Hamilton Girls' High School - 29/06/2020

School Context

Hamilton Girls’ High School is a large urban secondary school in the centre of Hamilton. The student roll has remained consistent since the previous ERO review in 2016 and is currently 1587; this includes 30% who are Māori, 8% of Pacific heritage and students from a range of other ethnicities. There are 24 international fee-paying students and an attached hostel accommodating 136 boarders.

Through consultation, the school’s values have been recently reviewed and updated. The school’s vision of ‘empowering young women to dare to excel as innovative individuals who are globally connected’, is supported by the values of ‘excellence, identity, resilience, courage, curiosity and creativity’.

School leadership has remained unchanged since the previous ERO review and the experienced board has recently gained trustees with specific governance knowledge and skills.

Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board, schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA)

  • aspects of achievement at Years 9 and 10

  • attendance.

The school is a member of the He Piko He Taniwha Kāhui Ako.

Evaluation Findings

1 Equity and excellence – achievement of valued outcomes for students

1.1 How well is the school achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students?

The school is yet to achieve equitable and excellent outcomes for Māori and Pacific students.

The school’s 2018 NCEA achievement data, shows that most students achieve Levels 1 and 2 NCEA. The data also shows that the large majority of students achieve Level 3, with just over half of these students gaining University Entrance (UE).

There is significant disparity for Māori compared to their New Zealand European peers in NCEA and UE. There is also significant disparity for Pacific students at NCEA Level 1, Level 3 and UE. There has been a pattern of ongoing disparity for Māori and Pacific students over time.

The school’s 2018 retention data shows a higher number of students remaining at school until at least their 17th birthday compared to 2017. School leavers data shows that most New Zealand European and Māori and almost all Pacific students are leaving with Level 2 or above. A third of the Year 13 Pacific students are second language learners and have undertaken a two-year approach to gaining Level 2 NCEA. These students achieve at comparable levels at Level 2 to New Zealand European students.

Endorsements for student achievement in NCEA from 2016 to 2018, show that at merit level there has been a decrease at Levels 1 and 2 and an increase at Level 3. The data, inclusive of all students for excellence endorsements, have remained consistent over time. There is disparity in endorsement levels in some subject areas between Māori and New Zealand European students.

The school has had a focus on improving student attendance rates. The 2018 attendance data shows higher levels of attendance compared with 2017 and there is a positive trend over time. Correspondingly, there has been a decrease in the rates of unjustified absences.

Achievement information from nationally referenced assessment tools shows Year 9 and 10 students made less than expected progress in literacy and numeracy from 2017 to 2018. There is some disparity in these results, where New Zealand European students are performing at higher levels than their Māori peers. However, all students including Māori and Pacific, made better than expected progress in science.

1.2 How well is the school accelerating learning for those Māori and other students who need this?

The school has some achievement information that shows the effective acceleration of those Māori and other students who need this over time. A significant majority of those students who entered the school at Year 9 in 2015, achieving below curriculum expectations in English and mathematics and who remained until 2018, gained NCEA Level 2. Strategies and interventions used to accelerate the progress and achievement were most effective for Pacific and New Zealand European students, but less effective for Māori.

Many students with additional learning needs are well supported and their learning is effectively accelerated in literacy and numeracy.

2 School conditions for equity and excellence – processes and practices

2.1 What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

An inclusive, positive school culture supports students’ sense of belonging and wellbeing. Senior leaders promote the school values, are highly respected, empathetic and set high expectations for students. There are positive relationships between teachers and students with strong networks in place to support students’ pastoral care needs. Recent changes to the junior curriculum have strengthened links with the community, parents and whānau.

There is a strong sense of school pride. Students have a wide range of opportunities to enjoy success, with a feeling of sisterhood an integral part of the school culture. Students from a number of different ethnicities are included and supported. Māori and Pacific cultural groups are actively promoting their respective language, culture and identity. A range of cultural events are acknowledged and celebrated at the school. Many student leadership pathways are available for students and this has led to positive student role models throughout the school.

