Sommerville School - 22/05/2013

1 Context

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

Sommerville Special School promotes a vision for education that is underpinned by respect for students with moderate to profound special needs. Students, their parents and families benefit from positive relationships and a strong focus on student learning. The school’s commitment to promoting the school as turangawaewae, a place for all to stand tall, helps build a strong sense of belonging for students and their whānau. Partnerships with whānau and the wider business and professional communities are central to the school’s continued success.

The school caters for students from five to twenty-one years of age. Students receive high quality education and care within age appropriate learning areas at the base school in Panmure, and also within thirteen satellite classes across eight schools in the East Auckland area.

The principal, senior leaders, many teachers and support staff have been at the school for a number of years. This stable and highly experienced group of professionals is a key feature in improving teaching and learning programmes and promoting student learning and success. Staff stability also promotes parent confidence in and respect for the school.

2 Learning

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

Senior leaders and teachers use student achievement information very well to plan for students’ individual learning and care needs. They respect students as capable, competent learners and have high expectations for them to make good progress and achieve. Teachers work in partnership with parents to regularly review and redesign students’ individual educational plans (IEPs). This approach allows teachers and parents to set meaningful goals for students, provide clearly focused support and promote student engagement, progress and achievement.

Teachers are increasingly using achievement information to support students to understand and monitor their own learning. The information is also used to inform parents about their child’s progress and successes. Student successes are celebrated regularly and in many different ways within the school, and with parents, whānau and the wider community.

Leaders and teachers have created assessment tools that appropriately measure student progress in literacy, numeracy and the key competencies from The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). The information leaders gather allows them to set targets and make strategic decisions to strengthen teaching practice. The school has a useful system that allows leaders to monitor changes in teacher practice. The principal and leaders recognise that providing a deeper evaluation of this information would help them show more clearly the impact of teacher professional learning and development (PLD).

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum very effectively promotes and supports student learning. School leaders have designed a curriculum that is based on the NZC, is underpinned by research and incorporates international models. The school’s curriculum provides learning opportunities and experiences that are meaningful for students in their unique contexts. Teachers plan learning programmes that are highly effective in supporting students to be increasingly independent and self-managing at school and at home.

Teachers, specialists and teacher aides are valued as trusted professionals. They are highly skilled and work collaboratively to enhance students’ learning and wellbeing, and to provide attractive and appropriately resourced learning environments. Together they skilfully manage students’ learning and care needs, and create a calm and settled atmosphere. School leaders provide very good support for teachers in their practice and promote leadership opportunities for them within the school.

Leaders have high expectations for teachers to be reflective and to improve outcomes for students. Teachers are supported with ongoing PLD and a robust appraisal system that includes regular teaching observation and professional discussion. School leaders identify a number of clear and appropriate next steps for future curriculum development.

The school’s itinerant teachers provide useful support for other local schools to become more successfully inclusive. Effective liaison with other agencies helps to provide a range of support to ensure students’ confident engagement in learning.

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

The school effectively promotes Māori students’ language, culture and identity. Teachers and staff value and use te reo Māori me ōna tikanga in natural ways throughout the learning day. Teachers are becoming increasingly familiar with Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners, a Ministry of Education strategy to promote outcomes for Maori learners. Teachers are continuing to strengthen their understanding of culturally responsive approaches for leading, teaching and learning.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is very well placed to sustain and improve its performance. The principal’s dedication to special education, combined with her strategic approach to leadership, ensures that the school’s vision is promoted within the school and the wider community. The leadership team work collaboratively to maintain high standards and promote good practices throughout the school. The supportive and caring school culture enables teachers to perform at a high level. As a result, students benefit from a committed and capable teaching team.

Trustees bring a variety of expertise to their governance roles. They are improvement-focused, make good strategic decisions and are strong advocates for students and parents. The board provides good financial management and appropriately resources teaching and learning and the leadership team. The board receives good information about school operations, curriculum development and teaching and learning initiatives.

The board has continued to manage ongoing challenges related to property and facilities at the base school. Trustees are now looking forward to managing significant property developments planned over the next few years. These developments are designed to create more appropriate and purpose-built facilities for students with high levels of special needs.

Trustees, the principal and ERO agree that to further sustain and improve current good practices, it would be useful for the board to:

  • access external support to further strengthen trustees’ understanding and use of self review
  • promote bicultural perspectives in board practices and operations.

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 four-to-five years.

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services Northern Region

22 May 2013

About the School


Panmure, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Special School

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 68% Girls 32%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā






Cook Island Māori



Middle Eastern













Special Features

Satellite classes at: Anchorage Park School, Edgewater College, Glendowie Primary School, Howick Intermediate School, Owairoa Primary School, Riverhills School, Sylvia Park School

Review team on site

March 2013

Date of this report

22 May 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2010

April 2007

August 2003