Hillcrest High School - 23/08/2013

1 Context

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

Hillcrest High School is a large co-educational secondary school located in the eastern Hamilton suburb of Hillcrest. The culturally diverse roll of 1630 includes 215 Māori, an increasing Pacific roll and a significant number of Asian students. There are currently 35 international students, which add further diversity to the school community.

The board of trustees includes a combination of newly elected and experienced members. The chairperson is experienced in her role. Together, trustees bring a range of appropriate skills to their governance roles.

The school has had a positive reporting history with ERO. The 2010 ERO report identified many areas of strong performance. This ERO review finds that the school has sustained and enhanced these areas including:

  • a positive, supportive and inclusive environment
  • extensive opportunities for students to achieve
  • high-quality systems to support student wellbeing
  • knowledgeable and enthusiastic teachers
  • effective school management
  • strong and effective governance.

The 2010 ERO report also identified that improvements were needed in the use of assessment information, particularly at Years 9 and 10, and in aspects relating to the success and achievement of Māori and Pacific students. The school has made significant progress in addressing these aspects through relevant professional development and the strengthening of the school’s relationship with Māori whānau and the wider community.

2 Learning

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

The school makes highly effective use of achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement.

Data gathered by the school shows that on entry at Year 9, patterns of achievement are consistent with national expectations in reading and mathematics. The data also shows that students make good progress with their learning. Achievement data for National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Levels 1, 2 and 3 shows that a large majority of students achieve very well. A significant number of students achieve NCEA merit or excellence endorsements and a large group of students succeed in scholarship examinations. The school continues to build on historically high levels of student academic, sporting and cultural success.

School trustees receive detailed reports about student progress and achievement. The information in these reports assists them to:

  • be very well informed about overall school effectiveness in promoting student learning
  • provide generous funding for learning resources in response to student needs
  • make well-informed decisions about school priorities, strategic goals and school direction.
  • School leaders gather, collate and thoroughly analyse data about student achievement in order to:
  • prioritise, plan and implement school-wide professional learning programmes for teachers that are aligned with school strategic direction
  • identify students achieving below expected levels (priority learners) and put relevant support programmes in place to address the needs of these students
  • increase teacher accountability for the progress and achievement of priority learners
  • set and monitor annual achievement targets and faculty goals.

Teachers are using student achievement information effectively to:

  • identify effective strategies to accelerate progress for priority learners, particularly in reading and writing
  • identify and address the learning needs of groups of students
  • reflect on and examine the effectiveness of their professional teaching practice with a view to improving student achievement
  • report levels of achievement to parents and families and involve them in decisions about individual student learning pathways.

Students with special learning needs are receiving high-quality support through a range of focused interventions. Teachers and support staff ensure these students are included in school activities and experience success.

Students experience high levels of success in an extensive range of sporting, cultural and performing events and enrichment programmes offered at the school.

Achievement information for Pacific students is gathered and progress is monitored. Appropriate goals to raise achievement have been set in the annual plan. Achievement levels for Pacific students have improved since the last ERO report.

ERO and school leaders agree that important next steps to promote learning are:

  • to gather, collate and analyse school-wide achievement information about writing at Years 9 and 10
  • to provide students with regular access to their assessment results and further develop strategies that allow them to monitor their own progress and next learning steps.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning. The curriculum is focused on addressing the strengths, interests and learning needs of students. It is broad based, inclusive and designed to provide students with relevant choices and pathways as they progress through the school.

The curriculum allows students to access a wide range of flexible learning pathways, experiences and qualifications. The ongoing monitoring and review of learning programmes is ensuring that the curriculum remains responsive to students’ needs. ERO and the school agree that the next step in curriculum development is to document how the curriculum is giving effect to the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum.

