Westbridge Residential School

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Education institution number:
4157
School type:
Special School
School gender:
Co-Educational
Definition:
School for pupils with learning/social difficulties
Total roll:
4
Telephone:
Address:

488E Don Buck Road, Royal Heights, Auckland

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School Context

Westbridge Residential School in West Auckland is a special school for students with learning and social difficulties. The school caters for students in Years 3 to 10. Nine students from across New Zealand were resident at the school at the time of ERO’s review.

Westbridge is part of national provision of intensive support for children and young people with highly complex and challenging behaviour, social or education needs. Students are currently referred to the school as part of the Intensive Wraparound Service. They are resident there for up to two years, with most staying less than one year. The school has capacity for 32 students.

The school and residential cottages provide a programme that is designed to support students to learn new skills and to stay engaged in education. Valued outcomes for students focus on them acquiring new ways of behaving and interacting with others that enable them to successfully transition back to their whānau and into a mainstream educational setting.

A Ministry-appointed board was established in 2014. The board governs Westbridge Residential School and Halswell Residential College in Christchurch. The school sets targets for the achievement of students in reading, writing and mathematics. These targets focus on all students making at least 18 months progress during their time at the school.

Since the 2015 ERO review there have been many changes to staffing. These included a number of principals and deputy principals, some of whom were employed in an acting capacity.

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

  • participation in the school and residential programme

  • development of self regulation and social skills

  • social and behavioural incidents

  • progress and achievement in reading, writing and mathematics

  • transition into the school

  • enrolment of leavers in mainstream 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 committed to providing conditions that promote better outcomes for all students.

The small roll, very small cohorts of groups of students and the short term nature of residential stays limit the dependability of analysis of schoolwide data.

The key competencies, especially managing self and participating and contributing, are key drivers of the curriculum. The school gathers useful information about individual students in relation to these areas. Refining the use of the data could further inform students’ next steps and meet students’ learning needs.

School data related to the valued outcomes for students show that in recent years 80 percent of leavers have enrolled in mainstream schools.

Entry levels of achievement in reading, writing and mathematics are low. Over time, while the greatest improvement has been in writing, achievement is higher in reading.

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

The school is successful in accelerating learning in relation to the key competencies for most students.

This improvement is measured by progress in relation to the school’s criteria for development of social competencies and self regulation. Students’ achievement is motivated by incentives and recognised with rewards.

Teachers use appropriate assessment tools to determine students’ instructional levels in reading, writing and mathematics. Information gathered from assessment tasks helps teachers to identify and plan for students’ next steps.

Recent achievement information shows that 40 percent of students make accelerated progress in reading and writing and 50 percent in mathematics.

Collaborative approaches between teachers and teacher aides, and cottage managers and youth workers, support students to learn new skills and extend their knowledge. Explicit teaching of skills develops self-awareness and social skills through the school and residential programmes.

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?

Staff are committed to the work they do with students. They focus on developing students’ academic and social skills. As a result, improvements in learning and wellbeing are prioritised.

Relationships between students and staff are seen as paramount. Small class sizes, along with low cottage rolls, enable staff to develop in-depth knowledge of students’ preferences and learning needs. This knowledge helps staff to work in the interests of students.

The school’s curriculum prioritises the teaching of the key competencies. This focus is promoted across both the school and residential operations. Students benefit from the consistent use of strategies and approaches.

Staff reflect on their practice during opportunities that are incorporated into school processes. Spontaneous reviews of events and situations promote shared understandings among staff. These opportunities help staff to respond better to students’ needs and the immediacy of day to day situations. Professional learning and development for staff supports the implementation and consistency of appropriate practices.

The school has good systems for knowing about students, their background and health, and their wellbeing and learning needs. Staff share their knowledge of the student as they contribute to comprehensive, cumulative records. Regular review meetings provide opportunities for people who are closely involved with or have expert knowledge of the student to consider his progress and achievement.

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

School leaders are considering ways in which the combined experience and knowledge of residential and school staff can strengthen practices. This collaboration would promote greater consistency across the school and contribute to the school culture.

Leaders and teachers need to review the school’s vision for teaching and learning. They could then establish a curriculum that is informed by best practice, research and theory. Student engagement, enhanced independence and readiness to reintegrate into mainstream schools should be desired outcomes that are promoted through the curriculum.

It is timely for leaders and staff to strengthen cultural responsiveness within programmes and the curriculum. Making te ao Māori more visible in the school through the use of te reo and tikanga Māori could help promote the cultural identity of Māori students and bicultural perspectives of Aotearoa New Zealand for all students. The Ministry of Education documents Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners and Hautū - Māori cultural responsiveness could be helpful tools to support this process.

Strengthening internal evaluation processes is a priority for leaders and staff. This would enable them to measure the effectiveness of decisions made and the impact of programmes, initiatives and interventions on positive outcomes for students.

As the new Direct Referral Pathway to residential schools is implemented, the school should ensure it has robust plans in place to cater for the increased roll so that high quality outcomes can be expected for all students.

