Sunday, 7 November 2021

Behaviour Management

Tēnā koutou to the significant number of staff members, board members, and parents and whānau who contributed to this term's behaviour management review. It's clear that school communities feel a shared responsibility to ensure a safe and supportive school environment. Your feedback shows the commitment to this outcome, and the importance of working collaboratively to maintain it.

This term’s review focussed on behaviour management, as well as subtopics covering school values, stand-down and suspension, and bullying. As subject matter that strongly impacts the school experience, we hoped to integrate as much community feedback as possible. The team was tasked with reflecting a range of approaches that schools take towards behaviour management. We also aimed to address how these topics reflect an evolving educational environment.

In writing policies to suit a range of schools, our aim is to provide a sound framework while encouraging school-specific detail. Behaviour management feedback showed us schools want to see more detail about their processes. Because of this, we’ve emphasised areas where schools can tell us about their approach, with a reminder to provide us with an up-to-date behaviour plan. Feedback shows that schools are taking up innovative approaches to conflict resolution, acknowledging the impact on all parties, and integrating their values throughout the behaviour management process. If there’s further detail you’d like to see included in your policies, let us know.

Reviewers noted the line between behaviour management and school values is not always defined. We’ve updated our school values content to show how schools can outline their guiding principles or provide a mission statement. We’ve updated our sample wording to be more widely applicable, but we encourage schools to check how their content aligns with current values. Schools can tell us how their values form a part of their behaviour management plan. We’ve seen that schools are weaving these approaches together to support a more cohesive strategy.

A major change that we’ve made is integrating our cyberbullying subtopic into a comprehensive bullying topic. Reviewers noted that online bullying is one of the most important formats to consider when talking about bullying in today’s world. Many of the prevention and response strategies for online bullying apply to a range of other types as well. Prevention is central to many schools’ approaches, and forms part of the main goal voiced by many of our reviewers – to create a safe, positive, proactive learning environment. 

Topics that we’re removing as part of this review are no longer aligned with the process that most schools describe. Our older topics of Formal Discipline Plan and School Rules take a prescriptive approach that no longer suits the majority of schools. We’re also reviewing terminology throughout SchoolDocs sites to ensure we comply with Ministry guidance concerning school rules. School boards are now required to consult with their school communities (with sampling at the discretion of the board) when making bylaws. This applies to making new school rules and updating pre-existing rules. We’ll continue to consider this in future. In the past, we’ve asked if schools would like to remove School Rules and Formal Discipline Plan topics from their sites, and we’ll be removing them by default from the small number of school sites where they remain.

Read through our changes to the behaviour management section on the Demo site. Thank you for your feedback, and for helping us make policies more sound for all schools.

Monday, 16 August 2021

Visitors

Term Two 2021 Review Summary

Nau mai, haere mai! We received over 1000 pieces of feedback from reviewers (board, staff, parents), which have helped us improve our generic Visitors policy. This is an important policy designed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of visitors, students, and employees and provide guidelines to set out expectations and legal requirements.

It was encouraging to find the policy working well for many. The review clearly prompted discussion about how to improve interactions with visitors (e.g. signage, reporting to the office, making parents/whānau feel welcome, limiting disruption to teaching and learning, vehicle access and safety). It was also noted that the school’s Visitors policy is an important part of staff induction.

Covid app
Many reviewers were confused by the wording about visitors recording their visit by scanning a QR code poster. We have addressed this by stating the Government’s current messaging in a note at the beginning of the topic:

“Under the COVID-19 Public Health Order, all schools are required to display a QR code poster for the NZ COVID Tracer app in a prominent place at or near the main entrances. Our school displays a QR Code and visitors are encouraged to use NZ COVID Tracer app to track where they have been. This is in addition to any other sign-in processes in place.”

SchoolDocs will adjust the prominence of this message as appropriate to alert levels, and Government requirements. For more information, go to Keep track of where you have been and Contact tracing

Who is a visitor?
We have widened our terminology referring to “parents” to read “parents/caregivers/whānau”, which is more inclusive. 

Is a parent a visitor when dropping their kids off?
We’ve updated our sample wording to state that “All visitors to the site, except those dropping off or picking up students before and after school, are asked to report to the school office.” This wording is tailorable and schools should check that their topic reflects what happens in practice.

Schools are smokefree and vapefree
Many reviewers noted that schools are smokefree and vapefree. This is covered fully in the Smokefree Schools topic but we’ve updated the wording in the Visitors topic to make this clearer. Remember that you should now be displaying vapefree signage also.

Privacy issues and sharing photos/videos taken at school
In response to feedback, we’ve added the statement “We encourage visitors to consider privacy issues when sharing photos and videos taken at school events.” and we link to the Sharing Images of Students topic. We suggest using other everyday communication methods (see your Communicating with Parents topic) to remind your school community about privacy issues prior to relevant events (e.g. sports days, EOTC events).

