Ambury Park Centre - 24/03/2017


On the basis of the information obtained during the review, ERO considers that Ambury Park Centre meets the criteria for registration as a private school set out in the Education Act 1989.

1 Background

The Chief Review Officer has a statutory duty to report on the performance of private schools throughout New Zealand.

Section 35I of the Education Act 1989, requires the Education Review Office (ERO) to review fully registered private schools, and to report to the Ministry of Education on whether each school continues to meet the criteria for full registration.

This review report was prepared in accordance with standard procedures approved by the Chief Review Officer.

2 Criteria for Registration

Ambury Park Centre (APC) is a private Year 9 to 15 secondary school located within the campus of the Ambury Park Riding Therapy Centre in Mangere, Auckland. The Centre is a registered society, operated and managed by an elected board. It was first established in 1985 to provide riding therapy for young people with disabilities. The centre now provides three types of services; remedial riding therapy for children from special and mainstream schools, a vocational life skills programme for adults, and the secondary school (APC) for up to 30 students with learning and behaviour challenges.

Previous ERO reports on the school have commented favourably on the learning programme and the positive outcomes for students. ERO’s 2013 review identified that taking responsibility for horses and learning self-management skills were key components of the school’s curriculum. Board members and staff demonstrate long term commitment to the purpose of the organisation and to ensuring its future success. The school continues to provide suitable premises, staffing, equipment and standards of tuition.

The school can cater for up to 30 students, although there are typically about 25 students enrolled because many have high resourcing needs. Some students are funded from the Ongoing, Renewable Scheme (ORS) while others are placed through Alternative Education (AE). Students are aged between 13 to 18 plus years. A few are in Year 9 and 10, with the majority enrolling in Year 11 and 12. Maintaining contact with a wide variety of support agencies and ensuring adequate funding provision are complex and ongoing issues for the principal and board.

Students’ social, learning and behavioural challenges have made regular attendance in mainstream schools difficult for many. The curriculum is unique, combining classroom-based learning programmes with social and personal development opportunities through equine management. Senior students can attain credits on the New Zealand Qualification Framework in Level 1 and 2 Literacy and Numeracy and Level 2 Equine Studies. Credits in other subjects can be gained through enrolment in Te Kura Pounamu/The Correspondence School. Teachers and trustees could consider how students might benefit from the greater use of digital technology in their learning programmes.

The board employs a variety of well qualified staff to deliver the school curriculum. Registered teachers, teacher aides, riding therapists, together with the equine and stable managers, work collaboratively to coordinate programmes and address the needs of students individually. Each student has an Individual Development Plan (IDP) that reflects the goals and aspirations of staff, parents and students. Goals are designed to support their social and personal development. The IDPs could be further developed to provide better and more regular evidence of each student’s progress, and information for evaluating effectiveness of school programmes.

The aim of the school is to help students gain confidence and appropriate skills to transition to the workplace or to further education. Most students stay at the school for at least a year, with some considering the option of a second or third year. Students experience positive outcomes during their times at APC, although fewer move back into mainstream schools or Alternative Education programmes than in the past. It would be useful for the board to analyse the success of school programmes in supporting student transition. Information from past students and leaver destination data could be appropriate in analysing these patterns and trends.

The school’s approach to managing students’ learning and behaviour needs is pastoral, educational and therapeutic. The centre is well managed and the orderly routines and systems help students to contribute and have valued roles. There are clear expectations that all students cooperate and support one another. The inclusive culture is promoted by acknowledging and celebrating students' individual success.

For many students, the experience at APC is transformative. They gain considerable benefit from teachers’ high expectation and optimism. For all students it is a second chance to experience success in education. It could be beneficial therefore for each student to have a digital portfolio aligned to their IDP to document their learning journey. Photos and video could be included to record learning outcomes and goals achieved. These records would provide evidence of personal success to support students’ transitions.

The principal and two senior staff provide effective leadership. They advise trustees of the actions taken to progress the board’s long term plans. The board is currently updating its strategic plan and exploring ways for sustaining the future of Ambury Park Centre. School leaders need to strengthen the evaluative focus of their reporting, and provide analysed information about student progress and achievement to inform the board’s priorities and decision making. For greater efficiency, information sharing systems and record keeping should more accessible and preferably digitised.

The school's managers have attested that they comply with the provisions of section 35G in respect to their being fit and proper persons to manage the school.

3 Other Obligations

To meet statutory obligations, the board should ensure that:

  • registered teacher appraisal reflects requirements of the Education Council. In order for teachers to maintain and renew their Practicing Certificate, teachers are required to provide evidence of meeting all of the Practicing Teacher Criteria annually
  • appointment procedures are updated to clearly state the expectations for proof of identity in relation to the Vulnerable Children’s Act (2014).

There are good systems in place for the school’s managing body to be assured that its other statutory obligations are met. 

4 Conclusion

On the basis of the information obtained during the review, ERO considers that Ambury Park Centre meets the criteria for registration as a private school set out in the Education Act 1989. 

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

24 March 2017

About the School 


Mangere Bridge, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 13 Boys 11

Ethnic composition









Special Features

Equine education and therapy programme

Review team on site

November 2016

Date of this report

24 March 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)

Private School Review

Private School Review

Private School Review

February 2013

June 2009

January 2006