Awatapu College - 23/10/2015

1 Context

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

Awatapu College is a coeducation secondary school catering for students from Years 9 to 15. The roll of 666 students includes 30% who are Māori.

Success is widely recognised and celebrated in academic, cultural, arts and sporting activities. Emphasis is given to establishing positive relationships across the school. The fostering of a sense of whānau through vertical forms and pastoral care systems enhances the school climate.

The school has strong links with the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Waikato and University College of Learning (UCOL) to support students' career and subject choices.

2 Learning

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

Awatapu College has improved its use of achievement information to track and monitor the progress and achievement of learners, particularly senior students. More extensive inquiry and deeper analysis of progress and achievement for specific groups of students should continue to promote positive outcomes.

There has been a deliberate and successful school-wide focus on raising the achievement rates of National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEAs). There has been significant improvement in the number of students gaining the NCEAs since 2012. In 2014, the school’s NCEA Level 1 and Level 2 roll-based results were above the national figures.

School leaders have identified, and ERO agrees, a next step is to raise the attainment of merit and excellence endorsements in the NCEAs. Students succeed in a range of other pathways, including employment, apprenticeships and further training opportunities with tertiary education providers.

The college reports improvement in the levels of achievement at Year 9 and 10. A range of initiatives have been introduced to assist teachers and leaders to collect and record data. This has strengthened teacher and student awareness of progress and the importance of tracking grades. Analysing and inquiring further into the collated data, by leaders and teachers, should help establish key learning needs of individuals and groups of students. Improved use of assessment tools that measure, inform, and report on student progress should ensure that data is more robust when shared with leaders and trustees.

There is a well-considered, collaborative and responsive approach to supporting students with diverse and specific learning needs. The college celebrates and promotes an inclusive environment. The focus is on building student’s confidence and abilities, and responding to their interests to enable them to access the curriculum successfully.

Opportunities for teachers to explore, innovate and lead initiatives are provided and encouraged. The college is extending the use of student and teacher voice to reflect on and improve these new initiatives. Further building school leaders' and teachers' use of data and response to analysis, including more useful feedback, should help them to evaluate the impacts that these initiatives are having on student progress and achievement.

3 Curriculum

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

The curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning in the senior school. Enhancing the focus for Years 9 and 10 programmes should further build on and sustain the recent success of achievement results at the senior school.

There is a wide range of opportunities and subjects available to the students. A range of vocational and academic pathways provide many options for senior students. This includes traditional academic subjects, Gateway, STAR and Industry Training Organisation programmes.

Senior leaders are reviewing and refining the careers support and guidance programme.  A key goal is to expand this area’s scope and responsiveness to student interests and future directions. A recent careers adviser appointment has been made to support this initiative.

The school has established clear and collaborative links with the community to enrich curriculum experiences. An increasing range of strategies has been introduced to better communicate with students, parents and whānau about learning and school activities.

A positive tone, conducive to learning is evident in classrooms. Students are generally engaged in class. Leaders and teachers care about students’ achievement and wellbeing.

School leaders and ERO recognise it is timely to review the college’s curriculum to ensure it aligns with The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). This should support the development of shared schoolwide understandings and expectations in the local context and progress the way the curriculum responds to students' culture, language and identity, especially for Māori and Pacific students.

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

Māori student achievement of NCEA qualifications at Awatapu College has significantly improved since 2012 to be in line with their peers. Enhanced learning relationships and increased school-wide monitoring and tracking contribute to the acceleration of Māori students' achievement in NCEA.

The college is working in collaboration with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and has implemented mentoring programmes that focus on engagement and achievement for a group of Māori students.

To improve educational success for Māori, as Māori, school leaders and teachers, in partnership with Māori whānau should develop and implement a schoolwide approach to developing understandings about delivering a more culturally responsive curriculum and practices.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

There have been significant changes to processes and practices schoolwide, since the 2012 ERO review. It is timely to review and align school policies and procedures to these.

School leaders and ERO agree that further clarity of practice, process and system is required to better inform decision making to sustain recent achievements. This should enable more effective inquiry and evaluation of how well the school promotes respect, excellence and equitable outcomes for students.

A new appraisal system has been developed. The continued promotion of sharing effective strategies and the development of evidence-based portfolios should further strengthen professional discussions and teaching practice. The school leadership team recognise that including cultural competencies should enhance the understanding of the Practising Teacher Criteria and further improve the learning outcomes.

Awatapu College's strategic plan informs and guides school improvement and development. School leaders have recently developed a system for reviewing how departments are meeting the school’s identified goals in the annual plan. Further enhancing the links between these should help to better inform department and school-wide progress towards strategic targets.

Increasing the use of evaluation to determine how well practices improve student outcomes is the next step. This will enable leaders to look beyond what they are doing, to how well they are doing it. Developing concise and measureable targets would support evaluation and identify specific strategies that have the greatest impact on improving student outcomes to inform future directions and new initiatives. Setting school targets for Year 9 and 10 students most at risk of achieving poor educational outcomes should further support student achievement.

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 27 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. Effective policies and practices support the social integration and academic learning programmes of the school’s international students. 

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
  • processes for appointing staff
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.


Awatapu College has improved its use of information to track and monitor students' progress. The majority of students achieve appropriate NCEA qualifications. Students' success in all areas is rewarded and celebrated. Building evaluation practice schoolwide, to further strengthen curriculum expectations and outcomes for students, should help to further sustain this significant improvement in student achievement.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in three years.

Joyce Gebbie
Deputy Chief Review Officer Central

About the School


Palmerston North

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Year 9 to 15)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Female 51%, Male 49%

Ethnic composition

Other ethnic groups


Special Features

Special Needs Unit

Review team on site

August 2015

Date of this report

23 October 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

November 2012
November 2009
August 2006