Thornbury School

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1 Context

This is a small school with three classrooms. Teachers know the children well. A strong focus is placed on children's learning and wellbeing. A number of children travel to school from outside the local area.

A particular strength of the school is the way in which children, parents and the local community are made to feel welcome and involved.

Since ERO's last review in 2013, some new trustees and teachers have been appointed. This and previous reviews show that the school has maintained its focus on improvement.

The school's principal effectively leads school improvement and development. Staff and trustees ensure all children have the necessary opportunity to achieve and be prepared for life beyond school.

Children and teachers benefit from the school's involvement with other schools for sport, culture and professional learning. The school maintains and values close links with its community.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school are for all children to:

  • have high standards of literacy and numeracy
  • have a high standard of oral communication
  • be competent e-learners
  • have a sound knowledge bank in science, technology and New Zealand history and geography
  • be strong in their ability to question to learn
  • have the skills they need to problem solve
  • be able to manage themselves in their learning and in their ability to be capable, involved citizens in a bi-cultural Aotearoa and in the wider global world
  • have empathy for all
  • have very strong Thornbury School values and key competencies.

The school’s achievement information shows that a high level of achievement in relation to National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics is consistently achieved.

Mathematics is highest, mainly due to the school's development and use of clearer indicators of mathematics achievement for each year level. These indicators guide more focused teaching and assessment and are used by students to monitor and direct their own learning to a greater extent. Improved indicators for reading and writing are now being used in 2016.

Since the last ERO evaluation, the school has established clearer indicators of success for each year level in reading, writing and mathematics. These have increased clarity for teachers, guide their discussions and teaching, and are supporting children to be self-managing learners. These developments are the result of effective internal evaluations and professional learning in reading and mathematics.

3 Accelerating achievement

The school is very effective in identifying and responding to children, including Māori children, who are at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes. The school provides focused teaching and a variety of supportive interventions that are accelerating the progress of most of the identified children. The school is aware of the success of the teaching and support programmes. For those children still needing to accelerate their progress, the school is persistent in continuing to support them.

4 School conditions

How effectively do the school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices develop and enact the school’s vision, values, goals and priorities for equity and excellence?

The school's curriculum and other organisational processes and practices are highly effective to develop and enact the school's vision and valued outcomes for children.

A significant feature of the school is the deep knowledge the teachers have of every child in the school. They build the full picture of each child as a whole person. Children's strengths, interests, needs, health issues and general wellbeing are all considered and/or used as the focus for teaching and learning.

The school's curriculum is soundly based on the breadth and depth of the New Zealand Curriculum - principles, values, key competencies and subject areas. The school's foundation rocks (values and key competencies) guide how adults and children behave and interact with each other.

The principal and teachers understand the benefits of working with families to enhance learning. They communicate with parents in ways that suit the individual families, formally and informally. This includes useful reports sent home to parents that clearly outline the next learning for their children. The principal and teachers are relentless in working with parents to find an effective way to accelerate the progress of at-risk students. The strengths and interests of parents are welcomed and used to help enrich the broad learning for children in activities such as swimming, kapahaka, raranga (weaving) and athletics.

The principal provides strong leadership for the school. She ensures conditions for equity and excellence for all children are always uppermost in adults' considerations and practices. Expectations for teaching are explicitly set out and monitored to build consistency and excellence of practice.

The school's high level of internal evaluation was demonstrated in the teachers' 2015 inquiry into reading teaching programmes. Throughout this inquiry a focus on children and their learning was maintained with a definite link to the school's valued outcome for all children to be competent, confident readers. The inquiry showed the determination of the principal, teachers and trustees to have children take an increased role in their learning process. Children, with teacher support, set meaningful goals and provide evidence to show the achievement of the goals. The model used for this inquiry provides an excellent example for school improvement.

Teachers are increasingly working together, such as in professional learning and planning for the school and for individuals, to support each other to attain high levels of achievement for all children.

Trustees have a strong commitment to school improvement. They have developed useful procedures to evaluate the effectiveness of the board's performance. They are well informed and inquire deeply into the well-analysed information about student learning and achievement to build an understanding of what is going well and where improvements are required. They use this information to inform their funding and planning decisions. The school's strategic and annual plans are well aligned to the teaching and learning programmes. They support the trustees to achieve the school's valued student outcomes. The principal and trustees acknowledge how much more useful it would be for their school planning and evaluation if they received information about all of the desired outcomes.

The principal and teachers have a growing recognition and use of Māori language and culture as part of the school curriculum. The concepts of whanaungatanga/relationships and manaakitanga/caring are highly evident throughout the school. The principal, teachers and trustees provide a safe environment for all cultures, including Māori. A highlight of 2015 was the school's first involvement in the local Polyfest. The preparation and actual performance created a real sense of community and school pride and provided a new opportunity for parents to be involved in the school and their children's learning. The school maintains an annual Māori achievement plan. A key priority on the plan is for Māori children to achieve highly. This report identifies the need for the school to:

  • revise documentation through a Māori lens to firstly make sure they capture all that is already happening to assist their sustainability
  • identify what else they could be including in their curriculum and/or practices to provide for the ongoing success of Māori students as Māori.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children?

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond effectively to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how well teaching is working for these children
  • act on what they know works well for each child
  • build teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children
  • are well placed to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children.

The key actions that support teaching to be effective for all children are:

  • the principal has high expectations for children to achieve and provides effective leadership, particularly for teaching and learning
  • children receive deliberate teaching and support, particularly for literacy and mathematics
  • teachers place a strong emphasis on knowing the 'whole' child and ensuring that children feel cared for and belong
  • parents and the community are made to feel welcome and involved
  • strong emphasis is placed on improvement through ongoing learning and effective inquiry.

