St Mary's School (Foxton) - 05/08/2014


The new principal and teaching team are focused on improving achievement, involving families and community in the process. A culture of care and respect is evident. Students talk confidently about their learning. Most achieve well. More robust review practices evaluating the impact of interventions should support plans for improvement.

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 is a small state integrated Catholic school in Foxton catering for students in Years 1 to 8. Approximately one third of the roll is Māori.

A new principal was acting during 2013 and permanently appointed in 2014, along with new teachers. Students are grouped in two mixed-age classrooms, Years 1 to 3 and Years 4 to 8.

The special character is clearly evident in the daily life of the school. School values of love, courage, community and service are promoted. A positive, welcoming culture is apparent.

Current participation in a Learning and Change Network with three other local schools focuses on community partnerships and developing 21st Century learning.

2 Learning

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

The new teaching team is beginning to develop a shared understanding of schoolwide processes for making effective use of student achievement information.

Further development is necessary to clearly identify the learning needs of individual students and plan deliberate teaching strategies to accelerate the progress of underachievers. The principal has a clear focus on student achievement and is effectively leading the implementation of processes to accelerate student achievement.

Data from the end of 2013 showed that nearly three-quarters of students were achieving at or above National Standards for reading and mathematics. Two-thirds of students were achieving at a similar level for writing. Of those underachieving in writing, a greater number are boys. Overall, Māori student achievement is at or above the National Standards.

While some students made some progress in writing during 2013, this is a continuing focus. Professional development for improving the teaching of writing is planned for terms 3 and 4, 2014.

In 2014, teachers are making greater use of a range of assessment tools to identify learning gaps and plan appropriate next learning steps.

Professional development for teachers is directed at teachers better meeting the learning needs of students. The principal leads focused discussion based on professional readings at regular staff meetings. The introduction of a clear, formal process for teachers to inquire into their practice would be a useful next step.

The principal regularly reports well-analysed student achievement data to the board with recommendations for future actions. Annual targets are appropriately based on what data analysis shows. Progress and achievement is tracked schoolwide in reading and mathematics. A system for tracking achievement in writing is being established to show trends in student achievement over time.

3 Curriculum

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

Students experience learning in relevant, meaningful contexts. Systems for evaluating curriculum effectiveness are just developing.

Curriculum statements usefully include learning principles and guidelines for teaching. Clearly documented aspirations for a successful learner align with key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum. These are to be a contributing citizen, ‘info savvy’, creative and to relate well with others. There is an appropriate focus on literacy and mathematics learning.

Currently, career education is delivered as opportunities arise. In order to improve practice the school should develop a career education plan which outlines delivery of career education and guidance to Years 7 and 8 students. There must also be a second language offered for these students.

Inquiry learning enables students to follow their interests through systematic investigation within real, relevant learning contexts. Student inquiry is integrated with other essential learning areas. The multilevel groups within the two classrooms allows for suitable extension when needed.

Students are provided with a digital device as a learning tool. With improved connection to fast broadband later this year, all students will have wider opportunities for using this resource.

Special needs students are valued. They are included in all school activities, are socially engaged and progress well in relation to their individual goals.

Teachers share clear expectations for students’ behaviour and learning. Teacher modelling of strategies provides a useful scaffold for learning. Teachers are agreed on their two next steps. They should increase their use of specific written feedback in student books so students can refer back on their goals. They need further support to increase their use of te reo Māori in classrooms.

Students enjoy learning and are active participants in class. They talk confidently about what they are learning and are proud of their efforts. Older and younger children mix well and show concern for each other. Older students have a range of opportunities to demonstrate leadership responsibilities, for example, at school hui and welcoming visitors, helping with library, and sport.

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

The school is working effectively to promote educational success for Māori, as Māori through a range of strategies. These include:

  • well-considered consultation with whānau. A hui held early in 2014 was jointly planned with another local school. The focus was on finding out parents’ and whānau aspirations for their children and their expectations of the school. The information from this hui has been collated and will contribute to planning future school direction
  • a local school social worker, in 2014, developing Māori student leadership through a welldesigned programme emphasising tikanga Māori
  • authentic learning contexts, including at assemblies, with a focus on te ao Māori
  • all students confidently participating in kapa haka. This has had increased emphasis in 2014 and is led by the principal.

An agreed next step is to continue dialogue with the community to learn more about local Māori history and further develop links with local Māori.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

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

The charter 2014 to 2016, strategic plan and annual plan align well. The strategic plan stresses the importance of partnership with community in determining success. Documentation provides clear guidance for school operations and curriculum delivery. The five school aims provide a balanced focus for development and prioritise student learning. The principal regularly reports progress on these aims at board meetings.

The board, principal and teachers value and respond to the views of their community. Trustees are open to ongoing conversations about parent aspirations for their children. Formal opportunities for collecting input from parents and whānau are well attended.

Partnership between school and home has been strengthened during 2014. There are increased opportunities for ongoing formal and informal discussions between teachers and families. These promote parents’ active involvement in their child’s learning.

The principal promotes and leads a focus on student learning and wellbeing. The new teaching team works collaboratively to respond to the successes and needs of individual students. An environment of respect and care is highly evident.

Parents are well informed about children’s learning and school events. Weekly newsletters celebrate student success with photographs acknowledging and documenting student learning experiences.

Self review is at an early stage of development. Trustees regularly review and update school policies. Schoolwide student achievement information is reviewed to set strategic goals and targets and plan professional development for teachers.

Performance appraisal is used well to work towards school goals. The process is sound. It includes links to the Registered Teacher Criteria. Regular focused observations of teaching document specific feedback about teaching strengths and next professional learning steps. The principal’s appraisal goals are linked to accelerating student achievement.

Self review is likely to be improved by the use of indicators of quality and strengthening the emphasis on evaluating the impact of interventions.

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.

The board must, through the principal and staff, develop and implement a teaching and learning programme for Year 7 and 8 students in a second language.

NAG 1a(i), National Administration Guidelines (October 2013)

In order to improve practice, the board through the principal and staff should develop a career education plan which outlines delivery of career education and guidance to Year 7 and 8 students. Currently, career education is delivered as opportunities arise.


The new principal and teaching team are focused on improving achievement, involving families and community in the process. A culture of care and respect is evident. Students talk confidently about their learning. Most achieve well. More robust review practices evaluating the impact of interventions should support plans for improvement.

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in three years.index-html-m2a7690f7.gif

Joyce Gebbie

National Manager Review Services Central Region

5 August 2014

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Female 17, Male 15

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā

Other ethnic groups




Special Features

State Integrated Catholic School

Review team on site

June 2014

Date of this report

5 August 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2011

May 2008

June 2005