Action plan released for Waitaki Boys’

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Waitaki Boys’ High School has a number of harmful traditions that need to come to an end, commissioner Nicola Hornsey announced yesterday.

Ms Hornsey, who was appointed in October, has spent the last month completing a Scoping Phase which included learning the processes at the school and speaking to the community in order to resolve issues at WBHS.

This phase was expected to be finalised in a Scoping Report and Action Plan, to help the school get back on track, was due to be completed on November 13 but it was delayed until yesterday because of the high numbers of people who wanted to share their thoughts on the school.

The commissioner, an employment law consultant, was appointed following a meeting by the Ministry of Education on Monday, October 6, after the board of trustees was disestablished due to a lack of confidence in the governance of the school.

In a letter addressed to staff, parents and community members yesterday, Ms Hornsey announced that after talking to more than 140 people she found changes were needed.

“While most of the traditions are an integral part of the school’s special character, some of the school’s traditions are not acceptable in a modern, well functioning New Zealand state school.

“2014 needs to be remembered as the year that the harmful traditions came to an end and a number of new traditions, such as the honouring of achievement of Māori and Pasifika students, began.”

While the harmful traditions have not been expanded on, Ms Hornsey does point out, in the Scoping Report, several areas of operation that need review and development.

These include pastoral care, the school acting as a good employer, communications and public relations, financial management and reporting, and governance practice.

These areas will all be review in the following months with many developments aiming to be completed by term one or two next year.

Her Action Plan explains how each area will be reviewed and what the expected outcome is with the overall aim being student achievement and well-being, having a school with developed and consistently implemented policies and students, parents, staff and a wider community with increased confidence in the school.

In the Scoping Report she states that the school faces a high risk in terms of being able to attract and retain students in the hostel, a very high risk of employment related complaints and grievances, a high risk of dissatisfaction and complaints as a result of its current communications strategy and management of public relations and a high risk of exposure in terms of legislative non-compliance because of having a poor governance framework.

Ms Hornsey was not available for comment when contacted by the Oamaru Mail yesterday.

Areas for review and development

Pastoral care: Having confidence that the school is supporting the well-being of all students is very important in order to optimise individual student achievement and is paramount in the hostel where the school acts in loco parentis for nearly one hundred boys.

Separate reviews will be undertaken of the Hostel Pastoral Care Programme and Behaviour Management Systems and the School Student Welfare System, Student Behaviour Management System and Disciplinary Practices.

School as a good employer:

The school’s employment policies, procedures and practices need to be reviewed to comply with, inter alia, the State Sector Act, the Education Act, the Employment Relations Act and the various Collective Employment Agreements that operate within the School.

Communications and public relations:

The school uses a range of communication strategies and mechanisms however the content, timeliness and responsiveness of School communications requires review and development.

The restoration and maintenance of professional working relationships with other educational and community organisations in the region is also an issue that needs to be addressed.

Financial management and reporting:

An independent forensic review of the financial governance, management and reporting practices adopted by the school and the hostel, including a review of the governance and management of the various trusts and scholarships administered by the school, is required in order to provide assurances to the school community that there is sound and prudent governance and management of the School’s financial resources.

Good governance practice:

The governance policies which guide the management in the day to day operations of the school require review and development in consultation with the school community.

The school currently faces a high risk of exposure in terms of legislative non-compliance as a result of having a poor governance framework.