St Mary's Catholic School (Tauranga) - 03/02/2017

1 Context

St Mary's Catholic School is located on an attractive site that borders on Tauranga harbour and estuary. The school is experiencing sustained roll growth, and this has necessitated the building of additional facilities and provided the impetus for developing innovative learning environments. There has been a significant restructuring of the senior leadership team and a new deputy principal appointed since the 2013 ERO review. The 2016 board elections resulted in 5 new parent elected trustees, and the appointment of a new chairperson.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school for all children are to ensure they learn and live by Christian moral values and spirituality in the Catholic tradition. There is priority given to developing their full academic potential while being exposed to a diversity of cultural experiences in a learning environment. The school values are truth (tika), mercy (aroha), faith (whakapono) and wisdom (maramatanga).

The school’s achievement information shows that a very high proportion of children, including Māori, are achieving at or above the expected National Standard in reading, writing and mathematics. These proportions have remained consistently high for the past three years.

The school's moderation processes are rigorous and ensure a high degree of dependability of teachers' overall judgements. Senior leaders support the process with clear guidelines for classroom teachers, and they ensure regular scheduled time to share and discuss children's achievement and progress data. Internal moderation is complemented by opportunities for inter-school moderation within the community of learning.

Since the last ERO evaluation the school has had a significant focus on strengthening the management of children's assessment information at all levels. Teachers have undertaken sustained professional development on the use of assessment information, especially in relation to planning for and monitoring the progress of children whose achievement needs accelerating. Externally facilitated professional development has been in the areas of Teaching as Inquiry (TAI), Accelerated Learning in Mathematics (ALiM), Learning with Digital Technology (LWDT) and the Innovation Fund. All these areas of professional development have retained a planned focus on supporting the accelerated progress of priority children.

3 Accelerating achievement

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

The school responds very effectively to the small proportion of children whose learning and achievement needs acceleration. Māori children are achieving and progressing at comparable levels to non-Māori. As a consequence, all support systems for priority children are based solely on identified learning needs, and not specifically linked to ethnicity.

The recently appointed deputy principal oversees and coordinates the work of senior managers, team leaders and classroom teachers, to engage with the extensive range of standardised and other achievement information the school gathers each year. All students who are below or well below the appropriate National Standard in reading, writing or mathematics are clearly identified and individual learning support plans developed.

Each classroom teacher has an identified group of target children, and plans strategies and interventions to accelerate their learning. The ongoing progress of target children is monitored every eight weeks at meetings between the teacher and deputy principal. Individual learning plans are revised, extended or discontinued through reference to evidence shared at the meeting. Class and school-wide information shows that a high proportion of target students make accelerated progress during the year.

Teachers use visual data walls and plot the progress of target children throughout the year. The school reports that a high proportion of target children enter the school achieving at low levels of literacy, but they make accelerated progress during the year. School leaders recognise that these progress-monitoring processes should now be extended beyond the current year, to ensure the progress of target students is sustained. In addition, this extended tracking will further strengthen the evaluation of classroom strategies and school initiatives in supporting the progress of priority children.

Priority children are specifically included in the annual progress targets set by the board, and these targets are aligned to overall community of learning challenges. Senior leaders report children's achievement and progress to the board, with clear interpretations of data and well-informed recommendations for ongoing decision making.

Teachers and senior managers build productive partnerships with parents of children whose learning needs acceleration. Parents receive regular formal and informal communication from teachers, and have access to on-line reports and samples of their children's work.

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 is highly effective in enacting the vision, values and goals set for equity and excellence for all students. The school is providing a curriculum which has depth, meaning and positive purpose for children and the wider community. Children have an extensive range of holistic learning opportunities including academic, spiritual, sporting, cultural, social and Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC). They experience classrooms that are settled and conducive to learning. Mutually respectful and nurturing relationships among adults and children are highly evident. Children, including those at risk of underachieving, experience educational success and personal growth from the curriculum which is responsive, stimulating and relevant.

The board effectively scrutinises the core educational work of the school in achieving valued student outcomes. In its operation and documentation, the board retains a clear priority on fostering the special Catholic character of the school. Trustees are well informed about children's achievement and progress, including those at risk of underachieving, through detailed reporting by senior managers. The board allocates additional resources to support equity of outcomes for all children. A next step is for the board to evaluate the impact of current initiatives such as the introduction of innovative learning environments, on children's learning. Trustees access external advice and expertise as appropriate, and ensure there is close alignment between strategic goals for children's achievement, and the performance management system. Sound governance is supporting school improvement.

Senior leaders are providing a clear sense of positive purpose and direction for the school community, with a focus on fostering the special Catholic character. The principal works collaboratively with other senior leaders to successfully foster high expectations for professional practice and excellence in educational outcomes for all children. Decision making in support of children whose learning needs accelerating is evidence-based, and shared with classroom teachers and parents.

The board and school leaders have a strategic and coherent approach to building professional practice and leadership. Organisational structures support teachers to reflect on the effectiveness of their practice, especially in accelerating the progress of children at risk. Teachers are ready to explore and implement new strategies to engage children, and several classes work together in innovative learning environments. The use of digital technologies to support teaching and learning is well developed. Leaders identified a next step to fully enact the principles of Ka Hikitia, accelerating Māori success, which would be reflected in a sequential te reo Māori programme and more 'place-based' learning opportunities.

A feature of the school is the range of well-established connections and purposeful relationships with it's wider community. The Catholic Diocese, local parish and founding order of Cluny Sisters all provide tangible support for the special Catholic character. The faith-based community of learning provides further educational and special character support. Strong parent and whānau support groups provide the opportunity for parent contribution, consultation and involvement. Community collaboration enriches educational opportunities for children, staff and families.

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 effectively to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how well teaching is working for these children
  • act on what they know works well for each child
  • build teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children
  • are well placed to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children.

Strong educational leadership and sound governance is supporting ongoing school improvement. High expectations for professional practice and student achievement are well embedded and strongly supported by productive partnerships with the wider community. The special Catholic character ensures children at risk, and their families, are effectively supported to achieve equity and excellence. Māori children are achieving and progressing at levels comparable to other children in the school.

The important next step is for the board and senior leaders to continue to evaluate the impact of current initiatives, such as innovative teaching environments, on various groups of children, especially those at risk of underachievement.

ERO is likely to carry out the next 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.

International Students

The Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (the Code) was introduced on July 1st 2016. The school is aware of the need to update its policies and procedures to meet the new code requirements by December 1st 2016.

At the time of this ERO review there were 15 international students attending the school. The school is making good progress in aligning its policies and procedures to meet requirements for the 2016 Code.

7 Recommendation

Trustees and senior leaders are to continue to evaluate the impact of current initiatives on educational outcomes for children.

Lynda Pura-Watson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Waikato / Bay of Plenty

3 February 2017

About the school 



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)



School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 51% Boys 49%

Ethnic composition



South East Asian

Other Asian

Other European












Review team on site

November 2016

Date of this report

3 February 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2013

December 2010

October 2007