James Cook High School - 15/05/2017


James Cook High School is facing significant challenges to raise student achievement and increase student engagement in learning. External intervention is required to address the review findings and urgently improve outcomes for students. A comprehensive strategic turnaround plan must be developed and implemented to resolve issues for learners at the school. This will require community ownership and support.

ERO intends to monitor and closely evaluate the development of a strategic turnaround plan, its key stages of implementation and the quality of supports and interventions applied until ERO is satisfied the school is on an improvement path.

1 Context

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

James Cook High School, located in Manurewa, is a large secondary school catering for students from Years 9 to 15. Most students are of Māori or Pacific heritage. The school continues to provide bilingual education for Māori students in the Puutake unit and for Samoan students in O le Tupu’aga.

The school provides education for a diverse community with a wide range of educational requirements. It hosts satellite classes from the Blind and Low Vision Education Network New Zealand (BLENNZ) and Rosehill Special School. The school also has a Teen Parent unit and Alternative Education units off site. On site, the school has Services and Health Sciences academies.

At the time of the last ERO evaluation in 2014, the board had recently appointed a first time principal, after a long period of settled school leadership. That principal and a number of senior staff have subsequently won positions in other schools. A new principal was appointed to the school in mid 2016. Seventeen new staff including two senior leaders have joined the staff. In 2014, ERO identified a number of areas required further action. These appear to have not been addressed and student outcomes have not improved.

From 2014 to 2016, roll based results in National Certificates of Education Achievement (NCEA) highlight declining levels of student achievement and success in reaching qualifications. External intervention and support is required to quickly help the board, senior leadership and staff to address the low levels of student achievement, manage the pace of change required to turn this situation around and address the ERO findings.

In 2016, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) signalled significant areas of improvement were required to manage National Assessment in Years 11 to 13. This included improving student access to participation in enough assessment opportunities to obtain national qualifications.

The school is currently on a one year review cycle with NZQA. Further work was required to ensure school assessment systems are robust and courses are appropriately designed. The school is responding to these recommendations. A new NZQA Principal’s Nominee and deputy principal are now in charge of assessment, working closely with NZQA.

2 Learning

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

School leaders must urgently improve student engagement in education, accelerate student learning in Years 9 and 10 and raise achievement in Years 11 to 13. School leaders and teachers require extensive and ongoing external support from the Ministry of Education (MoE) to use achievement information effectively and improve student outcomes. In 2017, the school is using roll-based data to clearly identify the achievement challenges and more accurately report on student achievement to the board.

Students are not achieving well in NCEA. From 2015 to 2016, declining levels of student achievement in NCEA Level 1 and minimal improvement at NCEA Level 2 are of grave concern. Very low levels of student achievement in NCEA Level 3, University Entrance and course endorsements highlight that this requires a rapid school response.

Leaders should continue to review and strengthen the quality of the tracking and monitoring of students working towards NCEA qualifications. They must ensure the progress of all students is subject to regular scrutiny throughout the year and report this clearly to the board. Students at risk of not achieving should be identified early and individualised student action plans developed with the student, whānau, teachers and school leaders. This should begin in Year 9 through effective transition practices.

Leaders and teachers should ensure families of all students at risk of underachievement are well informed on a regular basis about the progress of their children. Whānau should be included as partners to support their children’s achievement. Building on the home-school partnership approach to strengthen the regular communication with the home is essential. School leaders are reviewing reports to families to improve the quality and usefulness in improving student outcomes.

In Puutake, the school’s Māori bilingual unit, the NCEA student outcomes are much better. Students are achieving well in NCEA. However, these students should also be well prepared for a variety of pathways beyond school. Further internal evaluation is required to ensure their qualifications include a breadth and depth of the learning areas required for future educational success.

The school is aware that Māori students in the rest of the school are not achieving as well Puutake students. The school needs a different, strategic, planned approach to address this inequity. Disparities between Māori boys and girls is also cause for concern. School internal evaluation and reporting systems are not well developed to inform plans to raise Māori student achievement.

