Halswell School - 04/12/2012

1 Context

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

The teachers make good use of the school’s location on the outskirts of Christchurch to extend students’ rural and city-based learning experiences. Positive relationships have been established with the local marae.

Students benefit from a wide range of interesting activities that build on their interests, strengths and needs. New Zealand sign language and te reo Māori are taught. Specialist teaching from highly-experienced and qualified teachers in music, drama and dance is a feature of learning programmes. Students’ high level of skills and performance in these areas are recognised and demonstrated at special events and festivals.

The positive school culture is reflected in the pride the staff, students and parents have for the school. Respectful, caring and inclusive relationships exist amongst all these groups. The parents and local community are very supportive of and involved in teaching programmes. An active parent group (PTA) provides ongoing fundraising and practical help.

The international student roll has declined considerably since the earthquakes. The small group of international students has their English language learning very well catered for by an experienced teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Pastoral care is strong and these students are fully integrated into the life of the school.

The Canterbury earthquakes have had a significant effect on school property, requiring students and staff to relocate to other schools for several weeks in 2010. The board, school leaders and staff have maintained a strong focus on ensuring that disruption to students’ learning has been minimal and student wellbeing remains a priority. A counsellor has been employed to support students and staff.

During the on-site stage of this review, the Ministry of Education approved a rebuild of the school on the existing site to begin as soon as plans and processes can be finalised and put in place.

2 Learning

How well are students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

The school reports that, in 2011, student achievement overall was very good with most students, including Māori, achieving at or above the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics.

Areas of strength

Extensive enrichment programmes targeting students at risk of underachieving and those needing extension, are thoroughly planned and closely monitored. Qualified teachers and experienced teacher aides work with groups of students to lift their achievement and progress. Reports to the board show that many students make considerable progress as a result of these interventions.

School leaders and teachers have developed some well-considered guidelines for making their judgements about student achievement in relation to the National Standards. They use a suitable range of assessments to make these decisions.

Students are motivated and keen to learn. Their learning is based on their needs and often on real-life situations. A recent survey of Years 7 and 8 students revealed good levels of engagement in learning. Students spoken with by ERO were complimentary about their teachers and how they helped them to learn.

Students use goal setting to take increasing responsibility for their own learning. Many students are able to talk about their achievement and what they need to do to improve.

Area for development and review

Written reports to students and parents could be improved. Further developments are needed to:

  • make it clearer how students are achieving in relation to the National Standards
  • ensure that the language used is easily understood by students and parents
  • report the achievement of students in areas of the curriculum beyond English and mathematics in more detail, particularly for students in Years 5 to 8.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports students’ learning.

Areas of strength

The well-designed curriculum is closely linked to the school’s vision of helping students become active learners. A comprehensive and lengthy process was undertaken to gain the views and shared understandings of the parents, staff and student community about what is important for students to know and do. As a result, the curriculum is widely understood and owned within the school.

The inquiry approach to learning has been reviewed and modified to increase students’ interest, give a stronger emphasis to science and improve learning outcomes for students. Early indications suggest that student enjoyment has increased because learning is now more practical and relevant.

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are used increasingly to enhance teaching and learning. This development is well supported by technology resources in all classrooms.

Detailed guidelines support teachers in knowing what to teach, the most effective practices to use and what, how and when to assess.

Teachers have benefited from targeted professional development in extending their knowledge and skills in teaching reading, writing, science and using technology. Many teaching practices match the school’s belief that students learn best in cooperative ways, when learning is meaningful and enjoyable and when they have opportunities to think creatively and solve problems.

Area for development and review

The curriculum suitably includes a focus on bicultural learning. The school leaders and teachers have identified that further development is needed so that the intent of the curriculum principles is applied consistently and bicultural learning is made more visible.

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

While most Māori students achieve well, the school leaders recognise the need to do more to promote success for these students as Māori.

Some positive steps have been taken to achieve this goal including:

  • developing an action plan to increase a Māori dimension within the school
  • appointing a school leader to oversee this development
  • providing a year’s release for a teacher to extend her knowledge and skills in te reo and tikanga Māori
  • recently consulting the parents of Māori students to seek their views about teaching and learning.

The school’s kapa haka has been reinstated for senior students. Māori students have leadership roles, including assisting with the kapa haka.

School leaders have identified that they need to continue to build teachers’ confidence and use of te reo and tikanga Māori in an integrated way in class programmes.

The school community would also benefit from developing a shared understanding of what educational success for Māori as Māori will look like in this school.

Consultation with Māori whānau should now be extended to include discussions about the setting of targets for lifting the achievement of their children where appropriate.

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.

Areas of strength

Professional leadership sets a clear direction for ongoing school improvement. Teachers and other staff report high levels of satisfaction with the support they get from the principal and other school leaders. The principal promotes leadership opportunities for staff. Curriculum leadership, particularly in literacy and the inquiry approach has had a significant impact on raising the quality of teaching programmes. Collaborative relationships are valued and the sharing of ideas helps to spread good practice.

Self review is used effectively to identify what is going well and where improvements are needed. This is strongest at the curriculum level.

School leaders use appraisal effectively to identify good teaching practice and where improvements may be needed. Regular observations and feedback help teachers to continue to extend their use of high-quality practices.

A capable and knowledgeable board works well with the principal and staff to support teaching and learning. The board recognises the value of professional development and has made provision for several teachers to have extended training in science, technology and te reo Māori so that they can lead development in these areas.

Good systems have been established to guide the board in its governance role. Careful financial planning has helped the school manage the reduced budget as a result of the drop in the number of international students and the additional expenses incurred after the earthquakes. The board continues to fund programmes, resources and equipment to benefit students’ learning.

Areas for development and review

The school appropriately aims to raise the achievement of all students. The annual targets now need to give priority to the groups of learners most at risk of not achieving the expected National Standard. The targets should include current achievement levels as a baseline and the rates of progress needed to accelerate their learning. The board and school leaders would then be in a better position to know how effective programmes are in raising the achievement of these students and where further resources may be needed.

The board could extend aspects of self review to more regularly seek the opinions of students, staff and parents about teaching and learning.

Uncertainty about the school’s future after the earthquakes has affected some of the board’s long-term planning and communication with the community. The news that the school will be rebuilt should allow the board to plan more extensively and with greater confidence for future developments.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (the Code). The board has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code. At the time of this ERO review, five international students attended the school. The board is working with other local schools to market internationally to try to increase enrolments of international students in Christchurch schools.

The board and school leaders take a well-planned approach to their provision for international students. A team of leaders, teachers and trustees has responsibility for coordinating and monitoring provisions for these students. The director of the programme effectively supports staff to plan and teach programmes to meet students’ needs, and to ensure their integration across the school.

Students spoken with by ERO said that they enjoyed their schooling and were well supported at the school. These students are fully involved in a range of activities at school and in the wider community.

School leaders regularly review their compliance with the Code and other relevant government regulations. The board receives reports on the International Student programme. The progress students make in their learning could be analysed separately as a group to help identify any common trends in their learning.

ERO’s investigations confirm that the school’s self-review process for international students is thorough.

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
  • 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.

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

4 December 2012

About the School


Halswell, Christchurch

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys 51%; Girls 49%

Ethnic composition

New Zealand European/Pākehā



Other ethnicities





Special Features

RTLB Host School

Review team on site

September 2012

Date of this report

4 December 2012

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

September 2008

March 2005

September 2001