Wednesday 16 November 2011

Review Summary: Students with Special Needs

This section was reviewed by staff, board, and parents in term 3 this year and it was great to see so many responses from parents.

Most of the review comments were very positive, both about the content and about their school’s implementation of it. Principals and boards – please check your Implementation feedback, many reviewers had very school specific comments or issues.

We have made a number of small changes which you can see on the Draft topics (links are on the Upcoming Changes page on the Demo site).

The biggest changes have been made to Reading Recovery (including a new topic) and English Language Learners (Non English Speaking Backgrounds, as was).

Note: Many schools have school specific topics in the Special Needs section. If you do, check your version against our draft versions and advise us which, if any, of our proposed changes you want incorporated.

Please note that we are developing a Dyslexia topic at the moment.  We hope to have that available as a draft for you to consider early next year.

Note: The Perceptual Motor Programme (PMP) topic is optional. If you no longer run the programme, let us know and we’ll remove it from your site. Or, if you want it now, please send us the details and we’ll put it on your site. Likewise Reading Recovery.

Successful Reviewing

The review process gets better and better – we’re very heartened by the way schools are using the process. Many boards/syndicates/staff groups are reviewing at specific meetings and sending their ratings and feedback individually or as a group. We all benefit from the experience, knowledge, and  suggestions of the reviewers.

When we collate the reviews we generally end up with a number of points to follow up and we carefully consider changes we make to the topics. Before advising you of the draft topics, we normally run them past a subject matter expert which I guess we could consider another “review”. We exhort you to read the implementation reviews provided by your school community, and follow up on school specific issues raised there.

It was good to have so many reviews from parents and we want to encourage this!

We observe that there are things that some schools need to do to enhance their review process. They are:
  • Check that the review instructions you give to reviewers, particularly your parent reviewers, are up to date.  You can cut and paste the instructions from your dashboard, and they are also in the topic Review Instructions. We dispensed with the passwords (bin, sin, pin) earlier this year.
  • Before advising the school community of the review, check that your school specific details are correct. We’re not talking about the content of the topics, just things like roles and names, etc.
  • Explain that the review is of the topic on your SchoolDocs site and advertise its URL. We still sometimes get people reviewing from the Demo site or Model site (neither of which contains your school specific material).

Review Summary: Appointment Procedure

It’s great to see the level that boards are engaging with policy reviews. Clearly boards are looking at the topics for review, and suggesting improvements, querying points and examing how it all works at their school. Exactly what a review should do.

It’s great to see the level that boards are engaging with policy reviews. Clearly boards are looking at the topics for review, and suggesting improvements, querying points and examing how it all works at their school. Exactly what a review should do.

Most reviewers were happy with the topic and felt that the appointment procedure worked well. We’re pleased to hear that our forms and guidelines are appreciated and useful.

A few reviewers pointed out that the school specific material on their site was no longer current. This is out of our control and we urge schools to check these details. Have a look at the Appointment Procedure topics on the Model site ( – use your admin username and password) to see where the school specific content is. Check what you have on your site. You can email us changes which we can action almost immediately. We have alternative topics for Catholic Schools which can be seen on the Demo site ( Usually schools choose these when they fill out the tailoring questionnaire, but they can be added to sites at any time.

You’ll see from Upcoming Changes that we have made some small changes to the Appointment Procedure topics. Some of these are to acknowledge the use of the internet and email in the process, and some are to clarify or expand on a point. For example, we have made it clear now that the board ratifies the appointment committee’s decision before the successful candidate is notified.
Other review comments that we’ve discussed at SchoolDocs are:
  • Time frames – a reviewer suggested that an outline of time frames for the complete appointment process would be helpful. We think that there are many variables that can affect time frames, such as the position advertised, the school size, circumstances of the position becoming vacant, etc. This is something schools decide on when considering advertising the appointment, and there is a bulletpoint in the appointment package topic that refers to “the timeline” of the procedure.
  • Keeping interview notes in case an applicant requests them – we’d be interested to know if this situation has arisen in any schools. As we understand it, schools can refuse requests for the interview notes on the grounds that it breaches the Privacy Act. (Specifically, Part 4 Good reasons for refusing access to personal information, 29 (1) b and (3). ) To summarise (sort of), it states that releasing evaluative or opinion material gathered to “determine the suitability, eligibility, or qualifications” of a job applicant breaches the express or implied promise of confidentiality of the person who supplied the material.
  • The 90 day employment clause – there is no mention of this clause in the Collective Employment Agreement, and NZEI has told us that they don’t think it applies to schools. We are still checking this, but at this stage have decided to leave it out of our document.
  • Right of Appeal – once again, we’d like to know how often this happens in schools – NZEI tells us that it is very rare. It would come under Personal Grievance in the Collective. We haven’t mentioned it in our document.
  • Reimbursement for interview costs – in the topic Shortlist Applicants, we say “Negotiate in advance any travel expenses incurred by the candidate”.  That’s as detailed as we want to get, the negotiation bit is school specific. However, there are mileage rates in the Collective…
  • Board members involvement in the process – a reviewer suggested that board members be given the opportunity to “sit in” on appointment committee meetings and even interviews as a learning experience – to observe, and understand how decisions are made. Sounds like a great idea and something schools could consider for particular board members and appointments.
As always, we invite your comments on this blog entry. We are interested in your thoughts and experiences and think you should share them with the SchoolDocs community.