The board should ensure that good progress is made in addressing the areas identified for development.

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.

Provision for students in the school hostel

All students are accommodated in three cottages. The cottages are licensed as the school hostel by the Ministry of Education. The board has attested in a Hostel Assurance Statement that it meets minimum standards as specified in the hostel regulations.

The cottages are appropriately staffed and managed. Residential staff develop supportive relationships with students as they work closely with them individually and in groups. Staff organise a range of recreational activities for students. They support students to participate in their interests or sports within the wider community. Most students are in regular contact with their family or whānau.

Staff focus on helping students to learn new ways of behaving and interacting. Regular professional learning and development facilitated by specialists from the Intensive Wraparound Service (IWS) supports staff to understand the young people in their care and to develop their own practice. Students are supported to develop self-management and social skills that are important for their return to their own communities.

Residential staff contribute significantly to the body of information that the school collects about each young person’s growth and development. Residential staff, along with other school staff, work closely with IWS to bring together appropriate plans and approaches for individual students. They are aware of the challenges for the students in independently using the skills they have learned when they are in the wider community.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • relationships that help staff to work in the best interests of students

  • teaching that prioritises the key competencies

  • opportunities to reflect that help staff to better respond to students’ needs

  • systems for knowing about students that help staff to understand their backgrounds and their health, wellbeing and learning needs.

Next steps

The leadership team and ERO agree that for sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are in:

  • sharing experience and knowledge to promote greater consistency across the school and to contribute to the school culture

  • reviewing the school’s vision for teaching and learning to establish a curriculum that promotes student engagement, independence and readiness to reintegrate into mainstream schools

  • strengthening cultural responsiveness to promote identity, language and culture for Māori students and bicultural perspectives of Aotearoa New Zealand for all students

  • ensuring there are robust plans in place to cater for the anticipated roll increase so that high quality outcomes can be expected for all students

  • strengthening internal evaluation to determine the effectiveness of decisions made and the impact of programmes, initiatives and interventions on positive outcomes for students. (ERO will provide an internal evaluation workshop for trustees and senior leaders.)

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

Te Waipounamu - Southern Region

31 January 2019

About the school

Location

West Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

4157

School type

Special School

School roll

9

Gender composition

Boys 9

Ethnic composition

Māori 6

Pākehā 3

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)

No

Provision of Māori medium education

No

Review team on site

November 2018

Date of this report

31 January 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review August 2015

Education Review December 2010

Education Review May 2009

Findings

Students at Westbridge Residential School receive highly focused, very professional support in classrooms and cottages that is helping them to meet their learning and behaviour goals and experience success. They are building academic and personal skills as the basis for being able to make better choices about their futures.

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?

Westbridge Residential School is a special school for students with learning and social difficulties. The school and residential cottages together constitute a programme that is designed to support students to learn new skills and ways of behaving, stay engaged in education, and enjoy a successful home and school life.

The school is part of national provision of intensive support for the small number of children and young people with highly complex and challenging behaviour, social or education needs. Students are referred to the school as part of the Intensive Wraparound Service and are typically resident there for 3 terms. The school has previously catered for students in Years 3 to 8. Recent changes mean that the school will now also cater for older students in Years 9 and 10. Currently most of the students are from the wider Auckland area.

Since 2014 the school has been under the stewardship of a national appointed board that is also responsible for Halswell Residential College in Christchurch. Trustees have been appointed for the particular area of expertise they bring in aspects of special education and school governance.

ERO has not reviewed Westbridge Residential School since 2011, when there was a commissioner in place. ERO was not happy with the provision for learners at the time, and had not been for several reviews prior to that. The role and future of the school was under review for some time, and this period was unsettling and difficult for staff. Since that time, there have been significant changes in school leadership and governance.

2 Learning

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

Each student at Westbridge is assessed very carefully across a range of dimensions. Typically students have serious gaps in their literacy and numeracy skills. Diagnostic testing to determine what needs to be addressed first is used to help develop a programme that is right for each learner. While ninety percent of the students are below or well below National Standards, the challenge is accelerating progress for each individual learner.

Good strategies are used to share achievement data across the school and to build student ownership of their progress. Very small classes and high levels of positive adult attention also help learners to make good progress. Students quickly become confident in the school setting, and classrooms are purposeful learning environments.

Students take part in a programme of graduated behaviour modification as part of their learning. Expectations are very clear and there are agreed behaviour and learning goals for each student. Consistent implementation of individualised programmes across the classrooms and cottages, and a cheerful professional culture is resulting in increasingly happy and engaged learners.

Current professional development for teachers in strategies that help students understand the learning process and how to help students write better is having pleasing results.

Comprehensive achievement data are reported to the board. The challenge now is to consider how to present data most simply and effectively to better inform others, including families and whānau.

3 Curriculum

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

The school curriculum is very effective in promoting and supporting student learning.

While priority is necessarily given to literacy and numeracy, the other learning areas of the curriculum often form the context for basic skill development.

