St Mary's Catholic School (Tauranga)

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1 Context

St Mary's Catholic School is located on an attractive site that borders on Tauranga harbour and estuary. The school is experiencing sustained roll growth, and this has necessitated the building of additional facilities and provided the impetus for developing innovative learning environments. There has been a significant restructuring of the senior leadership team and a new deputy principal appointed since the 2013 ERO review. The 2016 board elections resulted in 5 new parent elected trustees, and the appointment of a new chairperson.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school for all children are to ensure they learn and live by Christian moral values and spirituality in the Catholic tradition. There is priority given to developing their full academic potential while being exposed to a diversity of cultural experiences in a learning environment. The school values are truth (tika), mercy (aroha), faith (whakapono) and wisdom (maramatanga).

The school’s achievement information shows that a very high proportion of children, including Māori, are achieving at or above the expected National Standard in reading, writing and mathematics. These proportions have remained consistently high for the past three years.

The school's moderation processes are rigorous and ensure a high degree of dependability of teachers' overall judgements. Senior leaders support the process with clear guidelines for classroom teachers, and they ensure regular scheduled time to share and discuss children's achievement and progress data. Internal moderation is complemented by opportunities for inter-school moderation within the community of learning.

Since the last ERO evaluation the school has had a significant focus on strengthening the management of children's assessment information at all levels. Teachers have undertaken sustained professional development on the use of assessment information, especially in relation to planning for and monitoring the progress of children whose achievement needs accelerating. Externally facilitated professional development has been in the areas of Teaching as Inquiry (TAI), Accelerated Learning in Mathematics (ALiM), Learning with Digital Technology (LWDT) and the Innovation Fund. All these areas of professional development have retained a planned focus on supporting the accelerated progress of priority children.

3 Accelerating achievement

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

The school responds very effectively to the small proportion of children whose learning and achievement needs acceleration. Māori children are achieving and progressing at comparable levels to non-Māori. As a consequence, all support systems for priority children are based solely on identified learning needs, and not specifically linked to ethnicity.

The recently appointed deputy principal oversees and coordinates the work of senior managers, team leaders and classroom teachers, to engage with the extensive range of standardised and other achievement information the school gathers each year. All students who are below or well below the appropriate National Standard in reading, writing or mathematics are clearly identified and individual learning support plans developed.

Each classroom teacher has an identified group of target children, and plans strategies and interventions to accelerate their learning. The ongoing progress of target children is monitored every eight weeks at meetings between the teacher and deputy principal. Individual learning plans are revised, extended or discontinued through reference to evidence shared at the meeting. Class and school-wide information shows that a high proportion of target students make accelerated progress during the year.

Teachers use visual data walls and plot the progress of target children throughout the year. The school reports that a high proportion of target children enter the school achieving at low levels of literacy, but they make accelerated progress during the year. School leaders recognise that these progress-monitoring processes should now be extended beyond the current year, to ensure the progress of target students is sustained. In addition, this extended tracking will further strengthen the evaluation of classroom strategies and school initiatives in supporting the progress of priority children.

Priority children are specifically included in the annual progress targets set by the board, and these targets are aligned to overall community of learning challenges. Senior leaders report children's achievement and progress to the board, with clear interpretations of data and well-informed recommendations for ongoing decision making.

Teachers and senior managers build productive partnerships with parents of children whose learning needs acceleration. Parents receive regular formal and informal communication from teachers, and have access to on-line reports and samples of their children's work.

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?

The school's curriculum is highly effective in enacting the vision, values and goals set for equity and excellence for all students. The school is providing a curriculum which has depth, meaning and positive purpose for children and the wider community. Children have an extensive range of holistic learning opportunities including academic, spiritual, sporting, cultural, social and Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC). They experience classrooms that are settled and conducive to learning. Mutually respectful and nurturing relationships among adults and children are highly evident. Children, including those at risk of underachieving, experience educational success and personal growth from the curriculum which is responsive, stimulating and relevant.

