St Mary's Catholic School (Papakura) - 29/06/2016

1 Context

St Mary's Catholic School, Papakura, caters for children in Years 1 to 8. Māori children make up 22 percent of the roll, Samoan 14 percent and other Pacific groups eight percent. Filipino children are also a significant group in the school. About half of the children who leave St Mary’s after Year 6 go on to attend a Catholic secondary school. The principal and curriculum director work with three team leaders. Together they lead school staff, some of whom have been with the school for many years.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school is to have all children working together in prayer, learning and service. The school's mission is to provide a future-focused education for children, in a just and caring Catholic community and an exemplary learning environment. The values of respect, care and responsibility underpin school expectations. The board of trustees and school leaders plan under the two pillars of Catholic character and student achievement.

The school’s achievement information shows a positive trend in achievement for all children, including Māori and Pacific between 2013 and 2014. Approximately 80 percent of all children achieved the National Standards in literacy and mathematics. Māori children made gains, especially in writing and mathematics. However, there has been a drop in achievement in 2015. Māori children's achievement is still slightly higher than overall figures, which show 69 percent of children achieving the National Standards in reading, 63 percent in writing and 71 percent in mathematics.

School leaders and teachers have used the 2015 data as a catalyst for change and development. They have analysed achievement information and school conditions carefully to identify the factors that may have contributed to the drop in achievement.

In 2016 school leaders have taken specific and deliberate steps to enhance teaching and learning. There is a particular focus on raising the achievement of boys, Pacific children, and children in Years 7 and 8. The school's action plans provide a good basis for addressing disparities in achievement.

The school has been part of the Papakura Achievement Initiative, which focused on strengthening literacy teaching and learning. This along with other teacher professional development has supported the development of processes within the school for moderating assessment. The school has recently joined six other schools in the new South Auckland Catholic Schools community of learning. Working together with this group of schools, which all have similar achievement challenges, has the potential to support ongoing improvements.

Since the last ERO evaluation the school has responded to information gained from data analysis by: 

  • targeting groups of children in each class whose learning needs acceleration
  • improving the use of formative assessment and better tracking, reporting and responding to information about student progress and achievement
  • strategically appointing and using additional staff to support learning
  • developing strategies for increasing children's ownership of their learning goals
  • organising the school day to ensure an uninterrupted focus on literacy, mathematics and religious education during the morning block
  • establishing more focused processes for teachers to inquire into the impact of their teaching
  • making better use of digital technology, introducing computer devices for children and exploring e-learning approaches. 

There is, across the teaching staff, an increased sense of collaboration and collective responsibility for improving outcomes for children.

3 Accelerating achievement

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

The school has good processes in place for identifying Māori children who are at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes. These processes include assessing children's progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards, talking with children and their whānau, monitoring attendance, focussed observations and information sharing amongst teachers. Some of the children targeted for accelerated learning in class are Māori. However, because Māori children’s achievement is on a par with the achievement of their non- Māori peers, the school has not identified specific targets for improving outcomes for Māori children whose learning needs to be accelerated.

The school has taken steps to strengthen bicultural practices and support so that children feel pride and success as Māori. Tamariki Māori are represented amongst student leaders and have leadership opportunities in kapa haka and in pōwhiri. A poutama model for setting and achieving goals is well used and understood by children and staff. This model is useful for setting goals for accelerated learning.

Te Whānau o Hato Maria has been established to strengthen consultation and engagement with whānau Māori. This group, which includes a board member and two of the school's Māori teachers, provides enthusiastic leadership. This group has developed a plan for moving forward and is supporting teachers to develop a more culturally responsive curriculum.

It would be timely for the school to now develop a Māori education plan that aligns with the Ministry of Education’s Ka Hikitia: Accelerating Success 2013 – 2017. This plan should contribute to the school’s strategic planning and curriculum development and focus on accelerating learning progress for Māori children.