Pacific students are not achieving well in NCEA. School leaders must evaluate why and consider a strategic response to better support Pacific students. There is evidence that in some home language subjects students achieve well. To better support the individual needs of Pacific students, more intensive language teaching and in class support programmes are required. The outcomes for Pacific students from other specialised programmes require regular evaluation.

The 2016 NCEA Level 1 and 2 results indicate that students in Years 9 and 10 do not progress and achieve well over time. Significant improvement in students’ literacy and mathematics skills are required to help them to participate in and achieve national qualifications. Students are currently not well placed to achieve qualifications by Year 11. There is an absence of well-developed student achievement tracking, evaluation and reporting systems at Years 9 and 10.

Until recently, trustees have not received sufficient student progress and achievement information. The board requires more evaluative reports on the educational provisions and pathways operating in the school to inform resourcing. Trustees should focus decision making on promoting more equitable outcomes for all students. They must raise their level of understanding about, and scrutiny into student achievement, ensuring this remains the core business of the board.

Leaders and teachers also have significant work to do to increase students’ use of their own achievement information. Students should receive more regular and useful improvement feedback. They should be better supported to set measurable and meaningful learning goals so they can make informed decisions about their learning. Designing relevant future pathways with all students could increase student retention and engagement in schooling.

ERO and school leaders agree that the key areas to improve include:

  • increasing student attendance and engagement in education
  • developing a school-wide understanding of and response to Year 8 achievement information
  • promoting a seamless learning and transition programme for Year 9 students
  • teachers’ use of Year 9 and 10 achievement information to engage students in purposeful learning that improves literacy and mathematics outcomes
  • teacher and leadership inquiry systems to identify strategies that raise student achievement
  • targeted teaching approaches to accelerate student learning and progress
  • strengthening the robustness of student achievement information, and the consistency of school-wide moderation practices to address the findings from the NZQA 2016 report.

3 Curriculum

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

The school curriculum is partially effective at promoting and supporting student learning. Leaders should consider what works best for students and offer all students relevant and meaningful future curriculum pathways.

The school does operate some meaningful pathways that students’ value. In senior science, students have the opportunity to join the Health Science Academy. The Service Academy and Gateway continues to provide other opportunities for some groups of students. The school offers a broad range of curriculum subjects based on The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) and provides other educational opportunities.

A review of the overall design of the school curriculum including the place of science up to Year 11, and the timetable structure is essential. There is a need to develop a more responsive and relevant curriculum to engage students. Other changes are required to the way the curriculum operates to remove barriers to further education.

The school has a settled tone and this helps promote a positive learning environment. Student diversity is valued helping to create a strong sense of inclusion. The introduction of a new mentoring and peer support programme involving Year 9 and 12 students is a positive new feature. Recent changes to the deans, the form class structure and the student support services are clearly aligned with promoting a more student-centred curriculum support focus in the school.

Senior students ERO spoke with report they are proud of their school. They have a strong sense of belonging and appreciation for the ways their wellbeing is supported. Senior students expressed their ambitions for further education beyond school. The school could further develop career and academic counselling to help students achieve their aspirations. The school should review the extent to which the curriculum responds to the identified career pathways of the students.

Students in the Puutake unit experience a more culturally relevant curriculum that affirms their culture, language and identity. Māori student leadership is valued and opportunities for tuakana teina relationships are a strength of the unit. Whānau have good opportunities to engage in school life and contribute in valuable ways that supports a rich curriculum.

The school values te reo and tikanga Māori in the mainstream. School leaders should review the quality and extent of the integration of te ao Māori to help all teachers to promote culturally relevant teaching strategies across the curriculum.

The school induction programme for new teachers should be systematic and targeted. It requires senior leadership, working closely with established staff, to sustain and embed culturally responsive teaching and other professional development programmes.

Kia eke Panuku, a MoE professional development initiative was introduced to help achieve equitable outcomes for all Māori students. This initiative has not been embedded in the school. External support could be helpful in supporting school leaders to revisit this initiative and develop a strategic approach for promoting educational excellence for Māori students.