Staff recognise that the curriculum operates both in the classroom and in the cottages, and they work hard at making learning activities enjoyable and relevant. Cottage staff play a very important part in implementing the learning programme for each student. The high degree of consistency of programme implementation between the classrooms and the cottages is a result of the professional culture now established across the school.

Good humoured and respectful relationships among staff and between staff and students help to build a culture of success for each learner. Students take part in a diverse range of sporting, cultural and developmental activities that are designed to broaden their experiences, provide personal challenge and build self worth.

The liaison teachers in this school play an important role, supporting families and whānau to make change sustainable. They also liaise with schools the students have come from and the schools they will go back into. A key part of their role is to help schools use the most effective strategies to keep these vulnerable young people engaged in education.

There is a strong focus throughout the school on enhancing student wellbeing. Staff are beginning to use NZCER’s Wellbeing at School survey to monitor how students are feeling, and to build a longitudinal data base to inform planning.

The school’s curriculum is aligned to the vision, values and principles of The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). It would now be worthwhile to consider aligning the school’s social skills programme more explicitly to the key competencies of the NZC.

The school population is constantly changing as students enter and leave the programme. One of the challenges in designing the curriculum is considering how to most effectively cater for older learners now that the school will also be taking students from Year 9 and 10, who bring with them different levels of prior learning and achievement.

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

About one third of the students currently in the school are Māori. Many of the Māori students coming into the school do not have strong sense of where they are from or what their iwi affiliations are. The staff are aware of the need to build each student’s sense of belonging and pride in their cultural identity. Many of the staff model this effectively and are able to play a key role in building mana Māori in the school.

A staff member also serves as the school kaumātua. He is able to provide worthwhile guidance to help staff across the school to experience and value tikanga. Te Mangai, a group of staff committed to supporting success for Māori, has been in place for some time. They make a valuable contribution to growing the cultural understanding of all staff.

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. External factors that have made the school’s future uncertain have mostly been resolved.

There have been significant shifts in the culture of the school. There is now a clear:

  • shared vision of what matters most
  • alignment between the programme in cottages and classrooms
  • embedded and distributed leadership
  • robust, coherent, well understood systems
  • specific focus on learning success, both social and academic.

The focus throughout the school is on building success for each student.

The impact of good leadership is very evident in the confidence and capability of the senior leadership team and the increased professional engagement of staff. Teachers are now able and willing to inquire into the impact of teaching strategies, and there is a shared agreement about the importance of reflective practice in classrooms and cottages. The use of data to inform practice throughout the school is highly evident.

The national board sees part of its role as aligning Westbridge Residential School and Halswell Residential College in terms of key documents. Policies and procedures are currently under review nationally. Trustees are keen to take advantage of opportunities to build professional dialogue across the two schools, and to provide access to high level expertise to support each school.

Trustees are also aware of the need to continue to foster professional growth in their staff so that there are good opportunities for professional learning that promote improvement and innovation.

Next steps for senior leaders include:

  • refining the appraisal system to remove unnecessary complexity
  • continuing to build a richer understanding of the value of Māori language, culture and identity in the school
  • exploring further ways of using available data from classrooms and cottages to improve practice.

The board of trustees, school leaders and staff share a commitment to answering the most difficult question in this kind of special education: what evidence is there of benefits for students in the short and long term? They are currently gathering data to allow them to interrogate their own practice and are using data collected to inform what they do. Long‑term outcomes are harder to measure, but staff know the importance of demonstrating the value that they add.

Provision for students in the school hostel

In this review ERO evaluated the extent to which school cottages provide a safe physical and emotional environment that promotes learning for the students accommodated there. All the students at Westbridge are accommodated in one of three cottages. The cottages are licensed as the school hostel by the Ministry of Education and are required to comply with minimum standards as specified in the hostel regulations. The board attested in a Hostel Assurance Statement that it meets these requirements.

The cottages are well managed, helping students to feel at home and secure in a warm and welcoming environment. Good food and interesting, student-centred activities characterise each cottage. Students are given practical support to develop self-management skills and social skills that will stand them in good stead.

Some of the cottage staff provide good leadership in the use of te reo Maōri and are helping students build their understanding of Maōri language, culture and identity. Their modelling of manaakitanga and whanaungatanga helps to benefit the whole school.

Hostel staff play an important part in helping to collect data about each child’s growth and development, so that evidence can be collated about what they are doing and its impact. They are well aware of the challenge of ensuring that change for students is sustainable in other environments. The role that they play in engaging families and whānau is an important and valued part of the outreach of the school.

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 at Westbridge Residential School receive highly focused, very professional support in classrooms and cottages that is helping them to meet their learning and behaviour goals and experience success. They are building academic and personal skills as the basis for being able to make better choices about their futures.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

5 August 2015

About the School

Location

Royal Heights, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number

4157

School type

Special School

School roll

19 (The school has a notional roll of 40)

Gender composition

Boys 18

Girls 1

Ethnic composition

Māori 6

Pākehā 12

Samoan 1

Special Features

Residential School

Review team on site

June 2015

Date of this report

5 August 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review December 2010

Education Review May 2009

Supplementary Review February 2007