Alexandra School

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School Context

Alexandra School is located in Central Otago. It is a Years 1 to 8 primary school with a roll of 224 students. Of these students, 22% identify as Māori.

The school states that its vision is for students to learn to know, learn to do, learn to be, and learn to live together. Its values are: respect|te whakaute, responsibility|kawenga, and ready to learn|rite ki te ako.

Current strategic goals for improvement are in building student success, leading learning, and building cultural competency.

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

  • achievement in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to curriculum expectations
  • engagement and wellbeing for success
  • outcomes for students with additional learning needs.

Since the 2015 ERO review, a new approach to organising learning and a future-focused curriculum have been implemented.

The school is a member of the Dunstan Kāhui Ako| Community of Learning.

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?

Alexandra Primary School is achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for many of its students. Overall achievement information provided by the school shows that from 2016 to 2018 the majority of students achieved at or above curriculum expectations in reading, writing and mathematics.

There was some disparity in outcomes for boys in reading and writing and an overall downward trend in achievement in reading and mathematics.

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

School information shows that it is effective in responding to those students whose learning and achievement need acceleration.

The majority of those students who received targeted interventions were able to accelerate their progress and sustain gains made in achievement for reading and mathematics.

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 curriculum is responsive, future focused and learner centred. Teachers and students work collaboratively to design real-world learning contexts and tasks through an innovative curriculum. They make effective use of community resources and agencies to enhance opportunities for learning and achievement. The aspirations of parents and whānau are meaningfully included. This collaborative approach to curriculum enactment provides opportunities for all students to experience active engagement, individualised participation and agency in their learning.

The board and principal have established a collaborative culture, characterised by high relational trust and shared school values. These values are visible throughout the school’s planning. There is a clear focus on student wellbeing and whanaungatanga. Students participate and learn in a caring, inclusive environment. Teachers are supported to build their professional learning and efficacy. Resources are in place to support innovation and improvement. Students benefit from learning in an inclusive environment where their strengths, needs and passions are responded to.

School leaders and teachers have built effective relationships with whānau and the community to achieve valued outcomes for students. Parents, whānau and the community are welcomed, included and informed. Communication through new digital technologies supports and strengthens reciprocal, authentic sharing of learning between the home and school. Teachers, leaders and the board actively participate in the community of learning. Students learn within a connected, learning-focused community.

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

The school has identified, and ERO’s evaluation confirms, that some aspects of the school’s processes and practices are ready to be further strengthened and embedded in order to increase effectiveness in achieving equity and excellence for all students.

The school needs to establish explicit expectations for effective teaching in the essential learning areas, across Years 1 to 8, to ensure students’ learning pathways are consistent over time. This should include planned actions to scaffold the integration of te ao Māori across the curriculum.

The scope of internal evaluation should be widened by using a range of sources of evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of innovations and interventions, to know more about what is working best and for whom. Processes to measure, record and evaluate the sufficiency of students’ progress and acceleration should form part of this widened scope.

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 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of Alexandra School’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Well placed.

ERO’s Framework: Overall School Performance is available on ERO’s website.

5 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • its culture of collaboration and professional dialogue that leads to carefully considered innovations for improvement
  • its inclusive culture that promotes success by systematically responding to needs of students and their families
  • its purposeful connection with its community, through its people, places and digital platforms, that provide enhanced learning opportunities for all students.

Next steps

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

  • completing the work on the school’s future-focused curriculum, philosophy of teaching and assessment guidelines, to ensure a coherent and consistent pathway for students’ learning
  • building processes for measuring acceleration, and sufficiency of progress, so that trustees, leaders, teachers, whānau and students know that needs are being met in a timely manner
  • using achievement information from a range of sources, for internal evaluation, that better identifies the impact of innovations and interventions on students’ learning.

Alan Wynyard

Director Review and Improvement Services Southern

Southern Region

24 June 2019

About the school

Location

Alexandra

Ministry of Education profile number

3701

School type

Full primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

224

Gender composition

Male 54%, Female 46%

Ethnic composition

Māori 22%
NZ European/Pākehā 70%
Other ethnicities 8%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)

Yes

Provision of Māori medium education

No

Review team on site

May 2019

Date of this report

24 June 2019

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review December 2015
Education Review August 2011

Findings

The school provides a welcoming, positive environment for students and their families/whānau. Teachers support students well to know themselves as learners, lead their own learning and be confident in the face of challenge. Students who need extra support are helped with their learning and well cared for. Students and teachers make very good use of digital technologies as an integrated part of learning.

