Wairau Valley School (Blenheim)

Wairau Valley School (Blenheim) - 09/05/2018

School Context

Wairau Valley School is a small, rural school providing education for 37 children in Years 1 – 8. The roll, which has increased over the past three years, includes a growing number of children who move into and out of the school within a year.

The vision of the school is for children to manage successfully in a complex world. The school’s valued outcomes focus on excellence, innovation, active participation in the community and ecological sustainability. The aims are to improve rates of progress for children in writing and reading and support teachers to develop culturally inclusive practices.

Since the last ERO review the school has moved from working with a commissioner to having a board comprising two Ministry of Education appointees and elected parent representatives. The school has also had additional assistance with student achievement.

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

  • children’s achievement in reading, writing and mathematics 
  •  outcomes for children with additional learning needs.

The school is a member of the Piritahi Kāhui Ako/Community of Learning (CoL) and accesses targeted professional development through this involvement.

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 is not yet achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its children.

The highest schoolwide achievement is in reading, especially for girls and Māori children. Almost all girls achieve well in writing and reading and most children are achieving well in mathematics. There is very low achievement for boys in writing. The school data does not clearly show children’s progress and achievement over time. The school effectively monitors children’s wellbeing.

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

It is unclear how well the school is accelerating the learning for all children who need to make additional progress. The school has not yet established reporting systems to clearly record the rates of progress of all children needing to make accelerated progress and to track this over time.

Identified targeted children are achieving significant acceleration in writing. Children with additional needs are very well supported to make progress.

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 school’s board and the staff have a strong child-centred focus and sense of purpose, which is aligned with the charter and values. They actively seek to promote home-school partnerships and engage parents in achieving positive outcomes for their children. Children and their families are known well and staff communicate regularly with families.

Leaders and teachers understand the importance of the reciprocal relationship between the school and the wider community to achieve positive outcomes for children. They have effectively built sound community connections and respectful relationships to enhance children’s wellbeing and increase learning opportunities. The school participates in local events and accesses a diverse range of community resources to support the delivery of a localised curriculum that builds on children’s interests.

There is an open, inclusive and welcoming school culture based on clear expectations and understandings. Children are well supported to develop key competencies such as self-management and are able to work alone or collaboratively. Comprehensive pastoral care is responsive to children’s needs and includes accessing a range of specialist support. Individual learning needs are identified and personal interests are utilised to increase engagement in learning. Teachers actively trial different strategies to improve progress and achievement. The strengths of all staff are recognised and fostered in order to build teaching and learning capacity.

The board of trustees ensures that the school is well resourced to meet children’s diverse needs, both in the classroom and in the outdoor environment. Children’s learning opportunities are enhanced by the provision of additional staffing. This allows targeted teaching and learning. The employment of a specialist teacher of te reo and tikanga Māori, has promoted the development of greater bicultural understandings.

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 deeper understanding of, and strong systems to support, ongoing internal evaluation across school operations. This will enable them to understand the effectiveness of what they are doing and to use this knowledge for improvement-focused decision making.

The school gathers a considerable amount of data. Leaders have identified that a next step is to develop systems to manage, understand and use this in order to improve outcomes for students, especially with regard to progress and achievement. Teaching as inquiry should be further embedded in teaching practice.

The school needs to complete documentation of its localised curriculum to fully reflect school and community aspirations for learning. The curriculum should also include strategies that enable students to be more involved in, and take ownership of their learning, and enable greater personalisation of programmes for all students.

The board of trustees must ensure that there is a planned programme of ongoing training for board members, including induction processes for new trustees.

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 Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • a cohesive staff with a shared vision that focusses on positive outcomes for children
  • effective, reciprocal relationships with the community which enhance children’s learning opportunities
  • a positive learning culture where the learning and pastoral needs of children and their families are understood, and their individual strengths, interests and needs incorporated into programmes. 

Next steps

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

  • ensuring planning and decision-making at Board, school and learner levels is informed by strong internal evaluation and is outcomes-focused
  • managing learning information to more clearly report rates of progress 

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Dr Lesley Patterson
Deputy Chief Review Officer

Te Waipounamu - Southern Region

9 May 2018

About the school 

Location

Blenheim

Ministry of Education profile number

3062

School type

Full primary

School roll

37

Gender composition

Female  17

Male      20

Ethnic composition

Pākehā   32

Māori  5

Review team on site

March 2018

Date of this report

9 May 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)    

 

Education Review       February 2015

Education Review       June 2013

Education Review       December 2009

Wairau Valley School (Blenheim) - 04/02/2015

Findings

The school is well placed to return to self-governing status in 2015. The new principal and well‑regarded teachers are ably supported by the commissioner. Better community communications have resulted in valuable local involvement. The next step is for a return to self governance and for the elected board to maintain the recent positive developments.

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?

