Russell School (Bay Of Islands) - 28/11/2016

1 Context

Russell School (Bay of Islands) provides education for children from Years 1 to 8. More than half of the children at the school are Māori and many are Pākehā. The school has a valued place in Russell's community and Bay of Islands' history. Children, staff and parents are proud of the strong intergenerational and family connections that exist in the school. This feature promotes children's sense of belonging and security.

The principal and teachers are experienced educators and most have worked at the school for many years. Since the 2013 ERO report, two new teachers have been employed to support children's learning and accelerate their progress and achievement.

The 2013 ERO report commented on the positive relationships that exist between the school and its community. It recommended a number of next steps for teachers that included making better use of student achievement information and reviewing and documenting the school's curriculum. It also recommended that the board of trustees improve its self-review processes, and its performance appraisal system for teachers and the principal. Many of these recommendations remain as next steps in this 2016 ERO report.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school are for all children to learn in a secure, caring and supportive environment, to develop a desire for life-long, challenging learning, and to stand tall as citizens of Aotearoa and the world. The school holds as important the values of aroha/mana, wairua, manaakitanga and ahu whakamua/hiranga - honesty/respect, pride, care for others and excellence. Through their policies and practices the school shows value for the place of Māori as tangata whenua, and provides opportunities for children to experience aspects of a bicultural curriculum.

The school's achievement information shows that most Māori children achieve at and above the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics but less well than the achievement of other children in the school. The school's achievement information also shows that Māori boys achieve slightly less well than other children in writing. Overall, the majority of students at Russell School achieve at and above the National Standards in all three areas with a significant increase in writing achievement over the past three years.

Teachers use various assessment tools to support their understanding of how well children are progressing and achieving. They use these assessment results to help make their overall teacher judgements about children's achievement. Teachers work in pairs to moderate samples of children's work.

Since the 2013 ERO report teachers have strengthened how they use children's achievement information. They identify those children whose achievement needs accelerating and group them with specialist teachers to allow for more individualised attention.

3 Accelerating achievement

How effectively does this school respond to children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school responds effectively to Māori and all other children whose learning and achievement need acceleration. The principal, teachers and other school staff know children and their whānau well. They have strengthened their use of children's achievement information to design learning programmes and approaches that increase children's motivation, and build their self-confidence and skills. The school's data shows that these programmes are effective in accelerating children's achievement over time especially in reading, and in writing and mathematics.

Staff have supportive relationships with parents that promote children's wellbeing and learning. Teachers work with parents to help them understand the progress their children are making in reading, writing and mathematics. Together they identify useful learning goals to support children's learning and achievement. Teachers generally work in pairs to moderate children's work and assessment samples.

The school's bicultural curriculum includes kapa haka, and an increasing use of te reo and Māori concepts in classroom programmes. In addition, the school's commitment to the environment allows children to be kaitiaki of their local area, caring for and sustaining the Russell and Bay of Islands' environment. The board of trustees hold regular consultation hui with whānau Māori and are responsive to their opinions and ideas. These and other features of the school, support Māori children and their whānau to be proud of their language, culture and identity.

The board of trustees, principal, teachers and ERO agree that key next steps include:

  • teachers working together as a team to moderate children's assessments, and their overall teacher judgement decisions about children's National Standard achievement in reading, writing and mathematics
  • accessing a source external to the school to moderate teachers' judgements about children's achievement.

These next steps are critical in assuring teachers, parents and the board that school processes for gathering, analysing and moderating student achievement information are resulting in reliable and accurate overall teacher judgements.

4 School conditions

How effectively do the school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices develop and enact the school’s vision, values, goals and targets for equity and excellence?

The school's curriculum is somewhat effective in enacting the school's vision, values, goals and targets for equity and excellence.

The school's curriculum prioritises reading, writing and mathematics. It supports children to learn about topics of interest and current events. Teachers plan activities in and around the sea, and organise excursions within the local area that promote children's awareness and understanding of environmental and sustainability issues. They are responsive to natural local events and provide space to enhance children's learning through these outside the classroom experiences.

Community connections are central to the spirit of Russell School. Parent volunteers provide good support for teachers and children. Generous community donations support the school's music and science programmes that are especially in place for senior students. The school is also very well resourced with digital devices.

Teachers and parents design learning opportunities that enable children to be of service to and connect with their community. This work includes children making products to fund-raise for the school and for trips beyond the Bay of Islands, learning about being entrepreneurs in the process.

Children are settled in classrooms, engaged in their learning and on task. They experience positive relationships with each other and their teachers, and with support staff and parents.

The board, teachers and ERO agree that the key next step is for teachers to access in-depth professional learning that supports and improves their professional practice, and that enhances outcomes for children. This professional learning would ideally:

  • support teachers to develop a documented school curriculum that highlights the school's philosophy and pedagogy, promotes what and how children learn at Russell School and fulfils the requirements of The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC)
  • promote an inquiry learning model for all children with good opportunity for high level challenge, problem solving and critical thinking
  • build teachers' understanding of teaching as inquiry so that programme design and delivery is more targeted towards children's learning needs.

Professional support of this kind also needs to support the development of a learning languages programme, structured careers programme for Years 7 and 8 children, and a health programme based on consultation with parents.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it?

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how teaching is working for these children
  • need to systematically act on what they know works for each child
  • need to have a plan in place to build teacher capability to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it.

The principal and teachers work well together and are very well supported by their board of trustees. Trustees bring a good mix of experience and skills to their governance role. Staff and the board are committed to their community. Trustees' resource the school strategically to improve outcomes for children.

Trustees agree with ERO that they could benefit from exploring board training together as a team. This professional learning could include using Hautū: Māori Cultural Responsiveness Self Review tool for Board of Trustees, developed by New Zealand School Trustees' Association. Use of this tool would allow trustees to evaluate the cultural responsiveness in their school.

The board of trustees also agrees that other key next steps for the school include:

  • providing the principal with regular external appraisal that supports his role as the school's professional leader
  • improving the teacher appraisal process so that it meets current legislative requirements and best practice
  • keeping personnel and other private information separate from the public board minutes
  • strengthening the risk management for excursions outside of the school, especially those involving overnight stays, and water sports and activities.

External advice and guidance is recommended to support this work.

Action: The board, principal and teachers should use the findings of this evaluation, the Effective School Evaluation resource, the Internal Evaluation: Good Practice exemplars and the School Evaluation Indicators to develop more targeted planning to accelerate student achievement. Planning should show how processes and practices will respond effectively to the strengths and needs of children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated.

As part of this review ERO will continue to monitor the school’s planning and the progress the school makes. ERO is likely to carry out the next full review in three years.

6 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 the following:

  • board administration

  • curriculum

  • management of health, safety and welfare

  • personnel management

  • 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

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions

  • attendance

  • compliance with the provisions of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014

7 Recommendation

ERO recommends that the board and principal, with external advice:

  • improve policy and procedure frameworks to support, in particular, those in place to guide appraisal, and health and safety practices
  • provide professional learning and development for teachers on practices consistent with current research and the intentions of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

28 November 2016

About the school


Russell, Bay of Islands

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 45 Girls 44

Ethnic composition







other European








Review team on site

September 2016

Date of this report

28 November 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

August 2013

June 2010

June 2007