Potaka School - 05/12/2013

1 Background and Context

What is the background and context for this school’s Arotake Paetawhiti review?

Potaka is a sole charge school situated on State Highway 35 across the road from Potaka marae. It is located on the border of ngā iwi o Ngāti Porou and Te Whānau-a-Apanui on the east coast of the North Island, close to Hicks Bay and Te Araroa. Student’s whakapapa to te hapū o Te Whānau o Tapaeururangi and te iwi o Ngāti Porou.

The Potaka School community has set high expectations for their children’s learning and behaviour. The charter reflects whānau views, opinions and aspirations. 'Tu Tangata, Tu Kaha' is the school's vision which encourages students to stand tall and be strong, so they can be confident to manage themselves in any situation. The mission statement 'E Tipu E Rea' supports the provision of a stimulating, safe and secure learning environment, which reflects the bilingual and bicultural heritage of Aotearoa/New Zealand. School values promote honesty, integrity, mutual trust and respect.

Since the 2012 ERO review report two commissioners have worked alongside one permanent principal, (who left early 2012) and two emergency principals. The current principal was contracted at the beginning of Term 2, 2013 and will continue until the end of the 2013 school year. Since late 2011, the future of the school has been uncertain, which has been unsettling for students, whānau and community. Prior to this report being released the Minister of Education informed the community that the school will now remain open.

Issues leading up to the appointment of a commissioner in 2012 arose from ERO identifying serious risks to school operations, quality of teaching and learning, and the health and welfare of staff and students. These issues arose following the significant breakdown in relationships between the incumbent principal at the time, board and community. The outcomes required from the commissioner’s intervention were to:

  • strengthen relationships between the community and school staff
  • provide and complete a school charter and annual report
  • respond to the findings of the 2012 ERO report
  • consider alternative governance structures in consultation with the whānau and community
  • assess the earthquake prone buildings and the quality of education offered.

During the period of the intervention all matters have been addressed and regular communication and consultation has occurred between the commissioner, community and staff.

2 Review and Development

How effectively is the school addressing its priorities for review and development?

Priorities identified for review and development include the:

  • quality of the teaching and learning programme to include planning, assessment and evaluation
  • use of achievement information and its impact on the quality of teaching, learning and resourcing
  • quality of community relationships and participation
  • impact of statutory intervention on school improvement.


Quality of the teaching and learning programme to include planning, assessment and evaluation

Significant progress has been made. The principal has used her professional knowledge and considerable teaching experience to make effective and meaningful connections with this group of previously disengaged and unmotivated learners. She has successfully developed a strong culture of mutual respect, trust and honesty among students, staff, whānau and with herself. Teaching strategies are constantly reviewed and adjusted to engage students in learning that is meaningful and linked to their own experiences and interests. Classroom management is focused on learning strategies to sustain student engagement and cooperation.

High expectations are well established for learning and behaviour. Focusing on individual student strengths and potential by staff has resulted in motivated learners. Students are respectful of one another and the tuakana-teina approach encourages all students to support each other and remain on task. A positive, focused and inclusive environment is provided for students at all levels.

Initially, there was limited achievement information available to assist the interim principal to make clear judgements or plan programmes. In Term two 2013 an assessment schedule was developed and implemented. The major focus was to gather student achievement information in reading, writing and mathematics and to determine results in relation to the National Standards. The first round of assessment data was gathered and completed in June 2013.

Student achievement information has been effectively used to:

  • inform charter priorities, strategic planning and annual goals
  • inform targets for priority learners, in particular the specific needs of Māori boys
  • inform decision making and classroom resourcing
  • plan programmes of learning
  • report to parents and inform them of their child’s progress towards achieving set goals
  • adjust learning programmes to better meet the needs of individual students.

School wide assessments are due to be completed in December 2013. This information is expected to determine individual student progress and achievement.

Quality of community relationships and participation

The commissioner and principal have successfully developed and implemented effective communication and consultation processes with the whānau and its extended community. Whānau are experiencing a strong sense of belonging and connectiveness with the school. Relationships between the school, whānau and community are positive and much improved. Effective communication strategies include:

  • daily communication and regular updates about the students’ school day
  • the establishment of a commissioner’s advisory group
  • organisation of community hui and use of regular panui
  • the establishment of an open, inclusive and welcoming environment.

A successful outcome of these interactions has been the strong learning partnerships developed between the school, whānau and community. Whānau are confident that their children are meaningfully engaged in learning and achieving educational success.

The impact of statutory intervention on school improvement

The commissioner has played a key role in re-developing community confidence in the school. She has set the tone for school culture and built respectful relationships. Good use has been made of whānau skills and experience, and community capability has been strengthened. Parents are now happy to spend time in the school and to participate on the advisory committee and attend community meetings. Training towards self governing has also been ongoing. As a consequence, community members, including kaumātua are beginning to renew their interests in Potaka School activities.

Whānau members have contributed to school planning and assisted with the setting of future strategic priorities. There are clear alignments between the charter, school planning and teaching and learning.

The commissioner and principal have developed a coordinated approach to educational developments within the school. Resources are allocated to meet school priorities and strategic goals.

3 Sustainable performance and self review

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

The school is well placed to sustain, improve and review its performance. As a result of a challenging but successful journey since the last review, the Potaka School community are now in a sound position to govern their school. Good progress has been made in a number of areas. These include:

  • a well-planned approach to addressing areas identified in the 2012 review report
  • the development and implementation of governance and management systems that are clear, transparent and sustainable
  • good use being made of evidence gathered to monitor progress towards targets, and strategic goals
  • adopting a positive approach to future developments
  • the progress made to elect a board of trustees before the end of 2013
  • the establishment of effective communication and consultation processes
  • the development of a positive school culture where parents and whānau are now working together in the best interests of the school and their children
  • a commitment by the commissioner to complete the review of school policies, procedures and guidelines before she leaves
  • parent satisfaction that their children are settled, achieving and making good progress.

The whānau are pleased to become self governing and enthusiastic to begin the process for the recruitment, selection and appointment of a new principal.

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.

4 Recommendations

Recommendations, including any to other agencies for ongoing or additional support.

To remain focused on continuous improvement a number of matters still need to be considered. These include:

  • strengthening ways to assist staff to further develop systems for the use and interpretation of achievement data
  • providing adequate resourcing and support to assist with the induction and ongoing training for the newly elected board of trustees
  • increasing the range and challenge of learning resources and equipment to support student learning across the curriculum
  • providing support and advice and guidance to assist the board with the recruitment, selection and appointment of the new principal
  • undertaking a review of school property, buildings and equipment to ensure they are safe and well maintained.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services

Northern Region

5 December 2013

About the School


Potaka, near Te Araroa, East Coast

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 8

Girls 5

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā



Review team on site

October 2013

Date of this report

5 December 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

August 2012

August 2010

June 2006