Auckland Grammar - 17/06/2016


Auckland Grammar School continues to achieve high-quality educational outcomes for boys. High expectations for academic achievement are promoted throughout the school. School leaders are committed to the school’s legacy, traditions and heritage and also reference national and international trends in boys’ education that lead to increased opportunity and pathways for success.   

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

1 Context

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

Auckland Grammar School is a state secondary school providing education for boys from Years 9 to 13. The large student roll continues to reflect the diverse cultural mix of the Auckland region. The school is situated in Mt Eden, in Auckland city. It opened in 1869 and a 150th celebration is being planned for 2019.

The board of trustees and school leaders are committed to the school’s legacy, traditions and heritage. They are aware of relevant, future-focused trends in boys’ education that emerge from national and international research.

The school’s facilities and resources support high levels of student success. The campus includes separate English, Specialist Science and Technology buildings, a Sports Centre, two gymnasia, a theatre, a music suite and extensive sports facilities. Since the 2011 ERO review a new twelve-room classroom block has been opened in the central learning area of the school.

Students identify strongly with the school’s culture of high expectations. Success is underpinned by the ‘Grammar Way’ which emphasises the pursuit of academic excellence as a core value. The school offers two pathways towards successful attainment, the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and the New Zealand qualification, the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Within the school’s organisation there are processes for students to develop their own individual pathway to either university, further tertiary training or employment.

The current headmaster has been appointed since the 2011 ERO review. A new leadership team has formed under his direction. Consequently changes affecting school culture, management and teaching practice have become major strategic drivers during the last three years.

The school is very connected to its past and present community members. A team of communications staff manage extensive and varied patronage from the Auckland Grammar School community. School leaders are seeking new and different ways to utilise student, parent and community voice, increasingly through digital platforms.

The school has a positive ERO reporting history. School leaders have significantly addressed ERO’s recommendations from the last review which included placing more focus on bicultural understandings for all learners and on practices that affirm the cultural identity of Māori students within the school.

2 Learning

How well does this school use achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement?

Auckland Grammar School uses achievement information well to promote high levels of student progress and achievement. There is a philosophical clarity about learning opportunities for all boys and this is a key expectation of school leaders and teachers. The extent to which this is realised is reflected in academic results for the senior school.

Since the previous ERO review in 2011, students have continued to perform very well in CIE, NCEA and in Scholarship examinations. The school’s dual learning pathways cater well for the diversity of student strengths, interests and aspirations. Student retention rates and success levels for Māori students, Pacific students and all ethnic groups are very high.

Achievement information relating to CIE shows a very large majority of learners successfully obtain qualifications and achieve university entrance. Similarly students selecting the NCEA pathway attain NCEA Level 2 and 3 qualifications, and University Entrance (UE) in keeping with national results for schools similar to Grammar.

The school continues to perform highly in Scholarship examinations. In 2014, 157 scholarships were achieved, and 140 were gained in 2015. Many students entering these examinations gain multiple scholarships. Premier awards, outstanding scholar awards and top in subject continue to feature in these successes. Intellectual challenge in learning is highly valued by the school community.

The school’s ongoing attention to, and use of, student achievement information is also very evident in the junior school. Focus at this level is largely directed towards ensuring class placements are well matched to students’ progress and achievement levels.

The Learning Support Department is well resourced and staffed to address the requirements of students who have different or specialist needs, in order to make individualised progress. Many older students are involved in mentoring or tutoring junior boys to assist with their confidencebuilding, achievement and self-esteem.

Students and teaching staff benefit from learning relationships that are respectful and reciprocal. Students at all levels of the school demonstrate a strong work ethic and a high level of engagement with learning. The expansion of academic counselling services in recent years, together with work done to increase the cohesion and responsiveness of student support services, further reflects the commitment of the board, leadership team and teachers to ensuring all students are successful, motivated learners.

School leaders and ERO discussed the following considerations for the next phase of learning development in the school:

  • teachers continuing to support and promote students’ awareness of, reflection on and evaluation of their own learning progress
  • teachers continuing to facilitate collaborative learning and e-learning contexts that promote different sets of skills, capabilities and competencies
  • school leaders implementing target-setting for groups of students who may need to learn and progress at an accelerated rate.

3 Curriculum

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

The Auckland Grammar School curriculum promotes and supports student learning very effectively. A positive school culture, an orderly environment and an increasingly significant focus on student wellbeing enhance the curriculum‘s effectiveness.

Learning programmes in the curriculum are aligned to The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) and the CIE and NCEA dual pathway system. Curriculum plans in many departments are increasingly focused on critical and creative thinking and the use of digital technology to support and extend learning.

New subjects are being introduced to further expand the curriculum. The recently appointed te reo Māori teacher has created a course focused on bicultural knowledge and understandings for all Year 9 students.

Boys initiate, participate in and contribute to a number of different learning activities, pursuits and interests inside and outside the classroom. The school has developed ways to facilitate many student-led interest areas that add enrichment to learning. Student voice is sought frequently for curriculum changes, making learning more authentic and meaningful.

