Our approach to school evaluations


ERO helps improve schools, early learning services and the education system by conducting reviews and by doing evaluation and research.

In our school evaluations, we report on the quality of education and learning outcomes and on what systems are in place to continue improving teaching and learning.

We want to add value to the schools we review, so we provide judgements and advice for them to consider. We try to focus our assessments on the schools’ strengths, where they are currently at, and how they could improve teaching and learning.

A challenge for schools in Aotearoa New Zealand is achieving the same excellent education outcomes for all students. This is known as ‘equity in education’. We want to support changes within schools, and across all schools, so educational achievement is better for all children and young people.

There are two main aspects to equity in education: fairness and inclusion.

Fairness means a student’s educational success is not affected by their gender, ethnicity, family background or sexuality – or whether they are rich or poor.

Inclusion means all students feel welcome and there are no barriers to them reaching their full learning potential, no matter who they are.

How we work with you

When we evaluate your school we will discuss with you how well it is performing for its learners and community; what you want to achieve, and how you support the learning and achievement needs of specific groups of learners.

Our evaluations focus on two main things:

  • learner outcomes
  • the conditions that contribute to learner success.

Focusing on learner outcomes

We will ask you the following questions:

  • How well does the school achieve equitable and excellent outcomes for all learners?
  • How well does the school respond to Māori and others whose learning and achievement need acceleration?
  • What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence?
  • What further developments are needed in school processes and practices to achieve equity and excellence?

What are we looking for?

We will review your school’s data and other information about:

  • learner wellbeing
  • learner progress across the curriculum
  • effective practice that helps learners achieve the outcomes expressed in The New Zealand Curriculum.

We look at how you are using formative and summative assessment information, along with other information from internal evaluations, in your teaching and learning.

Key judgements we are looking for are:

  • how well you are achieving leaner outcomes
  • how well you are ensuring learner equity
  • how well learners are accelerated within a year and across years, according to their needs
  • whether your school’s achievement, overall and for groups, is improving over time
  • whether conditions within your school mean improvements are likely to be ongoing.

ERO’s definition of acceleration

For students in Years 1 to 8 and from Year 9 onwards, learning is accelerated when a student makes more than one year’s progress over a year:

  • according to their individual learning needs
  • in relation to the levels of The New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa
  • at a rate that ensures them equitable learning success over time
  • as part of a meaningful pathway to further education, training and employment.

Accelerating outcomes for Māori learners

The Government’s Māori education strategy, Ka Hikitia, (2013-2017) explains how the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi apply to education and the commitment of our educational system to successful outcomes for Māori learners.

Our evaluations and the research behind the School Evaluation Indicators show that when schools accelerate student achievement for Māori, they accelerate achievement for all learners.

Wellbeing and inclusion

Learner wellbeing is at the centre of our evaluations. We will ask for your school’s documentation on learner and/or staff engagement and wellbeing before we visit, and check whether there are good processes for ensuring students’ emotional and physical wellbeing.

During the evaluation we will ask school leaders if they use (or are aware of) the free New Zealand Council for Educational Research surveys. These invite schools to monitor inclusion and wellbeing.

Our focus is on how you monitor wellbeing and inclusive practices and what teachers, school leaders and trustees do with the information collected to improve learning. This should include student feedback on wellbeing and inclusion, which helps build trust and adds value to a school’s self-review.

Organisational conditions contributing to learner outcomes

We look at your organisational conditions that affect equitable and excellent achievement. These include your school’s systems, processes and practices; and whether improvements are likely to be ongoing. We assess how well existing practices reflect your documented intentions about teaching, learning and outcomes.

These organisational conditions are defined in our School Evaluation Indicators and the domains in this framework include:

  • stewardship
  • leadership for equity and excellence
  • educationally powerful connections and relationships
  • responsive curriculum, effective teaching and opportunity to learn
  • professional capability and collective capacity
  • evaluation, inquiry and knowledge building for improvement and innovation.

Our external evaluation process

We consider and discuss your school’s information about learner outcomes, wellbeing and engagement – and the findings from your internal evaluation. This helps us design an external evaluation that is appropriate to your school.

We look at your information on progress across the curriculum and effective practice so we understand how your planning, implementation and internal evaluation help you improve teaching practice. We want to know how teachers, leaders and trustees respond to learners’ physical, social, emotional, cultural, academic and spiritual needs – and what outcomes result from this.

Wellbeing is strongly linked to learning so we want to discuss with you how your school:

  • knows the needs, strengths and interests of all learners, particularly learners needing acceleration
  • responds to those needs through improving teaching and support
  • knows the impact of actions used to address these needs
  • knows what has been successful.

Preparing for our external evaluation

To get the most from the evaluation, your leaders, staff and boards of trustees should discuss your strategic plans; internal evaluation processes and outcomes; and any special issues before we visit.

During the evaluation, we will work with you to ensure considered discussions occur so your staff, supported by leaders and trustees, can be clear about your direction and plans for the future.

