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.

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!