Otaika Valley School - 15/12/2017

School Context

Otaika Valley School is situated just south of Whangarei. It caters for 160 children in Years 1 to 6 from the school’s rural and urban surroundings.

The school’s vision of ‘Together We Grow’ and its values of Respect, Unique, Responsibility, Up to me (RURU), are brought to life through an integrated inquiry approach, based on drama for learning. This approach aims to nurture children’s social, emotional, cultural, academic, and physical development.

Current goals and targets for improvement and learner success are focused on supporting children to achieve success in writing. This focus is being supported by a grant from the Teacher Led Innovation Fund (TLIF). Its objective is to enhance writing outcomes for Māori students through dramatic inquiry approaches and a te ao Māori lens.

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

  • achievement in reading, writing and mathematics

  • achievement in writing in reference to the TLIF objectives

  • progress and achievement of target students (twice yearly).

The school is part of the community of learning (CoL), Ngā Kura mo te ako o Whangarei Kāhui Ako Group 2.

Evaluation Findings

1 Equity and excellence – valued outcomes for students

1.1 How well is the school achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students?

The school is achieving good outcomes for all its students. The school’s achievement information shows that the majority of children, including Māori, achieve to expected levels in reading, writing, and mathematics.

Over the past three years, disparity for boys has continued in reading and writing, and there is some disparity for Māori children in mathematics and writing. Disparity for girls in mathematics has significantly reduced in 2016.

Inclusive and responsive approaches are effective in supporting children with additional learning needs. Leaders and teachers closely monitor the progress of these students, both academically and holistically. They work alongside external agencies to assist these children and their whānau.

Students achieve very well in relation to other valued outcomes, including:

  • confidence in participating in oral discussions and drama

  • showing empathy and concern for others

  • collaborative learning and decision making

  • positive attitudes to leadership opportunities.

1.2 How effectively does this school respond to those Māori and other students whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school is responding well to those Māori and other students whose learning and achievement need acceleration. The school continues to adapt practices to strengthen its responses.

Sound planning and assessment practices are lifting student achievement through well differentiated, personalised approaches to teaching and learning. Teachers use flexible, targeted approaches to accelerate students’ learning. The school has evidence of individual students making accelerated progress, especially those whose learning progress is being targeted for improvement.

Senior leaders are investigating better ways to document the progress of individual students, and of particular groups. They have a strategic aim to work with the CoL to align student management systems for collating and using data across the CoL, and developing a common assessment framework for Years 1 to 10.

2 School conditions for equity and excellence

2.1 What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence?

A culture of openness to learning is evident from the impact of professional learning and development (PLD) on teaching practice. Leaders and teachers sustain and build on previous PLD, with a particular focus on children’s active involvement in learning. As a result, children participate and learn in caring, collaborative learning communities where their interests, strengths, and needs are considered.

Teachers collaborate and strategise to support at-risk children, creating a positive staff climate of learning together. Moderating in syndicates, and in the whole team, is increasing the reliability of teachers’ decisions about students’ achievement. This collaborative approach to achievement better supports individual student’s progress and holistic development. Termly moderation meetings are also held with local schools.

Leaders and teachers have shared expectations of effective teaching practices. The principal encourages teachers to build on their capabilities and interests. Teachers are also encouraged to research and trial, and be innovative to support children’s engagement, motivation, and learning. They sustain or adapt teaching practice to promote equity and excellence for all students.

Leaders and teachers regularly reflect on the effectiveness of teaching practices and initiatives. They readily engage in PLD to develop leadership capability and collective capacity. Recent PLD helped to support teaching practices and accelerate learning in mathematics. These teaching approaches are used across curriculum areas. External expertise extends teachers’ innovative thinking, and contributes to the development of new curriculum initiatives.

Children are at the heart of leaders’, teachers’ and trustees’ learning and work. Teachers explore and use strategies to enable students to better understand their own achievement. Children also benefit from tuakana/teina relationships, and mixed ability and flexible grouping as they learn together. Parents are valued as key participants in supporting their children’s achievement and progress.

Leaders and teachers have increased the inclusion of te ao Māori in the curriculum. Focused external PLD is growing their confidence in te reo Māori. A whānau group has supported kapa haka in the school. The board and leaders are to continue seeking relevant ways to engage the Māori community.

The school’s curriculum supports students to be confident, connected, actively involved learners. The school’s vision and values underpin class programmes. The integrated inquiry approach, based on drama for learning and Mantle of the Expert, promotes the New Zealand Curriculum key competencies and a wide range of learning dispositions and language skills. Children experience authentic, practical learning, and are drawn into real life contexts using multiple strategies for learning and problem solving.

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

Senior leaders are planning a more deliberate focus on accelerating the progress of children not yet achieving to expectations. This focus includes extending the school’s planning at all levels, to more clearly target accelerated learning.

Leaders and teachers plan to review ‘assessment for learning’ practices to further support student ownership of their own progress, and make learning pathways visible. This will include developing student self reflection and evaluative skills.

The principal plans to adapt processes for appraisal to more clearly align to the Education Council requirements. With expected staff changes, senior leaders recognise the need to more deliberately build and support teacher capability in the school’s curriculum initiatives.

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 Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

ERO considers that the school has the leadership capability and collective capacity to sustain and build on current good practices to support student equity and excellence in their learning.

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

  • the inclusive school culture that enables all children to feel valued

  • innovative curriculum initiatives that simulate children’s thinking and engagement

  • highly reflective leaders, and internal evaluation that guides adaptive practice

  • senior leaders’ commitment to ongoing improvement

  • teachers’ dedication to new learning and growing capability

  • leaders’ and teachers’ openness to learning that encourages new initiatives.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, development priorities include:

  • using the charter targets and proven effective teaching strategies to increase parity for specific groups and broaden accelerated learning across the curriculum

  • increasing the integration of the school’s inquiry learning approach in literacy and mathematics programmes

  • further develop performance management processes so that teachers’ improvement strategies are more directly related to their inquiry and reflection.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

Te Tai Raki - Northern Region

15 December 2017

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type


School roll


Gender composition

Girls 54% Boys 46%

Ethnic composition



Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

October 2017

Date of this report

15 December 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

January 2015
August 2011
June 2008