South Otago High School - 19/07/2018

School Context

South Otago High School is a Years 9 -13 state co-educational secondary school in Balclutha, with a roll of 481 students.

There have been changes to the board and senior leadership since the last ERO review in 2015. Changes include the appointment of a new principal.

The school is part of a Ministry of Education initiative to improve student engagement.

The school’s mission statement is that with the support of the community it will provide students with a broad range of educational opportunities that challenge and enable them to achieve to the best of their ability. The school’s valued outcomes are for students to be prepared for life, socially and academically, and be effective members of society. At the time of this review, the school’s strategic priority was to continue to raise the engagement of all students.

Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board school-wide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • progress and achievement in each curriculum area for students in Years 9 and 10

  • senior student achievement within the New Zealand Qualifications Framework

  • achievement in relation to school targets for literacy, and NCEA and Vocational Pathway endorsements.

South Otago High School is a member of the Big River Community of Learning/Kāhui Ako.

Evaluation Findings

1 Equity and excellence – achievement of valued outcomes for students

1.1 How well is the school achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students?

The school’s progress and achievement information generally shows most students achieve and progress well. Over the past three years:

  • most Years 9 and 10 students have achieved at or above the school’s expectations

  • two thirds to three quarters of junior students made sufficient progress against their individual progress targets

  • usually 90% or more students gained NCEA Level 2

  • most students achieved NCEA Level 3 qualification

  • increased numbers of students are gaining Vocational Pathway endorsements

  • the achievement of literacy and numeracy at NCEA levels has remained high

  • overall achievement and progress for Māori learners in NCEA Levels 2 and 3 are very good.

There was a dip in NCEA achievement levels in 2017. Adjustments have been made to the senior school curriculum to ensure this is not repeated in 2018.

Senior students are well supported to remain at school and engage in meaningful pathways to achieve appropriate leavers' qualifications.

Significant improvements in school attendance and retention at school were reported for 2017.

1.2 How well is the school accelerating learning for those Māori and other students who need this?

The school is responding effectively to Māori, and other students whose learning and achievement need acceleration.

The school can show good levels of accelerated progress at all year levels. However, it is not yet reportingclearly to the board on the extent to which students are making accelerated progress.

2 School conditions for equity and excellence – processes and practices

2.1 What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

The design of the school’s curriculum is future-focused and enabling students to succeed at and beyond school. The board has set a priority on improving engagement and achievement, and promoting student wellbeing. The school’s curriculum is suitably based on the New Zealand Curriculum, providing a variety of opportunities for students to develop attitudes and competencies to be life-long learners. School leaders have successfully integrated the New Zealand qualifications framework to enable students to learn meaningfully within an academic and/or vocational base. Strong partnerships with the community are in place to enhance students’ learning opportunities, achievement and wellbeing.

School systems show a well-placed and equal emphasis on student engagement, wellbeing, progress and achievement. The board has in place a long-term strategic priority to build teaching practices across the school to better respond to the diverse range of learners. School leaders have developed a structured and collaborative approach to know learners, identify those at risk and establish strategies to support them. Appropriate organisational changes have been made to better support the design of the curriculum.

The curriculum in action is highly responsive to ensure every student is learning and making sufficient progress to achieve their personalised achievement and progress goals. Leaders and teachers know the learners well. Parents and teachers are working increasingly together with students. This collaboration assists teachers to identify students’ strengths, interests and needs, set goals, and plan responsive learning support and learning programmes. Students with additional needs are well supported and having greater inclusion in mainstream learning. School leaders make well-considered adjustments to curriculum programmes to respond to identified needs of groups of and individual students.

The school has a strong culture of reflection that leads to modifications to better realise the school priority of increased student engagement. This ongoing improvement focus is well supported by:

  • the relational trust between teachers and with leaders to support collaboration and openness to change

  • teachers taking leadership roles in areas of interest and/or strength to work with others to build the collective capacity within the school.

2.2 What further developments are needed in school processes and practices for achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

The school has identified, and ERO agrees, that it needs to embed recent school developments. This consolidation needs to include:

  • putting clear indicators of effective practice in place to support consistent and high-quality implementation and teaching practice

  • knowing how well curriculum programmes are meeting the needs of different cohorts of students from multiple sources of information, including students’ ideas and views.

Trustees, leaders and teachers need to plan more deliberately to achieve equitable outcomes for all. This should include setting clear achievement targets based on close scrutiny of data, and improvement plans that:

  • show the intended actions of groups of teachers and leaders

  • identify individual teacher’s professional development objectives

  • outline class teachers’ programme adaptations

  • tailor interventions to accelerate progress of students at risk of underachieving

  • regularly report progress and achievement to the board.

3 Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board 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

  • finance

  • 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 and certification

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspension, expulsion and exclusion of students

  • attendance

  • school policies in relation to meeting the requirements of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to theEducation (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016(the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

At the time of this review there were ten international students attending the school, and no exchange students.

International students’ learning needs are carefully monitored and where necessary extra support is provided. They consistently achieve well. International students are well integrated into the school culture and community and take advantage of the range of opportunities offered.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

For sustained improvement and future learner success, the school can draw on existing strengths in:

  • a highly responsive curriculum which focuses on a holistic education for each individual student, with flexible and adaptive opportunities to learn

  • a school-wide focus on equity and excellence

  • reflective processes to inform decision making and necessary changes.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are in:

  • embedding recent developments to achieve consistent and high-quality implementation

  • strengthening planning to support students at risk of not achieving.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Dr Lesley Patterson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern

Te Waipounamu - Southern Region

19 July 2018

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys: 52% Girls: 48%

Ethnic composition

Māori 18%
Pākehā 69%
Pacific 2%
Other ethnicities 11%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

May 2018

Date of this report

19 July 2018

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review: February 2015
Education Review: October 2011
Education Review: September 2009