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Villa Disappointed in new Government's "Transparency"

Villa Education Trust Disappointed in new Government's "Transparency"

One of the key platforms of the new government was to be their transparency. The Charter School situation is in the public interest, there are threats to close them and legislation before the House to do just that.

The Prime Minister and Minister of Education have both stated that there will be an open and good faith negotiation process. For our Trust that has barely started. We have had one meeting, of 50 minutes, with Ministry officials on February 13th and the Ministry have not yet provided feedback on the proposals we put to them at that "negotiation". At present their process is incredibly disrespectful to our students and families.

We are aware that other Charters schools have met the Minister and Associate Ministers of Education. We are not able to do that and it is not clear why we are being treated differently. We have a complaint before the Auditor-General on the issue of fair treatment.

With it clearly in the public interest how these schools are doing the latest piece of artifice by the Minister was to release the long delayed Martin Jenkins Report into the performance of Charter schools by simply placing it on a Ministry website on Friday evening to miss the news cycle. In this case the is not about achievement (it was not designed to be) it is, incredibly importantly, about the experiences of the students and whanau with the schools.

The new government ought to be transparent and the Education Minister was been promising this with broad consultation. It is therefore deeply disappointing to see a senior member of the new government attempt to bury the first report that contradicts his preconceptions and ideology.

The Villa Education Trust fully participated in the surveys on student and whanau experiences (91% of student responses were from the VET and 50% of Whanau responses).

The comments below are important and clearly very positive. They deserve wide coverage. We are happy to answer any questions.

We are also hoping for a much better approach to a "transition" from the Minister to enable us to both continue and expand our, clearly, outstanding work.

Full report:

Some of the key findings are:

