Darfield High School - 18/10/2017


At the time of this review there were 871 students enrolled in this school in Years 7 to 13. The school has had steady roll growth since its 2015 ERO review. About 7% of the roll identify as Māori. Another 17% of students identify with ethnicities other than NZ European. This includes a number of international fee-paying students.

Most learners come from outside the local township and across the district to attend the school.

The school has a rural college on site which provides a range of programmes and courses that prepare students with the skills to work in the local agricultural industry. It also has an alternative education classroom which provides an individualised approach to supporting some learners’ engagement in learning.

The school is a member of the Malvern Kāhui Ako|Community of Learning (CoL), along with eight contributing primary schools and two early learning services. The goal of the CoL is to work together to support all learners’ learning journeys.

The school has started working with an advisor from the Ministry of Education on its review of the junior curriculum.

The school has made good progress in addressing a number of areas for development identified in their last ERO review. Some remain as areas for further improvement.

How well is the school achieving equitable outcomes for all learners?

This school responds well to those learners whose learning and achievement need acceleration. Most learners are supported to achieve NCEA Level 2 before they leave school. Learning support is well resourced and coordinated. However, the school is not yet able to show the impact of its efforts to accelerate progress for some individuals and/or groups of learners at risk of not achieving at expected levels.

The school’s curriculum provides learners with choice and coherent pathways to future work and learning. It is flexible and responsive to learners’ interests, aspirations and abilities. Pastoral care systems and roles are effectively promoting learners’ wellbeing, engagement and success in learning.

Key areas for development include:

  • improved monitoring of the progress of those learners needing to make accelerated progress
  • strengthened processes for making decisions about school developments and managing change
  • further development of culturally responsive policies and practices
  • embedding effective assessment practices in the junior school.

The school has capacity and capability to accelerate learning for all learners. However, there is disparity in achievement for Māori learners and boys in literacy and numeracy in the junior classes of the school.

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

Equity and excellence

How effectively does this school respond to students whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

Overall, this school responds well to those learners whose learning and achievement need acceleration to achieve at expected levels.

Most learners are effectively supported to gain NCEA Level 2 before leaving school. School achievement information for the past three years shows just over half of school leavers achieve NCEA Level 3. These results are comparable with regional and national averages.

Just over half of the Year 13 learners have been successful in gaining University Entrance in recent years. School information also shows an increasing proportion of students gaining merit and excellence endorsements in individual subjects.

School achievement information shows that cohorts of learners progress as expected against New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) levels in Years 9 to 10.

The school’s National Standards (NS) reporting for students in Years 7 and 8 in the last three years shows:

  • about two thirds of learners achieve at or above in reading

  • just over half of learners achieve at or above in mathematics

  • usually about half of learners achieve at or above in writing

  • there is marked disparity in achievement for Māori learners in reading, writing and mathematics and for boys in reading and writing.

A significant number of students are not achieving at expected levels against National Standards in Years 7 and 8. The school cannot yet show how effective they have been in accelerating the progress of these learners over time to enhance their choices and success in the senior school. Trustees, leaders and teachers need to make better use of information about rates of progress to respond to learners’ needs in a more timely way.

A focus on developing consistent assessment guidelines and improved moderation processes is contributing to greater confidence in the reliability of achievement information, particularly at Years 9 and 10. The school needs to ensure that these processes are well embedded at Years 7 and 8.

The school’s NS achievement data does not align with data from its contributing schools. Improved consistency of teacher judgements about achievement across schools will need to continue to be a focus within the Malvern CoL.

Learners with high and additional needs make good progress against personalised goals.

The majority of learners are positively engaged with their learning at the school. This is reflected in high levels of retention of learners to age 17, improved attendance data and positive student feedback in surveys.

Most learners report the school effectively supports their safety and wellbeing. The school has identified it needs to better support aspects of Māori learners’ wellbeing and sense of belonging.

School conditions supporting equity and excellence

This school has a number of effective processes that enable the achievement of equity and excellence.

What school processes are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence?

Learning support is well resourced and coordinated. It is effective in supporting a large number of learners with high and additional needs to experience educational success. Specialists work closely with teaching staff to adapt classroom activities and practices to meet the needs and goals of learners.

Pastoral care roles and systems are effectively promoting learners’ wellbeing, engagement and success in learning. There are clear expectations for behaviour management which are well understood by students and staff and effectively enacted.

The school curriculum provides learners with choice, and responds well to their interests, aspirations and abilities. A broad range of courses are offered and teachers adapt these to respond to students’ needs. Very good use is made of the local environment and community to provide authentic contexts for learning. The school’s specialist rural college provides pathways into the local agricultural industry. The school uses a range of education partners, both by distance and in nearby Christchurch, to enhance the learning opportunities it can offer students.