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?

Alexandra School in Central Otago provides education for students from Years 1 to 8. The school has maintained a strong focus on improving outcomes for students and a focus on preparing its students for life in the 21st century.

This has involved finding ways for:

  • teachers and students to continue to develop their use of digital technologies for teaching and learning
  • students to take a more active role in understanding and managing their learning
  • parents and whānau to access and share in their child’s learning
  • the school to strengthen effective practices in teaching and learning, and support for students through effective liaisons with other schools and organisations.

The school provides a welcoming, positive environment for families and visitors. Students are accepting and respectful of one another. They show a strong sense of identity and belonging to the school. They are supported to be mindful of their own wellbeing as learners and to celebrate the individual differences of others. They are encouraged and helped to challenge themselves in their learning.

Students benefit from close monitoring of their progress and achievement. All students have access to a range of interesting and broadening activities and opportunities for learning.

The board of trustees is working with the Ministry of Education to develop and rationalise the school’s buildings. Trustees are mindful of involving parents, families and whānau.

The school has made very good progress in addressing the areas identified for review and development in the 2011 ERO report, particularly curriculum development to support students’ ownership of their learning.

2 Learning

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

The school uses learning information effectively. School leaders and teachers place a strong focus on showing the progress students are making, and need to make, to achieve at expected levels.

Teachers and senior leaders use achievement information well to find ways to improve the achievement of all students. This includes the development of useful ways to:

  • share the results of assessment with students and parents
  • frequently monitor and update information about the progress students are making in their achievement, particularly in relation to the National Standards
  • share among teachers effective strategies that support students
  • report and make decisions to resource and support students to accelerate their progress.

About three quarters of students achieve at or above the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. In 2014 achievement in mathematics was highest at 80% with writing lowest at 70%.

Those students at risk of not achieving at expected levels are quickly identified. Appropriate targets for school-wide improvement, and plans and support are put in place to help these students make accelerated progress.

Students:

  • can talk confidently about their learning, achievement, progress and next learning steps
  • gather and use evidence about what they know and can do, and what they need to learn next
  • know about themselves as learners, evaluate their own learning and the learning of others
  • know about the purpose of assessments and the information that comes from assessments
  • can meaningfully explain their learning and how well they are progressing to their parents.

Teachers throughout the school share learning information well with students and support them to make sense of this information and use it to direct their own learning. Good use is made of digital technologies and professional discussions between teachers and leaders to:

  • bring consistency in assessment practices across the school
  • share information with students, parents and trustees about how well students are learning
  • continually adapt learning and support programmes to better meet the needs of students
  • use learning information to effectively plan for acceleration and monitor the effectiveness of plans for improvement
  • reflect about how well teaching has worked and adapt what they provide for students.

The next steps for further development include to:

  • strengthen the way teachers evaluate how well they support those students at risk of not meeting the school’s high expectations in reading, writing and mathematics
  • provide useful feedback to teachers through the appraisal process about the effectiveness of teachers’ support for targeted students.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is effectively promoting and supporting student learning. It is particularly purposeful in supporting students to develop the attitudes and skills needed to positively manage their own learning.

The curriculum has a clear focus on students `learning to learn’ which includes students:

  • developing a positive approach to learning
  • developing skills and strategies to manage when learning is difficult (being in the `learning pit’)
  • being encouraged to lead and direct their own learning and be involved in the planning of teaching and learning
  • working together on challenging learning tasks and `teaching’ each other, parents and teachers
  • working with digital technologies to plan and monitor their learning, as well as complete challenging `real world’ learning activities.

Students learn in a highly inclusive and supportive environment where each student has the opportunity to experience success. They have opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in a wide range of learning areas. Areas of strength include technology, digital literacy, physical education, performing arts and outdoor pursuits.

Students who need extra help with learning benefit from high expectations for their progress and achievement. They receive individualised learning support within classrooms from skilled teachers, teacher aides and specialist staff.

Teachers support students’ learning by:

  • personalising teaching to meet individual students’ learning goals
  • regularly seeking feedback from students about their teaching and students’ learning interests
  • giving high quality feedback that helps students to improve
  • modelling effective use of digital technologies in teaching and learning
  • ensuring students understand the language of learning and can use it to work together with teachers to design learning plans and activities that help them to achieve their goals.

Teachers in this school are actively connecting with teachers and education leaders in other schools and organisations to learn about and share good teaching practice. This is reflected in ongoing review and development of teaching and learning practices.

