St Mary's School (Gore) - 08/05/2018

School Context

St Mary’s School (Gore) is a Years 1 to 6 Catholic school. It has a roll of 185 children. An increasing number come from diverse cultural backgrounds.

The school is guided by Mercy values and the Catholic virtues of faith, hope and love.

The school’s current goals are to continue to strengthen teachers’ understanding and use of:

  • new assessment tools and practices

  • inquiry into how to best support children who need extra help with their learning

  • digital technology to improve teaching and learning.

Charter goals also include an ongoing focus on how to best support Māori learners and build teachers’ understanding of Māori culture, values and local history.

The school’s 2018 achievement targets are to accelerate the progress of any child who is below expected levels in reading and mathematics. Another target is for a small group of Years 3 and 5 children to accelerate their achievement in literacy. This target is an Eastern Southland Kāhui Ako| Community of Learning (CoL) target. The school is part of this CoL and the principal is the CoL leader.

Leaders report to the board, school-wide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • progress and achievement in reading, writing and mathematics.

Evaluation Findings

1 Equity and excellence – achievement of valued outcomes for students

1.1 How well is the school achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students?

The school is very effective in achieving excellent and equitable outcomes for its children in literacy and mathematics. Over the last three years, over 80% of children have achieved at or above expected levels in these areas. Achievement is particularly high in reading, with a third of the children above expected levels.

Almost all groups of children achieve equitable outcomes in literacy and mathematics. School-wide achievement at the end of 2017 for Māori and Filipino children was at similar or higher levels than their peers. However, there was some disparity for boys in writing.

1.2 How well is the school accelerating learning for those Māori and other students who need this?

The school is very successful in accelerating the learning of children who need extra help to achieve at expected levels. In 2017, six of the ten target children in reading and writing groups made more than expected progress and most reached their expected level.

The school was particularly successful in addressing a disparity in achievement for Māori children in 2016. As a result of intensive individual support, these children made accelerated progress and all reached expected levels by the end of 2017.

2 School conditions for equity and excellence – processes and practices

2.1 What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

Children learn in a very supportive environment. The Catholic character is strongly evident in the inclusive, caring and respectful school culture. Children know and understand the school’s values. Core Māori values, such as whanaungatanga (family-like relationships) and manaakitanga (kindness), are very evident. There is strong and constructive pastoral support for children and their families.

At all levels there is a commitment, and very effective practices, to accelerate the achievement of children who need extra help with their learning. These children are quickly identified and closely monitored by leaders and teachers. Teachers know these children well as learners, and as individuals. Through thoughtful inquiry and close collaboration with parents, they develop specific strategies to address identified needs. These practices have resulted in accelerated learning. Similarly, children with additional needs are very well supported in their learning.

School leaders have built very effective partnerships to support children’s wellbeing and learning. Parents are well informed about their children’s progress and achievement and regularly join in school activities and celebrations. Leaders and teachers work very closely with a range of external experts and agencies to help individual children. Over several years, the school has consulted and worked alongside local iwi to build teachers’ knowledge about the Māori world and better support individual children and families. The school has built constructive relationships with early learning services and the local Catholic secondary school, so that children experience positive transitions.

Leaders are reflective, collaborative and improvement focused. The school has made significant progress in addressing the 2014 ERO recommendations. For example, children have much better opportunities to use digital technologies and to experience a Māori dimension in their learning. The principal is consultative and has intentionally built her staff’s leadership skills. She provides sound professional leadership within and beyond the school.

The school has well-considered priorities for future development. There is strong alignment between these, the school’s strategic and annual plans and other school practices, such as professional learning. Teachers benefit from an effective and improvement-focused appraisal system. Trustees show a strong commitment to their governance role. They prioritise children in their decision making and have relevant governance skills and knowledge.

2.2 What further developments are needed in school processes and practices for achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

Some aspects of internal evaluation (self-review) need extending and deepening. Leaders need to regularly evaluate and report to the board about how well each curriculum area is enacted, and other teaching and learning priorities. Wider and better evaluation should help leaders make evidence-based judgements about what is going well, what needs strengthening and next steps for improvement.

Aspects of target setting and reporting needs to be improved. Targets should be extended to address the disparity in boys’ writing and to increase the proportion of children achieving above expected levels in writing and mathematics. Reporting to the board about progress towards meeting the targets needs to be more frequent.

ERO agrees with priorities for improvement identified by school leaders. These are to further strengthen:

  • children’s understanding of and responsibility for their learning, progress and achievement

  • teachers’ understanding and integration of te ao and te reo Māori in day-to-day learning.

3 Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board 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

  • finance

  • 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 and certification

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspension, expulsion and exclusion of students

  • attendance

  • school policies in relation to meeting the requirements of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

For sustained improvement and future learner success, the school can draw on existing strengths in its:

  • caring, inclusive and respectful culture that supports children’s learning and wellbeing

  • strong leadership and effective governance that prioritises what’s best for children at all times

  • constructive relationships with parents, educational providers, experts and agencies that are leading to collaborative and well-considered decisions and actions

  • collective responsibility for and effective practices to support any child who needs extra help to succeed

  • effective strategic and annual planning for ongoing improvement.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are in:

  • extending and strengthening aspects of internal evaluation to inform ongoing improvement

  • improving aspects of target setting and reporting to fully realise the school’s commitment to excellence and equity in learning

  • continuing the school’s focus on children understanding their progress and next learning steps to enable them to be successful life-long learners

  • continuing the school’s focus on building teachers’ confidence in te reo and te ao Māori.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Dr Lesley Patterson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern

Te Waipounamu - Southern Region

8 May 2018

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing primary (Years 1-6)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 51% Girls 49%

Ethnic composition

Māori: 9%
Pākehā: 78%
Filipino: 5%
Other: 8%

Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

March 2018

Date of this report

8 May 2018

Most recent ERO reports – Education Reviews

November 2014
February 2012
June 2008