Birkenhead School - 29/01/2014

1 Context

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

Birkenhead School caters for between 350 and 400 students from Years 1 to 6. The 94-year-old school is situated in one of Auckland’s oldest North Shore suburbs, close to the Waitemata Harbour.

The school has a strong community culture. School leaders and teachers are committed to knowing children and their families well. Parents and whānau are welcomed, encouraged to participate in the school and to work together with teachers to support their child’s learning.

The board of trustees is supportive and appreciative of the principal and staff. Trustees are a mix of long-standing and new members. They value the community focus of the school. Trustees are enthusiastic about potential property developments and are planning ways to increase students’ access to information and communication technologies (ICT).

Since the 2010 ERO report, the board has appointed a new deputy principal. She is streamlining school management systems. Together with senior managers and teachers, she has improved the reliability and validity of student achievement data and is systematically improving school-wide teaching and learning expectations.

The 2010 ERO report noted a priority for the school was to improve school self-review systems in many areas. While the development of more strategic self review remains a priority, emergent reviews of a number of areas are enabling school development. A continuing focus on self review should promote ongoing improvements to school performance.

2 Learning

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

A majority of students are achieving at or above National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. School leaders closely analyse achievement data, and track those students who are not progressing and achieving well in order to provide support for them. The school is now well placed to further use student achievement information to identify the effectiveness of new initiatives and to make informed decisions that will further promote student engagement achievement and progress.

Student achievement information is used to set school-wide targets for reading, writing and mathematics. It could be now be helpful to develop more specific targets for individual year groups and cohorts of students. Targets should also include ways the school plans to further lift its provision for promoting the success of its Māori students.

The senior management team has followed a strategically planned and scaffolded approach to improve the validity and reliability of student achievement data collected by teachers. Professional learning and development, and moderation of data collected from different assessment tools have helped to improve the consistency of teacher judgements across the school.

School leaders and trustees believe they now have robust and reliable student achievement data as a baseline to enable them to set more differentiated, realistic, specific targets. This baseline information will also enable them to monitor the effectiveness of the school's support for at risk learners and the progress over time for other selected cohorts, including Māori and Pacific students.

Student achievement data is used by teachers to group students for instruction and to identify students needing extra support or extension. Senior managers have implemented a wide variety of strategies and initiatives to target and enable accelerated achievement for students who are not achieving to their potential.

School leaders have identified that their next steps are for all teachers to more consistently:

  • analyse and use classroom achievement data to inform their teaching and planning
  • enable students to know and make use of their own data to help them become more effective selfmanaging learners. This point was also raised in the 2010 ERO report.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes children’s learning in reading, writing and mathematics.

Students’ engagement in the curriculum is supported through the good relationships evident across the school and teachers’ good knowledge of students, families and whānau. Students are valued as individuals and encouraged to express themselves in a variety of ways. A range of school programmes and activities outside the classroom provides for the holistic development of students. Classroom environments are attractive and well resourced. They provide learning prompts for students and celebrate their learning.

Teachers have participated in considerable external professional learning and development to improve their teaching of writing. They have engaged in discussions and mentoring with other teachers to improve teaching and learning in reading, writing and numeracy. Teachers consistently share the purpose of lessons with students and use good questioning skills to encourage students to think critically.

School leaders have identified the need for a stronger focus on science. A two-year approach to this task, which included a comprehensive teacher professional development programme, has helped build school resources and teachers’ knowledge and confidence in the teaching of science through an inquiry approach. As a result students benefit from enriched science learning experiences and opportunities.

Senior leaders have planned, and ERO agrees, the school’s next steps are to:

  • further develop the school 's culture of encouraging students' input into class and school level decisions which affect them
  • further promote the school's culture of critical inquiry to support individual teacher’s ongoing reflection on, and adaptation of, their own teaching practice
  • complete the upgrade the school’s ICT infrastructure and resources to better support student learning.

Senior managers now need to develop an overview to document and guide school self review on the extent to which students have access to all aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum during their time at the school.

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

Four percent of students at Birkenhead School identify as Māori. The school’s curriculum and inclusive, positive relationships support Māori students to achieve. Initiatives such as the school’s kapa haka and te reo Māori programme have a good profile in the school. Teachers believe these programmes are having a positive effect on the achievement of Māori students. Māori students spoke positively to ERO about their experiences in the school.

As suggested in the 2010 ERO report, trustees and school leaders could now make greater use of Ministry of Education resources that support success for Māori as Māori.

A useful next step for the school's te reo Māori programme would be to ensure that it that enables students to progressively develop their knowledge of, and confidence in using, te reo and tikanga Māori each year.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

While the school has continued to make progress, it should now focus on developing effective, well understood processes for self review. Establishing a clear framework and culture for robust, systematic review would help the school better meet its accountabilities. To make improvements senior leaders and the board should focus on the development of:

  • a more future-focused strategic plan with measurable and achievable goals, including goals for priority learners
  • more robust, and improvement-focused performance management processes for the principal, senior managers and teachers
  • robust and ongoing review of policies and procedures to ensure they reflect current legislative requirements and school practices.

A culture of professional learning discussions amongst teachers across the school has been established through focused professional development in assessment, literacy, numeracy, inquiry and science. Senior managers, together with staff, could now complete the development of the school's 'preferred practice ' documentation related to effective teaching and learning, and use this documentation to better guide and monitor class programmes.

Collegial working relationships are evident between the board, senior managers and staff. A next useful step for further enhancing shared ownership for school improvement would be to consider ways to involve teachers and curriculum leaders more fully in setting school goals and targets.

ERO further recommends training for the board and principal to strengthen aspects of governance and management, including strategic planning and self-review. This would support the enactment of the school’s vision for 'reaching for our heights, looking to our horizons'.

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 four international students attending the school.

The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

ERO’s investigation confirmed that the school’s self-review process for international students is adequate.

Birkenhead School provides good pastoral care for its international students, who are well integrated into the school’s programmes. These students benefit from the school’s family-like culture and the provision of additional English language tuition.

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.

During the review ERO identified one area of non-compliance. To address this, the board must:

  • develop and implement robust policies and procedures for the appraisal of the principal, senior leaders and staff

[NAG 3 (a); State Sector Act 1988 (77 C)].

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services Northern Region

29 January 2014

About the School


Birkenhead, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 52% Boys 48%

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākeha




Middle Eastern


Other Asian

Other European












Review team on site

September 2013

Date of this report

29 January 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

October 2010

December 2007

February 2005