St Joseph's Catholic School (Te Aroha) - 30/07/2019

School Context

St Joseph’s Catholic School (Te Aroha) is a small primary school located in the town of Te Aroha. It caters for students from Years 1 to 8. At the time of the review the roll was 96 students, including 10 who identify as Māori and 21 of Pacific heritage.

The school’s vision aims to ‘produce confident, knowledgeable young people who have a high level of understanding and feeling about what it is to be a Catholic in the 21st Century’. The key values of love, respect, justice, excellence, faith, joy, integrity and community underpin all aspects of learning and school organisation. The school’s Catholic character through its religious education programme and role modelling places priority on educating students about ‘the values and virtues of Jesus Christ, emphasizing his great love for mankind’.

The school’s strategic goals are based on improving the outcomes of all students through a values-based religious education. The key priorities are to support accelerated learning, specifically in literacy, for Māori and Pacific students. Also, to effectively use technologies to grow students’ independent learning, and to be culturally inclusive and provide equitable opportunities for all.

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

  • reading, writing, mathematics.

There have been some changes to the board of trustees since the 2016 ERO review. The principal is long-standing at the school. There have been several changes in teaching staff.

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 can show equitable outcomes for its Māori and Pākehā students in reading and writing. However, there are not equitable outcomes for Pacific students and boys.

Achievement data in reading, writing and mathematics shows that a large majority of students are achieving at or above expected levels, including Māori students. This information also shows that less than half of Pacific students achieve well in relation to curriculum expectations in reading, writing and mathematics. These levels have significantly decreased over the last three years. Boys achieve proportionality lower than girls in mathematics, and this disparity is significant in reading and writing.  

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

The school is able to show some acceleration for Māori and other students who need this. Analysis of school achievement information shows that students that entered at Year 1 below expected levels and left the school in Year 8, made accelerated progress in reading, writing and mathematics.

In 2018, the school targeted all students who were below curriculum expectation in mathematics, and all these of the students made 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?

Rich and diverse experiences across the curriculum promote student participation and extend students confidence in learning. A wide range of achievement information is gathered and collated to inform programmes for learning. Teachers nurture constructive learning relationships to grow students’ independence and self management as capable learners. Calm and settled learning environments support students to know and understand the expectations for learning and behaviour. High levels of student engagement and willingness to participate in opportunities strengthens their sense of belonging and motivation to learn.

A well-considered approach to school-wide improvement of teaching practice is evident. There is a wide range of leadership opportunities for teachers to grow and extend their knowledge and experience. Leaders and teachers have regular professional discussions that support inquiry and shared understandings of responsive practice. Personalised mentoring and induction programmes for new and beginning teachers provide clarity and expectations for teaching at this school.

Parents and families are welcomed and actively involved in all aspects of school events, trips and celebrations. Trustees’ actively represent their community and bring a wide range of expertise to their roles. The school uses a comprehensive range of strategies and initiatives to strengthen connections and extend relationships with families. The strong partnership with the parish enhances and extends student knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith. A range of leadership opportunities across the school support students to develop confidence in themselves and their skills.

Learners with additional needs experience a collaborative approach that supports progress, achievement and wellbeing. Individual education plans are developed for students with high needs, alongside expert agencies and families. There is a clear approach to tracking and monitoring of all students progress and achievement. Leaders and teachers know their students pastoral needs well. Respectful and trusting relationships between teachers and students empower them to fully participate in the life of the school.

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

There is a need to implement a more targeted approach to accelerate the achievement of at-risk students. This should include:

  • reframing the annual targets to include all students whose learning requires acceleration

  • regularly reporting to the board on the progress of targeted students.

There is an urgent need to implement processes to respond to low levels of achievement for Pacific students. Priority should be given to building knowledge about culturally responsive practice for Pacific students and their families. This includes ensuring students’ languages, cultures and identities are visible and used for authentic contexts for learning.

Leaders should also prioritise evaluating the impact of programmes and initiatives designed to accelerate achievement to ensure they are effectively addressing the needs of at-risk learners.

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 Children’s Act 2014.

4 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of St Joseph’s Catholic School (Te Aroha)’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Well placed.

ERO’s Framework: Overall School Performance is available on ERO’s website.

5 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • rich and diverse experiences across the curriculum that support student outcomes

  • a well considered collaborative approach to school wide improvement that focuses on the building of teacher capability

  • a collaborative approach that supports the progress, achievement and wellbeing of students with additional needs

  • community partnerships that welcome parents and families and actively involve them in the school.

Next steps

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

  • the effective use of targets and achievement information to identify and accelerate learning for those at-risk students

  • culturally responsive practice to accelerate and respond to Māori and Pacific students
  • internal evaluation of programmes and initiatives to inform ongoing school-wide improvement.

Actions for compliance

ERO identified non-compliance in relation to safety checking of new employees.

In order to address this, the board of trustees must:

  • ensure procedures and practices to appoint personnel are in line with safety checking requirements [Children’s Act 2014].

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

  • ensure robust and ongoing review and updating of policies, procedures and ensure in-committee minutes appropriately follow, reflect and record the process to meet legislative requirements and are implemented school wide.

ERO recommends that the school seek support from New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) in order to bring about improvements in:

  • knowledge and understanding of effective stewardship roles and responsibilities.

Phil Cowie

Director Review and Improvement Services

Central Region

30 July 2019

About the school


Te Aroha

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Year 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Female 48 Male 48

Ethnic composition

Māori 10
NZ European/Pākehā 51
Tongan 14
Samoan 7
Other 14

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

May 2019

Date of this report

30 July 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review June 2016
Education Review October 2011
Education Review August 2008