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

6 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 the following:

  • Board administration.
  • Curriculum.
  • Management of health, safety and welfare.
  • Personnel management.
  • 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.
  • Processes for appointing staff.
  • Stand down, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions.
  • Attendance.
  • Compliance with the provisions of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.
  • Provision for international students.
  • Provision for students in school hostels.

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

24 May 2016 

About the school

Location

Southland

Ministry of Education profile number

4028

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

50

Gender composition

Boys: 29 Girls: 21

Ethnic composition

Pākehā

Māori

Other

36

11

3

Review team on site

February 2016

Date of this report

24 May 2016

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

April 2013

December 2009

December 2006

1 Context

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

Thornbury School is a small country school that provides a welcoming and supportive family environment. Staff members work to ensure the family atmosphere helps students get on well with each other across the age groups. Students benefit from good relationships with each other and with their teachers.

Students talk positively about the school’s values, known as ‘Foundation Rocks’. These ‘rocks’ set clear expectations for behaviour and learning.

Since the last ERO review in 2009 the school roll is made up of a wider range of ethnicities. About a third of the school identify as Māori. The school is embracing its increasing diversity, seeing it as a strength and valuing the richness this brings. ERO observed friendly, active children well supported by the school’s vision to give all children plenty of opportunities to reach their fullest potential.

Stable staffing and small class sizes combine to allow all staff members to know the students and their families well. Parents and the wider community are well involved in the life of the school. There are strong home-school partnerships and an active parent group supports students and their learning.

The school is in a financially sound position. The board provides effective support for resourcing and the professional development of staff. Teachers and students benefit from upgraded ICT resources as well as facilities like a swimming pool and a new multi-purpose room.

2 Learning

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

The school uses achievement information very effectively to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement.

Areas of strength

The principal leads the staff well and works collaboratively with them:

  • by providing and monitoring the implementation of useful guidelines for teaching and learning
  • to use learning information to identify and respond to students’ needs and strengths
  • to create and implement action plans to bring about changes needed
  • to focus on those students who need to make extra progress within the year.

Teachers use achievement information effectively to:

  • know their students well as learners
  • know their students’ needs
  • plan and implement programmes to address the identified needs.

Students make good use of information about their learning to:

  • know what they have achieved and what they have to work on to make more progress
  • discuss the curriculum indicators with their teachers to set appropriate goals
  • take a key role in discussions between their parents and the teacher about their goals and the progress being made to achieve them.

Trustees use learning information well to:

  • contribute to discussions about setting annual student-achievement targets
  • make decisions about resourcing
  • monitor progress towards achieving the charter targets
  • report to the community about school-wide achievement.

Area for review and development

The principal has identified the need to develop further the monitoring and reporting of rates of

progress for individuals and groups of students across the school. Information about rates of progress will improve the quality of evidence for evaluating the impact of learning-support programmes and other interventions.

3 Curriculum

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

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

Areas of strength

Students benefit from good to very good teaching practices. Teachers work well together for the advantage of all students, sharing teaching ideas especially for students with identified learning needs. They make good links across subject areas to make students’ learning meaningful and provide them with opportunities to transfer new learning. The principal has a well-informed awareness of each teacher’s strengths and areas for further development.

The school has useful programmes to support students to make extra progress or provide them with more challenge. A competent teacher aide works with students, particularly in literacy and mathematics. There is regular communication among the principal, teachers and the teacher aide to ensure programmes are meeting the current needs of students. A variety of programmes are offered through a local school cluster to cater for students who are identified as gifted and talented. The topics for these programmes include leadership, ancient Māori games, written language and music.

The school’s curriculum is regularly reviewed and redesigned to ensure it reflects the students’ needs, strengths and interests. The principal and teachers make appropriate adjustments to the curriculum as a result of evaluating achievement information. They believe it is important to know their learners’ strengths, individual qualities and what may be hindering their progress. Students’ learning experiences are enriched through the input and involvement of the wider community. There is increasing provision for students to learn more about New Zealand’s bicultural heritage, including Māori language and culture.

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

The school very effectively promotes success for Māori, as Māori.

At the time of the review 31 % of the students identified as Māori. Many of these students are from the Kai Tahu iwi while some are from other local and North Island iwi. The school has a vision for their Māori students to be successful in all aspects of their individual identity.

The teachers have a good knowledge of their Māori students. Action plans are developed for each of these students and comprehensive reports of achievement are kept. Teachers meet with each student and their whānau to set next steps for learning and plan how these might be achieved.

Each year the school develops a Māori achievement plan, which is part of the school’s curriculum plan. Teachers have a growing awareness of Māori culture and effective teaching practices for Māori students. A teacher has been appointed to lead the school’s development in this area.

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 because:

  • findings from regular self review inform decision making for the board, the principal and class teachers
  • sound financial management ensures resources can meet the needs arising from reviews
  • the principal articulates high expectations for student learning and achievement, and for teachers as professionals
  • comprehensive professional development matches identified priorities and needs, and is focused on improving learning for students and lifting teaching practice
  • a rigorous and purposeful appraisal system is in place to raise student achievement.

The charter is well aligned with all aspects of school operations. School governance is guided by clear systems and well documented practices.

Area for review and development

The principal and trustees need to review their planning processes to ensure that the strategic plan clearly reflects and focuses on the school’s actual priorities.

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.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

30 April 2013

About the School

Location

Thornbury, Southland

Ministry of Education profile number

4028

School type

Contributing (Years 1-6)

School roll

51

Gender composition

Girls: 26 Boys: 25

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā

Māori

Other

31

16

4

Review team on site

February 2013

Date of this report

30 April 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Supplementary Review

December 2009

December 2006

December 2003