Ruru Special School

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Education institution number:
4011
School type:
Special School
School gender:
Co-Educational
Definition:
School for pupils with intellectual impairments
Total roll:
91
Telephone:
Address:

Ruru Street, Invercargill

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School Context

Ruru Special School caters for students from five to 21 years of age who have high, very high and complex needs. There are six classes at the base school and satellite classrooms at Salford School, Donovan School and Verdon College.

There is a satellite at the Southern Institute of Technology Tertiary Education Centre (SIT TEC) supporting students aged between 16 to 21 years of age. A specialist outreach service provides support for students learning at other mainstream schools in the Southland area.

The school’s vision is to support students to reach their potential guided by the values of respect, manaakitanga, integrity, inclusion and excellence. The school’s 3 Bs are ‘Be Respectful, Be Prepared, Be Awesome’.

The board’s charter and annual goals are for students to develop:

  • the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) key competency for using language, symbols and texts
  • te reo Māori language learning
  • increased use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for students requiring this support
  • individualised education programmes that are tailored to the learner’s needs to give them opportunities to experience a curriculum that will help them with the skills for life in their community.

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

  • key competencies (KCs) from the NZC
  • achievement in relation to the school’s Level 1 Expanded Curriculum
  • Māori and Pacific students’ engagement
  • individual education programmes (IEPs) and/or individual career plans (ICPs).

Since the 2016 ERO review, the roll has increased. A number of new staff appointments and some staff movement between provisions has occurred. In addition to the principal, there are two deputy principals and six team leaders within the school management structure.

Prior to the 2020 ERO external evaluation, the Ministry of Education (MoE) provided support to the school for an independent facilitator to assist in the resolution of school complaints. The board has sought external expertise to help complete the review of the complaints procedure.

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 focusing on enabling equitable and excellent outcomes for students.

Students are assessed against goals in their IEPs or ICPs and the Ruru Special School Expanded Level 1 Curriculum. The school’s 2019 analysis of variance summary notes a positive increase in overall student achievement in relation to the school’s Level 1 Expanded Curriculum, across all NZC learning areas.

The school’s achievement information indicates that students progressed in their participation across four indicators in the NZC key competency ‘relating to others’. This was identified by staff as a key area to strengthen across the school.

The school is accredited to teach and assess National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Students over the age of 16 years have the opportunity to work towards NCEA Level 1 unit standards to meet their individual learning needs, interests and pathways.

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

The school responds well to Māori and other students’ wellbeing and learning needs. Board reports indicate that all Māori and Pacific students achieved in relation to their IEP or ICP goals. Staff continue to engage in professional learning focused on cultural responsivity.

There are good examples of goals celebrating Māori students’ language, culture and identity. Where appropriate, students participate in setting and discussing their IEP, ICP and transition plan goals.

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?

Several pre-conditions are in place to enable learner success. The school has teaching capability and capacity. Staff continue to participate in te reo Māori language learning and are developing their understanding of culturally responsive teaching approaches. The school has several staff who are bilingual. This is supporting staff to strengthen connections with learners and their whānau.

Leaders, teachers, teacher aides and therapists know students well and collaborate to promote students’ wellbeing and learning. ERO’s observations noted respectful, responsive and empathetic staff interactions and positive relationships with students. As a result, students show a sense of belonging to the school, and connection to their peers and staff.

The school’s multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning supports each student to learn and progress towards their individual goals. Teachers, teacher aides and therapists continually affirm and celebrate students’ efforts towards their goals and experiencing success.

Teachers, teacher aides and therapists share appropriate strategies and thoughtfully adapt practices that support students in their learning. Students’ ability to meaningfully communicate with staff and their peers is enhanced with some students accessing AAC approaches.

Teachers have improved their use of online digital teaching and learning platforms, particularly during COVID-19. Parents/whānau of students in the junior school now have the option of using a digital platform for regular, reciprocal sharing with teachers and therapists about their child’s learning and progress towards IEP goals. Extending this practice to senior students and their families is a priority.

The board includes experienced trustees with a long-term commitment to the school. There have been two recent resignations. Trustees are aware of the importance of long-term succession planning. They have co-opted a trustee with specialist knowledge to the board. Trustees have developed and refined policy and procedural documents. They have actively sought advice from external agencies when required.

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

Evaluation

As recommended in ERO’s 2016 report, the school must develop more rigorous evaluation practices and:

  • use a wider range of evidence, including inputs from all stakeholders to make evaluative judgements about what is working well and what needs to improve
  • critically think about the effectiveness of practices and their impact on learners
  • make recommendations that promote and result in improved learner outcomes
  • initiate a cyclic evaluation process to determine how well recommendations are implemented, and for what impact and outcomes for learners.