We will also focus on what has been achieved since the last time we evaluated your school and the culture of improvement you are building.

Questions to reflect on prior to your evaluation

You will be asked to consider our reflection questions (below) before we visit. This will give you an overview of your internal evaluation findings to discuss with us. You don’t need to provide any written response to these questions ahead of time.

We will work with you and use your school’s learner outcome information and internal evaluation to work to design the most appropriate external evaluation for your school. This will happen on the first day of your evaluation.

Outcomes for learners

  • What outcomes are valued for all learners in this school community, as learners in Aotearoa New Zealand, and as global citizens?
  • How well are all our learners achieving in relation to those outcomes?
  • To what extent is every student in our school a successful “confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learner”?
  • How well are we identifying and accelerating the achievement of those learners at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes?
  • How do we know?  What sources of evidence tell us about our performance and effectiveness?

School conditions supporting ongoing improvement in learner outcomes

Since our last ERO evaluation:

  • What areas of development have we focused on to improve learner outcomes?
  • How have we enabled the school community to participate in/contribute to the development focus?
  • What actions have we taken?  How effective have those actions been in promoting the improvements needed?
  • What have been the successes and challenges? 
  • Which domains of school activity have been most significant in supporting our improvement journey (stewardship; leadership; responsive curriculum; effective teaching and opportunity to learn; educationally powerful connections and relationships; professional capability and collective capacity; evaluation, inquiry and knowledge building for improvement)
  • What has been the impact?

Next steps:

  • What are our continuing and/or next big areas for development and improvement?

The questions above are taken from page 42 of ERO’s booklet Effective School Evaluation.

Documentation to send to ERO before your evaluation

We will need the following information before the evaluation.

  • the most recent School Charter including your strategic and annual plans
  • the latest Annual Report
  • the school’s current plan for staff professional learning and development
  • the two most recent reports to the board about students’ progress and achievement
  • any high level analysis about:   

- outcomes for learners with special needs and those who are gifted and talented

- outcomes related to identity, language and culture

- valued outcomes as defined by your school’s curriculum

- evidence of whole school improvement over successive years

- learners and/or staff engagement and wellbeing (including results from any surveys the school may have undertaken)

  • your staff list showing responsibilities, teacher registration details, status, and expiry date of practising certificates. On behalf of the Education Council, ERO will audit the endorsements for certification the professional leader has made in the 12 months prior to our visit.
    More information on the Education Council Audit.

The principal and board chair will also need to complete and send the following assurance statements.

Your participation in the evaluation process

Our evaluation team leader will contact you beforehand to discuss the process and focus of the evaluation and to answer your questions. We are typically on-site for one to four days, and two to four reviewers will make up the team.

ERO reviewers are specifically designated in accordance with Part 28, Section 326 of the Education Act 1989. This designation gives reviewers the powers of entry and inspection  specified under Section 37 of the Act.

While visiting we will meet regularly with the principal and senior team to establish and discuss our lines of inquiry and what findings are emerging.

You will be asked to arrange meetings, and/or observations involving staff, students, the board and, potentially parents. This is important to us coming to know your school and community, and to form and test assumptions and judgements. Principals and senior management will be involved in interpreting the evidence gathered to develop that shared understanding.

At the end of the on-site phase of the evaluation, we will discuss our judgements with the board and principal. We will provide indications of the likely points to be covered in our report and we will discuss areas for further improvement and action.  

Finalising your school’s report

Our findings are intended to help your school developing its focus and priorities. You will receive a draft (or unconfirmed) report around four weeks after our last on-site discussion. At this stage we will invite you to note any errors of fact or significant omissions, or to comment on any other matters related to the findings. You should then send us the board’s response. If any substantially new material comes to our attention at this time we may reissue a further unconfirmed report to the school and seek further comment from the board.

We will follow up your comments with a phone or email and then finalise (or confirm) the report.

You will have two weeks to circulate the final report within your school community before the report is published on ERO’s website.

Your external evaluation

From March 2019 ERO will remove return times in reports. Reports will make a clear judgement about each school’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students.  

ERO’s judgement will be aligned with our School Evaluation Indicators. See Decision making for ERO's overall judgement for schools.

Feedback on your evaluation

ERO’s purpose:

Our evaluation insights be a catalyst for change so that every child achieves success as a lifelong learner.

We are committed to providing a quality evaluation that provides useful insights to inform your decisions and actions for change and improvement.

When you receive the final report you can provide feedback on your experience of the external evaluation. We invite each school to submit two questionnaires, one representing the views of the board of trustees, through the chairperson; and one representing the views of staff, through the principal.

Talk to us about any concerns

If you are dissatisfied with your experience or if there are matters you wish to bring to our attention during the evaluation, please contact an ERO manager in the relevant office. Otherwise, you can express a concern or make a complaint online.

Important reading to support your evaluation