Auckland Grammar - 07/11/2011

1 Context

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

Students at Auckland Grammar School demonstrate a strong sense of pride in and identification with their school. Since ERO’s 2008 review, the roll has continued to grow and increasingly reflects the diverse cultural mix of the wider Auckland area. Tradition and current research underpin the school’s educational philosophy to meet the changing learning needs of boys. High expectations and an ethos of achievement continue to be a well-established feature of the school.

Core values and virtues are fostered alongside encouraging boys’ pursuit of excellence. School values also underpin the ‘Grammar Way’ and continue to support the competitive learning environment, challenging programmes and pastoral care provisions that were noted by ERO at the time of the 2008 review. Positive and respectful relationships between students and staff, and among students, are evident throughout the school. Past students, including successful community leaders, provide positive role models for boys. Student achievement is recognised and celebrated regularly at all year levels and in a variety of ways.

School facilities and resources support high levels of student engagement and participation. The extensive facilities include specialist classrooms, all-weather sports grounds, two gymnasia, a theatre and conference room complex and music suite. The library is a well-used space that supports boys’ continued learning. It provides a range of high quality and relevant resources to assist teaching and learning. The efficient day-to-day running of the school further contributes to a positive and settled learning environment.

The school’s roll for both Māori and Pacific students has doubled in the last twelve months. Each group now makes up 4 percent of the roll and new initiatives have been implemented to support this growth. One third of the students have Asian heritage, with Chinese students now comprising 17 percent of the roll. These students are well represented in the school’s statistics for New Zealand Scholarships and Outstanding New Zealand Scholarship Awards.

2 Learning

How well are students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

Boys achieve significant successes at regional, national and international levels in a wide range of academic, sporting and cultural endeavours. Co-curricular programmes and pursuits, including service and leadership opportunities, encourage active participation and success for boys. Learning in peer groups, both organised and informal, is a particular feature of interactions among students. Students demonstrate very good self-management skills and are resourceful learners.

Entrance data shows that boys enter Year 9 with high levels of achievement overall, particularly in aspects of literacy and numeracy. Student achievement information is collected from a range of tests at Years 9 and 10. This information is used to rank students for class placement and course selection. Teachers monitor each student’s progress, achievement and attitude to learning and, where required, provide ongoing support for improvement. ERO and management discussed the value of collating achievement information for students in Years 9 and 10 to help identify patterns of progress and achievement in the junior school. This information could be used by senior leaders to identify appropriate achievement targets and by the board to help determine the strategic targeting of resources.

The school continues to offer two qualification pathways in the senior school. Student achievement results in Years 11 to 13 are collated and well analysed. A high percentage of students make very good progress and many succeed at the highest level in Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). In 2010 the school achieved its best results to date in CIE at both A and AS levels. Most senior students gain CIE qualifications and the school is justifiably proud of the 100 New Zealand Scholarship Awards achieved in 2010.

Data also shows that the number of Year 13 boys leaving school with University Entrance and NCEA Level 3 or higher qualifications significantly exceeds averages for decile 10 schools. This overall high level of success reflects the high standard of student attainment in Cambridge examinations. Students who gain qualifications and endorsements in the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) achieve outcomes comparable with national pass rates for schools of the same decile rating. Overall achievement in NCEA Levels 1 and 2 in 2010 was not as high as in previous years.

Pacific student achievement is above national comparisons. Most Pacific students follow the NCEA qualifications pathway and most leave school with at least a Level 2 qualification. Results in 2010 showed improved Pacific achievement for Levels 1 and 2 when compared to success rates in previous years. Academic counselling and mentoring is provided on an individual basis. Successful Pacific parent evenings have been held to further promote students’ participation, contribution and achievement at school.

How well does the school promote Māori student success and success as Māori?

School data indicate that Māori students at Auckland Grammar School progress well. Retention rates are high and, in 2010, 73% of Māori students left with an NCEA Level 3 or higher qualification. Those who enter the CIE also achieve well. Those studying for NCEA in 2010 achieved at levels comparable to national success rates, particularly at Levels 2 and 3. Māori boys also perform with distinction in a range of leadership roles and in a variety of co-curricular areas, including many sports and performing arts activities.

Since 2008, the number of Māori students enrolled in the school has grown. This growth arises in part from collaboration between the school and the United Māori Mission group that has resulted in increased opportunities for both Māori and Pacific students to attend the school. It has also led to the revival of the school’s kapa haka roopu and opportunities for students in the Mission hostel to learn te reo Māori by correspondence.

Students belong to twenty-nine different iwi, the most prevalent being the northern iwi of Ngāpuhi. Many senior boys provide a tuakana-teina role within the school. In the course of this review Māori students identified the importance of strengthening these roles to further increase support for younger Māori students coming into the school.

The increased Māori roll has also resulted in the appointment of two associate deans with specific responsibility for Māori and Pacific student support. They track the progress of individual students to identify those who may benefit from more targeted support.