The board effectively scrutinises the core educational work of the school in achieving valued student outcomes. In its operation and documentation, the board retains a clear priority on fostering the special Catholic character of the school. Trustees are well informed about children's achievement and progress, including those at risk of underachieving, through detailed reporting by senior managers. The board allocates additional resources to support equity of outcomes for all children. A next step is for the board to evaluate the impact of current initiatives such as the introduction of innovative learning environments, on children's learning. Trustees access external advice and expertise as appropriate, and ensure there is close alignment between strategic goals for children's achievement, and the performance management system. Sound governance is supporting school improvement.

Senior leaders are providing a clear sense of positive purpose and direction for the school community, with a focus on fostering the special Catholic character. The principal works collaboratively with other senior leaders to successfully foster high expectations for professional practice and excellence in educational outcomes for all children. Decision making in support of children whose learning needs accelerating is evidence-based, and shared with classroom teachers and parents.

The board and school leaders have a strategic and coherent approach to building professional practice and leadership. Organisational structures support teachers to reflect on the effectiveness of their practice, especially in accelerating the progress of children at risk. Teachers are ready to explore and implement new strategies to engage children, and several classes work together in innovative learning environments. The use of digital technologies to support teaching and learning is well developed. Leaders identified a next step to fully enact the principles of Ka Hikitia, accelerating Māori success, which would be reflected in a sequential te reo Māori programme and more 'place-based' learning opportunities.

A feature of the school is the range of well-established connections and purposeful relationships with it's wider community. The Catholic Diocese, local parish and founding order of Cluny Sisters all provide tangible support for the special Catholic character. The faith-based community of learning provides further educational and special character support. Strong parent and whānau support groups provide the opportunity for parent contribution, consultation and involvement. Community collaboration enriches educational opportunities for children, staff and families.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it?

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond effectively to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how well teaching is working for these children
  • act on what they know works well for each child
  • build teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children
  • are well placed to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children.

Strong educational leadership and sound governance is supporting ongoing school improvement. High expectations for professional practice and student achievement are well embedded and strongly supported by productive partnerships with the wider community. The special Catholic character ensures children at risk, and their families, are effectively supported to achieve equity and excellence. Māori children are achieving and progressing at levels comparable to other children in the school.

The important next step is for the board and senior leaders to continue to evaluate the impact of current initiatives, such as innovative teaching environments, on various groups of children, especially those at risk of underachievement.

ERO is likely to carry out the next 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.

International Students

The Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (the Code) was introduced on July 1st 2016. The school is aware of the need to update its policies and procedures to meet the new code requirements by December 1st 2016.

At the time of this ERO review there were 15 international students attending the school. The school is making good progress in aligning its policies and procedures to meet requirements for the 2016 Code.

7 Recommendation

Trustees and senior leaders are to continue to evaluate the impact of current initiatives on educational outcomes for children.

Lynda Pura-Watson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Waikato / Bay of Plenty

3 February 2017

About the school 

Location

Tauranga

Ministry of Education profile number

1959

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

Decile

8

School roll

459

Number of international students

15

Gender composition

Girls 51% Boys 49%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

South East Asian

Other Asian

Other European

Indian

Chinese

Pacific

65%

14%

5%

6%

4%

3%

1%

2%

Review team on site

November 2016

Date of this report

3 February 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2013

December 2010

October 2007



1 Context

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

St Mary’s Catholic School Tauranga is a state integrated primary school catering for students from Years 1 to 6 located in central Tauranga. At the time of this ERO review the school’s roll was 388 including 50 students who identify as Māori. The school’s roll also includes 11 international fee paying students.

Since the 2010 ERO review the school has appointed a new principal while teaching staff has remained consistent. Significant professional development has been accessed in literacy and mathematics for school leaders and teachers to further improve outcomes for students. Several new trustees were elected at the 2013 board elections.

The school’s vision has its origins in the charism established by the Cluny Sisters who founded the school in 1948. The primary purpose for establishing the school was to teach the children the gospel values of Jesus Christ which lies at the heart of the school’s special character. The school’s highly evident special character contributes to a family like atmosphere and positive tone for learning. A recently developed learning vision promotes teachers, students and parents as being assessment capable. Students and teachers benefit from the contributions of an active and supportive parent teacher association.

