Sunnydene Special School - 08/05/2015

1. Context

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

Sunnydene Special School provides education and therapy programmes for students with high learning needs. Many have physical, health, intellectual or behavioural disabilities. Most students are funded by the Ministry of Education ongoing resourcing scheme (ORS). They are aged from five to 21 years and come from the central Auckland area. The base school has three classes, with predominantly senior students and is located in Three Kings. There are seven satellite classes at four local schools that offer students specialised teaching in mainstream settings.

The school has a history of positive ERO reviews. Strengths, including a focus on inclusion and the provision of strong pastoral care, continue to be evident. Teachers, therapists and teacher aides continue to work collaboratively with students to meet their learning requirements. Staff have strengthened partnerships with families and there are mutually respectful relationships with parents and whānau. School values underpin the school's vision, mission and strategic planning. A strong commitment to biculturalism is woven through school practices and documents.

Since the 2012 ERO review, major property developments at the base school have been undertaken and plans developed to create a community unit for senior students as they transition out of the school. As a result of self review the school is now known as Sunnydene School and Specialist Outreach Service. The specialist outreach service provides support for the successful inclusion of ORS funded students in mainstream classes. Teachers enthusiastically engage in professional development and as a whole school they have been part of important new initiatives.

School leaders are proactive in seeking out research and professional advice that promotes positive outcomes for students. The board has many new members and has engaged in extensive training to support them in their roles and to strengthen governance. The board continues to work collaboratively with senior leaders.

2. Learning

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

School leaders and staff are focused on continuously improving learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. Teachers use evidence-based practices to closely monitor students’ achievement and progress in relation to the goals of their individual Education and Behaviour Plans (IEPs) and Individual Transition Plans (ITPs). These plans are developed by teachers, families, therapists and teacher aides. They have goals that are carefully selected and designed to be achievable and realistic. Teachers have high expectations that all students will achieve their IEP goals.

School leaders have a student-centred approach to learning. School developments are innovative and responsive to current research and trends. Extensive professional learning and development enhance teacher practice. Students’ involvement in their own learning is encouraged and valued, and is becoming an integral part of the IEP process. Opportunities for students to have a voice, be independent and show leadership are maximised by staff.

Teachers use a carefully considered range of assessment processes and tools. These are adapted to meet the needs of students. Analysed student achievement and progress information is regularly reported to the board. This data shows very clearly the high percentage of IEP goals that students achieve. This assists the board and senior teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of programmes and interventions.

School leaders should continue to consolidate and embed their use of achievement data to inform school planning and ensure teacher planning and assessment is consistent throughout the school.

3. Curriculum

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

Student wellbeing, commitment to empowerment and building independence are at the heart of the curriculum. Respectful relationships between staff, students and families and culturally responsive practices support students to learn.

Students’ successful engagement in learning is supported effectively through a personalised curriculum based on their IEP/ITP goals. Programmes are closely aligned to The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) principles and competencies. Highly specialised therapies and interventions are used to further support students’ learning.

School leaders work collaboratively with parents and staff to ensure the curriculum is meaningful and individualised for each student. A strong emphasis on communication in the curriculum is well supported by visual aids, information communication technologies and specialist programmes. Students also experience a wide variety of programmes, including education outside the classroom and therapy.

The tone of the school is cheerful and welcoming. Students appear confident and happy in their environment. Satellite class students benefit from inclusive host school environments where they can play, and at times, learn alongside mainstream students. Senior students in the base school learn in well resourced classrooms with regular excursions to the community as they transition from school to adult life.

School leaders have embedded the school values and vision into curriculum delivery. Inclusion of students in community and mainstream settings is a key goal and teachers have a shared belief in the benefits of this. The school has good connections with community networks and facilities. The Specialist Outreach Service contributes to achieving the successful inclusion of ORS funded students in mainstream through their effective support for teachers and high needs students.

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

As noted in the 2012 ERO report, the school has continued to focus on further improving outcomes for Māori students. Bicultural practices are increasing along with teachers’ use and understanding of te reo and tikanga Māori. Te Ao Māori is reflected in the environment of the base school and satellite classes.

The school has a very involved kaumatua. Māori whānau take an active role in the support of their children. Māori students' cultural identity is affirmed through the value placed on their language and culture and its increasing visibility in the school.

4. Sustainable Performance

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

The school is becoming much better placed to sustain and improve its performance.

The school’s charter and strategic plan have been considerably revised and updated since ERO’s 2012 review. The new charter affirms the vision and values shared by trustees, parents and staff. It sets out the beliefs of the school in relation to expected student outcomes. Trustees and senior managers have worked closely to align annual management plans with the school’s strategic goals.

The school is benefitting from the chairperson’s capable leadership. Trustees have developed new governance and operational policies and have gained an improved understanding of their roles and stewardship of the school. The challenge now for senior leaders is to update and promulgate school procedures to ensure that the new policies are enacted in accordance with the board’s direction.

The board’s three year work plan provides a systematic framework for reporting by school leaders. Some reports to the board are evidence-based and evaluative. These provide models that could be extended to other areas of management reporting to meet the board’s new accountability expectations.

Property developments have enhanced the base school and improved facilities for teachers, outreach staff and support personnel. The Ministry of Education has been proactive in developing Memoranda of Understanding with host schools that could result in improving the resourcing of satellite classes. The board continues to seek an appropriate community-based location for older students and has plans to further improve the base school grounds and outdoor areas.

Leadership provided by the senior management is unevenly distributed. There are good management systems to support teaching and learning, teacher development and pastoral care systems. However, there are areas of personnel management and health and safety that school managers should prioritise and strengthen.

The board has strengthened its understanding in relation to managing the principal’s performance. New appraisal and performance agreement systems are likely to produce feedback that will be useful to the principal and board. The senior leadership team should now review its own operations and allocation of responsibilities. Job descriptions and performance agreements should be documented for all senior leaders.

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.

In order to improve current practice the principal should ensure that:

  • the leadership roles and responsibilities of the senior management team are more clearly defined
  • clear procedures are documented to ensure that the board’s policy framework is implemented.


Students at Sunnydene School and Outreach Service are well served by dedicated staff. Inclusion, wellbeing and a focus on communication are central to the school’s curriculum. The school’s new charter reflects the shared vision and values of staff and trustees. Ongoing improvements through self review and reflective practice are continuing to improve outcomes for students.

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

Dale Bailey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

8 May 2015

About the School


Three Kings, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Special School

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 54

Girls 17

Ethnic composition

Māori 6

NZ European/Pākehā 13

Tongan 8

Samoan 6

Philipino 3

Cook Island Māori 3 

Sri Lankan 3

Korean 2

Niue 2

other 13

Special Features

7 Satellite classes
Outreach service

Review team on site

March 2015

Date of this report

8 May 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review May 2012

Education Review November 2009

Education Review September 2006