St Mary's School (Northcote)

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Education institution number:
1505
School type:
Contributing
School gender:
Co-Educational
Definition:
Not Applicable
Total roll:
339
Telephone:
Address:

115 Onewa Road, Northcote, Auckland

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Findings

The school is a positive learning environment for children. There has been very good progress in addressing the matters identified in the ERO 2015 report. New trustees, school leaders, teachers and support staff have joined the school and have contributed to improving the teaching and learning environment.

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?

St Mary’s School (Northcote) is a Catholic, state integrated school catering for children in Years 1 to 6. Children from the local parish and from a wider geographical area attend the school. The school serves families from diverse ethnic backgrounds and some children are bilingual. The school no longer caters for girls in Years 7 and 8.

The 2014 ERO review identified that employment practices and personnel management approaches required addressing. Accelerating student progress, improving outcomes for Māori and Pacific children, and strengthening school leadership and internal evaluation were further priorities.

The board appointed a principal who began in Term 4, 2015. A new senior leadership team has been established, and a number of new staff have joined the teaching and support staff.

In 2016, several new trustees, with a wide range of professional expertise were elected onto the board and a new board chair person was elected. In 2017, the new parish priest joined the board as a proprietor’s representative. The board has engaged in training with the New Zealand School’s Trustees Association (NZSTA) to develop its governance capability.

In 2016, to support the school to address employment matters and other ERO recommendations, the Ministry of Education (MoE) appointed a Limited Statutory Manager (LSM). The LSM continues to support the board and principal to manage the pace of change, and the implementation of new employment and personnel management practices.

In 2017, the school completed a new classroom block to provide more modern learning facilities for children. Some older classrooms still require significant remediation and improvement. 

2 Review and Development

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

Priorities identified for review and development

The key priorities identified for improvement included:

  • improving personnel management practices
  • accelerating student achievement and promoting equitable outcomes
  • promoting culturally responsive school practices and developing partnerships with whānau.
Progress

Trustees and school leaders, working with external support, have made very good progress to address the key issues identified in the 2015 ERO report.

Previous and current trustees have worked well to make positive changes. These changes have resulted in new staff appointments, a more inclusive school environment and greater scrutiny of student achievement. The new principal is skilfully leading change and provides clear expectations to staff.

Improving personnel management approaches

The board and principal have positively managed some complex employment and personnel management matters. New personnel management and employment policies and processes guide school operations. An external human resources audit has informed school improvement. Employment and recruitment strategies align more clearly with good practice and NZSTA guidelines.

A more positive staff culture is developing. The majority of the staff are supportive of the ongoing changes in the school. Communication with staff and the community has significantly improved. Senior leaders are more accessible and approachable. The school now has a clear process for managing complaints and concerns.

Leaders and trustees use community and staff consultation to inform their decision making. Decisions are well considered and strongly focus on the best interests of children. A priority is to continue building a greater shared commitment and sense of ownership by all staff, to support the successful implementation of leadership decisions and school goals.

Professional development processes for teachers have improved. Teachers who are new to the profession are being appropriately supported and mentored. A well-designed performance management system is in place and is aligned to Education Council requirements. There are also better opportunities for staff to contribute to their own professional development requirements.

The principal and senior leaders have created new opportunities for supporting teacher leadership that is focused on improving children’s learning. These opportunities are helping to promote a more child-centred school culture. The ongoing restructure of middle leadership is timely, and aligns leadership roles with accelerating children’s learning, and strengthening teaching and learning. Further professional development for middle leaders is required to help them develop their leadership capability. 

Accelerating student achievement and promoting equitable outcomes

The school has made very good progress in evaluating and improving systems for assessing and evaluating children’s progress and achievement. Moderation processes for teacher judgements in relation to the National Standards are more robust. Teachers are better able to respond to the needs of learners and target specific children to accelerate their progress. Use of the Learning Progression Frameworks could help to strengthen teachers’ understanding of children’s next learning steps.

The school's data indicate that there continues to be disparity in achievement for Māori and Pacific children in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to the National Standards. The evidence of acceleration for these and other children is not yet apparent. This is in part due to the issues with the reliability of previous school achievement information.

School conditions for accelerating student progress are now present. The board has well-developed plans and targets to focus on improving outcomes for targeted children. Teachers focus their inquiries on how well they are accelerating children’s learning. To continue improving learning outcomes for children, teachers should strengthen their planning and ensure that learning tasks are relevant and sufficiently challenging for children.

