Stirling School

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School Context

Stirling School provides education for students from Years 1 to 8. It is a rural school located in Stirling, Otago. There are 28 students on the roll.

Students learn in a multilevel class with two teachers. Staffing is stable, with a long-serving principal.

The school’s vision is that ‘self-belief and courage build success.’ Its values are for students to demonstrate respect for self, community and environment, and show honesty and care.  The school’s current strategic goals are to support student achievement and progress in the breadth of the New Zealand curriculum (NZC). The principal regularly reports to the board the school’s performance against these goals and the school vision.

Schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas is also reported to the board:

  • programmes and contexts for learning
  • achievement in reading, writing and mathematics
  • accelerated progress for those students who have not reached curriculum expectations.

The school is part of the South Otago Kāhui Ako|Community of Learning (CoL). 

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 working steadily towards achieving equitable outcomes for its students. Over the last three years achievement in reading, writing and mathematics has trended upwards. Achievement in mathematics is considerably higher than for reading and writing. Historically, boys and Māori students have not achieved as well as girls or their non-Māori peers, except in mathematics.

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

The school has effectively accelerated the progress of most students who needed extra support. The school data shows that since 2016, five of the six students who needed extra support to succeed have accelerated their progress and are now working at the expected levels for their ages.

Nearly all Māori students who needed extra support to succeed have made accelerated progress. These students are now achieving at expectations.

The board currently receives reports on the progress made by students targeted to have their learning accelerated. These reports need to identify groups of students who have not yet achieved at expected levels, so that informed decisions can be made to address this.

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?

Respectful caring relationships between teachers and students and among students, have developed and sustained the friendly, inclusive environment for students to learn. Students said to ERO that they like their school with its family-like atmosphere and that they feel safe. Teachers know students well and encourage caring relationships. Tuakana-teina relationships are evident in class and the playground, as is ako (where the learner is the teacher and the teacher is the learner).

Students learn through a broad curriculum. They experience a wide range of learning opportunities within and beyond the school. Students’ ideas are sought, valued and responded to. They are beginning to take an increasing level of responsibility for their learning. Students say it is safe to take risks in their learning and mistakes are regarded as opportunities for learning.

Since the 2015 ERO review the school has developed and documented all the learning areas from the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). The principal and teacher have identified, and ERO agrees, that it is timely to review these and further develop the social sciences.

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

Some of the recommendations from the previous two reviews remain areas for improvement, particularly internal evaluation/self review.

Students would benefit from having more information about expectations of achievement. This would support them to have greater control of their learning and be more self-managing and independent.

Internal evaluation needs to be better understood and implemented at all levels. The board, principal and teacher need to develop:

  • their knowledge and understanding of internal evaluation
  • a schedule to ensure all areas of school operations and students’ learning are reviewed over time
  • a robust framework to guide the evaluation process and ensure it is consistently implemented
    [ERO will provide an internal evaluation workshop for trustees and senior leaders.]

The current strategic plan contains business as usual rather than priorities for future direction. The board, principal and teacher need to identify the school’s priorities and include these in the strategic and annual plans.

Teachers’ planning needs strengthening. It is currently context and activity based. Teachers need to more explicitly show how they will provide age-appropriate learning opportunities, especially for targeted students. They need to focus on skill development to ensure all students are learning at their point of challenge.

Some processes and practices have not been well sustained over time. Some policies need to include more detail and be implemented more consistently, such as appraisal, cybersafety, teaching guidelines and others.

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

ERO found that while the principal appraisal process is well implemented and documented, aspects of appraisal for the teacher needed to be formalised and better documented.

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

  • ensure policies/procedures contain enough detail to cover the requirements
  • ensure that agreed school procedures are implemented consistently.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • caring, respectful relationships between teachers and students
  • the provision of a broad curriculum
  • its response to students’ voice.

Next steps

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

  • implementing rigorous internal evaluation
  • ensuring the strategic plan reflects the school’s priorities
  • targeted planning to accelerate learning
  • supporting students to know more about their learning and take increasing responsibility for it.

ERO requests that the board, principal and teacher develop an action plan to show how they will manage to address the recommendations from this report.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Alan Wynyard
Director Review & Improvement Services Southern

16 October 2018

About the school 

Location

South Otago

Ministry of Education profile number

3836

School type

Full primary (Years 1-8)

School roll

28

Gender composition

Boys:  16

Girls:  12

Ethnic composition

Māori                         9

Pākehā                    16

Other ethnicities     3

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)

No

Provision of Māori medium education

No

Review team on site

September 2018

Date of this report

16 October 2018

Most recent ERO reports

Education review:         September 2014

Education review:         May 2011

Education review:         February 2008

Findings

This school is small, inclusive and friendly. Older students get on very well with younger students. Students learn, achieve and progress in settled classrooms. Students enjoy a wide range of learning experiences. The next steps are for this school are to improve curriculum documentation and self-review practices.

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?