What about dogs on school grounds?
Visitors should know whether they can bring a dog onto school grounds, and under what circumstances. We’ve added optional, sample wording about dogs on school grounds, and we remind schools that there are optional topics that cover this issue. Contact us for a link or search “dog” on the Model site.

It is illegal to wear gang insignia on school grounds
Under the Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Act 2013, it is illegal to wear gang insignia on school grounds. Schools leaders should be prepared to act if this is a problem at their school. The Ministry of Education has helpful information, including steps schools can take. We have updated our generic wording to include asking the person to remove the item.

Reverse evacuation
We’ve added a link to the school’s Reverse Evacuation/Lockdown information because it stresses that “Parents must follow any instructions issued by the school, including not coming to the school to see or collect their children. This is particularly important when the school is in lockdown under Police instruction.”

Vehicles on site
Lots of reviewers commented about vehicles having a walking escort when in areas where students may be present. There was support for the idea but some surprise that this was part of the policy/procedure as many had never seen it happen! We supply sample wording for what schools might like to cover about vehicles on school grounds and this part of the topic is fully tailorable – let us know what wording works for your school.

Many reviewers commented that their sign-in processes were out of date or not consistent with current practice. We remind schools to check their topics before they are reviewed – this is a very important part of keeping your policies and procedures up to date. 

Ask yourself, “Are we doing what we say we’re doing?” If not, get in touch so we can update your content!


Reporting to Parents on Student Progress and Achievement

Term Two 2021 Review Summary

The SchoolDocs team received over 1500 pieces of feedback in response to last term’s scheduled review of Reporting to Parents on Student Progress and Achievement. It was great to see so many users engaging with this topic – as noted by schools and community members alike, reporting to parents is a requirement under National Administration Guideline (NAG) 2, and is a crucial mechanism in forming productive home–school partnerships.

We’ve included references to the NAG in our new topic but are aware these will be repealed in 2023 to make way for the new National Education and Learning Priorities (NELPs).

We’d like to remind schools this topic is fully tailorable and our Model topic is a sample, with prompts, to guide you. Almost all schools have a tailored version of this topic but there were commonalities in the feedback, outlined below.

Formal parent interviews and student-led conferences

Some reviewers noted formal parent interviews and student-led conferences have different functions (reporting on progress vs. celebrating student achievement), and a combination of both may be more beneficial than favouring one over the other. Conferences give students an opportunity to take ownership of their own work but parents also said they’d like an opportunity to talk to teachers without the student present.

In both approaches, there was a sentiment that meetings needed to be well-organised (given their brevity), and mediated by the teacher to be meaningful, with a focus on collaboration and positive interactions. Schools’ reporting schemes should provide a balance of reporting on progress and on achievement.

For high schools, parents noted having time with subject teachers gave a more comprehensive picture of student progress and achievement compared with speaking to form teachers only.

In response to feedback, we’ve reinstated wording about formal parent interviews in our new Model topic.

  • Schools may want to consider the timing of reporting methods and how they work together. For example, interviews/conferences could coincide with written reports to give meetings a focus, interviews may be more useful earlier in the year to discuss goals/issues, and student-led conferences could come later in the year when students have settled in class and made some progress towards goals. A number of reviewers pointed out that the timing of sessions is not always manageable for working parents, so schools may want to offer an alternative to accommodate more families.
  • Check your topic to ensure any dates specified are correct.

Written reports

Reviewers emphasised a need for concrete data, authenticity, and ease of access to information in written reports. While some parents enjoyed infographics, others preferred more individualised and specific comments related to their child’s learning.

Again, a holistic approach and considerations of timing were at the forefront, as parents noted discrepancies in assessment data versus reports, and summative reports were perhaps received too late in the year for families to provide constructive support.

We’ve noticed an increase in schools using various digital reporting systems (Spotlight, Educa, etc.) and a move towards real-time reporting. Schools using digital platforms may want to provide access help for families and whānau to ensure their community is supported in engaging with these tools, and interpreting the information available. This can be done through your newsletter or website. You may also want to notify parents as platforms are updated. For clarity, schools utilising multiple platforms may want to add a brief summary of the kind of information parents can expect to find on each (e.g. written reports vs. portfolios of achievement vs. everyday communication).

In response to feedback, we’ve updated our sample/generic topic to include:

  • an option for schools to include wording about reviewing and moderating reporting practices to ensure consistency across the school
  • a stronger description of written reports (i.e. literacy and numeracy assessment information, teachers drawing on a range of evidence to build a comprehensive picture of students’ learning (NAG 2)
  • wording about the school contacting parents if a student is identified as needing additional support. Schools may want to add detail about how parents can arrange appointments with the teacher.

We can update your topic at any time; consider our updates and your own school’s implementation feedback and email us any updates.