Responsive curriculum

School leaders should:

  • review the curriculum through the year working with staff
  • include more perspectives from whānau and students in the review to continue to promote a more responsive, localised curriculum to meet the diverse needs and aspirations of students and their whānau
  • provide sufficient detail of processes and examples in curriculum documentation to:
    • guide effective teaching, assessment and evaluation for individuals and groups of students
    • build the consistency of effective teaching practices over time and support staff induction
  • extend the use of assessment information to broaden the range of valued learner outcomes.

Whānau partnerships

The school should continue work to increase the quality and frequency of engagement with whānau. Priorities are:

  • after the disruption of 2020, return to formal IEP|ICP meetings to at least twice a year for all students, and more regularly as needed to respond to learners and respond to parent/whānau
  • to increase documentation of parent/whānau aspirations, views and contributions within IEP|ICP meetings, in students’ learning portfolios and transition plans.

Professional leadership

Distributed leadership to maximise school and teacher leadership capability is a focus. Priorities are:

  • to increase communication within the school, and with parents/whānau to build partnerships in supporting valued learner outcomes
  • for leadership to regularly seek input and respond to staff contributions to inform improvement.

Stewardship

The priorities for improvement discussed with the board are to:

  • use an external appraiser to evaluate the three senior leaders’ roles, responsibilities and effectiveness and provide external assurance to the board
  • conduct an external wellbeing survey for staff, to anonymously share their perspectives, and to offer input into the design and leadership of curriculum change
  • strengthen trustees’ scrutiny in relation to annual improvement targets, aligned more directly to valued student outcomes, and evaluate learners’ success
  • increase the community’s access to school policies and procedures.

Since the onsite phase of this review, the board has engaged an external appraiser to support the growth and development of senior leaders. The communication platform for engaging with parents/whānau is in place for the senior school and professional learning and development to improve evaluation is underway.

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 Children’s Act 2014.

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

  • complete the review of the concerns and complaints procedure to:
    • ensure the updated concerns and complaints procedure is easily accessible to parents/whānau on the school website
    • fully reflect best practice guidelines for complaints outlined by the Ombudsman New Zealand|Kaitiaki Mana Tangata and the Ministry of Education|Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga
    • maintain clear records at each stage of the complaints processes and the outcomes of the process followed to enable regular reviews of how well the process worked for students, parents, whānau, staff and trustees
  • ensure the processes for recording the board’s in-committee meetings are followed
  • consult with the school community to inform the school’s strategic direction and planning
  • ensure that whānau Māori views and aspirations guide the school curriculum review and bicultural practices
  • survey staff about their wellbeing to ensure that the board is operating as a good employer.

Since the onsite phase of this review, the school has completed its review of the complaints procedure and process. Actively inviting schoolwide feedback as part of the complaints process and board-led policy review should ensure the policy is robust and fit for purpose. The board is now using the in-committee minutes appropriately.

Consultation with whānau Māori is in place and progressing, building on the work underway in the school. As the school designs and implements new initiatives, the impact of these initiatives on students’ learning from whānau perspectives would enhance school decision making and strengthen learning partnerships.

4 Going forward

ERO will regularly monitor and evaluate the school’s progress in addressing the findings of this report. School leadership and stewardship should significantly strengthen evaluation processes for school improvement, sustainability and learner success.

Key strengths of the school

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

  • a student-focused environment that supports their sense of belonging
  • respectful and empathetic relationships between staff and students
  • committed and caring teachers, therapy teams, support staff and leaders
  • staff collaboration and shared responsibility for student wellbeing and learning.

Next steps

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

  • more rigorous evaluation practices and processes to determine how well the board’s, leaders’ and teachers’ practices are positively impacting on outcomes for all learners
  • further developing the school’s curriculum reflecting a more localised curriculum, catering for all students’ needs and interests, and strengthening learning partnerships with whānau
  • strengthening schoolwide professional leadership and stewardship.

Dr Lesley Patterson
Director Review and Improvement Services (Southern)
Southern Region - Te Tai Tini
8 June 2021  

About the school

The Education Counts website provides further information about the school’s student population, student engagement and student achievement.

Findings

Students have a strong sense of belonging at the school in a family-like setting where families and whānau are welcomed and included in activities and learning. The school’s vision and values are highly evident. Students are seen as capable and confident learners. There is a strong emphasis on ensuring that students are well prepared for their life beyond school, and can confidently take their place in the world.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years.

1 Context

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

Ruru Special School provides care and education for students with high and complex needs from ages five to twenty one years. The school provides programmes for students across several sites. Most students attend satellite classes, depending on their age, capabilities and family choice. All year levels are well catered for with:

  • Years 1 to 3 students at Salford School
  • Years 4 to 6 at Donovan School
  • Years 7 to 10 at Verdon College
  • ages 16 to 21 years in a Ruru-developed transition-to-work programme on the Southland Institute of Technology (SIT) campus.

