Whatawhata School - 14/02/2018

School Context

Whatawhata School is a rural school located in Whatawhata Village, west of Hamilton. It caters for 246 students from Years 1 to 8, including 61 of Māori descent.

The guiding principles of Whatawhata School are to grow, achieve, and care (kia whakatupu, kia whakatutukitanga, and kia manaaki). There is a school-wide target for all learners to make at least one year’s progress in a calendar year in reading, writing and mathematics. Learning and achievement targets are also set by each learning team. Priorities for 2017 are to develop:

  • collaborative teaching and learning
  • learner agency
  • Māori success and engagement
  • learning pathways.

Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board, school-wide information about outcomes for students in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to curriculum expectations.

Since the previous ERO review in 2014, the school roll has continued to grow, and a significant building programme has been in progress. An important development in the school has been the establishment of open and flexible learning spaces which accommodate larger groups of children of a similar age. Professional development, led by an external provider, has involved all teaching staff in a programme of coaching and mentoring.

The school is a member of the He Waka Eke Noa Community of Learning|Kāhui Ako.

Evaluation Findings

1 Equity and excellence – valued outcomes for students

1.1 How well is the school achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students?

The school is not achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all students. School achievement data over the last three years shows that the large majority of students achieved at expected levels in reading, writing and mathematics. Since the previous ERO report there has been improvement in Māori student achievement.

The previous ERO report in 2014 identified the urgent need to improve educational outcomes for Māori. Māori students continue to achieve at significantly lower levels than other students in the school, particularly in reading and writing. In reading and mathematics approximately two thirds of Māori students are achieving at expected levels, and approximately half are achieving at expected levels in writing.

1.2 How effectively does this school respond to those Māori and other students whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school has not yet responded effectively to all Māori and other students whose learning and achievement need acceleration.

School data shows that achievement of Māori students in mathematics has been accelerated over the last four years. However, the rates of achievement for Māori students in reading have increased only slightly, and there has been a decrease in the achievement rates of Māori students in writing.

Similarly, school data shows that rates of achievement for boys have increased slightly in mathematics and reading, but have decreased in writing.

Accelerating the achievement of Māori students and boys, particularly in writing, remains an urgent priority.

2 School conditions for equity and excellence

2.1 What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence?

Te ao Māori is highly evident in the school’s curriculum. Significant progress has been made in increasing the visibility and presence of te reo and tikanga Māori. The school environment includes displays of te reo Māori and some teachers are using te reo and waiata in their classrooms. Students can participate in kapa haka and there is a pōwhiri to welcome new families and students. The school has recently developed a relationship with the local marae.

Meaningful partnerships have been developed with parents and whānau. Effective processes engage parents to include them in decision-making about school priorities. A range of strategies is used to communicate with parents about school direction, developments, and their children’s learning. Comprehensive processes are used to collect community voice every three years as part of the charter review and parent surveys are used to review key aspects of school operations. Parents feel welcome in the school and teachers are open and approachable. Teachers share assessment information with parents, along with useful strategies that can be used to support home learning.

Board leadership has a well-developed understanding of governance and management. Trustees have undertaken training to better understand their roles and responsibilities. They demonstrate a commitment to reflecting parent and whānau aspirations in strategic and annual planning. Constructive working relationships have been established between the board, principal and teachers.

2.2 What further developments are needed in school processes and practices for achievement of equity and excellence?

The school needs to adopt a more strategic approach to the use of achievement information. Particular areas for development include:

  • setting specific achievement targets in the school’s charter focused on accelerating progress for all students whose learning is at risk, specifically Māori and boys, and reducing disparity

  • the provision of ongoing information to trustees about how effectively the school is accelerating progress for all target students

  • the use of achievement data by leaders and trustees to inform resourcing decisions, including the provision of professional development for teachers

  • teachers’ use of assessment information to support focused, intentional teaching.

Internal evaluation requires strengthening. Leaders need to ensure robust internal review processes are implemented to evaluate the effectiveness of school operations and initiatives. They should give priority to evaluating how well the school is achieving its stated charter goals of developing student agency and collaborative practice, as well as the use of flexible learning spaces and digital technology.

The provision for students with additional learning needs requires further development. Current school guidelines should be fully implemented to carefully identify, support and monitor the progress of students with additional learning needs. Consideration should be given to the allocation of sufficient time for the Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), and specific professional development for the SENCO and teachers.

3 Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board 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 the following:

  • board administration

  • curriculum

  • management of health, safety and welfare

  • personnel management

  • finance

  • asset management.

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

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)

  • physical safety of students

  • teacher registration and certification

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspension, expulsion and exclusion of students

  • attendance

  • school policies in relation to meeting the requirements of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Appraisal audit

Implementing an individualised performance management process that supports developing teacher practice is required to inform the appropriate endorsement of teachers for practising certificates. This should include building teachers’ and appraisers’ understanding of sufficiency and quality of evidence in relation to meeting the Standards for the Teaching Profession.

Actions for compliance

ERO identified non-compliance in relation to the endorsement of teachers practising certificates.

In order to address this, the board of trustees must ensure that teachers are consistently and sufficiently gathering evidence of their performance in relation to the Standards for the Teaching Profession. [Part 31 Education Act 1989]

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should ensure regular monitoring of students’ and teachers’ work environments is undertaken to minimise risk in the event of an earthquake.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

For sustained improvement and future learner success, the school can draw on existing strengths in:

  • an approach to communication, and teaching and learning that acknowledges the place and presence of Māori as tangata whenua

  • parent partnerships that are focused on student learning and well-being

  • governance that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the school community.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, development priorities are in:

  • strengthening the use of achievement information to provide an aligned approach at all levels of the school, to achieve equity for all groups in the school and raise levels of achievement overall

  • leadership processes to promote effective internal evaluation

  • the implementation of robust systems and processes to address the requirements of students with additional learning needs.

ERO recommends that the school seek support from the Ministry of Education in order to bring about improvements in:

  • leadership of learning

  • internal evaluation.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

ERO intends to carry out a process of ongoing external evaluation to support development over the course of one-to-two years.

Lynda Pura-Watson

Deputy Chief Review Officer

Te Tai Miringa - Waikato / Bay of Plenty Region

14 February 2018

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 54% Girls 46%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā 69%
Māori 25%
Other European 4%
Other 2%

Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

November 2017

Date of this report

14 February 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review May 2014
Education Review July 2011
Education Review June 2008