Promoting culturally responsive school practices and developing partnerships with whānau

The school has made some progress towards promoting culturally responsive school practices. The school charism of kotahitanga/unity, manaakitanga/respect, atawhaitanga/compassion and pono/truth underpins the school’s special Catholic character, and a more bicultural approach to the school’s philosophy. This is now beginning to be enacted through curriculum review and in religious education.

The school has a newly developed action plan to guide culturally responsive and inclusive school practices. Regularly evaluating the outcomes of this plan will be essential to build the pace and depth of the school’s responsiveness.

Teachers share their cultural knowledge and expertise with each other. Classroom environments and some class programmes are increasingly responsive to children’s cultures and New Zealand’s bicultural heritage. Further work is required to enhance teachers’ skills and understanding of tikanga, te reo Māori and te ao Māori. External professional development is essential.

Community consultation is used well to inform the school vision and strategic goals. Strengthening consultation with whānau Māori would help support school plans to improve outcomes for Māori children. School leaders are aware of the value of using local links and community of learning networks to inform school kawa and tikanga.

Consultation with the Pacific community and other key groups in the school community is well established. The school is looking ahead to promoting stronger learning partnerships with individual families. This is likely to help promote the school goals related to inclusion and excellence.

A key strategy to accelerate children’s learning is leaders and teachers partnering more closely with parents. New class profiles, and learning conversations with children and parents are helping teachers focus on knowing the learner and being more responsive. Teachers are also working more closely with parents to develop individual learning plans for targeted children. Identifying and building on children’s bilingual strengths should form a part of these learning plans.

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 continue to improve and review its performance. Senior leaders are developing a more evaluative school culture to guide improvement.

Working closely with the LSM, the principal and senior leadership team are well supported to manage the complexity of the adult working relationships in the school. Increasingly, staff are responding well to the higher expectations for their performance as educational leaders and as effective teachers.

ERO recommends that the LSM remain in place until effective personnel management processes are well embedded, and the remaining employment matters resolved. The school’s robust performance management process provides a good framework for this work. Any significant concerns regarding teacher performance should be reported to the Education Council.

The new principal is leading the school well, and is working collaboratively with the board and a capable senior leadership team. The senior team is actively leading curriculum development and supporting teachers to use more effective teaching practices. As strong advocates for children, they have increased expectations of staff to ensure that children progress faster and achieve well.

Improved professional learning and development is increasing teachers’ professional capability. School assessment processes are more robust and the school’s 2016 National Standards achievement information is a more reliable benchmark of how well children are achieving.

The board has set more specific and relevant achievement targets to promote equitable outcomes for children. Trustees spend more time discussing student achievement and the resourcing required to improve outcomes for children. They have strengthened their understanding of their roles, responsibilities and board accountabilities. Trustees should continue to update the board's policy framework to meet current legislation, and ensure that they stay well informed about ongoing changes in education.

Strategic planning is well developed and aligned to the annual student achievement goals and targets. Effective systems for evaluation and reporting are in place. As the board works with school leaders to continue managing the pace of change, trustees should ensure they conduct regular external staff and student surveys to provide assurance of effective change management.

ERO, school leaders and trustees agree the key next steps for the school are to:

  • develop board evaluation processes that are focused on achieving accelerated and equitable learning outcomes for Māori and Pacific children
  • embed practices that promote an accountable and professional working environment
  • promote teacher inquiry and collaboration to support children’s learning
  • continue developing effective teaching strategies and assessment practices across the school
  • develop and document a relevant, child-centred and culturally responsive curriculum promoting children’s efficacy and agency as successful learners
  • strengthen inclusive teaching practices. 

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

The school is a positive learning environment for children. There has been very good progress in addressing the matters identified in the ERO 2015 report. New trustees, school leaders, teachers and support staff have joined the school and have contributed to improving the teaching and learning environment.