An Enrichment Programme is in place for Year 13 students which offers boys wider curriculum opportunities to extend their skills, interests and knowledge. Examples from the programme are audio engineering, an introduction to computer networking, and radio and journalism.

Community connections and networks add another dimension of learning for Grammar students. Old boys are frequently involved in the school’s programmes through mentoring and support initiatives which bring expertise into the school from a variety of backgrounds, experience and perspectives. This adds a further opportunity for students to make decisions about future directions.

A very high proportion of students are involved in a wide range of sporting and cultural activities that help to build their sense of belonging to the school community. Competitive sport has a high profile within the life of the school. Numerous cultural activities and events, including many opportunities to learn and travel overseas, affirm boys’ identities and promote concepts of global citizenship within the school’s ethos.

The professional capability and collective capacity of teaching staff is extending through a schoolwide focus on different strategies and approaches that cater for different learning needs. Staff are inquiring into and sharing best practice. Expertise outside of the school is sought for the professional development of staff. The appointment of two specialist classroom teachers who work directly with staff to improve their practice has assisted these processes.

How effectively does the school promote educational success for Māori, as Māori?

The school continues to promote high levels of educational success for Māori. Students are succeeding at comparable levels to the rest of the school in CIE and NCEA qualifications. Currently 154 boys identify as Māori. These learners are supported to achieve academic success through their subject teachers and a teacher in charge of Māori and Pasifika Achievement and through mentoring systems that track and monitor Māori students’ progress in exacting detail.

The Auckland Grammar School Strategic Plan for 2016 has clear goals to steadily develop the school’s capacity to promote success for Māori as Māori. Links to Ngati Whatua are being made culturally through the recent appointment of a HoD Te Reo Māori. There is now a stronger likelihood that te reo will have numbers to sustain future classes in the senior school. Whakatauki are being adopted by school leadership to instil values and respect at school assemblies.

Whānau meetings, the kapa haka group, a school-wide haka, tuakana/teina relationships and Manu Korero speech competitions are other aspects of the school’s culture which significantly promote the cultural identity of Māori learners.

During the review ERO and school leaders discussed the ongoing, positive school focus on culturally responsive professional practice, a key requirement of the New Zealand Education Council’s registration criteria for practising teachers.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

Auckland Grammar School is very well placed to sustain and improve its performance. Leadership at many levels in the school is highly effective. It is underpinned by a culture of rigorous self-review, and is regularly informed by research into best practice in boys’ education.

The board of trustees has a commitment to educational excellence and student wellbeing. Board members offer relevant experience, expertise and professional skills that extend and enrich their stewardship of the school. The board’s structures and systems, particularly the ten sub-committees, are highly aligned to strategic priorities and areas of governance, including Tibbs House hostel and international students. Trustees are interested in student outcomes across the educational spectrum as well as qualifications success.

The leadership team is functioning well as a group and articulates consistent messages about new expectations school-wide. Change is very considered and is cognisant of the school’s rich heritage and foundational values.

Many middle managers in the school demonstrate a knowledge of current teaching approaches to future-focused education. Teacher appraisal systems and professional development opportunities for staff are well aligned to strategic and annual plans and goals. Induction for new staff is thorough and well-coordinated.

The school is very well positioned to sustain high academic achievement and other student activities and pursuits requiring optimum levels of performance.

Provision for international students

Auckland Grammar 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. 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 learners is thorough and effectively informs ongoing improvement.

At the time of this review there were 135 international fee-paying students enrolled in the school. Provision for these students is overseen by a sub-committee of the board of trustees and is well managed by a highly competent director of international students and staff team. The policies and procedures that guide the provision for international students are strongly aligned to the school’s academic focus and strategic direction.

International students have access to high quality learning opportunities. They are fully integrated into the life of the school and participate in a wide range of co-curricular activities. Their wellbeing and academic progress is closely monitored. Many international students achieve very high levels of academic success.

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school hostel, Tibbs House, is owned by the Auckland Grammar School board of trustees who delegate governance responsibility to a sub-committee which reports to the whole board. At the time of this review 121 boys were accommodated in the hostel; approximately five percent of the school’s roll.

The hostel is situated close to the school campus. Accommodation is organised according to age groups and it offers a structured, caring environment for students from many different backgrounds. The physical and emotional wellbeing of the boarders is a priority focus of the Hostel Director and his team of staff.

A selection of boys who spoke with ERO during the review reported on the high quality of pastoral care, choices and responsibilities that were expected of them and the long-term friendships that students made with their peers. Younger students appreciated the support that older boys gave them.

The hostel’s self-review processes are thorough and result in positive student outcomes.

Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board of trustees and headmaster 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
  • processes for appointing staff
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.


Auckland Grammar School continues to achieve high-quality educational outcomes for boys. High expectations for academic achievement are promoted throughout the school. School leaders are committed to the school’s legacy, traditions and heritage and also reference national and international trends in boys’ education that lead to increased opportunity and pathways for success.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

17 June 2016

About the School


Epsom, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys 100%

Ethnic composition





South East Asian




other Asian

other Pacific













Special Features

School Hostel, Tibbs House

Review team on site

May 2016

Date of this report

17 June 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2011

October 2008

October 2005