Sacred Heart Girls' College (N Plymouth) - 04/12/2013

1 Context

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

Sacred Heart Girls’ College is a state integrated Years 7 to 13 Catholic girls’ school in New Plymouth. At the time of this review, 14% of the 689 students identified as Māori.

A modern boarding hostel, Elizabeth House, is an integral part of the school. The well-maintained, attractive and spacious grounds, that include a recently installed adventure playground, are a feature of the site.

Academic, physical and spiritual growth is nurtured through a caring and inclusive environment. The Catholic character underpins daily activities and the curriculum. Building and maintaining relationships to support students' wellbeing and learning are ongoing priorities.

Curriculum and resourcing indicates a commitment to the needs of 21st century young women. Professional learning for teachers is focused on providing students with relevant and challenging programmes. In 2012, a performing arts and music suite, Year 7 classrooms and breakout rooms were established in the former assembly hall.

High expectations focus on students achieving their potential. Teachers know students well. Partnerships between home and school promote student engagement and achievement.

Since the October 2010 ERO report, evidence-based self review has more effectively supported positive outcomes for all students.

2 Learning

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

Learners are actively engaged in their learning and are progressing and achieving well.

Since the 2010 ERO review, assessment data is used more effectively to determine teaching priorities that will respond appropriately to the needs of students.

Schoolwide data about Year 7 and 8 students' achievement in relation to the National Standards for reading, writing and mathematics is extensively analysed. The analysis includes identifying actions to improve achievement.

Teachers are aware of students who are achieving below the expected standard and they successfully increase rates of progress. Assessment information is deliberately used to inform teaching, particularly in writing in Years 7 and 8.

Teachers work collaboratively to build their assessment practice in relation to National Standards. Regular in-depth moderation of writing assessment promotes consistency and shared understanding. The confidence gained and processes developed assist improvement of assessment practice in reading and mathematics.

Increased rates of progress are evident for targeted students. Annual achievement targets would be enhanced by:

  • identifying specific groups of students whose learning is to be supported
  • monitoring ongoing progress for the identified students.

The school has identified the need to further develop analysis by faculty areas and report progress in Years 9 and 10 to the board.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) results and leaver qualifications continue to be significantly above those of similar schools. In 2012, 90% of leavers had achieved at least NCEA Level 2 and 80% University Entrance. Māori and Pacific students achieve similar leaver qualifications to their peers.

Māori learners are actively engaged in their learning and are progressing and achieving well. They stay at school longer and achieve qualifications at a level considerably higher than Māori in schools nationally. Students are closely monitored to ensure success in the NCEAs.

Progress of individual students towards achievement of NCEAs is tracked over time. Successful interventions improve outcomes for students who otherwise may not achieve qualifications. Appropriate information is shared with and discussed by the board.

There is comprehensive analysis of NCEA achievement at whole-school and faculty levels. Reasons for individual students not achieving NCEAs are considered as part of review. The school is focused on gaining the best outcomes for all students.

Class and individual learning plans encourage teachers to develop subject specific strategies to support students more effectively. These include how they will respond to potential barriers to learning identified for some individuals. The school is aware of some variability in implementing the learning plans, and is continuing to embed the process. Developing greater consistency in considering the impact of teaching on individual progress should now be a focus.

Students with special learning needs are identified, supported and monitored. Programmes for students with high needs include supporting transition into and out of the school and movement between each year level.

Parents receive meaningful and timely reports about students' progress and achievement, including in relation to the National Standards and the NCEAs. Specific, individualised feedback and explicit next steps provide useful information to improve learning and involve parents.

3 Curriculum

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

Students experience a well-considered curriculum that promotes learning.

A range of courses enables the diverse needs of learners to be met. Individual pathways are supported. New programmes are introduced as a result of self review.

Students and parents are well informed about options both at school and for when they leave. Decisions are meaningful to each student’s possible future.

The special Catholic character is strongly embedded through class programmes that are based on The New Zealand Curriculum. School-developed values, skills, and attitudes for successful learning are very evident. Religious studies is a compulsory subject at each year level.