The school has a good ERO reporting history and has responded positively to the areas for development identified in the 2010 ERO report.

2 Learning

How well does this school use achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement?

School leaders collate school-wide achievement data in reading, writing and mathematics to inform their decision making, including identifying students who require additional support or extension. They are continuing to develop useful guidelines and systems to support teachers to make robust judgements in relation to the National Standards. ERO and school leaders agree that there is a need to review the reporting forms to ensure that National Standards information is clearly stated for parents.

The board receives regular reports about student achievement and use this information to effectively inform their resourcing decision making. They set meaningful student achievement targets in the school charter. The principal and trustees have recently reviewed the school’s processes to ensure greater timeliness and clarity in reporting school-wide student achievement information to the board.

Teachers use a wide range of student achievement information to group students for instruction. ERO and school leaders observed many teachers effectively using this information to plan and implement meaningful learning programmes. In these classes students were able to talk confidently about their learning progress and next steps, reflecting the school’s vision of assessment capable learners.

The school reports that at the end of 2011 and 2012 a significant majority of students achieved at or above the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. This information indicated that Māori students achieved at similar levels to their non-Māori peers at the school.

3 Curriculum

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

St Mary’s Catholic School’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning.

The school’s special catholic character permeates all aspects of the school and underpins the curriculum. Students have many opportunities to experience success in an extensive range of sporting, cultural and academic competitions and events. They enjoy frequent trips and camps in the local and wider community. A close relationship with the local parish enhances students learning experiences. A special feature of the school is the positive and affirming relationships among students, teachers and parents.

The curriculum places priority on promoting achievement and progress in reading, writing and mathematics. There are many examples of high-quality teaching practice that supports students as self managing independent learners. Students respond positively to teachers’ high expectations and the opportunity to challenge themselves. A recent successful initiative has been specific professional learning for teachers to support them to accelerate the progress of students who were achieving below the National Standards in writing. Students with particular learning needs receive well tailored support that is effectively monitored by a knowledgeable member of the senior leadership team.

Students benefit from learning in safe, attractively presented and well-resourced environments. Parents spoken to by ERO appreciate the inclusive school culture, particularly for new students and those with diverse learning and health needs.

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

The school provides many opportunities that support Māori students to succeed as Māori. The principal has given increased impetus to strengthening the school’s Māori dimension. He has been guided by an active whānau support group. Māori wairua is an integral part of the school’s religious education programme. Two kaiarahi, supported by teachers, provide a te reo Māori programme in all classes. Many students enjoy participation in kapa haka at school celebrations and special events. The recent establishment of a leader of taha Māori reflects the school’s commitment to further developing its Māori dimension across the curriculum.

An important next step for the school is to further extend and embed these initiatives including:

  • developing clear learning expectations for the te reo Māori programme that supports students to build on previous learning
  • further developing partnerships with local iwi and the wider Māori community
  • establishing and implementing ongoing self review to support sustainability of initiatives.

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 because:

  • the knowledgeable principal, supported by school leaders is providing effective professional leadership for the school and has a clear vision for ongoing school improvement
  • trustees, led by an experienced chairperson, are strongly focussed on enhancing student achievement and supporting the school’s special character
  • teachers are committed to the school, are responsive to professional learning and are supportive of school leadership
  • there are high levels of community and parish support for the school.

ERO, the board and school leaders agree that there is a need to implement a more focussed and aligned approach to strategic planning and self review including:

  • continuing to promote and support leadership at all levels within the school
  • the development of agreed expectations for effective teaching practice at the school
  • documenting clear learning expectations in each of the subject areas.

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 11 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.

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.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services

Northern Region

11 November 2013

About the School

Location

Tauranga

Ministry of Education profile number

1959

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

388

Number of international students

11

Gender composition

Boys 51%

Girls 49%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

Māori

Other Asian

Other European

South East Asian

Indian

Other

68%

13%

6%

5%

4%

2%

2%

Review team on site

September 2013

Date of this report

11 November 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

December 2010

October 2007

September 2004