Students have a strong sense of belonging at the school in a family-like setting where families and whānau are welcomed and included in activities and learning.

The school offers an outreach programme to provide mainstream schools with support for students with high and complex needs.

In 2014 the Ministry of Education (MoE) commissioned a report in relation to how well the school was providing a safe emotional and physical environment for students. The MoE has informed ERO that the board has responded to the recommendations in the report and has made changes to policies, procedures and practices. The changes have improved the quality of relevant documentation, follow up and reporting about behaviour management and student safety.

2 Learning

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

The school makes very good use of learning information to set challenging and realistic goals for each student. Students achieve well in response to the goals that have been set.

All students have an individual learning plan for what they need to learn and how to manage their personal needs. Staff have recently reviewed individual plans to better align agreed goals for student learning, wellbeing and transition. These plans now contain more and better detail to guide staff and to inform parents about students’ goals and future direction.

Teachers, teacher aides and therapists give frequent, timely and helpful feedback to students about their learning and progress. Students who can talk about their learning contribute to these conversations about what they and their teachers need to do to help them progress and to achieve their goals.

Each student is supported by effective communication between staff and families with a clear focus on what students need to learn to make the progress that best suits them. Parents are well informed about the progress their child is making.

Overall achievement is regularly monitored, collated and summarised in reports to trustees about how well the annual targets have been met. Trustees are well informed about how well students are being supported to make the necessary progress and what else can be done to accelerate progress.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum very effectively promotes and supports students’ learning.

Particular strengths include the:

  • strong focus on the ‘holistic’ development of the students
  • ways in which adults in the school promote students’ independence and self-management skills
  • wide range of interesting experiences and programmes students enjoy
  • effective use of the wider community to broaden students’ learning and experiences.

The school’s vision and values are highly evident. Students are seen as capable and confident learners. There is a strong emphasis on ensuring that students are well prepared for their life beyond school, and can confidently take their place in the world.

Staff work collaboratively to respond to the needs and abilities of each student and build on individual strengths.

The purpose-built indoor and outdoor spaces are attractive and well developed to give students a range of choices about activities that meet their needs and encourage independence. These facilities include:

  • a multi-sensory room to provide stimulation or calming programmes
  • a self-contained ‘flat’ to help students learn independent and social skills
  • a therapy pool and gymnasium to support students’ physical development.

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

The school effectively promotes educational success for Māori students. Māori students achieve well at this school. Students’ culture, language and identity are valued and celebrated. They benefit from a range of cultural experiences and visits.

The board makes good use of individual staff interests and cultural strengths to engage whānau in culturally appropriate ways. Teachers actively encourage and support whānau to be a part of their children’s learning.

The board is well informed about Māori student achievement and progress.

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 principal and deputy principal are highly committed to ensuring positive outcomes for students and their families. They have high expectations for students and teachers, and promote a collaborative culture of learning amongst staff.

There are comprehensive guidelines for governance. Trustees are knowledgeable about their roles and responsibilities. They generously provide resourcing for professional learning for all staff to ensure that students’ physical and learning needs are well catered for.

School leaders have developed useful systems for all aspects of school operations. The board and senior leaders acknowledge that the MoE-commissioned report in 2014 has been beneficial in helping them look more closely at how well these procedures and practices positively support student learning and safety.

Area for development

The board and senior leaders acknowledge that self review needs to be more rigorous. For the board to be assured that changes to policies, procedures and practices are having the desired outcomes, self review needs to include:

  • evaluative judgements about what is working well and what needs improvement
  • the sources of evidence that have led to the judgements being made
  • recommendations that support ongoing improvement.

These components are likely to lead to more meaningful evaluations of the effectiveness and impact of changes made.

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

Students have a strong sense of belonging at the school in a family-like setting where families and whānau are welcomed and included in activities and learning. The school’s vision and values are highly evident. Students are seen as capable and confident learners. There is a strong emphasis on ensuring that students are well prepared for their life beyond school, and can confidently take their place in the world.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years. 

Lesley Patterson
Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern

8 August 2016

About the School 

Location

Invercargill

Ministry of Education profile number

4011

School type

Special School for Students aged 5 to 21 years

School roll

64

Gender composition

Boys:     46
Girls:      18

Ethnic composition

Pākehā
Māori

54
10

Special Features

5 classes at Ruru base school
2 satellite classes at local primary schools
1 satellite class at a local secondary school
1 satellite class at the Southern Institute of Technology
Vocational and Transitional Programmes
Outreach service

Review team on site

April 2016

Date of this report

8 August 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

September 2009
August 2006
November 2002