The Hillcrest curriculum provides high-quality and holistic support for students’ wellbeing. This is evidenced by:

  • an inclusive and collaborative approach to establishing shared school values
  • the recent review and establishment of a school-wide positive approach to behaviour management
  • high-quality support for students with high and complex learning and development needs
  • an emphasis on the inclusion of students with diverse needs in the life of the school
  • extensive student leadership opportunities including their involvement in initiatives that promote a positive school culture
  • the celebration of student success across a wide range of academic and extracurricular activities.

There are very high levels of student motivation and engagement across the school. Examples of high-quality teaching practice are:

  • the way teachers deliberately and consistently share high expectations for learning and behaviour with students
  • positive and respectful interactions among and between teachers and students
  • differentiated teaching to cater for the range of students learning needs
  • teachers clearly identifying priority learners in their planning and adapting their practice to meet the specific needs of these students.

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

The school has significantly strengthened its capacity to promote educational success for Māori, as Māori. There is extensive consultation with Māori students and a meaningful relationship has been established with local marae and whānau. All Year 9 students visit the marae and staff have attended school-wide professional learning based at the marae.

There are positive trends in Māori achievement and progress across the school, and retention and attendance rates for Māori students are improving.

There are growing opportunities to celebrate Māori student achievement, including a Māori achievement evening held each year to provide a focus for affirming Māori success in academic and sporting endeavours, and across the wider curriculum. A Māori dimension is now more visible around the school and there is a growing commitment by staff to being culturally responsive.

The formation of a Māori achievement committee, which includes student representation, has created a forum for discussing Māori achievement. This group is providing valuable leadership and initiatives in planning school direction about improving Māori success.

Teachers' and school leaders' involvement in the He Kakano project has provided an ongoing focus on culturally responsive leadership and teaching. The impact of this programme is evident in teachers’ increased understanding of students and their learning needs. In addition, it is enhancing teaching and learning across all cultural and ethnic groups. To further support these positive aspects, ERO and school leaders agree that the school continues to work towards embedding the principles and practices of the He Kakano project in teacher practice.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is very well placed to sustain and improve its performance because:

  • governance is highly effective
  • the school vision, values, strategic direction and annual planning processes are clearly aligned and well supported by school-wide and faculty procedures and systems
  • the principal and senior leaders are providing effective professional leadership
  • heads of faculty are providing clear direction for faculty development and maintain a focus on continual improvement in teaching and learning
  • there is wide spread high-quality classroom teaching practice
  • there is a strong emphasis on using student voice to guide decision making
  • a culture of review and ongoing improvement is evident.

Senior leaders and ERO agree that there is a need to review the appraisal process to ensure all teachers receive frequent, constructive and documented feedback to enhance their classroom practice.

Provision for international students

Hillcrest High School provides high quality care and tuition for international students (IS). Since the last ERO review in 2010, a new, purpose built facility has been constructed to house the IS department. This high-quality building provides distinct learning areas, administration areas and a meeting point where the needs of IS can be met.

IS students have access to an extensive range of sporting, cultural, pastoral and guidance facilities. The IS department is well led by an experienced and knowledgeable manager who ensures that all aspects of student life are carefully monitored and managed.

The school has three qualified English as a second language (ESOL) teachers who provide effective tutoring to raise students’ skills in English. Students’ proficiency in English is assessed and closely monitored so that students can be integrated into mainstream classroom programmes as appropriate.

A well-managed induction programme is provided for new students. Extensive and consistently implemented review systems are in place to monitor and improve the quality of education and care for IS. Staff in the IS department work closely with pastoral staff to identify and address students’ ongoing need for pastoral care and support.

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. At the time of this review there were 35 international students attending the school.

The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school’s self-review processes for international students are 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
  • 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 four-to-five years.

Graham Randell National Manager Review Services Northern Region (Acting)

23 August 2013

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 53% Boys 47%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā



Other European


South East Asian


Other Asian


Cook Island Māori



Other Pacific














Review team on site

July 2013

Date of this report

23 August 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2010

June 2007

June 2004