Stirling School is a rural school close to the township of Balclutha. Students enjoy the small size of their school. Some students travel to school by bus which the board pays for. Students who attend the school come from a range of cultural backgrounds.

The school is welcoming and friendly. Students learn in a family-like atmosphere. Younger and older students enjoy the many opportunities they have to work and play together. ERO observed positive and respectful interactions among students and between teachers and students. Every student gets to participate in sporting and cultural events. This promotes a sense of teamwork and belonging for students. Senior students willingly take responsibility for routines and day-to-day tasks.

The school culture is inclusive. Students consider teachers are supportive of them and their learning. The staff are collegial and reflective in their practice and are focused on improvement.

Some areas identified in the 2011 ERO report remain areas for review and development in this report, particularly self review and the curriculum.

2 Learning

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

The school is using achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement.

The school’s achievement information shows:

  • that in 2013, approximately two thirds of the students achieved at or above the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics
  • an improvement for mid 2014 indicating that most students were achieving the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics
  • more students have made accelerated progress in reading, writing and mathematics than those who had not during the last year.

Over the last two years the school information shows increasing proportions of students achieving at or above the National Standards in reading, writing and/or mathematics.

Students assess their own work and that of others. This leads to useful comments about the learning and what would make it better. Some students discuss their learning information in three-way conversations with their teachers and parents. This helps build a positive home-school partnership.

Teachers know the students well as individuals and their learning needs. They use achievement information for:

  • student goal setting
  • grouping students according to their needs
  • reporting to parents
  • targeting students who need extra support.

The principal reports student achievement information to the board in reading, writing and mathematics.

The board uses student achievement information to help inform its decision making and allocation of resources to best support students.

Areas for development:
  • Senior students would like to be asked more about aspects of their learning including:
  • the pace of lessons and level of challenge
  • levels of achievement
  • how they can contribute to decisions about their progress and achievement.

Teachers’ planning needs to more explicitly show how they are planning for individual students.

The principal needs to improve the analysis, interpretation and reporting of students’ progress to assure the board that programmes are meeting students’ needs.

3 Curriculum

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

The school curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning.

The school’s values of ‘respect for yourself, and others,’ are highly evident throughout the school. Teachers make effective use of the local environment and expertise providing relevant contexts for student learning. Students benefit from a broad range of learning experiences.

All students learn an additional language (Mandarin) and technology throughout the year.

Students in the junior class are very well supported through individualised programmes and high levels of adult support. Senior students are making good use of information and communication technologies (ICT) as part of their learning programmes. Students were asked about aspects of their learning and their suggestions were responded to positively.

The school’s curriculum appropriately reflects New Zealand’s bicultural heritage and the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. Students have taken several opportunities to learn about Māori perspectives.

ERO observed teaching in all classrooms where positive relationships, effective use of thinking tools and teachers assessing students’ prior knowledge were evident.

Areas for development:

There is limited documentation to support teachers’ use of the school’s curriculum. More detail is needed to show how this school will:

  • incorporate the key competencies and principles of the New Zealand Curriculum
  • ensure the coverage and monitoring of the strands and achievement objectives in all learning areas.

Curriculum guidelines also need to include specific expectations for teaching and learning. This level of detail should provide a better basis for the school to undertake rigorous and robust review of its curriculum.

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

School leaders and teachers are effectively promoting educational success for their Māori students. ERO observed some good examples of Māori students having success as Māori.

Teachers know their Māori students well as learners and individuals. Tuakana-teina relationships are a natural part of life at this school. Teachers use some students’ knowledge of te reo Māori to support teaching and learning. The views and opinions of Māori students and their whānau are gathered and responded to appropriately.

All of the Māori students who have been at school at least one year have made accelerated progress in reading, writing and/or mathematics in relation to the National Standards.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is satisfactorily placed to sustain and improve its performance. It should be well placed when the areas for review and development are addressed within this report.

The board is interested in student achievement information. Trustees are focused on raising student achievement. There is very strong evidence of the board reviewing its own performance against the school’s strategic goals. The board acknowledges that the annual priorities in the strategic plan should be more clearly identified.

The principal effectively reports to the board on progress towards the school’s strategic goals.

There is a comprehensive appraisal process in place for all staff. The principal’s appraisal clearly links to school’s strategic goals and priorities.

Area for review and development:

The principal acknowledges, and ERO agrees, that self-review needs to be better understood and implemented to bring about ongoing improvements for students. ERO sees this as a priority.

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

This school is small, inclusive and friendly. Older students get on very well with younger students. Students learn, achieve and progress in settled classrooms. Students enjoy a wide range of learning experiences. The next steps are for this school are to improve curriculum documentation and self-review practices.

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

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

5 September 2014

About the School

Location

Stirling, South Otago

Ministry of Education profile number

3836

School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll

27

Gender composition

Boys: 15 Girls: 12

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

Māori

Others

13

11

3

Review team on site

July 2014

Date of this report

5 September 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Supplementary Review

May 2011

February 2008

May 2005