Southern Health School - 26/04/2016


Provision for students’ wellbeing and learning is very good. Teachers are flexible in response to the changing needs and circumstances of students who are not well enough to attend their regular school. Governance and leadership are committed, improvement focused and forward thinking. They have high expectations for outcomes for students and confidently make changes needed for this to occur.

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

1 Context

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

The Southern Health School (SHS) provides education for Years 1 to 13 students who are not well enough to attend their regular school. The school has community classrooms in Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. Education is also provided at health-funded facilities in Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. There are teachers based in Central Otago, Oamaru, Timaru and on the West Coast. The administrative centre is in Christchurch.

Students who attend SHS need to meet enrolment criteria and usually enrol in conjunction with their regular school. Students also have access to Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (The Correspondence School).

The biggest factor that impacts on learning and achievement is students’ health. Students have access to a range of programmes to meet their learning needs. Students are taught in their homes, or hospital or one of SHS community classrooms. The school is well resourced. The school’s roll fluctuates from day to day. The average length of stay is 14 to 15 weeks.

Each student has an individual learning plan. Learning with digital technology is providing another avenue to support student learning. For many students it has increased their teaching time and ongoing contact with teachers.

Key goals for the SHS are to provide continuity of learning while a student is unable to attend their regular school and to support students to transition when they are well enough. As most students at SHS remain enrolled at their regular school they are included in that school’s achievement analysis.

The school has made considerable progress since the 2012 review, with improvements in the quality of the curriculum, learning plans for students and internal evaluation.

2 Learning

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

The school makes very good use of a wide range of student information to promote engagement, progress and achievement. School-wide data for 2015 shows that approximately 65% of individual student learning outcomes were achieved or good progress was made. Many students transition back to school and continue to work toward their learning goals.

Students benefit from individual learning plans that: 

  • show how their academic achievement will be progressed
  • develop skills to increase confidence and independence as learners
  • enable smooth transitions back into school wherever possible. 

Teachers, well supported by senior leaders, are increasingly sharing teaching strategies that are effectively meeting the needs of students.

Students and teachers have built positive and respectful relationships. Teachers understand the unique and vulnerable position of many students and their families. They capably balance care and concern with a focus on learning.

Students and their parents value the one-to-one and small group learning opportunities the school provides. Students learn at their own pace, make some choices about the work selected and contribute to regular goal setting.

Teachers closely track individual student progress. This is particularly so for secondary students who are working towards NCEA. Where possible students' work is aligned to what is happening in their regular school to assist with transition.

Senior leaders and teachers are collaboratively reviewing ways they can further enhance students’ transitions.

3 Curriculum

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

The curriculum appropriately responds to students’ changing needs so that their learning can continue to be promoted and supported.

Leaders are committed to developing high-quality teaching practices. New curriculum leadership positions have recently been established to further support teachers and students.

Establishment of an increasing number of community classrooms is supporting teaching and learning and social interactions amongst students.

Teachers are inquiring more deeply into aspects of their practice. Their shared focus for reflection is well connected to the SHS strategic plan. This approach is enabling teachers to take additional leadership and add value to the school as a whole.

The principal and board support innovation. For example, they have commissioned a review of ways they can better incorporate student voice at board level.

Teachers capably adapt the curriculum to meet individual student need. There is increased collaborative practice amongst teachers.

Leaders and teachers are developing their use of digital technology to support communication and collective problem solving. Effective use of digital technology is also reducing isolation factors for some learners and staff.

While the school’s documented curriculum is still developing, work completed is of a high standard. It highlights the schools specific context, vision and values. Guidelines for teachers on implementing core beliefs are explicit.

Many teachers are using practices that engage and extend students in their learning. They maintain students’ focus and assist them to develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking through effective questioning and redirection. Teachers provide positive, helpful feedback and support students to learn from each other. Relationships are caring and respectful.

ERO and the board agree areas of progress could be further strengthened by documenting current practice. Providing clear overviews would increase teacher capability and shared understandings. Areas for further refinement include: 

  • guidelines for teacher’s inquiry into their own practice
  • an e-learning framework
  • further development of curriculum learning areas. 

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

Leaders and teachers are making good progress in the way they promote educational success for Māori students, as Māori.

Senior leaders are deliberate and strategic in providing equity for Māori students. They carefully plan different ways to let the community know what the SHS offers. This approach is showing some success with increasing enrolments of Māori students over time.

Leaders and teachers continue to develop confidence and capability in understanding New Zealand’s unique bicultural heritage. They have good professional knowledge of the holistic needs of Māori and the importance of valuing Māori students in the context of their whānau where possible.

School leaders and ERO agree that teachers need to further integrate bicultural aspects, as well as increasing the use of te reo Māori, in everyday practice.

How effectively does the school promote success for learners with Pacific heritage?

There are very few students with Pacific heritage enrolled. The board needs to develop a strategy to increase access for Pacific students so they can benefit from the service provided by the school.

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 highly experienced trustees are strategic in their approach to the sustainability of the school. They have a strong awareness of the wellbeing of students and staff. Trustees show commitment to their roles and readily engage in training. The board and principal work well together.

The board’s charter appropriately emphasises the vision, values and purpose of the school. Strategic goals prioritise meeting the needs of students, providing a culturally safe, inclusive environment and building effective partnerships with the wide range of contributors to student’s education and care.

The principal and senior leaders promote positive outcomes for learners and provide clear direction for the school. They have high expectations and have strengthened systems that support students’ progress and achievement.

There is an increased focus on the quality of teaching within the teachers' appraisal process. This is making a significant impact on teaching and learning practices. Professional learning and development for leaders and teachers is informing changes in practice. There is greater depth in teacher reflections and professional discussions. Teachers’ views are valued and contribute to decision making.

The school takes a considered approach to building relationships with external agencies. There is a shared understanding amongst staff of the positive impact wrap around care has for students, particularly at transition points. More clearly defining the roles and responsibilities for all contributors, within these sometimes complex partnerships, would further benefit students.

Self review is regular, ongoing and informing positive change. The board and ERO agree that the self-review process could be more evaluative. There is scope to use this process to:

  • recognise teaching strategies that made a difference to outcomes for learners in ILPs
  • support students’ reflections about their progress as learners and increase ownership of their learning.

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.


Provision for students’ wellbeing and learning is very good. Teachers are flexible in response to the changing needs and circumstances of students who are not well enough to attend their regular school. Governance and leadership are committed, improvement focused and forward thinking. They have high expectations for outcomes for students and confidently make changes needed for this to occur.

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

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

26 April 2016

About the School


Christchurch-based Administration Centre - covering South Island, Stewart Island and Chatham Islands

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Special School

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 79; Boys 64

Ethnic composition



Other ethnicities




Special Features

School operates from multiple sites in the South Island

Review team on site

March 2016

Date of this report

26 April 2016

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2012

July 2009

June 2006