Avonside Girls' High School - 22/11/2013

1 Context

What are the important features of this school that have an impact on student learning?

Avonside Girls’ High School has a well-established history, longstanding traditions and a sense of pride about girls’ state education in Christchurch. The board, senior leaders and staff are strongly committed to providing high quality pastoral support for girls that promotes learning and achievement. A wide range of sporting and cultural opportunities within and beyond the school encourages increased engagement and extends learning and enjoyment for students.

Major damage from the Canterbury earthquakes resulted in the loss of historic buildings and most classrooms and school resources, relocation to Burnside High School for 2011, a fall in the school roll and considerable hardship for students, staff and the neighbouring community. Students told ERO that the strong support from staff enabled them to maintain their focus on learning and achievement during a time of major disruption.

After a complete redevelopment of buildings and grounds that included extensive staff involvement, the school returned to its original site at the beginning of 2012. The attractive and welcoming site is contributing to a calm and settled learning environment.

Since the September 2009 ERO review, changes have included a new principal and a number of new staff members. The school community is becoming increasingly multicultural. Significant improvements to information and communication technologies (ICT) are benefiting classroom learning, school systems and communication.

The school has successfully addressed all recommendations from the 2009 ERO review. Since the onsite stage of this review, the Ministry of Education has advised the school that, along with Shirley Boys' High School, it will be rebuilt on a new site in eastern Christchurch. The two schools will remain as separate schools but will share some facilities.

2 Learning

How well does this school use achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement?

The school is making progress in the use of student achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. This is helping teachers to improve:

  • the way the needs of students are identified and monitored
  • priorities and planning for programmes and teaching strategies
  • targeted support for some specific learning needs
  • teaching as inquiry processes.

Overall since the last review, the percentage of students leaving school with NCEA Level 2 or above has steadily increased.

During this time, Māori leavers have also improved their rates of gaining qualifications at similar levels of improvement. The school addressed a recent decline in some achievement at Level 1 by implementing targeted strategies to improve success for these students.

Pasifika students generally achieve qualifications at rates above the national norms and have good rates of retention.

Next steps

The school does not yet have a cohesive approach to identifying, monitoring and evaluating programmes and progress for some groups of priority learners across the school.

An external review of learning support took place in the latter part of 2012. An action plan has been developed to address recommendations identified as priorities for improvement. It is now important for leaders to ensure that all recommendations are followed so that:

  • the progress and achievement of all girls receiving learning support is effectively monitored, evaluated and regularly reported to the board to show the impact of learning interventions and outcomes over time
  • the systems and practices in place are effectively supporting and meeting the needs of all priority learners across the school
  • programmes for priority learners are appropriately coordinated and managed.

Senior leaders are aware of the need to review the effectiveness of provisions for gifted and talented students. Outcomes from this review should help leaders to:

  • identify a clear definition for gifted and talented students across academic, cultural and sporting codes that can form the basis for appropriate programme planning and review
  • establish a register that identifies gifted and talented students and includes the ways their learning will be further extended.

Senior leaders and teachers should ensure that the school management system is being used more effectively to record, monitor and track the progress of all students over time.

3 Curriculum

How effectively does this school’s curriculum promote and support student learning?

The school’s curriculum is increasingly effective in the way student learning is promoted and supported.

Senior leaders have reviewed the junior curriculum and changes have been made to ensure there is balanced curriculum coverage across all learning areas of the New Zealand Curriculum. The school’s curriculum is becoming more responsive to the needs of students. ERO affirms senior leaders’ plans to further extend learning pathways across the senior school.

Changes to curriculum leadership are helping to strengthen curriculum programmes and practices.

During the review, ERO observed purposeful learning environments, very good levels of student engagement and positive relationships that are promoting learning.

The improved ICT infrastructure and targeted professional learning and development are helping to build teachers’ understanding and use of digital technology to enhance and extend student learning.

Next step

The next step for school-wide curriculum development is to:

  • show how programmes meet the distinctive needs of girls at this school
  • embed school-wide key competencies and appropriate thinking and inquiry strategies across curriculum areas
  • further develop the vision and expectations for what high quality leadership of teaching and learning looks like at this school.

How effectively does the school promote educational success for Māori, as Māori?

The school has made some progress in promoting educational success for Māori students as Māori. A positive feature of this progress is the mentoring programme that provides individual support to Māori students. The high quality leadership of this programme is contributing to a strong sense of belonging and self confidence for these students.

Next step

The action plan developed by the school identifies goals to increase Māori presence, engagement and achievement, and provides the school with clear next steps. This action plan should also identify:

  • responsibilities and timeframes
  • an annual review of progress that is reported to the board and community.

How effectively does the school promote educational success for Pasifika Island students, as Pasifika?

Since the last ERO review school leaders have effectively met all of the recommendations related to promoting educational success for Pasifika students. These include the:

  • development of a school-wide policy that identifies good practices for supporting Pasifika students
  • increased engagement with parents and the Pasifika community to share and celebrate student achievement
  • delegation of responsibility to a senior leader for the oversight of these students, and appointment of a teacher to monitor and track their progress and achievement
  • employment of a Pasifika liaison tutor who is highly regarded by students.

Next step

ERO affirms senior leaders' plans to review the progress to date in this area and identify further steps for ongoing improvement.

4 Sustainable Performance

How well placed is the school to sustain and improve its performance?

ERO is confident that the board and senior leaders have an ongoing focus on improving learning and wellbeing outcomes for students. A useful discussion document about the vision and future of the school has been completed recently.

The board, principal, senior leaders and staff have successfully managed severe earthquake-related disruption and dislocation. They are strongly committed to, and have begun planning for, using the school’s rich history as the context for building a 21st century learning environment for girls.

The board has clearly-defined roles and responsibilities. Trustees bring a wide range of expertise to their roles including previous governance experience. Teachers told ERO that the board is very supportive and that the board chairperson, in particular, was highly visible during the earthquake-related upheaval.

The principal ensures that board members receive a wide range of information necessary for effective planning and decision-making processes. Together with senior leaders, she has made improvements to the guidelines and expectations for performance management and the use of achievement information to improve student learning. Teaching as inquiry has been introduced to further strengthen understanding about practices that contribute to more effective teaching and learning.

Self-review practices are contributing to improvements in a good range of school programmes and practices. Senior leaders should continue to extend and develop self-review approaches that clearly show the impact and outcomes of interventions.

Next steps

The principal and senior leaders have identified the need to update job descriptions across the school. ERO agrees that this is a significant next step.

There is a need to extend opportunities for junior students to develop their leadership knowledge and skills, and continue to develop ways that student ideas and feedback can further contribute to learning and school improvement.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. Four international students were enrolled at the time of this ERO review.

The principal has met the annual review requirements and this has been acknowledged formally by the Ministry of Education.

Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board of trustees and principal of the school completed the ERO Board Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklists. In these documents they attested that they had taken all reasonable steps to meet their legislative obligations related to:

  • board administration
  • curriculum
  • management of health, safety and welfare
  • personnel management
  • financial management
  • asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student achievement:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)
  • physical safety of students
  • teacher registration
  • processes for appointing staff
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in three years.

Graham Randell National Manager Review Services Southern Region

22 November 2013

About the School


Avonside, Christchurch

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā




Other European


Middle Eastern

Other Ethnicities









Review team on site

September 2013

Date of this report

22 November 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

September 2009
November 2005
November 2002