St Mary's College (Wellington) - 19/06/2014


How effectively is this school’s curriculum promoting student learning - engagement, progress and achievement?

St Mary’s College is a state integrated Catholic girls’ secondary school in central Wellington. Its special character is founded on the charism and values of the Sisters of Mercy. Students achieve high levels of success in NCEA and participate successfully in a wide range of sporting and cultural activities.

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

1 Context

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

St Mary’s College is a state integrated Catholic secondary school located in central Wellington. It caters for the education of 625 girls, with 17% identifying as Pacific and 13% as Māori. Students come from a large number of contributing schools, and many travel long distances daily.

The school’s special character is founded on the charism and values of the Sisters of Mercy. The convent shares the same site, and the school is proud of the history and tradition it derives from the Order.

A new principal took office in May 2013. The deputy principal and assistant principal have a long association with the school. Since the July 2011 ERO report, a proprietors' trust board has been formed. It works in close consultation with the board of trustees.

Most of the areas identified for development in ERO’s previous report have not as yet been fully addressed.

2 Learning

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

Overall, the school uses achievement information well to promote students’ learning and progress. High levels of success in National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEAs) indicate the usefulness of a range of strategies that support engagement and learning. Success is recognised and celebrated.

Years 11 to 13

In 2013, almost all Year 11 students gained the Level 1 qualification. The achievement was similar for Year 12 at Level 2, and most Year 13 gained Level 3. A significant number of students achieved the University Entrance qualification.

These results exceeded those of comparable schools nationally. Pacific and Māori students achieved well, particularly at Level 1 where all gained NCEA with the required literacy and numeracy credits.

The 2014 charter targets aim to further raise levels of achievement, with increased Merit and Excellence endorsements.

The school has well-considered systems for monitoring students’ progress and providing support to promote success in the senior school. In 2013, an initiative at Year 11 successfully focused on increasing the engagement, motivation and work skills of a group of students identified as at risk of not achieving NCEA Level 1. Most of these students gained the qualification.

Analyses and reporting by departments to the board are guided by a robust framework of clearly articulated questions and expectations.

Years 9 and 10

To assess students’ literacy and numeracy levels in Years 9 and 10, the school gathers information that includes the results of nationally-referenced tests. Students needing support to accelerate their learning in these areas receive targeted tuition in separate classes.

The school does not yet have a consistent picture of student progress and achievement across the curriculum, and there are no charter targets for students in the junior school. Teachers’ use of reliable achievement information to make valid judgements about progress is not fully developed in all learning areas.

To use junior student achievement information more effectively, senior leaders recognise that robust systems and procedures need to be developed, implemented and monitored. ERO’s evaluation affirms this goal to build schoolwide consistency and shared understandings.

More consistent gathering and analysis of achievement information is likely to contribute to improved evaluation of the impact of strategies to accelerate students’ progress and learning.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s commitment to its special character, vision and values is strongly evident in teaching and learning. The positive school climate and tone are underpinned by respectful relationships and high expectations for achievement, behaviour and participation. Students’ learning and wellbeing are effectively promoted and supported.

The curriculum provides a broad range of academic and vocational pathways. Senior students have the option of gaining community-based credits in retail, hospitality and automotive engineering.

Departments have clearly documented processes for the coverage of specific learning areas. However, there is not a common, consistent approach to curriculum evaluation, review and development. A coordinated system is needed, to establish schoolwide frameworks for teaching and assessment practices that align with The New Zealand Curriculum and the school’s strategic priorities.

Cultural diversity is valued. Aspects of Pacific cultures and te ao Māori are reflected in school practices. Senior leaders have identified the need to further raise the profile of Pacific, Māori and other cultures in the curriculum and environment. Teachers will benefit from ongoing professional development to build on their knowledge and cultural responsiveness.

ERO observed examples of good teaching practices that help students take increased responsibility for their own learning. The next step for teachers is to formally inquire into the impact of specific strategies, using evidence of students’ progress, engagement and accelerated learning. Changes to teachers’ appraisals are underway, to further promote and support continuous improvement in teaching and learning.

Provision for students who have particular academic strengths or talents in other areas is undergoing development, to ensure that the most able and gifted students are appropriately challenged to extend their thinking and learning.

Students take part in a wide range of sporting, cultural, creative, social action and service activities. Student leaders have authentic responsibilities as mentors, role models and organisers.

How effectively does the school promote educational success for Pacific students?

Pacific students’ progress is closely tracked and monitored. Students are mentored to support ongoing engagement and improvement. Targets are set to further raise the achievement of Pacific students, who are highly successful in NCEA.

Pacific students hold significant leadership positions in the school.

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

The school has high expectations of Māori students, and in 2013 the NCEA achievement target set for them was exceeded. Māori students overall enjoy very good levels of educational success.

Strategies are in place to build on Māori students’ sense of belonging and mana. These include kapa haka, mentoring, leadership roles, te reo classes, university liaison and pōwhiri. A staff committee focuses on engaging parents and whānau in students’ learning and in the life of the school.

4 Sustainable Performance

How well placed is the school to sustain and improve its performance?

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

The new principal demonstrates a measured, strategic approach to leadership and change management. She has a clear vision for the school, and recognises the importance of building professional leadership at senior and middle management levels.

Strategic and annual plans are robust and closely aligned. The 2013 goals and targets were reviewed with rigour, to inform plans for 2014.

Well-established pastoral care networks focus on supporting and promoting individual students’ wellbeing. Students are highly engaged and focused on learning.

The school has strong links with its Catholic community. Adherence to the long tradition and history of the Sisters of Mercy is well embedded. Parents are supportive and involved.

The principal has identified key next steps for continued development. These are to:

  • review the roles and responsibilities of senior leaders and heads of department as collaborative professional leaders
  • develop a framework for evidence-based self review to evaluate the quality and impact of programmes and initiatives at all levels.

ERO’s evaluation affirms the value and importance of these areas for development to further enhance outcomes for students.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (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 two international students attending the school, one of whom was an exchange student.

The school provides effective pastoral care and appropriate education programmes for these 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.


St Mary’s College is a state integrated Catholic girls’ secondary school in central Wellington. Its special character is founded on the charism and values of the Sisters of Mercy. Students achieve high levels of success in NCEA and participate successfully in a wide range of sporting and cultural activities.

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

Joyce Gebbie

National Manager Review Services Central Region

19 June 2014

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Integrated Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Female 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/ Pākehā




Other ethnic groups






Review team on site

May 2014

Date of this report

19 June 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

July 2011
August 2008
April 2005