features of this school that have an impact on student learning?

St Mary’s Catholic School, in Papakura, caters for students from Years 1 to 8. The school’s values reflect its charism and mission statement: 'Together we learn, we pray, we serve; me whakakotahi, kia mārama, kia pono, ki te karakia'. The board has ensured that the revised school charter is bicultural in its intent.

Students have opportunities to contribute to the life of the school. They respond well to the inclusive environment that staff provide. Students are considerate of others and show a strong sense of belonging to the school and church community.

Since the 2009 ERO review, teacher participation in several school-wide professional learning and development initiatives has improved outcomes for students. Teachers are more aware of teaching and learning strategies that accelerate children’s progress. The principal and curriculum director have helped staff to reflect on their teaching practice and embed most of the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum.

2 Learning

How well are students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

The board is informed about aspects of student achievement in a variety of learning areas including reading, writing and mathematics. From this information the board can determine significant patterns in student achievement. Targeted professional development for teachers has contributed to improving overall reading levels since the 2009 ERO review. The board is aware that writing and mathematics achievement results for some groups of students, including Māori and Pacific students, are varied. Students who are underachieving are provided with targeted programmes that cater for their learning requirements. Teachers are currently involved in a professional development initiative that is designed to improve mathematics achievement levels for all students. A focus of this initiative is to increase the cultural responsiveness of staff to Māori and Pacific learners. Such initiatives should contribute to raising the overall achievement levels of these two groups of learners and of individual students. It should also help students, at all year levels of the school, to reach their potential.

The board is yet to receive reliable information about how well students are progressing and achieving in relation to the National Standards. Senior leaders recognise that teachers require more support to form overall teacher judgements about how well students are achieving in writing, reading and mathematics. Senior leaders have also identified the need to develop systems to track the progress of different groups of students over time.

Teachers have incorporated student interests in their programme planning. This development has contributed to students having a greater sense of ownership of their learning. While students can explain what they have learnt, teachers could now support students to play a greater role in leading their own learning. Students would benefit from more opportunities to reflect on their learning and to plan ways to reach their agreed goals. To help this process, teachers could consider how they might build on their positive relationships with students and parents in order to develop, with families, partnerships that are focused on deeper learning.

3 Curriculum

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

Senior leaders have aligned the school’s curriculum and Catholic values with The New Zealand Curriculum principles. Most teachers have implemented a variety of teaching and learning strategies to accelerate student progress. School leaders and teachers have identified areas for development based on their analyses of student achievement information. The most recent focus on improving aspects of mathematics teaching and learning has been a result of this type of review. The teaching of writing has improved as a result of strategic curriculum leadership.

The board is prioritising the development and implementation of a well considered school plan to support student learning through the use of the school’s various information and communication technologies (ICT). This should help teachers to plan e-learning experiences that are meaningful for students.

The principal and the curriculum director have identified the need to review the school’s curriculum. They are committed to providing students with a broad curriculum that promotes deeper student thinking. In order to support sustained development, teachers have been increasingly involved in curriculum decision-making. Consistent with the aim of developing reflective professional practice, the principal has identified that the present appraisal system should be modified to provide more ongoing support for teachers. Team meetings now feature teacher discussions about how achievement information is used to personalise learning for individual students. Such measures are enhancing teachers’ leadership capability in curriculum development.

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

The school has developed greater links with representatives of the school’s Māori community since the 2009 ERO review. The board’s Māori trustee and school kaumātua have actively supported the board to promote a Māori perspective in school operations. Different strategies have been used to communicate with parents/whānau of Māori students about school goals and to gain an understanding of their aspirations for their tamariki. Several successful events have been organised to celebrate te ao Māori. The senior leaders are committed to building on these practices to ensure that the school provides more opportunities for Māori students to experience success as Māori.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

The board governs the school successfully and supports the principal and teachers. Trustees also value parent feedback and contributions. They think strategically about ways to support teachers and parents as they work to achieve positive outcomes for students.

The board and senior leaders use self review to identify areas for school development. Trustees use analysed achievement information to identify school priorities. The board has formally moved to implement the National Standards and to report to the Ministry of Education on progress towards achievement targets in relation to the National Standards. To improve practice, senior leaders plan to provide the board with more reliable achievement information as teachers become more confident in assessing children’s progress in relation to the National Standards. They have also agreed to ensure that written reports are in plain language so that parents are better informed about ways in which they can support their children’s learning.

ERO agrees with the areas that the board has identified for further development and review.

These include:

  • increasing opportunities for students to lead their own learning
  • improving the tracking and reporting of students’ progress
  • further promoting opportunities for Māori students to experience success as Māori
  • refining the reporting of student achievement in relation to the National Standards
  • deepening teachers’ reflective practice.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. At the time of this review there were five international students attending the school. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code. ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school’s self-review process for international students is thorough.

Teachers provide good learning support for International students. The parents of international students are regularly informed about their children’s progress and about how well they have adjusted to their new environment. International students are integrated into the school’s inclusive community and enjoy opportunities to participate in a variety of sporting, cultural and academic activities.

As good practice, the board should receive regular reports on the effectiveness of the school’s provision for international students. Such reporting should include a section on how well international students are engaged in learning, achieving and progressing.

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
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.

To improve current practice, senior leaders should prioritise professional learning and development to strengthen:

  • teachers’ understanding of the purpose of the National Standards and the ways that they can effectively report to parents, in plain language, about how well children are achieving in relation to the Standards
  • the analysis and moderation of assessment information across the school in reading, writing and mathematics.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Violet Tu'uga Stevenson

National Manager Review Services Northern Region (Acting)

2 November 2012

About the School

Location

Papakura, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

1502

School type

State Integrated Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

275

Number of international students

5

Gender composition

Girls 51% Boys 49%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

Māori

Samoan

Filipino

African

Tongan

Indian

Other Pacific

Other Asian

Other ethnicities

36%

18%

16%

6%

4%

4%

3%

3%

3%

7%

Review team on site

September 2012

Date of this report

2 November 2012

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2009

June 2006

June 2002