Firth School - 27/05/2014

1 Context

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

Firth School caters for students from Years 1 to 6 and is situated in the east Waikato town of Matamata. Of the 197 students on the roll, 51% are of Māori descent, 42% are from New Zealand European families, 2% have Pacific heritages and 5% are from a range of other cultures. Māori students come mainly from two local iwi, Ngati Haua and Ngati Raukawa. The board employs a specialist teacher of te Ao and te reo Māori to work alongside teachers in all classes, provide language extension and support Māori students and their families/whānau. A member of the board of trustees also has responsibility for liaising with Māori families.

The school has a positive reporting history with ERO. The 2009 ERO review identified many areas of good performance including:

  • effective professional leadership
  • established self review systems
  • a wide range of learning opportunities
  • weekly te reo and tikanga Māori teaching
  • high quality teaching practices
  • a family-like school culture that promoted high levels of student engagement in learning.

The 2009 report also identified the need for improved use of assessment information to guide planning, provide feedback about achievement and clarify expectations for engaging students in assessment of their own learning and next steps. Senior leaders and teachers are beginning to address these issues.

Since the 2009 ERO review, the principal and many teachers have remained at the school. They have developed assessment processes to address National Standards requirements and further developed school-wide curriculum guidelines. All staff have engaged in professional development about science, mathematics, positive behaviour guidance and computer technology as a tool for learning. In 2014 the principal will be taking study leave and the deputy principal will be the acting principal.

This review finds that many of the positive features identified in the 2009 ERO review remain evident. In particular, the ‘Firth Family Values’ widely promoted in the ‘Firth Family Learning Tree’ continue to be reflected in respectful relationships among staff, students and families, and the school’s continuing emphasis on the all-round development of each student. Parents are valued as partners in their children’s learning experiences. The new-entrant teacher is strengthening opportunities for four-year old children and their families to become familiar with the school environment. A welcoming, settled and purposeful tone effectively supports students’ engagement in learning.

2 Learning

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

The school is continuing to develop its use of achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. The board and senior leaders use school-wide National Standards results to determine annual targets and priorities for professional development. Trustees receive a range of assessment information throughout the year, which guides funding for programmes to raise student achievement. Senior leaders regularly monitor the individual progress of all students and provide a range of programmes to meet the needs of students who are at risk of underachieving.

Teachers use achievement information to group students for instruction. They use agreed benchmarks and moderation processes to determine overall judgements about achievement. Progress is monitored formally and informally throughout the year. Newly developed indicators for reading, writing and mathematics at each year level are likely to further strengthen the consistency of teacher judgements and provide a basis for students to engage in meaningful self assessment about their learning. Reports to parents are very clear about achievement in relation to National Standards. They are supported by formal and informal discussion with teachers and examples of students’ work.

Next Steps

ERO identifies that the school’s next steps are to:

  • continue to formally analyse and interpret assessment information, identifying actions to address strengths and weaknesses at school-wide and classroom levels
  • further formalise expectations for teaching as inquiry practices that focuses on improving progress for students who are at risk of underachieving
  • continue to develop school-wide expectations for approaches to students’ self assessment of their progress, achievement and next learning steps
  • review expectations for appropriately reporting achievement and progress for students in Years 1 to 3.

3 Curriculum

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

The Firth Primary School curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning and engagement. School leaders and teachers maintain an appropriate emphasis on developing literacy and mathematic skills within authentic learning contexts that interest students. There are focuses on inquiry learning, science, environmental studies, physical activity, the arts, computers as tools for learning and education outside the classroom. Regular inclusion of suitable health programmes and the school’s positive values assists in promoting student wellbeing and success. The principal has continued to lead extensive review and development of the school’s curriculum expectations in consultation with staff and parents.

Very effective teaching practices include systematic planning, sharing learning intentions, providing opportunities to learn cooperatively, maintaining stimulating learning environments, and celebrating students’ work. High expectations for learning and behaviour are evident throughout the school.

Next steps

While there has been significant development of the school’s response to The New Zealand Curriculum, there remains a need for several further areas to be agreed and documented.

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

The school is effectively promoting educational success for Māori, as Māori. Many Māori students achieve well and accept responsibility for leadership roles. Whakawhanaungatanga is continually evident in a school-wide culture that provides Māori students with a strong sense of belonging. Bicultural perspectives are evident in wall displays, class programmes and in teachers’ integrated use of te reo Māori in teaching conversations.

The kaiako (teacher of Māori) is engaged in ongoing personal professional development and liaison with local families and iwi. She shares her knowledge with staff and supports families to become partners in their students’ learning. Parents/whānau are informed and consulted about school programmes and achievement levels. Students have opportunities to participate in kapa haka, waiata, te reo Māori extension classes and marae visits.

Acknowledged next steps are to continue to:

  • develop expectations for sequential school-wide programmes in te Ao and te reo Māori
  • ensure the progress of Māori students who are not meeting National Standards, particularly boys, is a continuing focus for teachers
  • strengthen school-wide knowledge and understanding of Ka Hikitia, Tātaiako, and Tau Mai te Reo.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance because of the following positive factors:

  • Governance is effective. Trustees are knowledgeable about their roles and responsibilities and have a positive working relationship with the principal and a strong commitment to the wellbeing of all students at the school.
  • The school’s strategic direction is clear and provides a sound basis for self review
  • The experienced principal provides effective, collaborative professional leadership. He is well supported by senior leaders who bring complementary skills to their positions. The principal’s relationship strengths are respected in the school and wider educational community.
  • The senior leadership team is dedicated to promoting the interests and wellbeing of students, staff and families. Pastoral care is a strength of the school.
  • Professional learning is continually promoted within a supportive staff culture
  • There is an established culture of critical reflection leading to school-wide improvement.
  • Parents indicate strong support for the school’s inclusive culture.

Next steps

The board’s next steps are to further develop:

  • improvement-focused self review which includes recommendations for future action.
  • more specific annual targets by identifying groups of students who are underachieving, and expectations for regularly monitoring their progress. This is likely to better reflect the board’s generous resourcing for these priority learners.

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.

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

27 May 2014

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 55%

Boys 45%

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā







Special Features

Host school for: Resource Teacher: Literacy

Social Worker in Schools

Review team on site

February 2014

Date of this report

27 May 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2009

March 2007

December 2003