Shirley Boys' High School - 09/10/2012

1. Context

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

Shirley Boys’ High School has a long tradition and sense of pride in its history as a successful boys’ school. The school’s effective use of current research on what works well in boys’ education and the students’ strong sense of belonging help ensure that students are generally enthusiastic supporters of their school. The strength of relationships between staff and students underpins all teaching and learning. This was really appreciated and reinforced by students in their conversations with ERO.

The school takes a very wide view of what makes a successful student. A high value is placed on developing all-rounders, young men who leave as great citizens, and success in a mixture of academic, vocational, social, cultural and sporting arenas.

Although the school is large, with a roll of over 1200 students at the time of the ERO visit, the division of the school into five houses means that effective structures are in place to support students pastorally and as learners. Pacific students show real pride in their culture and heritage. Senior Pacific students are strong role models and effectively guide and support their younger peers.

The Canterbury earthquake of 2010 and 2011 caused significant damage to school buildings and infrastructure. Recovery is ongoing and is being well managed. The school sees this challenging time as providing opportunities for review and innovation. Staff and students are determined to minimise the impact of the earthquakes on students’ learning. Despite the major challenges and stresses, the school heart and spirit remain strong.

2. Learning

How well are students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

Students are generally learning and achieving very well across academic, cultural and sporting areas. Most students are well engaged in their learning and in the life of the school.

The Headmaster, senior leaders and staff have a broad definition of achievement. They use school-wide approaches, such as "The Shirley Man" and "Better than Before," to promote personal growth and reinforce high aspirations for achievement in its broadest sense. Each student’s acceptance and development of "Shirley Man" qualities over time is regarded as central to the school’s success.

School leaders and teachers actively promote student engagement by setting clear and high expectations for student learning. They use a number of successful ways to make learning purposeful and enjoyable for students. These include:

  • building and maintaining strong learning relationships with students that reflect teachers’ high levels of care and commitment to successful outcomes for all students
  • using a variety of strategies to challenge and engage students, such as high-interest practical activities, multimedia technologies and group work
  • adapting learning programmes to meet students’ strengths, needs and interests
  • providing extensive support for co-curricular learning outside the classroom.

These measures contribute to a learning culture that is focused on developing confident young men who have a strong sense of belonging and commitment to their own success.

School information shows that students generally make good to very good progress across their senior years. Achievement for 2011 in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) was much higher than in previous years and was above that of similar schools. This was especially so in externally assessed achievement standards. Senior leaders have identified that increasing the number of NCEA merit and excellence grades remains a priority.

Reports to parents clearly identify achievement to date and contain comments that show teachers know the students well. Some reports include a focus on lifting performance to a higher level. The school’s next step is to ensure there is greater consistency in the way next learning steps are conveyed to students in class and in their reports.

Areas for review and development

Departments gather a range of information about the achievement of students in Years 9 and 10. They use this to group students appropriately and to plan programmes to meet students’ needs. The information departments have is not currently aggregated and analysed to demonstrate students’ progress over time and to inform school leaders and trustees about levels of progress and achievement during Years 9 and 10.

The school is increasingly seeking and responding to students’ views about many aspects of school life. Some feedback from students is usefully linked to appraisal of teachers’ performance. Students ERO spoke to are most appreciative of the extensive efforts made on their behalf, but also expressed some ideas that teachers could find useful in improving their performance. Teachers should now develop more formal and anonymous opportunities for student feedback about the quality of teaching and the level of challenge in learning programmes.

3. Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively supports students’ learning through a clearly defined vision for boys’ education, high expectations and strong support for student learning in academic and co-curricular areas.

Teachers work in cooperation with students through their curriculum programmes to enable students to become "Better than Before" in terms of their learning and personal development. The concept of the "Shirley Man" underpins the school’s curriculum design and development. This involves a shared set of beliefs regarding how students develop their skills, knowledge and character during their time at the school. These beliefs align well to the direction of The New Zealand Curriculum and to educational research findings.

School leaders and teachers are very responsive to students’ needs and interests. This includes flexible timetable arrangements, a wide range of subject choice and an expanding range of options for students. The school is building close links with tertiary institutions to help provide a wider range of learning and career pathways for students. Students ERO spoke to said how much they appreciated the steps that the school is taking to provide a wide range of curriculum choices. Leaders and teachers are also strengthening their links with local primary and intermediate schools to help build curriculum continuity for students from Years 8 to 9.

There are regular and varied opportunities for students to develop their leadership skills, including in sports and cultural groups, and in service activities. A group of students also works cooperatively with students internationally on projects related to aspects of global interest.

Leaders and teachers clearly demonstrate a shared expectation that students will learn and achieve. Most teachers use a range of effective strategies to promote students’ learning. This includes:

  • sharing the purpose of lessons with students
  • checking students’ understanding through useful discussion and questioning
  • making effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to support learning
  • providing feedback to students about their progress.

There is some variation in how well these strategies are implemented across the school. Senior leaders are aware of the need to continue to encourage teachers to make best use of a range of strategies in their lessons.

A next step for leaders and teachers is to make further use of students’ views to help guide curriculum development, and to help define aspects of the school’s vision for boys’ learning.

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

The school provides a good range of opportunities for Māori students to achieve educational success and experience success as Māori.

Students are able to learn te reo and tikanga Māori and participate in events such as Ngā Manu Kōrero (Māori Speech Competitions), Mātāriki, Māori language week, kapa haka and waiata. They benefit from the positive relationships with staff and within the whānau-like support networks of the school’s vertical groupings. Senior students provide support and leadership to the younger students.

Staff have high expectations that Māori students will succeed. Students have a range of educational, cultural, creative, sporting and leadership opportunities where they can experience success as Māori.

Senior managers have identified and ERO agrees that the next steps for the staff is to develop further their use of te reo Māori, and increase teachers’ awareness of the ways they are currently promoting opportunities for Māori students to succeed as Māori. The school is continuing to investigate more effective ways to engage with its Māori community.

4. Sustainable Performance

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

The school is very well placed to maintain ongoing school improvement. The board and school leaders are effectively managing an extended period of change and disruption at the school, resulting mainly from the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-11.

Features that contribute to the school’s effective performance include:

  • strong professional leadership provided by the headmaster and senior leaders
  • effective school-wide systems and organisation, including pastoral-care systems
  • a strong school vision, culture and spirit of mutual respect
  • a widespread willingness to innovate and accept change
  • sound internal reporting practices, for instance from departmental heads.

The board is well led and has good systems in place to guide its operation. It receives a wide range of useful information about curriculum matters and school-wide developments from the headmaster and school leaders. Trustees are very supportive of the staff and students, and work collaboratively with senior leaders to ensure that learning programmes are sufficiently well resourced.

A next step for the board to help strengthen its practices is to implement a more planned, formalised approach to self review. This should help it to systematically evaluate the impact of learning programmes and practices on outcomes for students.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. At the time of this review there were seven international students attending the school.

The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school’s self-review process for international students is thorough. The international students are provided with good quality pastoral care. They are well supported in their education and integrate well within the school community.

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
  • 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.

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

9 October 2012

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Male 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā










Special Features

Host School for Adult and Community Education

Review team on site

August 2012

Date of this report

9 October 2012

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

December 2007

June 2005

May 2002