Holy Cross Catholic School (Henderson) - 23/05/2016

1 Context

The school has a positive ERO report history. Since the 2011 ERO review, the then deputy principal has been appointed as principal and a new leadership team has been formed. The board has a mix of new and experienced trustees. Board members and school staff reflect the widely diverse ethnicities of children and their whānau. The school has historical and mutually beneficial links with its parish and community.

The school caters for girls from Years 1 to 8 and boys from Years 1 to 6. Many of the children continue their education at either St Dominic's College for girls or Liston College for boys. Māori children comprise 9 percent of the roll. Children with Pacific heritage comprise 40 percent of students.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school for all children are evident in the school vision, 'with God we strive for excellence' and its core values of faith, hope, love and joy. The school considers that children experience success when they form authentic relationships, and show genuine care for others and the environment.

As a result of consultation with parents/whānau as part of a review of the school’s vision and values, there is a shared understanding between teachers and parents/whānau about ways in which they can collaborate to support children whose progress needs acceleration.

Since 2012, the school has reviewed the effectiveness of intervention programmes for learners who are at risk of underachieving. Staff professional learning has focused on improving outcomes for Māori children. In particular, there has been a focus on developing strong, culturally responsive teaching and learning approaches with all teachers. Refined school processes have supported the board, parents/whānau, staff and children in realising the principles of The Māori Education Strategy: Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013–2017. This development builds on the good quality provision for Māori children noted in previous ERO reports.

The school’s achievement information shows that Māori children achieve best in reading and mathematics. However, the overall levels of achievement for these children is below that of their peers, with a greater proportion achieving below National Standards in writing, reading and mathematics than for other ethnic groups.

Trustees and school leaders have responded to this disparity by prioritising and coordinating targeted teaching and learning approaches to raise Māori children's achievement. The school has used its 2013 and 2014 data to examine a range of factors that have had the potential to contribute to the lower numbers of Māori children achieving at and above National Standards. In particular instances, the school has worked closely with families and whanau to support children's engagement with school.

Information gathered in 2015 shows some positive trends in the progress of individual Māori learners achieving below National Standards. The majority of these children improved their performance in writing, with about half demonstrating accelerated progress.

Examples of accelerated progress for targeted Māori students are also evident in reading and mathematics. The school's achievement information further demonstrates the positive difference the school makes for Māori children who have been at school for a sustained period of time, with most students in Year 6, 7 and 8 achieving at National Standards.

The board, school leaders and teachers have used successful examples of progress to adapt teaching practice for other areas of the curriculum. The increase in Māori student achievement in mathematics in 2014 has been a focus for school inquiry about ways to maximise success in other learning areas.

Of interest to the school is the good levels success of Pacific children in relation to the National Standards. There are well established and significant partnerships that most Pacific families have to the church and the school. This successful connection has been explored by the board and school leaders as a means of further strengthening partnerships with whānau.

Since the last ERO evaluation the school has:

  • supported teachers to use a variety of strategies to raise the achievement of underachieving children, with a particular focus on raising the achievement of Māori learners
  • increased opportunities for effective participation and collaboration at every level of the school community
  • enhanced the school curriculum to help ensure all children benefit from being engaged in the depth and breadth of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Outcomes for Māori children as a result of these developments have been partially effective to date.

3 Accelerating achievement

How effectively does this school respond to Māori children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school is increasingly responding well to Māori children whose learning and achievement needs acceleration. Senior leaders and teachers identify Māori children at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes by closely tracking their progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards and other aspects of their education, including their ability to use inquiry. Achievement in reading, writing and mathematics is assessed across a variety of learning areas, including science and technology.

The board, school leaders and staff actively promote a positive school culture that is focused on engaging children and their families in learning. Collated information about individual children helps staff understand more fully about each child's cultural experiences and capabilities. Teachers ask whānau how the school can best support them and their children. This unassuming, respectful approach has been particularly beneficial for Māori children and whānau who have had negative experiences with school.

Parents of Māori children report that they have been well supported to help their children at home. They value the ways that teachers keep them informed about their children’s learning, and seek their advice to help promote Te Āo Māori in the school's curriculum.

Teachers are supported by the board, school leaders and their colleagues to reduce the achievement disparities in their classrooms. Work in this area has included:

  • the development of programmes that specifically build on Māori children’s strengths, target their needs and match their interests
  • staff using a variety of well planned strategies to personalise learning for Māori children who are achieving below the National Standards
  • teachers using feedback from a robust mentoring and appraisal process to respond to diverse learners’ requirements.

