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


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.

Monday 31 May 2021

Home learning

Term One 2021 Review Summary

Many reviewers commented that their policy was out of date or not consistent with current practice. We remind schools to check their topics before they are reviewed – this a very important part of keeping your policies and procedures up to date. Ask yourself, “Are we doing what we say we’re doing?” Remember, Home Learning is a fully tailorable policy and should reflect your school’s values and practices.

Home learning took on a whole new meaning for schools, students, and families as the country faced many new challenges with an extended Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. Auckland schools continued to face these challenges this year and many reviewers commented on this in our Home Learning policy review in term one this year. There was quite a bit of confusion about whether this policy was intended to cover learning at home during lockdown – it wasn’t.

As a result of our experiences over the past year, SchoolDocs has created a new sample policy for schools called Distance Learning. Generally speaking, most school policies and procedures will still apply while students are learning from home. Other topics that are particularly relevant include Delivering Online Learning (covers professional standards), Behaviour Management, Curriculum and Student Achievement Policy, Privacy, and COVID-19 Information.

What parents said

It wasn’t a surprise that parents were split on whether home learning is a good thing or not. Many love the idea of a “no set formal home learning” policy. Many noted that their children enjoy home learning. And many thought it was important for their children to have some home learning to prepare them for intermediate or high school (e.g. developing self-discipline and time management skills).

Unfortunately, some parents were not aware of the school’s home learning policy.
For those parents who would like their children to have home learning, key points included wanting:

  • relevant work, not busy work
  • a balance between home learning that requires using a device and home learning that doesn’t
  • clear and ongoing communication about home learning expectations and tasks from the school and teachers
  • device use to be meaningful and not just a time filler
  • a policy that reflects their child’s stage of learning (is appropriate to their year level)
  • a heads-up about what’s happening at school, not just the social media pics after the fact
  • more information about their children’s home learning so they can better support their children (can’t rely on children passing this info on)
  • support to use tools effectively e.g. Google Classroom etc.

As a result of parent feedback, we have:

  • changed our wording to “take responsibility for their own home learning as appropriate to their year level”, acknowledging that young children can’t be expected to be responsible for their own home learning
  • added wording about parents supporting their children to the sample secondary topic.

What teachers said

In general, teachers:

  • need to be aware of what the school’s home learning policy says
  • have limited time to check/review/mark home learning
  • need to ensure students have the resources at home required to complete any tasks set (digital and other)
  • commented that it’s difficult to manage parents’ differing expectations and preferences.

What schools might like to consider

Questions emerging from review feedback: 

  • Is your policy up to date? Many schools have tailored content here, which may not reflect current practice.
  • Is your home learning policy consistent with your school philosophy/values and does it reflect the views of your school community? Is there a special character statement you’d like to include in relation to home learning?
  • Have you got the right level of detail in your policy? You might like to keep your policy higher-level and provide more detailed information on your school website (we can link to this from your policy).
  • When and how do you communicate home learning expectations to parents? Parents expressed confusion and frustration when home learning differs within and across year levels and this is not communicated clearly.
  • If you don’t allow parents on school grounds (without signing in/making an appointment etc), have you considered how this impacts on parents being able to catch up with teachers informally?

The review process

  • A lot of parents provided review feedback – have you checked your school’s feedback? Contact SchoolDocs if you’re not sure how to do this.
  • If you asked for content changes via the review tool, please email us directly about this. The review process is to help us make improvements to our generic content, not make school-specific updates.
  • This term, schools (board, staff, and parents) are reviewing Reporting to Parents on Student Progress and Achievement, which is fully tailorable. One school mentioned that they hold a parent meeting about home learning at the beginning of the year, which is also relevant to this topic. We look forward to reading all the feedback from this review!

Monday 1 February 2021

Education and Training Act

Last year was an intense and busy year for us in education. We’ve all had to learn to work from home, become far too familiar with Zoom, and then get used to commuting to work again. All in the same year that saw the Education and Training Bill become an Act.

The Act was the biggest change in education legislation since the Education Act in 1989. This of course means we’re making changes to your SchoolDocs content. The first round of changes focused on areas that were changing immediately. These changes were mostly around inclusive education.

The release of the Education and Training Act closely coincided with the release of the refreshed Ka Hikitia and the Action Plan for Pacific Education. We used these and the Act as the basis of our updates to topics such as:

  • Changes signTe Tiriti o Waitangi
  • Inclusive Education
  • Recognition of Cultural Diversity 
  • Māori Educational Success (formerly Improving Educational Outcomes for Māori Students)

The changes we made not only cover legislative requirements but also reflect the Government’s commitments to improving educational outcomes and eliminating discrimination, while keeping the topics flexible to include your school-specific information. Check out the What’s New page on your SchoolDocs site (there's a link on your site’s Welcome page).

You can access the Model site from your Dashboard. This is where we show generic versions of our topics with the yellow highlighting that wording we can easily change. You can contact us at any time to make school-specific changes.

TKI has a fantastic resource with guidelines for helping students feel included. One consistent theme throughout these resources, and in the Ka Hikitia and Action Plan for Pacific Education, is building interdependent relationships with students and their whānau. The key to building this relationship is open and clear communication. Learners thrive in an environment where their background and identity is valued.

Future Education and Training Act updates

Another stated aim of the Education and Training Act was to consolidate the major Acts about education into one act. This means that many of the legislative requirements haven’t changed or have only had minor changes. We’ll be rolling out further changes to content as the new Act is implemented.

We’ve also been reviewing our Enrolment, Performance Management, and Appraisal topics as the next step in our updates.

Written by Chris Boyce.