Northern Health School - 20/09/2019

School Context

The Northern Health School (NHS) was established in 2000. Operating from an Auckland city base, NHS is one of three regional health schools in New Zealand. It supports students to continue their education when health-related challenges prevent them from attending their usual school. Students are supported at one of 15 satellite units, in hospital settings, or in their own homes. The school’s new mission, Te puna whakatipu/A place to grow and thrive, strongly reflects this context and purpose.

Students range in age from 5 to 19 years. The majority are dual-enrolled with their usual schools. Additional support from NHS may be for a few days or extend to a number of years. Team leaders, teachers and support staff liaise closely with health professionals and parents to enhance learner outcomes, overseen by a senior management team. The school also works closely with Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, the correspondence school, for additional NCEA senior secondary student support.

The Ministry of Education appoints board members with suitable experience and skills to uphold the special character of the school. Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • mathematics, reading and writing assessments from Years 1 to 10
  • NCEA unit standard and achievement standard attainment for Years 11 to 13
  • transition goal information.

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 key goal of the school is to purposefully support students to transition back into regular schooling or further education and training when appropriate. They successfully achieve this for the majority of students.

Data also show that the school supports the majority of students to maintain their achievement levels in mathematics, reading and writing in relation to their results at their usual schools, despite key health challenges.

The varying health needs of individual students impacts on the length of their enrolment. This creates complexity in gathering and using data to determine patterns and trends in achievement.

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

Teachers provide personalised support for students to accelerate their progress via individualised learning plans (ILP). These foster sustained achievement for all students, including those who require extra support to accelerate learning.

ILPs identify specific goals for learning, with a focus on mathematics and English, and across other learning areas and relevant key competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum. They also identify goals for each student’s transition back to their regular schools or into tertiary study or career pathways outside of school. The achievement of ILP goals provides leaders with data to show how successfully students have been supported in learning and in their readiness to transition back to their usual schools.

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?

The NHS is one component of a wraparound structure of individualised support for each student. Leaders and teachers effectively liaise with students’ schools, medical professionals and local agencies. Staff can access extensive professional development to assist students to achieve their goals. Senior managers respond promptly to requests for additional support and resources.

Staff have a collective commitment to providing a learning-focused, caring and nurturing environment. A new curriculum leader has created a robust strategy to build quality practices in mathematics, as well as building professional networks for inquiry. Leaders plan to replicate this coherent structure and approach to build consistency in other areas of teaching and learning. They are also embedding digital platforms across the school that further support collaborative growth.

Designated leaders have researched, trialled and implemented project-based learning. They are prompting teams to share ideas and strategies to develop a more responsive and individualised curriculum. Projects particularly help initiate social interaction and hands-on activities for secondary-aged students involved in individual academic learning pathways. The school is exploring ways to foster key competencies through projects, and to develop formative and summative assessments.

Since the 2015 ERO review, local team-specific goals have been created to align with NHS charter goals. This provides leaders with opportunities to work deliberately with their team in strategic priority areas within their various settings and communities. Unit leaders and senior managers meet to reflect on these strategic priorities, prompting opportunities to guide and track progress in key areas. Purposeful collaboration supports a considered approach to leading change and improvement.

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

Leaders have received focused professional development that assists in growing and appraising their teams. Teachers are supported by a new digital platform to curate evidence of professional practice and to collaborate with peers. Their goals align to local and schoolwide charter goals. Managers appreciate the need to continue to build the new appraisal approach, including opportunities for appraisers to work together to increase consistency in the quality of feedback across the teams.

NHS has an ongoing strategic goal to develop understanding of culturally responsive practices. Leaders should consider how the school will work in partnership with whānau Māori on this key work. Leaders are working to clarify what culturally responsive practice looks like within each regional team and across the school as a whole. This will support them to evaluate the quality of practice and to plan a more defined and targeted response.

Wellbeing has been identified as a key priority. Managers are defining roles and responsibilities for leading this work. They should continue to clarify expectations for practice and establish systems for proactively monitoring and promoting wellbeing. A more planned and deliberate approach would also assist leaders to identify opportunities for training in an evidence-based and strategic way.

Annual curriculum targets are broadly based on a summative annual picture of student achievement in English and mathematics. Leaders could better use their scrutiny of data to focus on disparity in achievement. The board and managers should invest in strengthening internal evaluation at all levels of the NHS to determine how effectively the school is meeting the needs of its students. This should include deliberate opportunities to gain parent and student perspectives on the quality of provision.

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.

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

  • ensure that the principal is performance appraised annually
  • review and update policies and procedures in response to changing school practices and education guidelines
  • review and strengthen the complaints policy and procedures to ensure all complaints are resolved satisfactorily
  • regularly meet ‘in-committee’ to maintain the privacy of individuals.

4 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of Northern Health School, Auckland CBD’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:

  • an embedded culture of care and respectful relationships
  • individualised and learner-focused curriculum plans
  • educationally powerful connections with other schools and support agencies
  • purposefully growing teams’ professional capability and shared practice to better support positive outcomes for learners.

Next steps

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

  • extending strategic leadership to grow sustainable systems and practices
  • purposefully using strategic evaluation to determine the consistency and effectiveness of practice at all levels, on outcomes for learners.

Steve Tanner

Director Review and Improvement Services Northern

Northern Region

20 September 2019

About the school


Auckland CBD

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Special School (Years 1-13)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 63% Boys 37%

Ethnic composition

Māori 23%
NZ European/Pākehā 65%
Pacific 6%
Asian 5%
other ethnic groups 1%

Special Features

School operates from multiple sites, with an Auckland-based administrative hub

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

June 2019

Date of this report

20 September 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review November 2015
Education Review September 2012
Education Review April 2009