Mercer School - 10/06/2019

School Context

Mercer School is a small rural school in the North Waikato, catering for students in Years 1 to 8. The current roll of 49 includes 23 students who identify as Māori. In recent years the roll has fluctuated due to a significant number of transient students. The board of trustees includes a range of new and experienced trustees. A new board chairperson has recently been appointed to replace a long serving trustee in the board leadership role.

Since the last ERO review in 2016, a new principal has been appointed and some teachers are new to the school. During 2018, teachers participated in school-wide professional learning in literacy and the Ministry of Education Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) initiative. The school vision is for students to leave in Year 8 as ‘effective global communicators, who are aspirational and confident self-directed learners, can demonstrate resilience and mana, and who will embody empathy’. The school’s strategic priorities are ‘effective governance, inclusive and equitable learning partnerships, the development of a student-centred local curriculum and positive wellbeing for all members of the school’. The school curriculum is supported by the values of MANA (Manaakitanga, Akiaki, Nui, Atawhai). Current key aims, goals and targets for improvement in student outcomes are focused on accelerating achievement for at-risk learners in reading, writing and mathematics and promoting student wellbeing.

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

  • reading, writing and mathematics
  • attendance.

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 working towards achieving equitable outcomes for all of its students.

School data for 2018 shows that in writing and mathematics two thirds of students achieved expected levels and in reading over 85% of students achieved expected levels.

Data gathered over the last two years shows:

  • the proportion of students achieving expected levels generally increased across literacy and mathematics, and in reading and mathematics the improvement was significant
  • disparity between Māori and non-Māori has reduced, so that in 2018 both groups achieved at the same levels in reading, writing and mathematics.

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

The school is able to show acceleration for many of Māori and other students whose learning and achievement needs acceleration.

Data gathered by the school for all students shows effective acceleration in reading and writing and some acceleration in mathematics.

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?

School leadership is effective in providing direction that is strategically focused on promoting student achievement, and wellbeing. Leaders work closely with teachers to collaboratively plan, implement and evaluate learning programmes. Teachers openly discuss with each other their practice, sharing successes, reflecting on challenges and planning programmes to engage students in meaningful learning. They regularly track, monitor and share the academic and personal development of all students, with a focus on students whose progress needs acceleration. The leadership team is visible across the school and readily available to communicate with parents and whānau. The principal reports detailed information to trustees about levels of achievement and progress, and how the school is supporting the wellbeing of students and families. Leadership enables teaching programmes to be structured so that all students have maximum opportunity to learn and achieve to their potential.

The concept of manaakitanga is evident across the school environment, including in day-to-day relationships and relationship management. Communications in the school are based on care, connectedness and inclusion. The principal, teachers and support staff know each child and whānau well. The school identifies and draws on community resources including parents, and trustees who are actively and productively engaged in school activities. Parents, whānau and teachers work together with students to identify their strengths, learning and wellbeing needs, set goals, and plan responsive learning strategies and activities. Processes to identify and address the needs of students who required additional support with their learning or wellbeing are thorough, inclusive and well managed.

The school curriculum is responsive to all students’ learning, identities, and holistic wellbeing. The curriculum is local in context, content and implementation, and well aligned with school strategic priorities. Implementation plans provide clear expectations for teaching and learning. Teacher knowledge of learning progressions enables targeted teaching strategies that engage students and support their learning. Teachers’ use of these strategies enables a balanced learning programme including problem solving, collaboration and opportunities for independent learning.

Assessment processes are contributing to effective teaching and learning. An assessment schedule is in place to guide the systematic collection of data using a range of appropriate tests and strategies. Teachers use assessment to show each student’s progress across The New Zealand Curriculum and report to parents about learners’ progress. A system is in place that ensures students receive consistent and ongoing feedback and feedforward about their learning. Leaders and teachers work together to monitor individual and school-wide rates of progress with a focus on achievement for at-risk learners. Collated assessment information is used by leaders and trustees to establish priorities for school-wide direction and teacher professional learning.

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

A useful next step for the school is to ensure that reporting processes in relation to annual targets focus more sharply on acceleration for at-risk learners. This should include the ongoing monitoring of rates and pace of acceleration in relation to school targets.

The school has identified that a programme of training is needed to systematically build trustee knowledge and understanding of the role of trustees. This is particularly important as many experienced trustees are stepping down after very long periods in their governance roles.

The school has also identified the need for a programme of professional learning for teachers to continue to support the development of meaningful and contextual te reo and tikanga Māori in the school curriculum. This is important to continue to support culturally responsive practice and authentically reflect the language, culture and identity of Māori learners at Mercer School. ERO’s evaluation confirm these are useful priorities for ongoing development.

3 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.

4 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of Mercer School’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Well placed.

ERO’s Framework: Overall School Performance is available on ERO’s website.

5 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • school leadership that is effective in promoting excellence and equity, achievement and wellbeing
  • a learning environment that promotes high levels of participation, support and inclusion
  • a local curriculum that successfully promotes the vision and values of Mercer School students and whānau
  • assessment practices that support targeted teaching and learning.

Next steps

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

  • planning and reporting processes to focus more sharply on acceleration for at-risk learners
  • a planned programme of trustee training to cover all aspects of trustee roles and responsibilities
  • the development of te reo and tikanga Māori in the school curriculum to further support authentic culturally responsive practice.

Actions for compliance

ERO identified non-compliance in relation to identifying and addressing earthquake hazards in the environment.

In order to address this, the board of trustees must:

  • ensure adequate processes to identify and address hazards in the environment.
    [National Administration Guideline 5]

Phil Cowie

Director Review and Improvement Services

Central Region

10 June 2019

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Male 28 Female 21

Ethnic composition

Māori 23
NZ European/Pākehā 22
Other 4

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

March 2019

Date of this report

10 June 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review January 2016
Education Review February 2013
Education Review July 2011