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

Violet Tu'uga Stevenson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

29 June 2017

About the School 

Location

Northcote, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

1505

School type

State Integrated Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

379

Gender composition

Girls 53% Boys 47%

Ethnic composition

Māori
Pākehā
Filipino
Samoan
Indian
Tongan
African
British
Chinese
Korean
other

2%
57%
14%
5%
4%
4%
2%
2%
2%
2%
6%

Review team on site

April 2017

Date of this report

29 June 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

April 2015
December 2011
June 2008

 

Findings

St Mary’s School Northcote provides well for students. It offers a broad curriculum that responds to students’ diverse interests and needs. Students achieve well and take pride in their school. Work is recommended at leadership and governance levels to ensure personnel practices support ongoing and sustainable improvements in performance.

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

1 Context

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

St Mary’s School (Northcote) is a Catholic state integrated school catering for boys and girls in Years 1 to 6. It also provides education for girls in Years 7 to 8. Students attend the school from a broad geographic area and represent diverse cultural backgrounds.

The charism of unity, respect and compassion underpins the school’s special Catholic character. The charism guides adults’ interactions with students. Students know these key values well and demonstrate pride in their school.

Since the 2011 ERO review the roll has expanded and the board is beginning a significant programme of property development. More modern learning spaces and teaching resources have been created, and further large-scale buildings are planned. Teachers are engaged in professional development and are trialling a number of future-focused teaching approaches.

School leaders are experienced and long serving. The school also has a number of staff in fixed term positions, several of whom are beginning teachers. ERO has identified aspects of personnel management that require priority attention by the board.

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. School leaders have worked diligently to manage data and other information. They have developed reports that clearly identify patterns of achievement for groups of students. Student voice is increasingly seen as valuable evidence of learning.

Students are increasingly empowered to take responsibility for their learning. Many students in Years 5 to 8 clearly know about their current achievement and their next learning steps. Students are interested and engaged in their learning.

Professional development has been well chosen to improve the robustness of teacher judgements against National Standards. Closer monitoring of targeted students is resulting in some accelerated achievement. Many students achieve well in reading, writing and mathematics. It would be useful for the board and school leaders to:

  • set even more specific achievement targets for identified groups of students to help them accelerate their learning
  • further review teaching practices to identify, document and promote teaching strategies that are most effective in bringing about accelerated progress in student learning.

St Mary’s School is an inclusive and a caring school. Māori students receive good individual support for their learning. Teachers use information well to cater for their learning requirements. Continuing to develop learning partnerships with whānau could increase outcomes for these students and provide opportunities to extend teachers’ cultural responsiveness.

Pacific students have made accelerated learning progress and have benefited from key community leaders working closely with families and the school. Open and respectful relationships with families have served groups of Tongan students particularly well. The school now has a very good model of how to work as a community that can be used to improve outcomes for groups of Pacific students.

Students with high learning needs have good opportunities to integrate successfully in mainstream classes. They benefit from special programmes which promote their social and emotional development, their independence and their life skills.

While the number of students with additional learning requirements has increased, the complexity of learning requirements has also diversified. A good range of support strategies are in place for these students. Teacher aides work collaboratively alongside with teachers.

School leaders and teachers communicate achievement information with families in several useful ways. Ongoing refinements to formal reports should improve the clarity of judgements about student progress against the National Standards.

To further improve outcomes for students, the board would benefit by receiving more evaluative reports. These reports should include clearer judgements, with evidence as to the effectiveness of specific resourcing decisions on student learning outcomes. Including whānau input in these reviews is recommended.

3 Curriculum

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

The curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning. It is well aligned toThe New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) and includes a strong focus on literacy and mathematics. Student input is used well to inform curriculum review and develop a responsive curriculum.

The school’s inquiry programme offers students a useful way to explore a range of curriculum learning areas. Real life contexts provide relevant opportunities for students to explore areas of interest. Students are encouraged to think deeply and manage their learning well.

Cultural celebrations are highly valued and well supported by students, teachers, leaders and families. Te ao Māori, a key feature of the religious education programme, could continue to be further promoted to enhance the bicultural dimensions of the curriculum.

Several classrooms are designated modern learning environments. These offer more flexible and student initiated routines to support students’ self management and decision making skills. The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) significantly enhances learning for students, particularly in these classes.

Consistency in the quality of teaching at the school has improved since the last ERO review. Good quality teaching, with some high quality practices, is evident. School leaders have identified that it would now be helpful to review the school’s curriculum and to align teaching practices with a more future focussed approach.

School leaders use a well-established coaching model to offer educational support and guidance to staff. The effectiveness of this for improving teacher capability and also increasing outcomes for students could be evaluated. Offering a more differentiated and relevant approach to professional development would better meet individual teacher’s learning requirements.

