St Joseph's School (Oamaru) - 20/08/2013

1 Context

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

The dominant feature of the school that impacts on students’ learning is its special Catholic character. This is clearly stated in the school's vision, is well understood by students and is shown by the emphasis on the school family. All students benefit from the very strong links to the local parish and the strength of school support for Māori, Pacific and Filipino cultures. The special character shows up in classrooms in a wide variety of ways, including aspects of language programmes, music, art and social skills. It also underpins how all adults and students interact and support each other.

The board and staff believe that this is a high performing school and set expectations for students to be successful. These expectations are part of the school’s vision and are well understood by students. The expectation is that all students will learn and that the school will make this happen through religious observations and teachings, classroom programmes, and cultural and sporting activities. The parish and parents play an important part in supporting learning in all these areas.

The culture of the school is one where there are high levels of respect and trust between students and adults. It is a safe, supportive learning environment where risk taking is encouraged. The collegiality of all staff leads to sharing of knowledge and skills for the benefit of all students. The strong culture of critical reflection and self review, together with a targeted approach to developments that focus on raising levels of student achievement, all play their part in promoting student achievement.

Student leadership is valued at all levels of the school. All students take leadership roles in special character celebrations. Senior students help younger students in many ways, including some Year 7 students linking up with local childcare centres to help four-year-olds with the move to primary school. Former students now at secondary school return to this school to help support cultural activities. These examples help students see themselves as part of a wider community where they can contribute through a wide variety of leadership roles.

2 Learning

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

Achievement information is used very effectively to enhance students’ learning and ensure that all students are, in the words of the school’s vision, “reaching for the stars”. The available information is comprehensive and of consistently good quality. Students, including Māori and Pacific, generally achieve well in reading, writing and mathematics, and most meet or exceed National Standards expectations.


Students benefit from the way the information is used to:

  • measure progress and track their success over time
  • identify target students, develop support systems for them and ensure that they make good progress
  • engage them in learning conversations with their teachers to ensure that students are knowledgeable about their achievement and what they have to improve on.

Teachers make good use of learning information to:

  • provide effective school-wide strategies to address the needs of all students
  • group students based on their learning needs and plan programmes to address these needs, including extensive support for students who need assistance learning English
  • inform learning conversations with students about what to do to improve in aspects of their learning
  • share significant information on targeted students to ensure all teachers are well informed about the progress and needs of these students
  • improve their own teaching practices through teaching as inquiry.

The school uses learning information effectively to inform trustees, parents and the community about how well students are progressing and achieving. The board uses this information as part of its strategic planning to inform resourcing decisions and to set annual student achievement targets. These targets are specific and based on small groups of students that are currently underachieving.

3 Curriculum

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

St Joseph’s School curriculum very effectively promotes and supports student learning.


The curriculum design and implementation is strongly linked to the vision of the school. It reflects the faith-based education of the special character school and is responsive to local contexts.

The principal and senior leaders are effective in defining the curriculum and leading change. They provide a coherent, deliberate and sensitive approach to change to ensure that teachers, students and parents have a good understanding of curriculum expectations.

The principal and senior leaders place a strong emphasis on increasing best teaching practices to benefit students. Teachers have successfully undertaken extensive and well-paced professional learning in literacy.

Students' learning is well supported by:

  • very good to high quality teaching
  • close and regular monitoring of programme effectiveness
  • high levels of collaborative planning of programmes
  • consistent approaches to teaching
  • cross-curriculum learning, for example science and literacy.

Teachers plan a range of learning experiences designed to meet the specific needs of all students. They use students as teachers in buddy and peer programmes. Students at all levels of the school are given many opportunities to take leadership roles within the school. They do this with confidence and commitment.

Students benefit from:

  • the focus on the school’s vision and values and the high expectation for their success
  • having choice in their learning and sharing their ideas and opinions
  • programmes that extend their learning.

The school has a significant number of Pacific and Filipino students. The board, principal and teachers are passionate about celebrating diversity and have worked with these groups to build strong links and develop positive relationships. Students’ first languages are acknowledged and encouraged.

Next steps

The principal and senior leaders have identified that work needs to continue with the ongoing development of teaching notes (guidelines) across all curriculum areas. ERO’s findings support this view.

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

Māori students experience high levels of success, including against the National Standards. For example, Māori students have significant success in reading, writing and mathematics, with half of the Māori learners currently on the extension register for 2012.

Māori students are very positive and confident and have significant leadership roles in the school. Students told ERO that they feel valued, and their cultural knowledge and skills are respected and used. Their culture is highly visible in the school. The students also appreciate the interest and support from past Māori leaders who are now at the local Catholic secondary school.

Strong role models are used and valued, both from within the school and the local community. There is regular consultation with whānau both formally and informally.

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. Strengths

School systems, structures and processes are all well established and operate effectively. This includes a comprehensive and well-planned self-review system that drives school improvement in teaching and learning, as well as in the governance of the school.

The board is focused on the importance of student achievement. The school’s charter is a living document that provides clear direction and shows how the strategic plan is to be implemented. Trustees are well informed about student achievement including the achievement of groups of students. Trustees are knowledgeable about their governance roles and have high expectations of themselves in terms of their roles and responsibilities. The board has a planned approach to ensure that it remains representative of the main range of cultures in the school. A specific plan to support Pacific students has recently been developed.

The leadership of the principal and senior managers is highly effective. The principal leads by example and models best practice. Communication is open and regular, ensuring that parents, staff and students are well informed, regularly consulted and their views are highly valued. The principal ensures that she is readily accessible to parents and has a useful system to ensure that any matters discussed are followed up and reported on where needed.

The staff culture is one of cohesion, openness to change and preparedness to trial new ideas. Consequently there are effective working partnerships between trustees, school leaders, teachers and all staff. Teachers nearer the beginning of their careers are proactive and reflective in approach. They are very well supported by their more experienced colleagues. The support that promotes high performance for all teachers is a strength with the emphasis on self reflection and continuous improvement. The school culture is one that is a secure foundation for sustaining and improving performance.

Students ERO spoke to describe the school as a safe place where they feel valued. This is consistent with the information from regular surveys of parents and students.

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

20 August 2013

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Male: 50% Female: 50%

Ethnic composition













Special Features

Integrated Catholic School

Review team on site

May 2013

Date of this report

20 August 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

March 2010

October 2006

June 2003