Samoan students benefit from the well-established O le Tupu’aga, the Samoan Language unit that offers the Samoan language and a bilingual focus in some learning areas. Students value the new provision of Tongan language at senior levels. The board should receive information to regularly evaluate the student learning outcomes from O le Tupu’aga, and to evaluate the impact of the school’s other initiatives designed to promote Pacific students’ culture, language and identity.

ERO observed wide variability in the quality of teaching practices. Leaders should build on the good practices evident. The more skilled teachers used the following approaches and leaders should ensure all teachers:

  • set high expectations for student behaviour and learning
  • challenge students’ thinking and provoke their curiosity
  • incorporate practical, cooperative learning opportunities and education outside the classroom
  • encourage oral language and the sharing of ideas and opinions
  • promote students’ self-management skills
  • use students’ existing skills and connect to their cultural background and prior knowledge
  • access relevant speakers to engage students
  • use high quality teaching resources.

School leaders have identified the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in classrooms is required to promote student engagement and learning. The board should provide for an effective ICT network in the school and consider how best to use their financial reserves to provide students with equitable access to devices and digital learning opportunities. It is likely considerable professional development for some teachers will be required. 

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

The school effectively promotes educational success for, and as Māori in the Puutake unit. Many of the strengths noted in the 2014 ERO report have been sustained. The future success of the unit rests on key staffing appointments and other matters that school leadership are working through.

Students in Puutake most benefit from te ao Māori and the rich te reo Māori environment. The school’s kupu and kaupapa Māori environment provides many Māori students with a place to stand and feel proud of who they are and their unique heritage as tangata whenua. Māori performing arts also offers valuable opportunities for Māori students to lead in culturally relevant ways.

A big challenge for school leaders is to improve outcomes for Māori students in other parts of the school, and to consult and engage with whānau in similarly meaningful ways to promote student success. A strong school culture of manaakitanga and whanaungatanga for Māori students and a commitment to provide for their holistic outcomes is evident. It is time to shift the school focus to developing learning partnerships with all whānau to support all Māori students’ potential.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

Despite the recent changes initiated by the principal, the school is not well placed to improve or sustain its performance. External intervention from the Ministry of Education is required.

The board and principal acknowledge that the school requires a high level of ongoing external support to improve student outcomes, school operations and lift school performance. Evaluation and inquiry systems require significant development.

ERO has concerns regarding the level of risk to students in the areas of student achievement, health and safety, governance and personnel management. During the course of the review, ERO discovered a number of serious potential risks for students that require urgent attention from external agencies to help the school quickly address the issues.

The board is aware the school is involved in a number of external investigations. The principal has sought external expertise to investigate and help address historical matters. Leaders and trustees will need to work collaboratively with external agencies to carefully address these issues.

The board is now working more closely with the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA). Documentation of school policies, procedures and systems in line with current legislation is required to manage school operations effectively. This particularly relates to matters of health and safety, finance, employment and performance management.

The senior leadership team operating structure was not effective. A more collaborative and connected operating model is required. Increased expectations of senior leaders in their roles and across their responsibilities is essential. Rigorous performance management is needed to promote senior leaders’ growth as educational leaders and as members of a high functioning, effective leadership team.

Performance management school-wide is not robust or well designed. Some staff have not been regularly appraised including senior leaders. The school system for appraisal does not meet the requirements of the Education Council. A new appraisal process for Term 2, 2017 is underway.

The school has not sustained professional development initiatives from 2014 to 2016. These were reliant on a structure that was not sustainable and key staff who have since left the school. A more shared, professional and accountable staff learning culture focused on accelerating student learning and improving student outcomes is necessary to lift school performance.

Governance requires significant improvement. The board must have an unrelenting focus on student achievement and with regular reporting to drive school improvement. The board must make strategic decisions that improve student achievement and school performance.