Increased collaboration across learning areas is providing students with additional opportunities to learn and apply key literacy and critical thinking skills. Recent junior curriculum development is focussed on better preparing learners for success in national qualifications.

The curriculum effectively enacts the school’s mission to ‘develop citizens who have the knowledge, wisdom and skills needed to contribute and participate successfully throughout their lives’. Learners have many opportunities to participate in and contribute to academic, cultural, social, sporting and community activities. Learners’ transitions into, through and on from the school are well-considered and supported by key staff, programmes and senior students.

Internal evaluation is well planned and used effectively to identify areas for development and inform school improvement. Learner perspectives on many aspects of their learning, wellbeing and engagement are regularly sought. Learning area leaders and teachers regularly review the quality and outcomes of their programmes and practices. Teachers are inquiring individually and collectively into effective teaching practice and participating in good quality appraisal processes. Trustees receive useful reports on many aspects of school operations that enable them to evaluate the performance of the school.

Sustainable development for equity and excellence

What further developments are needed in school processes to achieve equity and excellence?

The school has useful internal evaluation processes for identifying areas for development and improvement. Most of the areas identified for improvement in this external evaluation have been identified through the school’s internal processes. Trustees and leaders need to develop more effective strategic and action planning to address areas for improvement.

What further developments are needed in school processes to achieve equity and excellence?

Trustees need to:

  • ensure learner achievement targets include a clear focus on all those learners who are not yet achieving at expected levels

  • ensure they receive regular reports on the progress and achievement of targeted learners in order to know about the effectiveness of strategies and actions to accelerate their progress

  • receive interim NS reporting to better know how well learners are progressing toward expected standards and how well the school is progressing toward its student achievement targets for Years 7 and 8

  • in consultation with the school's Māori community, develop and make known to this community, the school’s policies, plans and targets for improving the achievement of Māori students (Nag 1:e).

Leaders need to:

  • improve decision-making and communication about key school developments

  • improve strategic and action planning for key priorities so that all stakeholders know what to expect over time and how they can contribute

  • review and enact the school’s policies and procedures for ensuring a safe, positive and respectful school culture for students and staff

  • develop shared understandings and expectations for culturally responsive practice and incorporate these into internal evaluation processes across the school

  • work with the school’s Māori community, staff and students to develop a shared understanding of ‘success as Māori’ and develop and implement relevant strategies and plans to support Māori students to experience this.

Leaders and teachers need to complete the review of the Years 7 to 10 curriculum. This includes:

  • ensuring coherent leadership of learning and teacher practice

  • developing clear guidelines for valid and reliable assessment practice

  • strengthening the use of assessment information to respond to the needs of students in a more timely way, and to provide students with high quality feedback about their progress and next learning steps

  • developing more effective systems for monitoring student progress both during the year and over time, to be able to quickly identify students needing extra support and to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies and approaches to lifting achievement.

Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board 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 the following:

  • board administration

  • curriculum

  • management of health, safety and welfare

  • personnel management

  • asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student safety and wellbeing:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)

  • physical safety of students

  • teacher registration and certification

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspension, expulsion and exclusion of students

  • attendance

  • school policies in relation to meeting the requirements of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

The board must ensure that its policies and procedures for ensuring a safe workplace for staff are effectively communicated and consistently enacted in accordance with responsibilities as a good employer under the State Sector Act 1988 (NAG 3 (b).

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (the Code) established under Section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

At the time of this review there were 28 international students attending the school.

The school has very effective processes to ensure the wellbeing of their learners. International learners experience good levels of involvement and integration into the school community.

Going forward

How well placed is the school to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it?

The school has capacity and capability to accelerate learning for all learners. However, there is disparity in achievement for Māori learners, and boys in the junior end of the school.

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the learners whose progress and achievement need to be accelerated

  • need to address the areas for development identified in this evaluation to be better placed to accelerate the achievement of all learners who need it.

The school agrees to:

  • develop more targeted planning to accelerate progress for learners

  • monitor targeted planning, improved teaching, and learners’ progress

  • discuss the school’s progress with ERO.

ERO will provide an internal evaluation workshop to support the school to develop effective planning and monitoring processes to support equity and excellence for all children.

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

Dr Lesley Patterson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Te Waipounamu)

18 October 2017

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Years 7-13

School roll


Gender composition

Female: 444

Male: 427

Ethnic composition

Māori: 7%

Pākeha: 76%

Pacific: 1%

Other: 16%

Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

August 2017

Date of this report

18 October 2017

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review: March 2015

Education Review: August 2011

Education Review: November 2007