St Mary's Catholic School (Otorohanga) - 06/12/2016

1 Context

St Mary's Catholic School is a state integrated school that caters for students in Years 1 to 8 and is located in the township of Otorohanga. The roll of 36 includes 18 students who identify as Māori, seven European and a small number of students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The board of trustees includes three parent representatives and two proprietors' representatives. All three parent representatives are new to their governance roles, and a new classroom teacher was appointed in 2014.

Since the last ERO review in 2013, teaching spaces have been extensively remodelled to provide a large open teaching area for all students. This development has been designed to promote teachers' collaborative practice, flexible use of learning spaces and tuakana-teina learning relationships among children. A dedicated space has been established for planned periods each day to cater for the large number of five year olds who have recently enrolled.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school for all children are 'to provide quality learning in a family environment where everyone is respected and valued.' The school's mission is to 'grow in grace and knowledge in Christ Jesus'. The special Catholic character is acknowledged in the charter through 'being proud to be Catholic within the small family nature of the school community'. Accepting responsibility, gaining self-confidence and working together are also valued outcomes promoted by the school.

The school’s achievement information shows that:

  • a significant majority, well over two thirds of all children, including Māori is achieving the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics
  • there is no disparity between the achievement of Māori and other groups of students in the school
  • some of the small number of students achieving below expected levels made accelerated progress during 2014 and 2015.

The principal and teachers use a range of appropriate external assessment tools and strategies to make judgements about each student's achievement in relation to National Standards. Processes to moderate these judgement are well developed, and include input from external expertise and collaboration with teachers from other schools.

Since the last ERO evaluation the school has:

  • maintained a focus on building teachers' capability to accelerate progress for students at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes
  • adopted a strategic approach to engaging parents and whānau in partnerships that are closely focused on student learning
  • consulted widely with parents, students, parish and iwi to develop and document the school's local response to The New Zealand Curriculum.

3 Accelerating achievement

How effectively does this school respond to children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school's capacity to respond effectively to students whose learning and achievement require acceleration has improved since the last ERO visit and continues to develop.

The principal and teachers are knowledgeable and well informed about the use of achievement information at the classroom level to accelerate progress for children whose learning is at risk. They have robust systems in place, including well-developed understandings about the use of assessment tools, to identify these children. The school has responded to children whose learning needs accelerating through the following programmes, interventions and strategies:

  • The school is successfully engaging with its parent and whānau in partnerships focused on accelerating achievement.
  • Targeted school-wide professional learning for teachers has resulted in improvements to teacher practice.
  • Strong formative teaching strategies in classrooms have enabled students to be knowledgeable about the purpose of learning and next learning steps.
  • Children with identified learning and developmental needs have benefited from targeted specialist learning support.

To further strengthen the school's response to children whose progress requires acceleration, the following developments are required:

  • The establishment of annual school-wide achievement targets that specifically focus on students achieving below expected levels.
  • Greater involvement of trustees in scrutinising achievement data, setting achievement targets and monitoring and evaluating progress throughout the year.
  • Clearly documented links between goals in teachers' annual appraisals and school-wide achievement targets for students whose learning is at risk.
  • Further development and implementation of teaching as cycles of professional inquiry, where inquiries are closely aligned with accelerating progress for children in school charter targets.

Strengthening these responses to achievement information is necessary to provide a more cohesive and aligned approach to accelerating progress for children at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes. This approach is necessary to enable the school to more systematically and effectively accelerate progress for these learners.

4 School conditions

How effectively do the school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices develop and enact the school’s vision, values, goals and targets for equity and excellence?

The school's curriculum and other organisational processes and practices are developing in their effectiveness to improve equity and excellence for target students. Curriculum design and implementation is providing a sound foundation for high levels of student engagement and success. The curriculum is clearly focused on supporting children's wellbeing and promoting children's learning. It is appropriately focused on literacy and mathematics learning. There is targeted support for children with identified needs and a planned extension programme to cater for children's need for extension and enrichment. There is a carefully planned and well-managed approach to children's transition to school at five years and preparing them to move onto the nearby college.

Trustees are representative of the school's diversity and highly supportive of school leadership and direction. They receive information from the principal that keeps them well informed about student achievement and progress. They are enthusiastic about continuing with a programme of training about school governance, focused on the use of achievement information at this level. This programme should assist them to set more specific achievement targets for at risk learners, more closely scrutinise achievement data, and build their knowledge about internal evaluation.

Teachers are highly responsive to children's learning needs. They closely monitor each child's progress to plan programmes that target students' next learning steps and use well-developed questioning skills to promote children's oral language and ideas. Teachers know children very well and continually conference with them, providing feedback and feedforward about next learning steps. Students can talk about their learning and progress with confidence, making good use of visual prompts in the environment to monitor their own progress.

Flexible use of learning spaces, teacher expertise and tuakana-teina relationships among children contribute to effective multi-level, multi-group teaching. Further development of 'teaching as inquiry' to include all core curriculum areas, is likely to enable teachers to focus their professional practice more specifically on students achieving below expected levels. This development is also providing a strong foundation for building teacher capability in accelerating progress for at risk learners.

Highly effective communication with parents and whānau is providing a sound foundation for the responsive, reciprocal learning-focused relationships that are evident in the school. These relationships are especially well developed with parents and whānau of children whose learning is at risk. All parents receive regular written reports about their child's achievement and progress including detailed information about how they can assist at home.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it?

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how teaching is working for these children
  • need to systematically act on what they know works for each child
  • need to have a plan in place to build teacher capability to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it.

The school's position to accelerate progress for students achieving below expected levels continues to develop.

Current strengths include the following:

  • The board is strongly committed to maintaining high levels of community engagement and involvement.
  • High levels of relational trust and commitment to school development are evident among staff, children, parents and trustees.
  • The teaching team works closely with the principal, who is providing well-informed leadership of learning and strong direction for school development.
  • The principal and teachers know individual students very well and relationships between teachers and students are respectful and reciprocal. These relationships are focused on promoting student learning progress and wellbeing and are particularly strong with parents of children whose progress requires acceleration.

Developments to support current school direction and strengthen the effectiveness of the school's approach to accelerating progress for at risk learners include the following:

  • Continuing the programme of board training to build trustees' knowledge about internal evaluation, especially in regard to setting and monitoring annual achievement targets and scrutinising the assessment information that is reported by the principal.
  • Ensuring strategic alignment of school-wide target setting, initiatives and practices to provide a sharper focus on accelerating progress for Māori and other students whose learning is at risk.
  • Ensuring teachers continue to build their professional capability through establishing and embedding teaching as cycles of professional inquiry.

Action: The board, principal and teachers should use the findings of this evaluation, the Effective School Evaluation resource, the Internal Evaluation: Good Practice exemplars and the School Evaluation Indicators to develop more targeted planning to accelerate student achievement. Planning should show how processes and practices will respond effectively to the strengths and needs of children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated.

As part of this review ERO will continue to monitor the school’s planning and the progress the school makes. ERO is likely to carry out the next full review in three years.

6 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 the following:

  • board administration

  • curriculum

  • management of health, safety and welfare

  • personnel management

  • 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

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions

  • attendance

  • compliance with the provisions of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014

7 Recommendation

The school should ensure that strategic planning and documentation provides greater alignment to the many processes, practices and initiatives in place to accelerate children's progress, especially for at risk learners. 

Lynda Pura-Watson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Waikato/Bay of Plenty

6 December 2016

About the school


Otorohanga, Waikato

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 22 Boys 14

Ethnic composition











Review team on site

September 2016

Date of this report

6 December 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Supplementary Review

April 2013

June 2011

June 2008