Opononi Area School - 20/04/2016


Opononi Area School is entering a new stage of development. The challenge is to improve student achievement and engagement in learning. Working on meaningful changes and sustaining successful initiatives is a priority for the board. Stable school leadership is key to assisting all stakeholders to positively identify with the school and its vision.

ERO intends to carry out another review over the course of one-to-two years.

1 Context

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

Opononi Area School, Northland, caters for students from Years 1 to 15. Nearly 80 percent of students are Māori, of whom a significant proportion whakapapa to Ngāpuhi. In previous years parents have been able to choose between the school’s Whānau Kotahi te reo Māori immersion unit or English medium classrooms for their children’s learning. In 2016 the Whānau Kotahi closed due to small numbers of students enrolling in the unit.

Since 2007 significant challenges have faced the school. Ongoing change in school leadership is affecting student progress, achievement and engagement in learning. These changes have also made the sustainability of improvement initiatives difficult. High levels of student movement between schools has also had a detrimental impact on the progress and achievement of affected students.

School governance is now stable with an alternative constitution board in place since 2012, comprising Ministry of Education appointees and elected trustees. In 2014 the board decided to appoint an interim acting principal for a two-year tenure to develop required administrative and management systems to ensure that the day-to-day running of the school promoted good teaching and learning.

2 Learning

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

The school is at the beginning stages of introducing processes to support the effective use of achievement information. The school charter has achievement targets that identify students who are underachieving and whose progress needs accelerating in relation to the National Standards for reading, writing and mathematics. Priority areas for senior leaders to focus on relate to improving the school’s capacity to use achievement information well to respond to the learning needs of these target students. Work in this area includes the need to:

  • integrate assessment information into a cycle of programme planning and evaluation
  • use assessment information to inquire into the effectiveness of teaching approaches
  • strengthen quality assurance practices to ensure teachers make well-evidenced judgements about student progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards.

Publically available school achievement information shows just over half the students in Years 1 to 8 are achieving at National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Challenges for the school are to raise student achievement levels in National Standards, increase students’ literacy and numeracy levels in Years 9 and 10, and improve senior student success in the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA). It could be beneficial to reintroduce an academic mentoring approach with Year 11 to 13 students to promote their engagement in learning, motivation and educational success.

A further area for prioritising is to improve students’ engagement in learning across the school. While teachers show genuine interest in student wellbeing, there is a need to strengthen interactions with students that promote learning. Developing a shared understanding of teaching practices that support student engagement in the learning process is needed.

Work over the past year to raise expectations for students’ behaviour and the introduction of a new school uniform is helping to lift the school’s profile within the community. A next step in supporting the school’s promotion of, and response to, student and staff wellbeing is to ensure there is a shared ownership of behaviour standards by staff, students and their families, and consistency in expectations and consequences. Achieving this consistency should impact positively on classroom management and enable an increased focus on learning.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum continues to change as school leaders seek ways to better engage students in learning. The use of digital technologies is increasing the range of learning options at senior levels of the school. However, continuing change in curriculum approaches also provides challenges for students, staff and parents. Three changes in senior school curriculum timetabling within the last three years has been difficult for senior students studying for NCEA.

In 2016 the school has made the change to a bilingual curriculum for all students in Years 1-8. Further planning and monitoring is needed to ensure students are well catered for, as they transition from English medium to a level two bilingual learning programme, where between 51- 80% of teaching is delivered in te reo Māori. More clarity is also required around whether The New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (The Māori curriculum) will guide this new direction. The board is now planning to consult more widely with the community about the school curriculum to identify community preferences and priorities. The outcomes of this consultation should help school leaders to document a curriculum and supporting vision that set the direction and goals for student learning. The curriculum implementation plan needs to cover all curriculum areas, agreed curriculum delivery approaches, standards and expectations at the different year levels and assessment and reporting requirements. Once in place, this plan should help students to experience a coherent progression of learning. It may be necessary for the school to seek external support to guide this process and ensure timely completion.

Identifying and prioritising specific steps for the realisation of the curriculum vision in the school’s annual plan, and systematically evaluating progress made toward achieving these steps should help the board to know how well the school’s curriculum is meeting its goals for learners.

Consolidating and embedding new learning from teacher professional development programmes have been fragmented. Changes in school leadership have led to a lack of shared understanding about teaching practices amongst staff and an absence of a planned approach of how to manage the changes necessary to support school improvement. The return of professional development for teachers in 2016 is having a positive impact on their teaching practice. A continued focus on providing teachers with access to high quality professional development has the potential to lead to further benefits for both students and teachers. Annually including all 12 criteria for meeting the requirements of the NZ Practising Teacher Certificate in the school’s performance management systems should also help teachers and school leaders better reflect on their practice and strengthen their performance.

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

As the school roll is nearly 80% Māori, all sections of ERO’s report relate to this question.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The board of trustees, senior leaders, staff and the community report a willingness to improve outcomes for students. The board and acting principal are establishing systems to sustain and improve school performance. They have a focus on improvement and what the school can do differently to raise student achievement and have developed a strategic plan to guide the school through this period of change. The plan is aligned to addressing school management systems and the day-to-day running of the school.

Trustees are realistic and understand the challenges the school faces. They are proactive in accessing good quality external advice to keep current in their governance role. In addition to support from the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA), the board has engaged an education change consultant to help trustees focus on the future direction of the school. Trustees are confident in their role to scrutinise the work of the school. The board has recently expanded to include a student trustee and co-opted two student council members onto one of the board subcommittees.

A new school leadership structure, very recently put in place, is directed strategically at sustaining good practices in the school. This structure identifies individual responsibilities for senior managers. This new leadership structure now needs to be shared and resourced well to achieve its purpose of improving outcomes for students.

The board and senior leaders recognise that the school is entering a new stage of development. This stage will involve the appointment of a new permanent principal. It will also include the board leading consultation with all stakeholders as part of work on reviewing the school charter and curriculum, and on building stronger partnerships between staff and board and between the school, home and community. The board acknowledges wide consultation is required to inform decision making, help with transparency of choices made and assist all stakeholders to identify with the school and its vision.

The board is working towards establishing effective processes for self review to sustain and improve school performance. Its self-review processes could now be strengthened by including contributions from different groups of people, including students. Outcomes of ongoing review and regular consultation should help guide the school’s next steps and future directions.

ERO considers the board, staff and community have the capability to bring about improvement in student outcomes. It is imperative, however, that the new permanent principal has the skills to bring people together to work on meaningful change and support the sustainability of successful initiatives.

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.


Opononi Area School is entering a new stage of development. The challenge is to improve student achievement and engagement in learning. Working on meaningful changes and sustaining successful initiatives is a priority for the board. Stable school leadership is key to assisting all stakeholders to positively identify with the school and its vision.

ERO intends to carry out another review over the course of one-to-two years.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

20 April 2016

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Composite (Years 7 to 15)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 50%, Girls 50%

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā





Review team on site

March 2016

Date of this report

20 April 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Supplementary Review

Supplementary Review

June 2013

June 2011

November 2009