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

The school's approaches described above have also helped leaders and teachers identify that they need to develop more effective strategies to accelerate learning for boys, Pacific children, and children in Years 7 to 8.

Teachers’ inquiry processes and their sharing of teaching strategies is helping them to respond in a more focussed way to the learning needs of individual children. In addition, school leaders are monitoring the progress children who are in teachers' target groups. Data shows that some of these children have made accelerated progress. Children who have high learning needs are supported through individual development plans. The introduction of computer devices for Year 7 and 8 children is beginning to have a positive effect on some children’s engagement in their learning.

School leaders and trustees are establishing a group to support and consult with Pacific families. This should provide an opportunity to strengthen partnerships with families to better support the school's focus on raising Pacific children’s achievement.

While recent initiatives have the potential to have a positive effect on children's learning, it is too early to see their impact. The school has yet to develop explicit plans for accelerating the achievement of all children who are at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes. More evaluative inquiry into how effectively teaching practices and specific initiatives are accelerating children's progress would be useful for teachers. This information could also help the board and school leaders to make decisions about the allocation of resources.

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?

School leaders’ and teachers’ engagement in professional learning since ERO’s 2012 review, and more recent initiatives, have established a strong foundation for enacting the school’s vision and priorities for equity and excellence.

The board, school leaders and teachers are committed to promoting children’s wellbeing and achievement. Children have a good understanding of positive behaviours that support their learning and social competence. Notable features of the St Mary’s school community are connectedness and trusting relationships.

The board is becoming more skilled at scrutinising and using data to inform its decision-making processes. Trustees have a good focus on the future and what is needed to support children's learning. This includes the current building project where the aim is to create innovative and modern learning environments. The views of the Māori and Pacific communities are represented at board level.

School leaders are using data to inform their decisions about how to accelerate children's progress. They make good use of professional networks and encourage teachers to examine the impact of their teaching. There is a focus on building leaders’ and teachers’ professional capability and sharing leadership more widely across the school. School leaders are strengthening their cultural responsiveness and their partnerships with whānau to help promote equitable outcomes for children.

Children are secure in their Catholic identity. They appreciate the diversity of their community and the way that aspects of their cultural backgrounds are integrated in the life of the school. Children in leadership positions in the school are advocates for others and think carefully about their roles and responsibilities. They are keen to contribute to school decision-making. Children support each other in their learning and are developing a growing understanding about setting goals to support progress.

The school’s curriculum focuses particularly on literacy, mathematics and religious education. Trustees and school leaders are conscious of maintaining a broad curriculum that reflects all aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum. They recognise that it is timely to refresh the St Mary’s curriculum documents to better reflect recent developments and the school's direction.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children?

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
  • do not always or systematically act on what they know works for each child
  • have a plan in place but have not yet built teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children. 

The school has established a variety of deliberate strategies for enhancing children's learning. There is a strong sense of collective commitment to addressing achievement challenges. Processes for identifying and monitoring overall achievement, and that of specific students, are well established.

In order to strengthen the school's capacity to provide well for all children whose learning needs acceleration, the trustees, principal and curriculum director agree that next steps for development should include: 

  • long-term strategic planning and a clearer strategic focus on accelerating learning
  • reviewing and refreshing the St Mary's curriculum to better reflect recent and planned developments
  • continuing to distribute leadership more widely and build teachers' understanding of effective modern learning practices
  • establishing a systematic and responsive cycle of robust internal evaluation at all levels of school operations that will help to monitor the success of initiatives for accelerating learning. 

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 a Raising Achievement Plan to further develop processes and practices that 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 Raising Achievement plan 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

  • provision for international students.

7 Recommendation

ERO recommends that the school leaders work with external advisers and the South Auckland Catholic Schools community of learning to develop more specific targets and strategies for accelerating learning and to establish robust internal evaluation processes.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

29 June 2016

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 53% Boys 47%

Ethnic composition







Middle Eastern

Cook Island Māori


other Asian













Review team on site

May 2016

Date of this report

29 June 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2012

June 2009

June 2006