The school charter acknowledges the Treaty of Waitangi and identifies strategies for improving bicultural perspectives. Trustees and senior leaders are aware of the need to continue to strengthen these perspectives and to explore ways to further reflect bicultural principles and practices that affirm the cultural identity of Māori students within the school.

The strategic plan includes a specific goal for Māori student achievement, a goal that has remained constant since 2009. As part of the revision of the strategic plan the board of trustees have begun to review the board’s goals and overall provision for Māori learners in the school. The provision of te reo Māori as a curriculum subject could be considered within this review. Teacher use of a school handbook that provides useful information about tikanga Māori could also be a useful topic for review.

3 Curriculum

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

High expectations for achievement and a broad range of academic and co-curricular programmes support students’ learning. The vision, values and educational philosophy of the school are evident in the curriculum. Local, national and international leadership programmes give priority to growing the leadership capabilities of students.

Curriculum programmes in Years 9 and 10 are linked broadly to The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) and are designed to foster student success in senior school qualifications.

Students requiring additional learning support are well catered by an experienced learning support team. Inclusive practices, effective review systems, and very good tracking and monitoring systems help ensure that staff continue to respond well to students’ needs. Effective vocational opportunities are provided through the school’s Gateway and transition to work programme.

Positive classroom relationships are a feature across the school. Many teachers demonstrate a passion and enthusiasm for their subject, making lessons interesting and relevant for boys. Their subject knowledge and good questioning techniques engage students well in learning. Good use is made of information and communications technologies (ICT) in many learning contexts. Teacher directed, task-focused learning continues to be the prevalent approach used in most classrooms. However, some teachers place particular emphasis on establishing clear learning objectives and engage boys by using a combination of effective teaching practices that are consistent with the school’s guidelines for curriculum management and delivery. Good practices observed by ERO include:

  • the sharing of models and exemplars for learning with students
  • making connections with previous learning
  • providing flexible and interactive learning environments
  • providing regular feedback and feed forward about the learning taking place
  • providing opportunities for students to critically reflect on their learning both in and beyond the classroom
  • promoting students’ understanding and use of processes and strategies to learn new concepts and skills.

These effective teaching and learning approaches being used by some staff, including those newer to the school, to meet boys’ different learning needs, have the potential to serve as useful models of best practice for staff.

A programme of regular curriculum self-review provides trustees with information about curriculum programmes and achievement in departments. While the introduction of the New Zealand Curriculum has involved teachers in a review of schemes of work, a focused review of programme content and delivery could provide the executive team with useful information about the extent to which the principles and approaches of the NZC are being implemented in departments.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain the high achievement of its students in both academic and co-curricular endeavours. Experienced board and school leadership contributes effectively to school sustainability at governance and operational levels. Past students and the parents and families of current students continue to be actively involved in the academic and co-curricular life of the school. School leaders and staff have high expectations of students and their achievement. The established culture and history of the school contributes to the ways boys strive for success.

Committed trustees bring a good blend of professional knowledge, experience and skill to the board. The headmaster and the senior executive keep the board of trustees well informed about management and operational matters. Trustees are active contributors to decision making and are currently developing a revised strategic plan that includes a review of the charter and the determination of future targets.

The headmaster articulates a clear vision for the school that balances traditional values with the current educational needs of boys. The school operates efficiently through the commitment of the executive team. Together with teaching staff, they strive to uphold the aspirations and expectations of the school and the community.

The performance management process has been reviewed and strengthened over the past year, to include a focus on teacher reflection and the revised professional standards. This review process has the potential to promote meaningful individual goal setting that results in teachers’ reflection on their own professional practice.

Self review takes place at formal and informal levels throughout the school. The board uses a formal review cycle to maintain policies and school direction. Trustees receive regular reports from the principal and heads of department that are both comprehensive and informative.

ERO’s 2008 report recommended that the board consider more clearly aligning its strategic planning, policies and self review systems with the National Administration Guidelines (NAGs). Since this time the school has begun to make changes in response to Ministry of Education curriculum expectations. The alignment of departmental goals with the board’s strategic goals could provide further opportunities to promote the intended outcomes of the strategic plan and NAG requirements.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. At the time of this review there were 95 international students attending the school.

The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code. ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school’s self-review process for international students is thorough. Boys are well integrated and feel included in the life of the school. They are encouraged to join in sports and other school activities and benefit from this involvement. Pastoral care is of high quality and students achieve to the high levels expected of them in external examinations.

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school hostel, Tibbs House, is owned by the Auckland Grammar School board of trustees and accommodates 123 students, or approximately 5% of the school roll.

The hostel makes high quality provision for students. It supports their physical and emotional wellbeing and safety, and their study and recreational interests through its facilities, staffing, and very well run operations. Boarding students spoken with by ERO are very positive about the many opportunities that living in the hostel provides.

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
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years.

Richard Thornton

National Manager Review Services Northern Region

7 November 2011

About the School


Epsom, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Boys' Secondary (Years 9 to 13)



School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā






Sri Lankan










Special Features

School Hostel, Tibbs House

Review team on site

September 2011

Date of this report

7 November 2011

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Accountability Review

October 2008

October 2005

September 2001