Darfield High School - 26/03/2015


The school’s semi-rural setting has an important impact on curriculum programmes and activities. Students have a wide range of choices and opportunities to experience and enjoy learning within and beyond the classroom. Relationships at the school are positive and supportive. This report acknowledges the progress made since the 2011 ERO review and identifies further areas for ongoing improvement.

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

1 Context

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

Darfield High School has a strong sense of tradition and a history of students attending from a wide geographical area. Aspects of curriculum and career choices are influenced by the school’s semi-rural setting.

Since the previous ERO review in August 2011, a number of changes have occurred at board, senior leadership and staffing levels. Building redevelopments and other improvements since that time ensure that school facilities provide expanded opportunities for students’ learning and enjoyment.

Recent management initiatives by the new board to address significant financial challenges have helped to improve the school’s financial situation.

Involvement in a cluster of local schools, enables the school to contribute to learning improvement across the area and build stronger transitions into the school. International students contribute to the school’s cultural diversity.

Progress has been made in some areas identified for development in the 2011 report. As indicated in this report, further improvement is needed in other areas, particularly self review.

2 Learning

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

Leaders and teachers use achievement information well to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. There is a strong focus on individualised pathways to support and meet students’ learning needs.

Significant work has been done to develop clear expectations for assessment so that learners are given the best opportunities to demonstrate their learning. Teachers regularly monitor students' progress. Judgements about students’ learning include evidence from a wide range of information.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) remains high at Levels 1 and 2. Achievement information in literacy and mathematics at Years 7 to 10 shows most students make good progress from one year to the next.

Students know how well they are achieving and are offered regular and useful feedback about their learning success and next steps for learning. Respectful and supportive relationships are evident between staff and students. Students recognise that many staff members provide a wide range of extra support to help them learn and achieve.

A culture of celebrating students’ successes and building their self-belief is helping to strengthen the motivation to improve and succeed.

Teachers are provided with detailed information on how to effectively support students with learning needs. This enables most students to learn with adjusted programmes within classrooms.

The school’s transition programme for Year 7 students with particular learning needs continues to be strengthened.

Areas for review and development

Leaders and teachers should continue to review and refine assessment practices to:

  • strengthen moderation practices in Years 7 to 10
  • avoid the over-use of assessment across learning areas
  • make sure that there is clear reporting to parents of National Standards at Years 7 and 8.

3 Curriculum

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

Since the previous ERO review, senior and curriculum leaders have made considerable progress promoting and supporting student learning through an increasingly broadened curriculum. Students have a wide range of learning opportunities within and beyond the school.

A number of important developments in the curriculum have occurred since the last review. These include:

  • a well developed focus on essential skills to support learning across the curriculum is being well developed
  • more consistent teaching approaches
  • vocational pathways that continue to expand and reflect stronger links with tertiary providers and the business community
  • the use of a national programme to support positive learning behaviour. This is having a noticeable impact on students’ engagement in their learning and progress.

Curriculum leadership is a strength which enables strategic, effective and collaborative curriculum development that is benefiting students' learning.

External feedback in 2013 shows that the school has made good progress improving aspects of NCEA moderation and assessment practices.

Programmes that cater for a wider range of learning abilities have been introduced at junior and senior levels. Multi-level teaching and learning within classes is expanding support and learning opportunities for students. While teachers are very supportive of this approach, feedback from them also indicates that leaders will need to monitor the impact of these initiatives to ensure these programmes are manageable.

There are good school-wide opportunities for student leadership and these are particularly evident in the way senior students support younger students.

Area for review and development

Leaders and teachers should now review current provisions for Years 7 to 10 learning and achievement to ensure that:

  • the philosophy for these year levels is clearly understood, and effective leadership and management structures, expectations and guidelines are in place
  • the junior curriculum is well linked to the senior curriculum in ways that promote cohesive learning and progress across all year levels.

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

Some progress has been made in promoting educational success for Māori, as Māori. This includes:

  • links with the local rūnanga are being further developed
  • progress made in some departments with integrating bicultural perspectives into the curriculum
  • opportunities provided for whānau to meet and discuss important issues and ideas.

Area for review and development

In order to make further progress in this area, leaders now need to develop strategic plans and goals to guide current and future directions that promote and support success as Māori in the school. This should include:

consultation with whānau, Māori students and the local rūnanga to identify key priorities and goals for development

regular review and reporting of success as Māori to the board.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is becoming better placed to sustain and improve its performance. Ongoing board training for trustees on governance roles and responsibilities is likely to further sustain and improve school performance.

Trustees bring a good range of experience to the board and have been involved in recent whole- board training at a national level. Together with the principal and senior leaders, the board maintains a clear focus on positive outcomes for students. The improvements to a number of school facilities and buildings have been well managed by the board.

Changes have been made to the senior leadership structure to promote effective team practices at this level. Senior leaders provide very good support for curriculum leadership and development.

The improved appraisal process is helping to increase and strengthen the quality of teaching and learning across the school.

Ongoing opportunities are available for students to contribute to:

  • teacher appraisal
  • curriculum development
  • next steps for learning and future vocational pathways.

A school culture of strong pastoral care and support for students’ wellbeing contributes to a sense of belonging and promotes students’ health and safety. Students and staff benefit from the school’s supportive community and active parent-teacher association.

Areas for review and development

The board and senior leaders should now develop a shared understanding of review at board, leadership and teacher levels. Priorities for self review include:

  • completing the review of strategic plan goals and further developing long-term and annual planning
  • developing an identified schedule of school priorities for review
  • clarifying expectations for curriculum reporting to the board and senior leadership, including ensuring that National Standards' information is included in department reports to the board
  • implementing robust systems for the ongoing monitoring and review of the school’s financial situation
  • surveys about wellbeing, health and safety of staff and students.

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. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code. ERO verified that these processes had been completed annually.

At the time of this review there were 18 international students attending the school.

ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school has thorough systems and practices to support and review the quality of students’ wellbeing and education. Students are actively included and involved in all aspects of the school.

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.


The school’s semi-rural setting has an important impact on curriculum programmes and activities. Students have a wide range of choices and opportunities to experience and enjoy learning within and beyond the classroom. Relationships at the school are positive and supportive. This report acknowledges the progress made since the 2011 ERO review and identifies further areas for ongoing improvement.

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

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

26 March 2015

About the School


Darfield, Canterbury

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 7 to 13)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys 51% Girls 49%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/ Pākehā




Other ethnicities






Review team on site

November 2015

Date of this report

26 March 2015

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

August 2011

November 2007

December 2004