ERO 'very positive' about school changes

Steve Hall.
Steve Hall.
A follow-up inspection to a damning report about senior management in Queenstown's only secondary school was ''very positive'' in its early verdict, the principal and board of trustees chairman say.

Wakatipu High School was officially visited by two inspectors from the Education Review Office (ERO) for about 48 hours over three days earlier this month.

The inspectors individually interviewed new principal Steve Hall, senior management team members, heads of learning and deans. They also met the staff representative on the board of trustees, a guidance counsellor, board trustees and the chairman, Alistair Nicholson.

They gave Mr Hall and Mr Nicholson a summary of their visit before departing.

The visit was a follow-up to an ERO review released in February 2011 which triggered major changes within the school, including the sudden departure of then principal Lyn Cooper in September last year.

ERO identified ''significant issues'' relating to communication, consultation and change management which badly impacted on the school's operation.

''The principal and senior managers have not been effective in smoothly implementing recent major initiatives that have come about in response to the school's revised curriculum,'' the 2011 report said.

''While students have benefited from the new curriculum design, the implementation of the initiatives has resulted in unnecessary anxiety and stress for teachers.''

''It was those key things they came back to look at,'' Mr Hall told the Otago Daily Times when asked how the visit went.

''So they didn't go into classrooms on this visit or look at year plans for curriculum. This visit was to look at those leadership issues which had been identified in that February 2011 report.''

Mr Hall said the inspectors asked many questions, which was their job, but there were ''no surprises'' in terms of the areas they were probing.

''Their report for Alistair and I was very positive that in the last couple of months we've made some progress and got some clarity around what we're about and our objectives ... and the things that we're really going to focus on."

Mr Nicholson said he and board members were ''exceedingly happy'' with the progress the school made in a short space of time. He credited Mr Hall, his predecessor interim principal Paul O'Connor, of Dunedin, and the willingness of school staff to embrace new leadership changes.

Staff members were ''energised and understood what their roles are.''

''Al the indications [ERO has] given us are the school's made significant progress to the extent they are returning to the normal three-yearly cycle of reviews, with the next in 2014.

''They were very positive about the clarity and vision of the school. They were happy to see the management of the school was engaged and the issues of communication identified in the ERO report no longer exist.''

The inspectors will write their report and send it to the school for consultation before it is expected to be released to the public in February or March.

james.beech@odt.co.nz