Little River School

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School Context

Little River School is a small rural, full primary school in Banks Peninsula, Canterbury. It has a roll of 102 students.

The school’s vision is to provide quality learning experiences so that every child can reach his or her potential and ‘Stand Tall’ (Tu Toa). This vision is underpinned by the value of respect for self, others, the environment and property. Together, the vision and values provide clear expectations of the outcomes trustees and staff have for children.

The school states that the current strategic goals are to:

  • improve children’s progress and achievement in writing

  • promote student agency

  • develop better systems and processes to evaluate learning and identify next steps

  • distribute responsibilities and improve systems to improve student outcomes.

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

  • achievement in reading, writing and mathematics

  • achievement in other curriculum areas

  • outcomes related to children’s competencies and wellbeing.

The school has been engaged in a building renewal programme, which includes new teaching spaces, as part of ongoing site improvements.

Since the last ERO review in 2015 the school has been involved in a Ministry of Education initiative to support priority learners. The school is part of the Banks Peninsula cluster of schools.

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 making progress towards achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all students. School achievement information for 2016 - 2017 shows that most children achieve at or above national expectations in reading, writing and mathematics. A small, gradual downward trend in achievement has been halted during this time, except in writing.

The school has identified the need to improve outcomes in writing for boys and some Māori children. Outcomes for Māori children in mathematics also need to be improved.

The school monitors and assesses children with regard to the NZ Curriculum Competencies. School data shows an improved understanding and demonstration of the competencies over time.

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

School information shows that some children whose learning requires additional support make progress and some achieve acceleration. Children with additional learning needs are well supported and their progress is monitored and tracked by their teachers. Outside agencies are accessed when required to provide additional learning assistance.

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?

Little River School has a stable and skilled staff with a clear focus on outcomes for children. The quality of teaching across the school is high. Strong collaborative planning ensures that children benefit from:

  • a carefully considered range of teacher and child led activities

  • learning environments that meet individual and group needs

  • authentic learning contexts that build on children’s knowledge and interests, and on the local environment

  • encouragement and support for children to take responsibility for, manage and reflect on, their learning

  • access to a broad range of learning opportunities and having some choice in what and how they learn.

Teachers and children enjoy respectful relationships built on a shared understanding of the school’s values and expectations. These values are clearly reflected in the positive, well organised and inclusive learning environment. Children’s learning, abilities and participation are supported and celebrated. The strong focus on developing children’s key competencies is embedded in the curriculum and reflected throughout the school. A significant component of the school’s commitment to developing and maintaining positive relationships is the well developed and implemented restorative justice system.

The school and its local community have a very positive relationship. There is strong community involvement in, and support for, the school. This includes:

  • close links with the local playcentre, facilitating children’s transition to school

  • curricular and co-curricular support from parents and the wider community that provides additional learning opportunities

  • useful teacher involvement in a cluster of schools

  • children having opportunities to be involved in community events.

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

There is an urgent need for trustees and leaders to ensure that the school has an efficient, effective and transparent infrastructure that enables teachers to track, report and evaluate student wellbeing and learning progress and achievement. This needs to be based on a thorough, shared understanding of what constitutes sufficiency of progress and acceleration.

In order to achieve planned strategic priorities in a timely and sustainable manner and ensure continued positive outcomes for children, leaders must build and utilise the leadership capabilities and capacity of the teachers. This should involve a consideration of how roles and responsibilities are best distributed and the provision of appropriate professional support.

Leaders and teachers need to develop and implement a plan to strengthen bicultural understandings and practices so that the school more strongly reflects the bicultural nature of Aoteaora New Zealand. This plan needs to be supported by relevant professional learning and the continued building of reciprocal relationships with whānau.

Leaders need to implement the curriculum review signalled in the previous ERO report. Careers education continues to be an area to be addressed.

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.

Appraisal audit

The school has begun to establish a sound appraisal process. More rigorous documenting of professional conversations is required.

Actions for compliance

ERO identified non-compliance in relation to policy renewal processes

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

  • ensure there is a planned and implemented schedule of policy review and renewal.
    (Education Act 1989, National Administration Guidelines)

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

  • improve documentation of some compliance and health and safety procedures

  • ensure documentation of meetings meets good practice requirements.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • improvement-focussed teaching and learning

  • a positive culture based on respect

  • strong and supportive community relationships.