The board has valuable connections with the local community however these are not formalised in thorough consultation approaches that inform strategic planning. Some trustees’ engagement in school operations and conflicts of interests have blurred the boundaries between governance and management. The board’s role and trustees’ individual understanding of their roles and responsibilities requires immediate attention for the board to operate effectively.

The board must develop:

  • a new strategic turnaround plan that results in improved, equitable student outcomes
  • rigorous scrutiny of student progress and achievement information
  • a resource plan to urgently address school information infrastructure and ICT needs
  • a board work plan with regular evaluative reporting to provide assurance so that the board is better able to meet its legal obligations
  • sound financial management policies, procedures and practices
  • good employer policies and practices that increase staff performance, strengthen appraisal and evaluate the level of staff wellbeing
  • recruitment and retention strategies that promote a high calibre staff
  • reports to be assured that all staff are screened including police vetting in compliance with the Vulnerable Children Act 2014
  • effective systems to be informed about education outside the classroom experiences and student health and wellbeing outcomes.

School leaders must develop:

  • a more relentless focus on raising student achievement through the use of regular assessment, data analysis and reporting to inform decision making across all of the school education
  • programmes and provisions including closer scrutiny of the Samoan bilingual pathway
  • a curriculum vision with modern learning resources to increase student engagement
  • closer and more formalised links with other learning institutions in the wider Manurewa education network to improve students’ transition to school and to pathways beyond school
  • effective school management systems including systems to follow up recommendations from audits including the English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) MoE audit
  • more effective use of teacher aides and support staff working in the school
  • a whole school approach to promoting positive behaviour management for learning building on the work already invested in this approach
  • strategies to address student behaviour and reduce stand-downs and suspensions
  • strategies to increase student engagement, attendance and retention
  • a better system to ensure regular fire, earthquake, civil defence, lockdown practices and drills.

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.

The board must address the high number of non-compliance matters highlighted in this report and others identified in the board assurance statement. These relate to board administration, curriculum, health, safety and welfare, financial management, personnel and asset management.

National Administration Guidelines 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7; Education Act 1989 s25, 31, 61, 78; State Sector Act 1988 s77; Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

Recommendations to other agencies

ERO recommends that immediate and urgent action be taken by the MoE and other agencies as outlined below.

  1. ERO recommends that the MoE working with the board and other agencies and in consultation with ERO, develop a strategic turnaround plan and provide sustained external intervention for the board and school leaders to address the plan's goals and priorities relating to:
    • student engagement, learning and achievement
    • curriculum design
    • governance including board systems
    • school leadership accountabilities
    • personnel and performance management
    • information management
    • assessment systems
    • health and safety
    • financial management

      ERO also recommends that: 

  2. the MoE complete an external audit of the use of funding for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) to further inform the board’s resourcing decisions 
  3. the NZQA continue to closely monitor school processes and systems to ensure the school effectively manages national assessment and student access to qualifications 
  4. the Education Council provide professional support to school leaders to ensure a robust appraisal system is in place and well enacted so that all teachers meet current registration and endorsement requirements.


James Cook High School is facing significant challenges to raise student achievement and increase student engagement in learning. External intervention is required to address the review findings and urgently improve outcomes for students. A comprehensive strategic turnaround plan must be developed and implemented to resolve issues for learners at the school. This will require community ownership and support.

ERO intends to monitor and closely evaluate the development of a strategic turnaround plan, its key stages of implementation and the quality of supports and interventions applied until ERO is satisfied the school is on an improvement path.

Steffan Brough
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

15 May 2017

About the School 


Manurewa, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys      50%
Girls       50%

Ethnic composition

NZ Māori
Middle Eastern


Special Features

Puutake, Bilingual Māori Unit

O le Tupu’aga, Bilingual Samoan Unit

Services Academy

Health Sciences Academy

Teen Parent Unit

Alternative Education Units

Rosehill Special School Satellite Unit

Blind and Low Vision BLENNZ Satellite Unit

Review team on site

March 2017

Date of this report

15 May 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

June 2014
May 2011
March 2008