St Leo's Catholic School (Devonport) - 09/11/2018

School Context

St Leo’s Catholic School (Devonport) has served its community and provided education for local children for 125 years. With a current roll of approximately 85 children, the school caters for children from Years 1 to 6. Most children at the school are New Zealand Pākehā. There are also small numbers of Māori and Pacific children, and others from diverse cultures. The school also caters for small groups of short-stay international students at various times of the year. Small class sizes are a significant feature of the school.

The school’s vision is based on nurturing the whole child, being gracious in the Mercy values, and achieving excellence without compromise. The school’s values follow the Mercy tradition and include panekiritanga/excellence, aroha/compassion, manaakitanga/hospitality, te tapu o te tangata/respect, rato/service, and tika/social justice.

Current strategic goals aim to strengthen the school’s Catholic character, develop parent partnerships, improve teaching and learning, ensure that all students achieve equitable and excellent outcomes, and improve the school’s facilities. Achievement targets are individualised, especially for children whose learning requires acceleration. For a number of years, the school has followed the Reggio Emilia philosophy of teaching and learning, and more recently has investigated how play-based education could fit with this philosophy.

Leaders regularly report to the board schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • progress and achievement in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to the levels of The New Zealand Curriculum
  • health and wellbeing information for students and staff
  • successes and achievement in other areas of the curriculum including sports, speaking, church-related events and cultural performances
  • outcomes of school curriculum review, and Kāhui Ako feedback.

The 2015 ERO report identified areas for development that included reviewing and refining the school’s curriculum to provide opportunities for students to be future-focused and self-managing learners. It also identified that the appraisal system was being reviewed, and that internal evaluation needed improvement. The report signalled that the principal was new to the leadership role.

At the end of 2017 the school experienced some significant changes in leadership. Two acting principals led the school in Term 4 2017 and Term 1 2018. A new principal was appointed in Term 2, 2018. New teachers joining the school in 2018 were supported by long-serving teachers and support staff. Since the principal’s arrival a new deputy principal has been appointed, and teachers and support staff have participated in professional learning to support them in their respective roles.

The school is part of the North Shore Catholic Kāhui Ako | Community of Learning (CoL).

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 achieves equitable and excellent outcomes very well for all of its students.

The school’s achievement information shows that almost all children, including Māori and Pacific children, achieve at or beyond expected curriculum levels in reading, writing and mathematics. This information indicates an ongoing trend of high achievement for learners over time.

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

The school uses a variety of evidence to identify children whose learning requires acceleration and targeted support. Short-term, targeted interventions are very effective in improving children’s skills. Parents are kept well informed about their children’s progress and achievement, including areas of learning that require additional attention.

As the Kāhui Ako develops, teachers and leaders are keen to work with other schools to moderate student achievement information. Leaders also plan to promote a shared, schoolwide understanding of acceleration, and specific strategies to cater for children with specific learning needs.

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?

Children experience positive and respectful relationships with their teachers in calm, child-focused learning environments. Children work and play well together, encourage each other’s strengths and are kind to each other. The school’s values and Catholic traditions feature significantly in children’s daily learning programmes and connect their families through the school and parish. Parents are highly involved in the wider life of the school and in their children’s learning. These significant features of the school ensure that children are settled, collaborative and eager learners.

The school has a stated and strategic commitment to promoting its bicultural curriculum, including te reo Māori and tikanga. Children enjoy participating in kapa haka and whole-school waiata. Celebratory events such as Matariki draw interest from parents and whānau. Leaders continue to support teachers as they build their capability and capacity to promote te reo and tikanga Māori.

Teachers work collaboratively to plan learning programmes around inquiry-based concepts. They prioritise and integrate reading, writing and mathematics and ensure good coverage of all other learning areas. Teachers’ very good knowledge of children’s needs, strengths and interests allows them to adapt programmes to prioritise children’s learning and wellbeing. Increasingly, children contribute to teachers’ planning and design of learning programmes.

The principal provides strong professional leadership and a clear, well-considered direction for the school. Highly evaluative in her approach, she works with staff to identify the school’s strengths and opportunities. The teacher appraisal system is now well aligned to legislative requirements and promotes an inquiry-focused approach. Together the principal, board and staff are building and restoring relationships with their community, and school leaders are managing and leading change effectively throughout the school.

Opportunities provided for professional learning are appreciated by teachers and support staff. Teachers’ professional discussions support the development of a collaborative culture in the school. Increasingly, teachers inquire into and critique their practice and are leading the evaluation of different learning areas. These experiences show respect for teachers as professionals, and as leaders and learners. The outcome of this effective leadership practice is that staff morale is high.

The board is well led and highly supportive of the principal and staff. Trustees are dedicated to serving their parent and church communities. They generously resource the school to maintain small class sizes. Trustees bring varied skills and professional expertise to their stewardship roles. A clear policy framework guides the school operation so that improvement and accountability processes are met.

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

Leaders and teachers are currently reviewing the school’s curriculum. They plan to redesign the curriculum so that it reflects their espoused Reggio Emilia and play-based learning philosophies and further promotes biculturalism. In addition, they intend to focus on teaching and learning approaches that enhance children’s ownership and leadership, including how assessment information is used.

Further developments for the board include reviewing its policies more strategically against practice.

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 Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code. At the time of this review there were no international students attending the school, and no exchange students. However, the school hosts small groups of short stay international students in Terms 1 and 3. All international students come to New Zealand and reside with at least one parent. The school has very good systems in place to ensure that students are well integrated into classroom programmes and the wider life of the school, and that their wellbeing and pastoral needs are met.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • strong, professional leadership that uses internal evaluation as a mechanism for strategic and purposeful change and improvement

  • capable governance group that serves its school community very well and ensures equitable and excellence outcomes for children

  • schoolwide commitment to promoting success for Māori children

  • teachers who are skilled and reflective practitioners, designing learning programmes based on children’s needs, interests, strengths and talents

  • collaborative, family-focused approaches that enhance children’s learning and wellbeing.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are in reviewing and designing the school’s curriculum, and reviewing policies more strategically against practice.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Violet Tu’uga Stevenson

Director Review and Improvement Services Te Tai Raki – Northern Region

9 November 2018

About the school


Devonport, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

State Integrated Catholic Years 1-6

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 54 Boys 30

Ethnic composition

Māori 3
Pākehā 62
other ethnic groups 19

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

September 2018

Date of this report

9 November 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review August 2015
Education Review May 2012
Education Review March 2009