Next steps

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

  • trustees’ understanding of their roles and responsibilities, and ensuring all governance obligations are met
  • leaders ensuring school priorities are implemented, reported and evaluated in a timely and effective manner
  • developing internal evaluation practices and processes at all levels of the school to identify what is working well and where improvement is needed (as recommended in the 2015 ERO report)
  • ensuring the school reflects the bicultural nature of Aotearoa New Zealand.

ERO will continue to work with the school to receive progress information in regard to the key next steps identified for improvement in this report.

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

19 July 2018

About the school

Location

Banks Peninsula

Ministry of Education profile number

3418

School type

Full Co-educational Primary

School roll

102

Gender composition

Boys 51%

Girls 49%

Ethnic composition

Māori 17%

Pākehā 77%

Other ethnicities 6%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)

Yes

Provision of Māori medium education

No

Review team on site

May 2018

Date of this report

19 July 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review October 2015

Education Review May 2012

Education Review December 2008

Findings

This rural school provides a welcoming, inclusive learning environment for students in Years 1 to 8. There is a strong emphasis on learners’ wellbeing. Students achieve highly in reading and mathematics. Social skills and learning through sport are key curriculum features. Taha Māori is a growing strength. Assessment practices and internal evaluation processes need further strengthening.

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

1 Context

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

Little River School provides a welcoming and inclusive learning environment. Many families have had connections with the school over several generations. The school is well resourced.

The school is planning for significant building development. This is causing teachers to think more deeply about their teaching practice and the types of learning environments that are likely to best support students’ learning.

The board, principal and teachers are involved in a local cluster of schools and early childhood centres. Initial planning documents show how students will benefit from the school’s involvement, particularly progressing skills in learning with digital technology.

Progress from the 2012 ERO review includes strengthening partnerships between home and school, integrating programmes and activities that encourage students’ pride in being Māori and ensuring the principal is appraised annually. Aspects of curriculum development and internal evaluation require further development.

2 Learning

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

Teachers use assessment information appropriately to improve students’ engagement, progress and achievement.

Teachers use a good range of methods to gauge students’ progress and achievement. They use regular assessments to modify learning programmes and the ways they work with students. This approach is working well for many learners who are achieving at or above the National Standards.

Teachers are increasingly exploring ways to support students’ independence with their learning and assisting them to consider how well they are progressing within different learning areas. At times, students contribute to the development of the learning goals and criteria for assessing group or class work.

Teachers work well together to raise the levels of progress for those learners who are at risk of not achieving.

Teachers in the junior school effectively use the links between Te Whāriki, the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum, and the New Zealand School Curriculum to support learners’ engagement at school entry. The use of learning stories by these teachers is proving to be a useful assessment tool. Teachers, parents and members of the local playcentre contribute to the learning stories.

Areas for review and development

ERO has identified several areas for improvement. These include:

  • ensuring the board’s annual achievement targets are based on accurate baseline data, have specific action plans related to the needs of targeted individuals, and progress is regularly monitored and reported to the board throughout the year
  • continuing to strengthen the process to make judgements about students’ progress and achievement against the National Standards for reading, writing and mathematics
  • increasing the range and clarity of student achievement information to assist the board with its decision making, resourcing and evaluation of learners' progress.

Teachers have identified that students need a more personalised approach to assessment that includes their own reflections, views and monitoring of progress towards individual achievement goals. ERO agrees that this is a worthwhile direction to explore.

3 Curriculum

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

The school is making steady progress in implementing a curriculum that successfully promotes and supports students’ learning. Students achieve highly in reading and mathematics, and less well in writing. Achievement results are above national levels in these areas. The school is aware of the need to continue to accelerate achievement of boys and Māori students.

The school’s vision and values are easy to understand and are well known. There is a strong emphasis on the holistic development of learners with students’ wellbeing prioritised. A sample of parents surveyed by the school shows their children are happy and optimistic about school.

The board, principal and teachers value students gaining key skills and attitudes. Trustees set annual targets to promote their attainment. Teachers carefully and meaningfully integrate them in ways that help students know about their positive impact on learning and relationships.