• The most common reason that students joined the Middle Schools was that they thought that they would learn better at these schools. The next most common reason was that the class sizes at the Middle Schools are smaller than at other schools (this is a particular point of difference for SAMS and MSWA — their class sizes are limited to 15 students).
• The feedback from Middle School students on outcomes was extremely positive. They reported improved engagement and learning, in comparison with their previous school. The highest levels of agreement were for:
- I am learning better at this school than I did at my previous school
- I am more hopeful for my future now compared to when I was at my previous school
- I enjoy my school work at this school more than I did at my previous school.
• Responding parents’ satisfaction levels were very high
• The Middle School students were also asked if the school has met or exceeded these expectations. There was a high level of agreement that the school was meeting or exceeding expectations in these areas.
• The level of students’ satisfaction with the Middle Schools. Students’ satisfaction levels were high.
• The highest level of agreement from the Middle School students was “I am learning better at this schools than I did at my previous school.” The statements that received the next highest levels of agreement were “I am more hopeful for the future now compared with when I was at my previous school,” and “I enjoy my school work at this school more than I did at my previous school.” In fact, for all the statements, the levels of agreement outweigh the levels of disagreement.
• The Middle School students reported that the most common ‘biggest change’ for them was that they were learning better at this school than they were at their previous school. Other statements that were commonly voted as the biggest change included:
- “My attendance at this school is better than it was at my previous school,” and
- “I have better friendships at this school than I did at my previous school.”
• This feedback implies that the Middle School students have a positive view of their school, attend school more often and are generally more engaged with their school and school work.
• The statement that received the highest level of agreement was:
- “This school is a good choice for me,” followed closely by
- “The things I learn at this school will help me succeed in life,” and
- “Feedback that I receive on my school work helps me to improve my learning.”
• Feedback from the Middle School students showed a lift in both academic and career aspirations compared with before they joined a PSKH.
• The students reported lower aspirations before joining the PSKH.
• The students reported holding higher aspirations now: a lower proportion of Middle Schools’ students said they are planning to find work, and a higher proportion are aiming to attend tertiary education.
• PSKH had a good understanding of their students both as a group and as individuals.
• PSKH are meeting their learners’ needs using good and innovative practices. Practices are matched to local needs while still meeting high quality standards.
• Innovations are driven by an intention to provide better education for students who had been under-served by the education system.
• PSKH are also innovating in other areas (staffing, student engagement and support, and pedagogy, teaching and learning), but to a lesser extent. PSKH are less innovative in the areas of curriculum and engagement with the community, however they are using good practices (eg tailoring to context and need).
• Further work in the second year of the evaluation found that teaching and learning approaches in PSKH are specifically driven by schools’ understanding of students’ needs and their local context. Teaching and learning is supported by good (and in some cases very good) assessment practices. PSKH leaders have a good understanding of assessment
• Conditions enabling successful operation of PSKH include small rolls and class sizes, strong sponsor visions and sponsors building on a history of success in education.
• Whānau and learner experiences appear to be positive.
• Whānau whose children are currently attending a PSKH are attracted to the offerings and values (including cultural values) of PSKH. Whānau are satisfied with what PSKH are delivering and feel the PSKH are offering a positive alternative.
• Whānau whose children are currently attending a PSKH also reported feeling more involved in their child’s learning, and more confident communicating with the PSKH. Very few learners appear to be opting out of PSKH.
• The range and nature of innovations we found within PSKH provided early evidence the schools/kura were developing innovative solutions to match local needs while still meeting high quality standards.
• The key driver of innovation was found at the governance level: the sponsor’s vision provides the impetus and mandate for innovation in all other areas.
• Innovative practices and examples of best practice were evident in three dimensions driven by management.
• Staffing: skilled staff support and bring innovation — they were experienced (including the small number of unregistered teachers) and brought a strong focus on improving outcomes for priority students; staff shared the responsibility for ongoing innovation with sponsors and management and were employed under individual contracts.
• Student engagement and support: there was a strong focus on student wellbeing and engagement using a range of best practice approaches and innovations.
• Pedagogy, teaching and learning: multiple examples of best practice, with approaches well matched to context and student need — while similar examples can be found in state schools, these practices are not widespread across the state sector.
• Each school/kura endeavoured to employ the highest quality staff possible; quality staff were identified by the sponsors as vital to achieving their vision.
- Instilling high aspirations for every student and broadening student horizons
- Involving parents/family/whānau in their student’s education journey.
• Overall, we found that assessment practice across the schools/kura was ‘good’.
• Leaders in all of the schools/kura had a good understanding of the relationship between assessment practice and student achievement outcomes. They saw good assessment practice as a core component of quality teaching and learning, both for groups of students and for individuals.
• Year 3 also provided good indications that once joining a PSKH, students and whānau have positive experiences. Very few appear to be actively opting-out of PSKH, indicating that the PSKH are successfully meeting their needs. Importantly, the data shows that engagement had significantly improved for students attending PSKH (compared with their engagement in other schools). Students from the PSKH cohort were stood down less often (and for shorter periods) at PSKH than they were at other schools. Although students from the PSKH cohort were suspended at about the same rates at PSKH and other schools, they were suspended for significantly shorter periods at PSKH.
• The whānau survey results broadly showed that respondents are choosing PSKH to improve the educational outcomes of their children. They are also attracted to PSKHs’ wider offering and values, including their cultural values. Responding whānau provided positive feedback on PSKH meeting their expectations for a positive alternative, and are satisfied with what the PSKH are actually delivering. Interestingly, these whānau also reported positive outcomes in regard to their own engagement with the PSKH, feeling more involved in their children’s learning and more confident dealing with the PSKH than with their previous school. These whānau also reported (and attributed) improvements in well-being and relationships with the children, following joining the PSKH.
• Survey feedback also showed that all of these expectations are being met or exceeded by the PSKH.
• In addition, whānau reported high satisfaction with the PSKH their children are attending across a range of areas related to achievement and engagement. This included very high satisfaction with how their children are learning, how the school is recognising their culture, how happy and safe their children are, and how often they attend.
• The students’ most common reasons for attending were the same as whānau for choosing PSKH: to learn better and because of smaller class sizes
• Both of these expectations are being met by the Middle Schools.
• Whānau had the highest levels of agreement for the following engagement outcomes:
- I feel more involved in my child’s learning at this school compared with my child’s previous school
- I am more confident in communicating with this school than I was with my child’s previous school.
• When asked what the biggest change was since their child started at the PSKH, the two most frequently chosen things were:
- I feel more involved in my child’s learning at this school
- I have a better understanding of my child’s feelings and needs since they started at this school.
• Whānau also gave very high levels of agreement showing very high satisfaction with the PSKH their child is attending.
• Students generally agreed that it was the school itself that was helping them improve.
• The two biggest changes identified by students since starting at the PSKH were that they were learning better and that their attendance was better.
• Questions about their future showed a lift in students’ academic and career aspirations since joining the PSKH. More are now aiming to achieve NCEA Level 3, and more are aiming to continue to tertiary education.
• Few students appear to be ‘opting out’ of PSKH
• There was a significantly lower occurrence of stand downs (and fewer days stood down) for these students while attending PSKH.
• The statements that received the highest levels of agreement were:
- “I feel more involved with my child’s learning at this school compared with my child’s previous school” and
- “I am more confident communicating with this school than I was with my child’s previous school.”
• There is a very high level of agreement that the school is making a positive difference in these areas for students and whānau.
• The most common “biggest change” compared with at their child’s previous school was that they felt more involved with their child’s learning at the PSKH.
• I am more confident communicating with this school than I was with my child’s previous school.” These results show that for those who responded, there has been an increase in parents / families / whānau engagement with the school and with their child’s learning since starting at a PSKH.
• There is a very high level of agreement that the school is helping improve these areas for students.
• These results further cement the idea that responding parents are very satisfied with the PSKH, and that they are more engaged with the school and their child’s learning than they were while their child was at their previous school


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