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

The school provides good support to promote educational success for Māori students. The kaupapa of the school is thoughtfully aligned to supporting kotahitanga, manākitanga and whānaungatanga. Māori students appreciate the opportunities provided to celebrate their culture and heritage.

Whānau aspirations and input are sought by individual teachers. School leaders could now work more closely with the Māori community, including local iwi and kaumatua, to develop relationships that enhance student learning. Consulting on school plans, policies and targets for Māori students is a key next step.

Te reo Tuatahi, a programme developed in partnership with external providers, supports teachers to deliver te reo Māori in their classes. This programme has been in place for one year in parts of the school. School leaders agree that it should now be extended school-wide. Teachers could also benefit by extending evaluations of their success as culturally responsive educators, using key Ministry of Education documents to guide this work.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

In some regards, the school is well placed to sustain and improve performance. Students are proud of their school and the school environment for students remains positive and settled. Staff are professional and committed to providing students with a good quality education.

School managers are leading new curriculum initiatives and working strategically to improve student outcomes. They are experienced leaders and are very involved in wider educational networks. The school has further developed its relationship with Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

However, ERO’s findings also indicate the need to improve employment practices and the work environment provided for staff. Personnel matters, morale issues and employment concerns reported to ERO indicate that priority attention should be directed towards this area of school performance.

The challenge for school leaders is to work with staff in ways that promote staff wellbeing and incorporate staff input into decision making. Improved ways of communicating and consulting with staff and operating a more robust and accountable complaints process should help promote a more professional environment.

The board requires more information from the principal to be assured of its role as a good employer. Trustees should review the school’s personnel policies and the employment practices of the school. Policy reviews should include an examination of practices relating to fixed term appointments and the allocation of fixed term units for specific roles and responsibilities.

Further work to strengthen performance management and increase leadership accountability is also needed. Robust external appraisal for senior leaders would be helpful for the board and principal. Given the number of provisionally registered teachers employed, it would also be beneficial to review the co-ordination and effectiveness of current practices for supporting beginning teachers school-wide.

These personnel and employment matters have the potential to impact significantly on school sustainability and on its capacity to bring about ongoing improvements in school performance. External advice and guidance about these matters is advised.

The board has clearly signalled to ERO that it is time to review the school’s mission, vision and values as part of its charter consultation for 2015. This could offer new opportunities to bring trustees, staff, students and the community together. Increasing self review and evaluation would support a more open, shared and collaborative environment.

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 six 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.

St Mary’s School continues to provide effective pastoral care and education for international students. Students are well integrated into school life and benefit from a broad school curriculum. Their progress and involvement in the school is carefully monitored.

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.

During the course of the review ERO identified an area of non-compliance. In order to address this, the board of trustees must:

  • operate personnel policies and employment practices that comply with the principles of being a good employer
    [National Administration Guidelines 3(b), 5(c), State Sector Act 1988, s77A (1), (2) (a),(b)].

In order to improve current practice, the board of trustees should also ensure that:

  • school leaders keep a record of complaints received and document their resolution
  • school leaders address general maintenance issues to minimize identified hazards
  • outcomes from consultation with Māori are well documented and reviewed to evaluate the impact of any responses made.

Recommendations to other agencies

ERO recommends that the school seek external advice and guidance to address personnel and employment practices outlined in this report. The Ministry of Education, New Zealand School Trustee’s Association and/or the Catholic Schools Office could be of service.

Conclusion

St Mary’s School Northcote provides well for students. It offers a broad curriculum that responds to students’ diverse interests and needs. Students achieve well and take pride in their school. Work is recommended at leadership and governance levels to ensure personnel practices support ongoing and sustainable improvements in performance.

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

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services Northern Region

10 April 2015

About the School

Location

Northcote, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

1505

School type

State Integrated Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

440

Number of international students

6

Gender composition

Girls 238 Boys 202

Ethnic composition

Māori

NZ European/Pākehā

Filipino

Samoan

African

Indian

Korean

Chinese

Latin American

Tongan

other Asian

other

2%

61%

13%

5%

3%

3%

3%

2%

2%

2%

2%

2%

Special Features

Girls only in Years 7 and 8

Review team on site

November 2014

Date of this report

10 April 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

December 2011

June 2008

March 2005