Students have many opportunities to be leaders. They are encouraged to respect each other and work cooperatively and to be creative and innovative in their approach to learning.

Teachers put in place a number of useful interventions to support students who need to make accelerated progress. School leaders and teachers show commitment to building strong literacy and mathematics foundations early in students' schooling.

Students with special learning needs benefit from regular plans that show how adults are working together to support their learning outcomes. These plans show specific learning and development goals, and evaluate the progress students make.

Other key features of the school’s curriculum include:

  • a strong emphasis on physical education and learning through sport
  • high quality, well coordinated transition practices between the local playcentre and school
  • explicit teaching to develop students’ thinking skills
  • opportunities to learn other languages, including te reo Māori, sign language and Spanish in Years 7 and 8.

Areas for review and development

The principal and teachers focus on developing students’ independent learning skills. They are now ready to further develop school-wide systems to better support student-centred learning approaches.

ERO has identified, and school leaders agree, that there is a need to review and refine the local school curriculum to ensure:

  • current practices and expectations for teaching and learning are clearly documented in an easy to understand and user friendly manner
  • improved teaching and learning in the arts
  • systematic delivery of careers education in Years 7 and 8.

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

The school demonstrates an ongoing commitment to providing opportunities for Māori students to experience success as Māori.

The board, principal and teachers have high expectations that students will increase their knowledge and confidence in te reo and tikanga Māori as they progress through the school. This is supported by a strong emphasis being given to te reo and tikanga Māori in:

  • school events and programmes such as powhiri, assemblies and transition to school
  • staff meetings and professional development opportunities
  • the school’s strategic and teachers’ planning
  • staff appointments and clear roles and responsibilities
  • student leadership opportunities.

The number of learners identifying as Māori is increasing and parents of Māori students are becoming more involved in the life of the school. The board and principal are looking at ways they can further improve consultation with parents of Māori students.

The board, teachers and students are proud of, and knowledgeable about, local Māori history.

The school has good relationships with local Māori and the runanga. The board and teachers appreciate their support and willingness to share their knowledge and culture.

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 has developed useful strategic and annual plans that show how specific long and short-term goals will be met over time.

Board members bring a range of experiences and skills to their role. Trustees have engaged in some governance training and have developed a useful governance manual as a result.

Trustees regularly seek parents’ views to gauge overall satisfaction with school operations and aspects of teaching and learning. The board values this input and goes to some effort to gain a reasonable sample of responses to surveys.

The board, principal and staff work well together. This has been further strengthened by the collaborative way they have approached a planned major building project. Teachers have used this opportunity to explore different ways of teaching and the best ways to use classroom space to support students’ learning. They have appreciated the professional development related to this process.

Areas for review and development

The process for internal evaluation needs significant development to better support school improvement. The board, principal and teachers all have a role in strengthening this process so that:

  • there is a framework in place that supports how evaluation will be carried out
  • the board regularly evaluates its own practices
  • reviews are followed through into action plans and include an evaluative component.
  • policy and procedural reviews are more manageable and up to date.
  • curriculum reviews are structured, systematic and reported to the board.
  • appraisals for teachers and the principal are more robust and contain evidence to show how the practicing teachers' criteria are being met.

The board would benefit from further training with an external provider, such as the School Trustees Association, to assist with building its evaluative capacity and effective use of assessment data.

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.

The school identified areas of non-compliance. To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

develop robust systems to ensure police vets are carried out for all support staff every three years [Education Act 1989 sections 78C]

Conclusion

This rural school provides a welcoming, inclusive learning environment for students in Years 1 to 8. There is a strong emphasis on learners’ wellbeing. Students achieve highly in reading and mathematics. Social skills and learning through sport are key curriculum features. Taha Māori is a growing strength. Assessment practices and internal evaluation processes need further strengthening.

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

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

20 October 2015

About the School

Location

Little River

Ministry of Education profile number

3418

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

10-7

Gender composition

Girls 52%;

Boys 48%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

Other ethnicities

74%

13%

13%

Review team on site

August 2015

Date of this report

20 October 2015

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

May 2012

December 2008

August 2012