Parents have many opportunities to learn about their children’s learning and how they can best support that learning at home. Examples include, through participation in introductory sessions for new entrants, digital technology workshops for parents, and the provision of mathematics games for learning at home.

Leaders in the school are in the process of reviewing and updating the school’s curriculum. They are doing this in response to current research in education and in consultation with students, staff, parents and whānau. They are using professional development and their connections with other schools to build their understandings of effective curriculum design and implementation. They are developing clear guidelines and expectations to strengthen high quality teaching and learning.

Trustees are actively involved in consultation with the community about the direction of the curriculum at Alexandra School. They prioritise funding for professional development that supports leaders and teachers to strengthen teacher practices across the school. They receive useful reports on the impact of teaching and learning on student achievement.

The next steps include to:

  • review and align the guidelines for teaching and learning with the school’s own current best practices
  • evaluate the impact of the key aspects of the school’s approach to teaching and learning once these practices have been thoroughly embedded.

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

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of Māori students, particularly in the junior school in 2015. This increase indicates a level of confidence from Māori parents and the community in the school’s focus for promoting Māori success.

This focus on finding ways to accelerate success for and as Māori includes:

  • setting useful strategic goals, based on the government’s improvement strategy, for strengthening Māori success
  • making strategic appointments to build teacher capacity, lead Māori success and promote whānau involvement
  • closer monitoring and reporting of Māori students’ achievement to find ways to lift progress
  • building relationships with and involving Māori students, parents and whānau, and the local rūnaka.

These focused efforts have resulted in:

  • strengthened bicultural practices in the school
  • establishment of a kapa haka group
  • a more meaningful school-wide te reo Māori programme, based on waiata and purakau
  • students learning more about Māori language, culture and their identity
  • ongoing and improved engagement with and support for Māori students and whānau Māori.

The next steps to build sustainable practices to benefit all students, particularly Māori students, include:

  • reviewing each key aspect of school operations through a Māori lens
  • developing a plan that supports the school to build staff capacity and confidence in using te reo Māori and including tikanga Māori
  • finding ways to build Māori success further, for example by using students’ cultural identity and understandings as springboards for learning
  • accelerating the progress of Māori students not yet at expected levels in reading, writing and mathematics.

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 sets the strategic direction of the school in partnership with school leaders and the school’s parents and students. Trustees have a strong focus on providing the best opportunities for students and continually improving levels of student achievement. Trustees receive regular reports from the principal about progress towards achieving the school’s annual targets and goals.

The board ensures the principal benefits from purposeful, rigorous appraisal that supports her professional growth and ensures good evidence is shared about how she is leading the school to achieve the board’s vision for learning.

The school benefits from strong professional leadership. A collaborative leadership culture among the senior leaders in the school is developing leadership potential for the future. The principal takes a strategic approach to leadership to build and embed effective practices in teaching and learning. This is achieved through professional learning and development (PLD) targeted to the key curriculum development needs.

As a result, there is within the staff a culture of collaboration, enthusiasm, and innovation to achieve the best outcomes for students so they can be capable, confident, lifelong learners. The principal leads an adaptive culture that is embraced by leaders, staff and students towards continuous improvement.

Teachers are inquiring into their practice as an expected and natural part of what they do as professionals. They are gathering evidence of the impact of their teaching to know how to adapt what they do as needed or continue because it has worked well.

A useful appraisal system supports teachers to use evidence to show how they are meeting the school’s high expectations for the quality of teaching and continuing to improve. The principal is aware that the next step is for teachers to strengthen the focus they place in appraisal records on those students who need to make accelerated progress in relation to the National Standards.

Trustees, leaders and teachers have developed effective partnerships with parents by:

  • sharing a range of information through digital technologies
  • supporting students to lead discussions about their learning with their teachers and parents.

The next steps for trustees are to:

  • document clear guidelines for responding to reports they receive about students’ learning and progress, including the evaluative questions they want answers to and how to record a suitable summary of their evaluative discussions
  • strengthen the way policies and procedures are reviewed against actual practice in the school and any recent changes in expected practice.

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 provides a welcoming, positive environment for students and their families/whānau. Teachers support students well to know themselves as learners, lead their own learning and be confident in the face of challenge. Students who need extra support are helped with their learning and well cared for. Students and teachers make very good use of digital technologies as an integrated part of learning.

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

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

4 December 2015

About the School

Location

Alexandra

Ministry of Education profile number

3701

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

180

Gender composition

Male: 52%

Female: 48%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

80%

20%

Review team on site

October 2015

Date of this report

4 December 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

August 2011

May 2005

June 2002