Teachers are respectful and affirming in their relationships with students. Learning is carefully sequenced to build on students' prior knowledge. Students are confident to participate, question and engage with ideas. They are effectively supported to solve problems. Teachers work with students to share the purposes of learning, promote goal-setting, share success criteria and ensure next steps are clear.

A comprehensive plan to use information and communication technology (ICT) to enhance learning and teaching contributes to teachers' use of ICT as an effective tool. Since the previous ERO review, the provision for students identified as gifted and talented has been strengthened.

Class planning and learning environments show some evidence of a bicultural curriculum. Teachers should continue to extend the degree to which the curriculum gives all students opportunities to understand, experience and appreciate Māori culture, perspectives and language within the local context.

Students' learning is enhanced by a school culture that is very responsive to their emotional and social needs. Effectively supporting individual wellbeing and inclusion is a high priority and a shared responsibility. Vertical form groups include opportunities for seniors to support and mentor their ‘younger sisters.’

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

The 94 Māori students include members of many regional iwi. Strong and caring relationships are supportive of Māori learners, who are able to feel a sense of belonging and regularly take on leadership roles.

Meaningful connections have been established with the Māori community and whānau, including through regular hui. The graduation celebration successfully allows the sharing of learning during the student’s time at school.

The senior leadership team are focused on building whole-staff capability and ownership of Māori achieving educational success. The priority should be, in consultation with the community and whānau, continuing to build the extent to which the culture, identity and language of Māori learners are apparent in classrooms.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

Schoolwide reflection and self review contribute effectively to sustaining and improving the school's positive performance. Robust inquiry ensures that the proportion of students leaving school with NCEA Level 2 or above is very high.

Evidence-based processes for self review, focused on teaching and learning, have been established. Students and parents contribute to self review. Continuing to build the use of achievement information to consider the quality and impact of actions to improve student outcomes should increase the usefulness of self review.

Leadership is strategic and effective. The senior leadership team focuses on continuous improvement. Members provide clear expectations, guidelines and support for teachers to develop their practice. There are well-considered processes for implementing initiatives and changes. These promote positive outcomes.

Further developing middle leaders’ capacity and responsibility as role models for effective teaching is a school priority. Teachers lead inquiry activities designed to improve students' learning. Current consideration of how to strengthen curriculum leadership in the junior school is timely.

Performance management processes support teachers to reflect on their own teaching practice. Shared understanding about effective strategies to promote learning is developing through schoolwide professional development priorities. The collaborative learning community assists teachers to share practice, enabling greater responsiveness to students' needs.

To increase effectiveness, performance management should include:

  • greater use of student achievement information to support goal-setting and reflection, including for the principal’s appraisal
  • focused observations to provide specific feedback and feed forward
  • identifying next steps at the end of each appraisal and attestation cycle, to continue to develop teaching and leadership.

Trustees involve themselves effectively in decision making, direction setting and self review. They have clear expectations about the extent and timeliness of the reports the board should receive about student progress and achievement. There is alignment between board priorities, professional learning opportunities for teachers and performance management.

The school effectively engages the community in partnerships for learning and in the life of the school.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989.

No international students were enrolled at the time of the ERO review.

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school hostel, Elizabeth House, accommodates 79 students, 11% of the school roll. The hostel usually operates from Monday to Friday. It is owned by the Mission College New Plymouth Trust Board and run by a hostel board comprising proprietors’ representatives and elected parents.

Elizabeth House is a modern, fit-for-purpose hostel with attractive, comfortable surroundings for living, studying and sleeping. The trust board takes all reasonable steps to provide a safe physical environment that supports the learning and wellbeing of students.

A positive relationship between the school and hostel effectively supports boarders to gain success in learning and other school activities. Senior and junior students mix freely. Older students actively support and guide younger ones.

Self review would be strengthened through seeking regular, formal feedback from students about hostel operations and responding as appropriate.

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.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Joyce Gebbie

National Manager Review Services Central Region (Acting)

4 December 2013

About the School


New Plymouth

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 7 to 15)

School roll


Gender composition

Female 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā




Other ethnic groups






Special features

Attached boarding hostel

Review team on site

September 2013

Date of this report

4 December 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

October 2010

November 2005

September 2002