Southland Girls' High School - 12/08/2013

1 Context

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

Southland Girls’ High School is a well-established Year 7 to 13 school. Approximately 9% of the students board. Since the 2009 ERO review there have been significant and positive developments in school culture. This has created a school-wide approach of increasing attention to, and support for, the achievement of individual students.

The school’s vision of ‘a quality learning community where relationships count, and excellence is expected’, is highly evident throughout the school. The board, senior leaders and teachers have high expectations for the achievement of all students. Students are actively encouraged and supported to aspire to and achieve their own level of personal excellence.

There is a strong focus on developing effective relationships with and between staff and students. Staff are collegial and work together for the benefit of all students. Teachers are purposefully involved in the plans and targets for school-wide improvement. Students’ ideas and opinions are making an increasingly important contribution to decisions about their learning.

There are effective school-wide systems to promote and strengthen teaching and guide school operations.

2 Learning

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

The school makes comprehensive use of student achievement information to keep an ongoing focus on improvement and accountability. The school has very good systems and expectations for gathering and using learning information at school-wide, departmental and classroom levels. There are strong and sustainable systems for managing national assessments in Years 11 to 13.

Achievement information shows that National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) pass rates are above national comparisons for similar schools. In Years 9 and 10, school achievement information for 2012 shows that most students are achieving at or above curriculum expectations for reading and writing. In Years 7 and 8, most students are achieving at or above the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics.

Students use achievement information to set learning goals, reflect on how well they have achieved them and identify their next learning steps.

Teachers use achievement information to:

  • set specific learning goals with students and parents
  • inform their practice and adapt their teaching strategies
  • focus on priority learners
  • monitor their own progress towards meeting the school’s achievement targets.

Senior leaders use a wide range of learning information to inquire regularly into how effectively plans and initiatives support the school to improve. They track the progress of students to ensure that value is being added to their learning. Senior leaders also regularly monitor progress towards meeting achievement targets.

The school has high-quality systems for supporting students who are at risk of not achieving in literacy, numeracy or other aspects of the curriculum. The ‘priority learners committee’ regularly discusses information about the engagement, progress and achievement of individual students and targeted groups. Teachers are regularly updated about students’ specific needs. They are expected to adapt strategies and provide support for these students within their learning programmes. Pastoral care systems are strongly linked to the school-wide processes to ensure that the focus for students remains on their engagement and learning. The board allocates significant levels of resourcing for priority learners. It receives regular reports about how effectively these resources are being used.

The board receives very good quality learning information about all year levels. Trustees use this information to:

  • identify the school’s future priorities and goals
  • monitor how well the goals are being achieved within each department
  • monitor the progress and achievement of those students at risk of not achieving
  • allocate resourcing where it will have the most significant impact on student achievement and progress.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum promotes and supports students’ learning. The curriculum effectively reflects the school’s strategic aim to be learner focused and relevant to the students.

A strong focus is placed on providing individual learning pathways for students to meet their level of challenge, need and interests. This is supported by flexible timetabling and multi-level teaching. Students’ learning benefits from curriculum breadth, a wide range of opportunities in and beyond the school, and cooperation between departments.

The school has effective processes for ongoing curriculum review and development. Developments are based on best-evidence research, and shared at teacher meetings to ensure they are understood and maintained by teachers. The school leaders and teachers are currently undertaking a process to map key understandings for learning across subjects and to direct future developments.

Teachers continually seek ways to involve students in their learning. They use students’ views to help improve their teaching. School leaders have a very good understanding of the quality of teaching across the school.

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

Māori students overall achieve well compared to Māori students nationally. The board and senior leaders are making comprehensive school-wide changes to help ensure that Māori students achieve at least as well as their peers in this school.

The school’s academic and pastoral systems are based on principles of He Kakano, a Ministry of Education initiative aimed at raising levels of Māori student engagement and achievement. As a result, a strong emphasis on positive, proactive relationships between students and staff is increasingly becoming the key approach for working with Māori students, and for teaching and learning across the school.

There are strong links between the school’s long-term goals and its operations. The school’s long-term plans and goals for Māori education set a clear direction for ongoing improvement.

Many teachers are making innovative changes to their practice and sharing these with each other.

The school and ERO agree that the next steps for the school are to continue to:

  • include culturally responsive teaching practices in school-wide expectations
  • develop meaningful and sustainable ways that tuakana-teina relationships can be developed amongst Māori students.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

Areas of strength

There is clear alignment between the strategic and annual planning, curriculum plans and expectations, and professional learning and development. The school’s priorities, developments, and achievement targets are developed with the board, senior leaders and teachers to make sure that all understand their roles and responsibilities in contributing to the success of these.

The board is governing the school very well. Trustees are focused on improvement and place a strong emphasis on ensuring positive outcomes occur for all students. They are well supported by guidelines for governance. The financial position of the school is managed and appears to be sustainable.

The senior leaders are effectively leading and managing the school. They actively model the school’s expectation for inquiring into their own practice. The principal is proactive in using the strengths and abilities of the senior leadership team. This is resulting in shared leadership for curriculum development and pastoral care.

There are effective systems in place for improving teaching. Evidence of this includes:

  • the ‘Effective Teacher Profile’ that provides clarity around high expectations for teaching
  • professional learning groups that are highly effective in supporting and improving teaching and learning
  • a collegial approach to improving teaching practices that occurs through coaching and mentoring
  • teacher appraisal that is linked to school strategic goals, departmental goals and each teacher’s individual goals.

The school has a strong culture of self review. There are comprehensive processes for undertaking review. For example, the school-wide template for review and evaluation is used at all levels. This supports the board and senior leaders in making informed decisions about future directions for the school.

Area for review and development

To ensure consistency in how well the school-wide expectations for teaching are being followed, senior leaders should improve processes for supporting how:

  • teachers monitor student learning goals with students and ensure that all students know their next learning steps
  • the opinions of students across the school are regularly sought to help identify how well the school’s initiatives are supporting sustainable ongoing improvements to learning and teaching, and success for Māori as Māori
  • teachers use achievement information as part of their inquiry into their teaching and learning.

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 20 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 very thorough.

International students’ pastoral support, accommodation requirements and learning needs are overseen by a very experienced team of well-qualified staff.

Students’ learning needs are identified in detail. Programmes are designed for each student and learning support is put in place to meet all language and learning needs.

International students participate in a range of school activities beyond the classroom. They are integrated into the wider life of the school.

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school hostel, Enwood House, accommodates 105 students, 9% of the school roll. It is owned by the Southland Girls’ High School Board of Trustees.

Students told ERO that they feel safe and valued. They appreciate the care they receive and enjoy the many opportunities to participate in a wide of range of activities. They spoke very highly of the help and support they receive from the hostel staff and other boarders.

The hostel manager has reviewed and improved management practices. She works with hostel staff to ensure that boarders benefit from their time in the hostel. There are strong links between the school and the hostel to support the boarders’ wellbeing and learning.

The school’s vision for the girls to become independent is highly evident in the hostel. Boarders are well supported in taking increasing responsibility for managing themselves, particularly in Year 13 where the girls live independently in the two houses on the hostel grounds. Year 13 students told ERO they welcome the manager’s level of trust and feel they are well supported for life after school.

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.

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

12 August 2013

About the School


Invercargill, Southland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 7 to 13)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls: 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā








Special Features

School hostel

Review team on site

May 2013

Date of this report

12 August 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Accountability Review

October 2009

August 2006

March 2000