St Mary's School (P North) - 23/07/2018

School Context

St Mary’s School, Palmerston North is a state integrated Catholic school for students in Years 1 to 6. The multi-cultural roll of 158 includes 15% who identify as Māori, and 9% of Pacific heritage.

The school’s stated vision is to: through our Catholic faith and quality teaching, develop connected, confident, actively, involved, life-long learners. The values of care, courtesy, respect and responsivity are the building blocks, essential for effective learning to take place.

Achievement targets focus on improvement for Māori and Pacific learners and all students not achieving in reading, writing and mathematics.

Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board, schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • achievement in reading, writing and mathematics

  • achievement in relation to the strands of the religious education curriculum.

The school is part of the Palmerston North Catholic Kāhui Ako.

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 supports the achievement of equitable and excellent outcomes for students. Since the February 2015 ERO report, rates of achievement have continued to improve.

Schoolwide end-of-year achievement information for 2017, indicates that most students achieved at or above expectation in reading and mathematics, with the majority achieving at or above expectation in writing. Mathematics is an area of strength across the school.

Māori and Pacific students are yet to achieve as well as other groups of their peers within the school in reading, writing and mathematics. Pacific students are achieving higher in all areas than Māori. Progress has been made in reducing disparity for both of these groups.

English language learners are well supported to grow their English language skills. These students achieve well over their time at the school.

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

During 2017, all students identified in the achievement targets made progress. Some accelerated their learning to be achieving at expectation in reading, writing and mathematics.

The 2018 target students are identified and achievement data provided shows that the majority have made progress towards meeting school expectations for this time of the year.

School data over time shows that most students who remain at the school achieve at expectation or above by the time they complete their schooling in Year 6.

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?

Leadership ensures an attractive, inclusive and supportive environment that promotes students’ learning and wellbeing. The Catholic character is highly evident through warm, caring and respectful relationships. The school values are highly visible in the environment and well known by students.

Students experience a wide range of learning opportunities and are supported to take leadership roles. Deliberate and innovative actions engage parents and whānau in the life of the school. The diverse cultures of the students and their families are acknowledged and celebrated.

Teachers’ collaborative approach is strengthened through the ongoing development of cooperative learning environments. There is a focus on increasing students’ responsibility and management of their own learning. Student voice is increasingly being sought to inform decision making.

There has been a considered approach to support the achievement of Māori and Pacific students. Their strengths and needs are known and processes are in place for deliberate teaching, tracking and monitoring of their achievement. This is resulting in their increased confidence and engagement in learning.

Responsive systems and processes, and collaboration with external agencies, enables students with additional learning needs to learn alongside their peers. Those with very high needs are well supported to participate and engage in learning through individual planning and appropriate use of resourcing.

Trustees on the newly established board bring a range of relevant skills and understanding of the Catholic education system. They are supported by the diocese and are growing in their understanding of their stewardship role.

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

Trustees and leaders have identified the need to develop more coherent systems and processes to guide school operations, that will lead to improved achievement of equity and excellence for all students. A comprehensive review of the school’s charter is underway. This should set a clear vision and direction for the school and its community. ERO’s evaluation supports this focus.

Refining the student achievement targets to more clearly focus on those students most at risk of underachievement, should result in more targeted actions to accelerate the learning of these students.

An in-depth review of the curriculum is required to provide clear expectations and support consistency of practice for teaching and learning. Improvements should:

  • reflect the school’s special character
  • be clearly aligned to theNew Zealand Curriculum principles, values and key competencies
  • identify valued outcomes for all students
  • include guidelines and clear expectations for high quality teaching, learning and assessment practices, including moderation
  • support conditions for 21st century learners.

Teaching as inquiry is at the early stage of implementation. Teachers have begun to inquire into how specific teaching strategies impact on the learning of priority students. This process needs further strengthening to better understand the impact of new practices on outcomes for students.

Trustees, leaders and teachers should now develop a shared understanding of internal evaluation and use this to inform decision making, set strategic direction, monitor progress and evaluate the impact of change on outcomes for students.

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.

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should strengthen the process of safety checking of all employees in the appointments’ process.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • leadership that ensures an inclusive and supportive environment to promote students’ wellbeing and learning
  • warm, caring and respectful relationships which reflect the Catholic character
  • deliberate actions to engage parents and whānau in the life of the school.

Next steps

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

  • developing more coherent systems and processes to guide school operation, including the charter, curriculum and internal evaluation.
    [ERO will provide an internal evaluation workshop for trustees and senior leaders]

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Alan Wynyard

Deputy Chief Review Officer Central (Acting)

Te Tai Pokapū - Central Region

23 July 2018

About the school


Palmerston North

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

State Integrated contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll


Gender composition

Female 55%, Male 45%

Ethnic composition

Māori 14%
Pacific 9%
Pākehā 34%
Filipino 19%
Indian 13%
Other ethnic groups 11%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

June 2018

Date of this report

23 July 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review July 2015
Education Review May 2012
Education Review May 2009