Wairau Valley School is a small rural school in the Wairau Valley township, 40 kilometres from Blenheim. It caters for students from Years 1 to 8 in two classrooms.

The June 2013 ERO review reported a number of issues that had been evident for many years. These included many staff changes, including the principal. This had interrupted ongoing developments in curriculum, assessment and student progress. There had also been a number of changes in board personnel, including four chairpersons within the previous two and a half years.

In January 2013, the Secretary for Education dissolved the board. A commissioner was appointed with all the functions, powers and duties of the board of Wairau Valley School.

In September 2013 ERO returned to review progress and noted most of the identified issues had been, or were being, addressed.

Since the June 2013 ERO review there has been a total staff turnover. There have been three acting principals in 2014 prior to the appointment of the current principal in July 2014.

The commissioner has continued in the governance role. She has established an advisory group, which could form the foundation of a new, elected board.

2 Review and Development

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

Priorities identified for review and development

The June 2013 Education Review identified areas for development. These were to:

  • develop, in consultation, a local curriculum which documents how all learning areas will be covered and includes how careers education, use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and transition into and out of the school, will be addressed
  • investigate ways to effectively increase student engagement and make the curriculum more responsive for certain groups
  • continue to strengthen processes to analyse student achievement information to provide more targeted teaching for students at risk of not achieving National Standards
  • deliberately teach the knowledge and skills individual students need
  • facilitate sustainability by addressing the wider community issues.
Progress

The school has made considerable progress towards achieving the priorities identified in ERO’s June 2013 review.

The Wairau Valley School curriculum is being reviewed. After a lot of community consultation a clear direction is set. The new principal is familiar with the region and is experienced in curriculum development. The commissioner, advisory group and principal have begun to develop the charter with the recognition of the need for alignment with systems, policies and procedures.

Approaches to some of the key learning areas have been documented. However, with the newly appointed staff, these are subject to revision.

Students at risk of not achieving the National Standards have been identified and individual programmes are in place for them. Teachers and parents work together to support these students.

Students are engaged. They are active learners who participate respectfully and cooperatively. The introduction of broadband has enabled the senior students to engage with students in other schools. The purchase of iPads has enhanced their opportunities to use computer technology in their learning.

A careers education programme was documented by the previous principal. This programme is being reviewed to be consistent with the direction envisaged by the newly appointed principal and teachers. Currently, appropriate programmes are being provided for Years 7 and 8 students.

Teachers are using standardised tests to inform judgements about students’ achievement in relation to the National Standards. There was evidence of improved student achievement in 2013, but with a constant change in teachers in 2014, interim data suggests a declined level for 2014. A full analysis is yet to be completed.

The principal has made progress towards providing a bicultural programme that confirms the school’s commitment to meeting the intent of the Treaty of Waitangi.

At the beginning of 2014, a pre-school-entry group was established on site. This has enabled children and parents to appreciate new entrant expectations. The programme facilitates a smooth transition for children into school and, over time, it is anticipated the community will gain a better appreciation of the education offered by the school. There is a good relationship between the school and the local secondary schools. Anecdotal information suggests that 2013 students have settled well into the local high schools.

3 Sustainable performance and self review

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

Wairau Valley School is well placed to sustain and continue to improve and review its performance.

Since the June 2013 review there has been considerable progress.

Permanent appointments of principal and staff provide a sense of stability.

Parents speak positively about the principal and teachers and believe their children are much more engaged in their learning.

Positive communication better informs the community of overall student achievements and school activities.

Parents and the wider community are welcomed and are volunteering to enhance the property development and student education. The parent–teacher association has been re-established and members are actively supporting the principal and staff for the benefit of their children.

The commissioner has established an advisory group. The members are learning the role of governance and developing an awareness of board responsibilities. They have set a policy framework, consulted the community and begun to develop a new charter.

Key next steps

The principal and teachers need to continue to:

  • develop the Wairau School curriculum
  • ensure consistent and robust assessment provides useful data to identify specific areas for student support
  • develop and document a bicultural education programme and to promote success for Māori, as Māori.

The commissioner is continuing to support the advisory group with the intent to recommend to the Ministry of Education that the school will be ready to self govern in 2015.

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 well placed to return to self-governing status in 2015. The new principal and wellregarded teachers are ably supported by the commissioner. Better community communications have resulted in valuable local involvement. The next step is for a return to self governance and for the elected board to maintain the recent positive developments.

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

Joyce Gebbie

Deputy Chief Review Officer Central

4 February 2015

About the School

Location

Blenheim

Ministry of Education profile number

3062

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

22

Gender composition

Male 14, Female 8

Ethnic composition

Māori

Pākehā

Other ethnic groups

6

15

1

Review team on site

December 2014

Date of this report

4 February 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Supplementary Review

June 2013

December 2009

August 2006