Students with additional learning needs are well supported through an ongoing strategic focus. The appointment and placement of key staff has ensured that appropriate support networks enhance students’ opportunities to learn and succeed. The continued development of the Hilary Hub provides a central focus to support these students. Many students involved in these programmes make accelerated progress.

The learning environment is managed in ways that support participation and engagement. Knowledgeable teachers use a range of teaching strategies to motivate and encourage students. They actively support students in class and provide formative feedback, which strengthens student involvement in their learning.

2.2 What further developments are needed in school processes and practices for achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

The school has yet to effectively analyse and use achievement information to inform teaching and learning. Annual departmental reviews do not clearly respond to the disparity in student achievement. Improved data analysis will allow clear trends and patterns to be identified, inform teacher practice and ongoing curriculum design, and assist teachers to better respond to the specific learning needs of students.

Internal evaluation of subject courses requires strengthening to better measure the impact of recent initiatives on student outcomes. Evaluation of the school’s valued student outcomes will clarify what is working most effectively for their students. A greater emphasis on the impact of culturally responsive and relational pedagogies at the classroom level will strengthen the school’s strategic goals by further building teacher capability.

A more coherent approach to monitoring students at risk of not achieving is needed. Clarity of the specific roles, responsibilities and accountability of middle and senior leaders are also necessary. Although there are currently numerous ways to track student achievement, a standardised schoolwide system for actioning appropriate responses to improve student outcomes needs to be developed, to build greater consistency across the school.

3 Other Matters

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school hostel, Sonninghill Hostel, accommodates 136 students. Boarders are housed according to year levels in dormitories, units, and single and double rooms. There is provision for a greater level of privacy and independence for Year 13 students.

Communal spaces provide a range of recreational activities. A number of organised events throughout the year provides further opportunities for social interactions between students.

There is a comprehensive induction programme for new boarders and mentoring and tutoring support is provided for those students who require it.

The school has attested that all requirements of the Education (Hostels) Regulations 2005 have been met.

Provision for international students

The school is 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 ERO review there were 24 long-stay international students attending the school.

Effective systems and processes are in place to support the pastoral care of international students. The school monitors the provision for students through ongoing internal evaluation. Promotion of student wellbeing and the meaningful integration into school life is a strong focus. Students have positive experiences at school and are encouraged to participate in a wide range of activities and events.  Students are provided with relevant curriculum experiences and subject choices, alongside useful guidance to support successful pathways to further study. A well-considered approach to supporting English language learning caters for individual student needs and enables success.

ERO has identified the need to enhance reporting to the board of trustees. This is necessary to further support the school to evaluate its effectiveness in providing positive academic and pastoral outcomes for all international students.

4 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
  • finance
  • 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 Children’s Act 2014.

5 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of Hamilton Girls’ High School’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Developing.

ERO’s Framework: Overall Findings and Judgement Tool derived from School Evaluation Indicators: Effective Practice for Improvement and Learner Success is available on ERO’s website.

6 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

For sustained improvement and future learner success, the school can draw on existing strengths in:

  • a school culture that enhances students’ language, culture and identity
  • support for students with additional learning needs that provides opportunities to accelerate their progress
  • a learning environment that promotes students’ participation and engagement in their learning.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are in:

  • the management and use of student achievement information to inform decision making
  • internal evaluation to evaluate the impact of recent initiatives and senior courses
  • deliberate, planned actions to reduce disparities for Māori and Pacific students.

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should review and update hostel policies.

Phillip Cowie

Director Review and Improvement Services Central

Central Region

29 June 2020

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll


Gender composition

Female 1587

Ethnic composition

Māori 30%
New Zealand European/Pākehā 45%
Asian 11%
Pacific 8%
Other ethnic groups 6%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

October 2019

Date of this report

29 June 2020

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review November 2016
Education Review October 2013
Education Review December 2010