The school has successfully accelerated the progress of some Māori children at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes, particularly those involved in programmes with this express purpose. Teachers have a shared commitment to excellence and contribute their various talents to cater for children’s individual learning requirements and wellbeing. They are increasingly using evidence to be more deliberate in their actions for accelerating the progress of Māori learners who are at risk of underachieving.

The school’s whānau group gathers Māori children together to build on their sense of whanaungatanga and to provide opportunities for them to support each other in their learning. Regular reports to the board about how well Māori children are progressing help trustees to ask questions about achievement trends and patterns, and to target resources.

Māori children who do not achieve at National Standards are better positioned for success in reading, writing and mathematics because of the progress they have made and the support the school provides.

How effectively does this school respond to other children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school responds very effectively to other children whose learning and achievement needs acceleration. The principles for accelerating the progress of Māori children have a positive influence on outcomes for all learners.

Well documented action plans to raise achievement inform teacher practice and the board’s strategic plan. This learner focused approach is evident in the way teachers apply their knowledge of individual children and their whānau to modify their teaching practices to cater for each children’s wellbeing and learning.

Consistent with principles of accelerating children progress, teachers:

  • treat relevance as a key component to children's motivation
  • provide opportunities for children to apply skills immediately to what they are learning
  • plan active, fast-paced, hands-on experiences
  • support children to keep pace with what their peers are learning.

4 School conditions

How effectively do the school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices develop and enact the school’s vision, values, goals and priorities for equity and excellence?

The school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices have a positive impact on developing and enacting the school’s vision, values, goals and priorities for equity and excellence. School decision-making is focused on the requirements of all children. Internal and external evaluation are used by the board and school leaders in the school’s drive for continuous improvement. It is strategic and focused on positive outcomes for children.

The school's well considered Treaty of Waitangi policy commits the board, school leaders and teachers to working together to promote and support Māori interests and address inequality of educational outcomes. The school’s kawa acknowledges Māori as tangata whenua and gives Māori children a sense that their school is a place for them to learn and develop.

Ako, the notion of reciprocal learning relationships, features strongly in the school’s culture. Staff are open to possibilities and suggestions for improvement from children, whānau and colleagues in order to make a difference for children who are at risk of underachieving.

Teachers’ high expectations of all students achieving personal and holistic excellence and succeeding in relation to the National Standards are evident in action. Teachers skilfully support children's growth in confidence, cultural identity, and leadership skills. Biculturalism provides a framework for the school community to understand and promote multiculturalism. This stance impacts positively on all learners, and particularly for Māori learners.

The school’s responsive curriculum successfully incorporates connections to children’ prior understandings and experiences outside school. It encourages children to pursue their various interests. The school’s inquiry learning process has been refined and is successfully used by children to deepen their learning across the curriculum.

The school leadership team, board and teachers regularly consider ways to improve provision for children who are at most risk of underachieving. This has resulted in a refinement and alignment of the school’s charism, curriculum, appraisal system, school values and communications. As a result, coherent systems and approaches support continuous school improvement.

Support is provided by the school to whānau in various ways to help strengthen families and improve outcomes for children. The whole school community considers itself as a larger whānau with deep and meaningful connections. Children easily make connections to each other, and their Catholic faith, school and family/whānau. They actively contribute to their learning and are supported in the knowledge that whānau, with the school, have confidence in them as successful learners.

Trustees provide effective stewardship by being committed to developing great people and a successful community. The principal’s purposeful leadership enables staff to develop their strengths and expertise in meeting realistic school achievement targets that are based on a variety of sources of evidence.

Trustees and school leaders are keen to enhance and extend professional networking for accelerating the progress of underachieving children, particularly Māori and Pacific children. The good work that has been developed to promote culturally responsive practice is an area that the school continues to value. This area is also a focus for the Waitakere Community of Schools that the school joined in 2015. Senior leaders and teachers are receptive to new ideas and confident in sharing their successes with colleagues in other schools.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children?

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond effectively to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how well teaching is working for these children
  • act on what they know works well for each child
  • build teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children
  • are well placed to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children.

Professional development is well aligned to school goals that are focused on improving outcomes for Māori children whose learning and achievement need accelerating.

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

6 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 the following:

  • Board administration.

  • Curriculum.

  • Management of health, safety and welfare.

  • Personnel management.

  • 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.

  • Processes for appointing staff.

  • Stand down, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions.

  • Attendance.

  • Compliance with the provisions of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

  • Provision for international students.

7 Recommendation

ERO recommends that the school further support teachers to develop their capability to achieve equitable outcomes for Māori children.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

23 May 2016

About the school


Henderson, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 59%, Boys 41%

Ethnic composition









Latin American

other ethnicities











Special Features

Arohanui Special Unit

Review team on site

February 2016

Date of this report

23 May 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

August 2011

June 2008

March 2005