Russell School (Bay Of Islands) - 02/08/2013

1 Context

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

Russell School (Bay of Islands) caters for students up to Year 8 and is a focal point for the community in the historic Bay of Islands township. History and tradition are important in the school. The school benefits from high levels of support from both school families and the wider community.

The staff and many families have had a long association with the school. Students have a strong sense of belonging and identity as part of the Russell community. They have extensive opportunities for developing and expanding local, regional, national and international networks. Through the community, visitors to Russell, and innovative school activities, students have variety of opportunities to make global connections.

The school is situated in the Ngātiwai rohe. Most of the 43 percent of students who are Māori are affiliated with Ngāpuhi. The school has established reciprocal relationships with Te Rawhiti marae and the Ngātiwai Trust Board.

The principal’s strength in developing relationships and working collegially with whānau and staff was identified in ERO’s 2010 report and remains so. This capacity for building and sustaining effective relationships is valued by families and contributes to a sense of whānau that supports student’s learning. The board and staff have a commitment to providing a safe and caring learning environment for students.

In 2010 ERO noted the need to strengthen staff appraisal processes and to consult with the community about health education programmes.

2 Learning

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

The school uses achievement information well.

Teachers are making better use of student achievement data. They use a variety of assessment tools, including ongoing formative assessment to determine how they will group students for learning. The information gathered is used to report to the board about the achievement of all students and of groups who are at risk of not achieving to their potential. School targets for raising achievement are based on some of this information.

Teachers know students and their whānau well. Their professional discussion and informal reflection focuses on strategies for helping students to make progress. Support staff and volunteers work alongside teachers and with particular children to help with their learning.

Most students achieve well. Some have made significant improvements as a result of targeted teaching strategies and innovative ways of fostering their enthusiasm for learning. The school has focused successfully on improving the engagement and achievement of Māori boys. A current focus on literacy learning is showing increasingly creative writing.

Imaginative and resourceful approaches to engaging students in learning include:

  • the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for research, publication and developing international networks
  • meaningful participation in and contribution to community events
  • a sense of healthy competition amongst students, both within the school and as school representatives.

To improve the use of achievement information for extending learning, the school acknowledges that they could:

  • use achievement information more specifically for students to set and monitor progress towards their learning goals
  • make more explicit the school’s and individual teacher’s action plans for accelerating the progress for students who are at risk of not achieving to their potential
  • formalize their monitoring and reporting of the incremental progress of students who are targeted for accelerated progress
  • make a greater delineation between individual assessment results and students' overall achievement of National Standards.

Teachers formalising evaluations of their teaching practices in relation to student learning would help identify, affirm and duplicate the most effective teaching strategies in a more deliberate way.

3 Curriculum

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

The school implements a curriculum that strongly reflects the Russell community context, the schools’ values, and vision, and the values and principles of The New Zealand Curriculum. Innovative approaches are well used to promote and support student learning.

The curriculum recognises, values and uses the individual capabilities and interests of teachers and students to promote learning. The concept of being good citizens and capable independent learners underpin school expectations of students. Students understand and rise to these expectations.

The curriculum is well designed and implemented. There is an urgent need now for the school to review and develop formal curriculum documentation that reflects the richness and breadth of teaching and learning in the school. This document should include planned programmes for te reo Māori and for careers education for students in Years 7 and 8. Formal curriculum documentation would promote consistency and sustainability over time and would provide a basis for future self review and ongoing development.

Learning areas are integrated in inquiry and experience-based programmes. Teachers often respond to community events and follow students’ lead as the curriculum evolves. Māori and other local histories are often included. Students develop skills and knowledge that they use in wider contexts.

Whānau are actively involved in the school, supporting both their own children’s learning and the school’s community activities. They feel welcome and comfortable in the school and those available talk often with teachers. Whānau and the wider community are highly supportive of the school’s high expectations for participation and achievement. Students are called on by community organisations to support local events and are capable and confident in these settings. The community values these contributions.

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

Many effective practices and initiatives support success for Māori students. The principal has continued to develop relationships with whānau. Students appreciate this whanaungatanga, which has provided a valuable basis for whānau engagement in the school and for supporting students to experience success. School representatives join marae occasions and support is offered to whānau as needed. Whānau are involved in developing and maintaining the school vegetable gardens and orchard where a pataka (food storehouse) has been built, and families use the garden produce. Whānau members tutor an active kapahaka group and are actively involved in supporting community and festival performances.

Senior Māori students are confident and articulate communicators. They are active leaders in kapahaka and community events and express pride as members of the school and the Russell community. Te reo and some aspects of tikanga are a natural part of the school day and some staff are taking classes to improve their reo Māori.

It is timely now for the school to formally consult with whānau and community to:

  • develop and make known to the school's community policies, plans and targets for improving the achievement of Māori students
  • discuss the expression of tikanga in the school and the implementation of a progressive te reo programme.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

Some significant changes are now required to ensure the sustainability of other very good practices and to support ongoing improvement.

Ongoing strong community support is a positive factor in school sustainability. The board is experienced and has high levels of commitment to the school. The principal has established an open, inclusive and vibrant learning environment. Community relationships are well established. The school’s culture of family, community and high expectations for participation and learning is well embedded. This culture is likely to be sustained with ongoing effective leadership.

More systematic and better documented self review in all areas of school operations would improve sustainability and support ongoing improvement. Some aspects of self review are clearly effective. Improvements in the learning environment, property and resources have been a result of ongoing strategic thinking and review.

The board recognises the urgent need to progress its review of policies and to implement the board’s review policy and schedule. An extensive parent survey in 2012 covered many aspects of school operations and included opportunities for feedback about the health programme. The board has responded appropriately to survey outcomes.

The board should ensure teacher and principal appraisal processes are undertaken and be more closely aligned with the schools strategic goals. Appraisals could include the registered teacher criteria to be more useful in promoting the ongoing development of teacher capacity and capability.

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.

In order to improve current practice, the board should refine and systematically review school policies to ensure the board’s legal responsibilities are covered and provide an effective foundation for procedures that guide school operations. During the review, ERO identified some areas of non-compliance. In order to address these, the board and principal must:

  • report to students and their parents on the student’s progress and achievement in relation to National Standards, in plain language, in writing and at least twice a year

National Administration Guidelines 2A(a)

  • develop and implement a process for robust, improvement-focused performance appraisal for all staff

National Administration Guidelines 3; State Sector Act, s77c.

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

2 August 2013

About the School


Russell, Northland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 50% Girls 50%

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā





Cook Island

Other European











Review team on site

June 2013

Date of this report

2 August 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2010

June 2007

November 2003