Trident High School, Whakatane


Trident High School is a decile 51 co-educational secondary school in the Bay of Plenty, with a roll of approximately 1200. Students at Trident High School have consistently achieved above decile 5 and national averages in NCEA Levels 1-3. Much of the success experienced by students at Trident High School is a consequence of the strong foundation the school provides for students’ learning and achievement.

In the 1990s, Trident had a reputation for being a caring school, but its academic results had room for improvement. The principal decided that the school could have a greater focus on academic success by building on the caring foundation. He has effectively coordinated the changes that have occurred in order to achieve that.

The school motto: Kia Manawa Nui translates as Be Courageous. It challenges students, within the safe environment, to achieve excellence, develop a sense of self worth, and become motivated and responsible citizens. These aspirations are clearly seen in the school-wide emphasis on Quality work and Respect for others.

Pastoral care

The board gives priority to provide all-round care for the student community. One deputy principal has overall responsibility for pastoral care. Trustees have allocated additional resources and the school is structured so the students are supported by 10 deans, a senior leader committed to transitioning new Year 9 students; two guidance counsellors; and a dedicated Student Services Centre with a receptionist, nurse, clinics for a doctor, a physiotherapist, a sexual health nurse, and a chaplain. Trustees also employ a person who makes home visits as necessary and has additional expertise in drug rehabilitation programmes.

The guidance team play a central part in the establishment of the overall school culture, based around the core values2 of Quality work and Respect for others. The core school values are clearly expressed and include detailed statements about what they look like and sound like in practice. These provide excellent direction for both staff and students.

Teaching staff and counsellors recognise and use the school values and The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) key competencies to talk with students about their actions and learning. This helps students appreciate how the competencies and values are relevant to them.

The counsellors work with teachers to familiarise them with the values, which assists them with strategies that help students to reflect on and develop their capabilities. This professional focus establishes a shared language among teachers and students, that is used when having learning conversations, restorative chats and when implementing PB4L.

Students experience consistency of expectations and interactions through the school and as learners they increase their self esteem and resilience. They take responsibility for and pride in the part they play in the school community.

School culture

The school culture is one of relentless, ongoing improvement and relies on students having the pastoral and academic support they need to succeed.

The board chairman identified two key questions that drive improvement in the school. They are: ‘How can we get these children to succeed?’ and ‘What can we do better?’ This latter question, evident throughout the school in its self-review practices, is the one also used when students fail to meet expectations. The response is not about blame or punishment but one of highlighting problems to be solved. It is about the adults taking responsibility for what they can do to return the students to school and help them to become engaged with their learning and experience success.


We believe by showing personal courage and self-belief, all students at Trident High School will achieve success. Furthermore, when individuals are respected by others and supported in their endeavours they have a greater chance of reaching their goals and gaining success. In turn, these individuals are better placed to support those around them, building courage and respect and assuring community success. School charter

There is no deficit thinking. All students can succeed and they are expected to do their ‘best first time’. If students are underachieving, the teacher is underachieving. If students do not achieve a minimum standard in class then they return in their own time until it is achieved. This is not a punishment. The standard is simply regarded by both teacher and student as a milestone that must be passed and accepted as such. Students appreciate the faith that teachers have in their ability to succeed. They report that it is motivating and gives them confidence to keep working.


Ministry initiatives

The school has used Restorative Practices since 2006 and has complemented this with PB4L since 2010. These play an important role in supporting the school values and establishing the accepted school culture.

Curriculum initiatives

The school offers a very broad curriculum. Beyond the normal opportunities,3 students may opt for:

  • Te Aka Motuhake: This is a reverse ratio classroom where 60 percent of the students are Māori to provide a different cultural dynamic in the classroom
  • A Bring Your Own Device class: In this class, teachers can rely on students to have their own netbook or tablet and can plan lessons accordingly to include e-learning
  • A five week learning experience on Great Barrier Island: The core curriculum and skills are taught in an authentic setting together with survival skills and experience of a range of outdoor activities
  • The Trades Academy: This is led by Trident High School in partnership with local schools, Waiariki Institute of Technology and local businesses
  • The Service Academy: This academy is approved by the Ministry to start in 2014
  • A forestry course: This course was established with a local provider.

Branding and values

The school uniform and what Trident High School stands for are taken very seriously. They are seen as an important part of providing students with a sense of pride and belonging to the school. The school logo, the motto, and the school values are all very visible, from the branding on the posted envelopes containing values certificates; expectations and notices throughout the school; to the minibuses labelled with the school name, logo and ‘Education on the move’. School newsletters include celebration of Student of the Month, with the values they have demonstrated to earn their recognition. The values are talked about explicitly, what they look like in action, and how to build on them. Students have ownership of these values, comfortably using the language of the values in discussions with ERO. The values pervade everything.


The foundation of high quality pastoral care is also seen as essential for the all-round development of the student, empowering them as active members of the school community. Student leaders talked about how they make things better from year to year and take on real responsibility in the school. Examples include:

  • mentoring younger students through the Tuakana-teina programme which they manage, with guidance from a staff member
  • deciding which junior students receive the two most prestigious prizes, awarded annually at senior prize-giving. Deans nominate the students for the awards, but it is the student leaders who interview the nominees, focusing on how they demonstrate the school values, and make the final decision.


Teachers know the students and care for their achievement. They make learning relevant and use high quality data to respond to students’ individual strengths and needs.

Teachers mentor students, helping them to set goals and establish suitable pathways towards meaningful qualifications. Parents are involved in these decisions; formal invitations to attend parent meetings are posted out, followed by a summary of the outcomes of the interview after the meeting. Students report that these three-way meetings are important to their success.

Deans at each year level monitor each student’s progress towards NCEA achievements, intervening where necessary.

Journey to Trident

The induction of staff new to the school includes a symbolic trip from Ruatoki4 to Whakatane, hosted at several marae en route. This enables staff to fully appreciate where many of the students come from each day and what they bring to their schooling.

The school sets an annual focus for teachers to promote learning. This focus is in keeping with the values and is intended to meet the needs identified by the leadership team. The leadership team provides teachers with professional development and strategies to engage students as active members of the learning community and so raise student achievement. In the past the foci have included:

  • Purpose – Performance – Pride
  • Engaged Active Learners
  • Hauora – Resilience, Thoughtful, Resilient Learners
  • A Persistent and Consistent Approach – Best First Time.

In addition, the school-wide targets form a part of every teachers’ appraisal and are included in the agenda of every formal meeting. This strategy ensures that key aspects for consideration are kept to the fore and staff are not distracted from them by the day‑to‑day administration of the school.