Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Health, Safety, and Welfare (Term 1)

Term 1 2022 Review Summary  

Here at SchoolDocs, 2022 has been a year of significant growth and change so far. Our aim is to help schools have confidence in their policies, and this year we introduced a spruced-up review schedule to support that goal. The updated schedule groups related topics and encourages feedback from the whole school community. 

As we near working with two-thirds of all schools in Aotearoa, we’ve also welcomed five new team members who are proving invaluable in supporting the implementation of an even more robust review system. You might also notice a few changes to our look – we’re working on keeping SchoolDocs an engaging space for all users. 

Our updated review cycle starts with an in-depth review of health, safety, and welfare. As content that concerns the whole school community, we were pleased to receive a wide range of responses in term 1. Review topics were divided into the sections of Health and Safety Management, and Emergency, Disaster, and Crisis Management. Insights from schools into both of these areas showed how committed schools are to creating a safe space for students, and supporting the health and wellbeing of all school personnel. We’d like to thank all those that have engaged with the review process and provided feedback on both the content and our new schedule.

Commentary across both sections showed that schools were looking for greater clarity in their health and safety procedures. We’ve addressed the need to make information clearer by working on format and readability throughout these topics. Making sure we’re up to date with all relevant resources has been central to this review, and we’ve tried to consider the section as a whole when reflecting updated guidance. 

Health and Safety Management

For the health and safety management topics, a significant change has been to align our wording with the Health and Safety at Work Act. Previous versions of these topics used “teacher” or “staff member”, but we’ve changed this to “worker” where applicable. This change recognises that the policies refer to a range of workers on school sites, and health and safety is a shared responsibility among all parties. 

We’ve made changes to allow schools to include greater detail in their risk management and hazard register procedures. Documents in this section have also received an updated look from our design team, and will be available for use when we roll out the topics to all schools.   

Emergency, Disaster, and Crisis Management

We’ve strengthened policies in this section to support schools in extreme and challenging scenarios. While we hope that emergency, disaster, and crisis procedures are infrequently called into use, it’s important to have a reliable framework in these circumstances. The changes throughout this section are interlinked, and updates to specific information are reinforced by corresponding changes in related sections of the document set.

In our updates to this section, we’ve tried to balance the need for clear guidelines that apply to all schools, while creating more space for school-specific information. We’ve reinforced information that is most relevant to the school community, recognising that greater detail can be provided through school emergency plans. If you haven't already, add emergency preparedness as a standing agenda item to board and staff meetings, along with general health and safety reports.

To help schools have confidence tackling emergency situations, we’ve strengthened content that applies to a range of scenarios, such as evacuation procedures, communication during an emergency, and what happens after an event. Our new After an Emergency, Disaster, or Crisis topic brings together recommendations from a number of sources to help schools navigate the challenging time that may follow an unexpected event. We’ve researched and revised this content to provide what we hope will be a valuable resource for schools.

What next?

We encourage you (if you haven’t already) to compare our proposed changes across these sections with content on your own site. We realise there's a significant amount of information to absorb. On the Demo site, we recommend looking out for the Action column and checking where we might need input from you. Thanks again from the team for working with us through our transformation phase. We’re here to find what works best for schools, and we’re committed to making those changes.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Māori Educational Success

Term 4 2021 Review Summary

In term 4 2021 school boards, teaching staff, and parents were invited to review our generic policy “Māori Educational Success”.

Feedback on the policy 

The overwhelming response from schools was that the policy itself was clear, comprehensive, easy to follow, and up to date, with useful links to supporting documentation. Reviewers commented on the policy’s relevance and how it clearly outlined Ministry of Education policy and legislated obligations. Schools found that it covers what is needed, was accurate, thorough, and provided clear direction for implementation.

Here are some comments from reviewers, in their own words: 

  • Clear, aspirational as well as achievable. Up to date, aligned with current research etc.
  • This is a clearly stated and well thought-out policy, drawing on national policy documents and tailored for our specific community. Equity issues and adherence to Te Tiriti o Waitangi are rightly prioritised by this policy.
  • Relatively straight forward and easy to read. Does rely on the reader understanding what implementation plans provided by MoE and education agencies are – so this point could be expanded to be clearer.
  • Promotes the school’s commitment to Te Tiriti and specifies the different aspects of staff, student and community partnership to achieve this.

Feedback on the policy’s implementation

Schools were clearly committed to the policy and most felt they were implementing the policy well but that there is always room for ongoing work and improvement. Many expressed a need to engage more with their Māori whānau and iwi, and some highlighted a need for more staff professional development. Many wondered: what does success look like for our Māori students?

Here are some comments from reviewers, in their own words:

  • Well under way for our Māori learners. Tracking what this 'looks like' is the challenge; however this has been a focus for all staff and for our tamariki. 
  • Currently working for our school – we need to personalise it for our community more, but will need consultation with local iwi for appropriate content. 
  • We need to consult our Māori whānau more about what they want to see us doing to support their children's learning and the teaching of tikanga, te reo Māori and the history of the Māori.
  • I think our school has done a good job of transitioning from originally making it a specific focus, towards making it something that is now just part of what they do on a day to day basis.

Improving the policy and its implementation

A small number of reviewers showed a lack of understanding of why this policy exists. This feedback, largely from parents, expressed a desire to prioritise all student achievement and a concern that a focus on race was racist. In general, it showed a lack of understanding of te Tiriti’s bicultural priorities. We have now added an introduction to the policy, which provides some helpful context.

Some reviewers wanted this generic policy to be more specific to their school. We remind schools that this policy can be tailored. However, once tailored, schools need to take responsibility for keeping up with our recommendations for content updates. Schools may prefer to keep our generic wording and link to a specific document with more details, or to keep their school-specific information in their strategic plan.

Many reviewers wanted more detail about the processes and outcomes of implementing this policy and sought a shared understanding of what Māori achieving as Māori and what success as Māori might look like. As implementation is a matter for each school, we leave that in the hands of schools, but direct those interested to the (updated) resource links at the bottom of the policy, which offer some useful guidance. 

Many school reviewers noted that the policy would be richer if it had more feedback from their whānau and iwi. Ensuring that the policy is reviewed in consultation with your local Māori community is essential, and we have reinforced this message in the policy. 

A number of schools mentioned the challenge of reporting on Māori student achievement to the school community due to confidentiality issues (e.g. if they had a small number of Māori students at their school). The requirement to report on Māori student achievement to the school community comes from the NAGs, which will be repealed on 1 Jan 2023. We will update the policy as needed after this happens, but meanwhile we know that schools will be using their own judgements to determine what is appropriate for reporting. 

Although it is outside their scheduled review period, note that other related topics will also be updated as part of our internal review following the feedback received for this topic. Keep an eye out this year for updates to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Recognition of Cultural Diversity, Inclusive Education, and Racial Harassment.

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.