St John's College (Hillcrest) - 18/11/2013

1 Context

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

St John’s College is a state integrated Catholic, secondary school for boys in Years 9 to 13 located in the Hamilton suburb of Hillcrest.

The roll has increased since the last ERO review in 2010 and is now 760. Sixteen percent of students are Māori and five percent are Pacific. Students are drawn from Hamilton and surrounding rural areas. In addition there are 31 international fee paying students.

The school’s Catholic character, based on the Marist Charism, continues to be central to the ethos of the school. This is strongly reflected in all aspects of the school community, including caring relationships amongst staff and students, the curriculum, environment, and in school protocols and ceremonies.

A new principal took up his position at the beginning of 2012. The board chairperson is also new in her role since the last ERO review and there are a number of new board members. A comprehensive review of the charter and strategic plan in 2012 included wide community consultation with parents and whānau. A new teacher appraisal system, designed to support teachers to reflect on their practice, is being introduced. Teachers are also involved in a professional development contract about student engagement aimed at promoting a culture of learning.

The school has responded positively to the areas for review and development identified in the last report. A positive partnership has been developed with Māori whānau, and the culture and identity of Māori students is affirmed in the school. The introduction of a new data management system has enabled more effective use of student achievement and other information.

2 Learning

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

The school is becoming increasingly effective in using achievement information to inform teaching and learning, and guide school development.

In Years 11 to 13, NCEA data is thoroughly analysed at faculty and whole-school level, and is used to inform decision making about curriculum development, and set strategic goals and targets. The new data management system is allowing more effective monitoring of student progress by both teachers and students.

During the last three years, levels of achievement in NCEA have consistently been at or above those of students in similar schools, especially at Levels 1 and 2. The school has identified the need to further raise levels of achievement at Level 3. The achievement of Māori and Pacific students in NCEA is comparable to that of other students in the school. Information relating to attendance, retention, and suspensions and stand downs, indicates that the school compares favourably with similar schools engagement and participation of students.

The special needs education coordinator (SENCO) provides high-quality oversight of the collation and analysis of achievement information for students on entry to the school and in Years 9 and 10. This information is used for class placement, to identify students requiring additional support, and monitor ongoing progress in literacy and mathematics. The school is able to demonstrate that students are making progress in these areas as they move through Years 9 and 10.

Teachers use a range of topic-based assessments to provide feedback to students about how well they are achieving in relation to national curriculum levels.

The SENCO also leads valuable professional learning and development for teachers in the use of data and implementation of strategies to raise achievement, especially in literacy. This professional development has supported an increasing number of teachers to use achievement information to better plan to meet the differentiated learning needs of students. Good examples of effective practice were observed. Teachers should now build on this good practice to develop greater consistency in this area across the school.

3 Curriculum

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

The school curriculum is responsive to the needs and interests of boys as well as the school’s Catholic character, and encourages participation in a wide range of learning experiences. Features of the curriculum include:

  • a planned programme of religious education for all students
  • a flexible approach to curriculum organisation that allow students to choose learning pathways appropriate to their needs
  • an increasing range of practical and vocational options
  • increasing use of information and communication technologies across the curriculum
  • opportunities for students to participate in many spiritual, academic, cultural, sporting and education outside the classroom (EOTC) activities
  • provision of many opportunities for students to develop leadership skills.

The school provides an extensive range of strategies to support students with identified learning needs at all year levels. This support includes teacher aides working alongside students in class and provision of specialised programmes.

Students receive appropriate advice and guidance in making decisions about careers and future pathways. The school is currently considering ways to enhance this support.

Teachers maintain positive and supportive classroom environments. In their unit plans, they include appropriate and meaningful contexts that engage and interest boys. ERO observed good use of a range of effective teaching strategies to support students’ learning. Teachers are increasingly using feedback from students to inform their teaching.

To further improve the quality of teaching and learning, teachers should give consideration to implementing a greater range of strategies to encourage students to be more actively involved in their own learning.

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

The school is effectively promoting educational success for Māori students. Commitment to improving engagement of Māori students is given priority in the school’s strategic plan. There is elected Māori representation on the board of trustees. A whānau group, which meets regularly, provides a forum for Māori parents to share their ideas and contribute to school decision making. Parents’ views are valued and respected.

A Māori dean oversees the pastoral care and wellbeing of Māori students, and maintains contact with whānau. Māori students are supported through a student whānau group and have opportunities to experience leadership in a range of contexts. A flexible approach to teaching te reo Māori ensures that students can access the language at all levels.

In the context of the school’s catholic character, there has been staff professional development in Māori spirituality. Aspects of tikanga Māori are reflected in school protocols and ceremonies and there has been a revival of the kapahaka group.

Overall, Māori students are achieving well and there are many examples of notable success by individual 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.

The board is well led and trustees bring a range of skills and experiences to their roles. They have a good understanding of their governance responsibilities and have undertaken appropriate training. There has been effective transition for new members to ensure a high level of continuity.

The new principal is successfully establishing himself as the professional leader of the school. He is highly visible in the school community and is focused on raising the profile of the school. He works collaboratively with and is well supported by members of the management team and other leaders across the school.

In keeping with the special character, a feature of the school continues to be a cohesive pastoral care network and a strong focus on students’ wellbeing that contributes to the welcoming, family atmosphere in the school. The school is well supported by parents, wider community networks and the Catholic diocese.

A wide range of self-review practices are contributing to school improvement. These practices could now be more clearly documented to provide an overall framework to guide ongoing self review.

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 31 international students attending the school.

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

Appropriate systems are in place for the self review of provision for international students.

The director of international students and home stay coordinator maintain regular contact with students to support their wellbeing and integration into the school. Students benefit from effective ESOL teaching and make good progress.

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 three years.

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services Northern Region

18 November 2013

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā




Other European

South East Asian











Review team on site

September 2013

Date of this report

18 November 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2010

January 2008

February 2004