St Paul's College (Ponsonby) - 06/12/2019

School Context

St Paul’s College (Ponsonby) is a Catholic boys’ school that provides a special character education for students from Years 7 to 13. Most students have Pacific heritage, and a smaller group identify as Māori.

The Marist values of faith, perseverance, passion, courage and brotherhood are underpinned by the vision to educate young men to become men of Christian belief and men of courage. This vision embraces the motto “Confortare Esto Vir” (Take courage and be a man). St Paul’s College promotes an holistic education that develops young men’s spiritual, academic, cultural and sporting dimensions.

Since ERO’s 2015 review, significant changes have taken place in school leadership roles. Two new leaders have joined the senior leadership team and a new leadership structure has been established to build more sustainable leadership across the school.

The board of trustees has strategic goals to continue developing school capabilities in governance, leadership, teaching and learning. The school’s charter also includes goals regarding community engagement and future thinking. Targets are set each year aimed at raising the achievement of students at each Year level.

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

  • student engagement and attendance
  • New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) achievement
  • achievement in relation to the college’s targets.

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 college promotes positive achievement outcomes for most students. National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) data over the past three years show sustained levels of achievement at Levels 1 to 3, including for Māori and Pacific learners. Nearly all Māori and Pacific students leave with NCEA Level 2.

University Entrance (UE) data, literacy and numeracy achievement, and the 2018 NCEA endorsements show a positive trend for senior students. Increasing numbers of students are entering tertiary education or employment, beyond secondary school. In 2018 the college’s first NZQA scholarship in 40 years was awarded, and more students are working towards scholarships in 2019.

School achievement information shows variable disparities in achievement for Māori and Pacific across all Year levels. However, as there are low numbers of students in each ethnic group at each year level, it is difficult to make valid analysis of achievement trends and patterns.

The college continues to work towards raising achievement for students in Years 7 to 10. In 2019, teachers and leaders have used nationally normed assessment tools to gather achievement data. Data indicate that most of these students achieve below, and some well below, expected curriculum levels in literacy and mathematics.

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

The college uses multiple strategies to lift achievement in Years 7 to 10 for success in NCEA. Leaders and teachers know students well. They identify students who need to make accelerated progress at each year level. Initiatives supporting students to progress include additional literacy learning, a community reading programme and helping parents to support their children’s learning. Individual educational plans are developed for students with additional learning needs.

The college does not yet have a clear picture of the rates of progress in literacy or mathematics over time, in Years 7 to 10. Despite a substantial group of students entering the school below expected curriculum levels in literacy and mathematics, these students make sufficient progress over time to achieve at NCEA Level 2.

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?

The college’s special character is strongly reflected throughout its inclusive learning environment and practices. As a result, students demonstrate a strong sense of belonging and brotherhood. They value this small school and consider it as a family for them. They are encouraged to develop their self-management, leadership, sporting and service skills. Clear, shared expectations for learning, behaviour, attendance and punctuality are resulting in increased attendance and engagement.

Leadership at the management level builds relational trust and collaboration at all school levels. Leaders and staff actively reinforce school values to promote positive relationships and an orderly environment for learning. Leaders have a strong belief in students’ potential to achieve NCEA Level 3 and UE. This belief helps students to aspire to achieve academically and personally.

The college maintains a focus on ‘enrolling the family’ when students enter the school. Parents who spoke with ERO appreciate the efforts made by college staff to support their children’s personal and academic growth. They feel well informed with regular, timely communication. Community collaboration supports and extends students’ opportunities to be successful learners.

The college provides a range of curriculum choices for students with different interests and aspirations to succeed within the New Zealand Curriculum. A recent initiative has been introduced that gives learning area leaders oversight of their curriculum from Years 7 to 13. This initiative is likely to result in greater coherence in curriculum pathways and increased achievement especially in Years 7 to 10. Students’ learning is enhanced through a range of training and vocational experiences beyond the school.

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

ERO recommends that the college implement strategic, systematic oversight of student literacy and mathematical progress in Years 7 to 10. This would help to ensure that students have the literacy and mathematical knowledge and skills to achieve in broader curriculum pathways in the senior school, and to work towards merit or excellence in their qualifications.

Strategies to ensure that students are making sufficient progress to achieve expected curriculum levels in Years 7 to 10 include developing:

  • teaching practices and deliberate planning for accelerating learning

  • using data analysis to ensure students are making expected rates of progress to achieve

  • identifying and analysing trends and patterns of groups of students over time

  • developing teachers’ and students’ use of learning progressions to identify achievement and next steps in learning, and teachers’ moderation of assessments

  • continuing to build partnerships with whānau Māori to develop plans to increase achievement parity for Māori students.

Currently the junior school diploma does not provide a relevant measure of student progress in literacy, mathematics and other subjects. Further development of this diploma is required to explicitly show academic achievement separately from the diploma’s credits related to religious education and service, and learning behaviours.

The college needs to develop leaders’, teachers’, and the board’s capability to use evidence-based evaluation and inquiry to guide practices and programmes, and to determine the impact on student learning and progress. Leaders and teachers could also engage in professional learning related to accelerated learning.

The board should ensure that the college has a robust framework of policies and procedures that are regularly updated to meet statutory requirements. This year senior leaders have begun to work on this development.

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 Children’s Act 2014.

4 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of St Paul’s College (Ponsonby)’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Well placed.

ERO’s Framework: Overall School Performance is available on ERO’s website.

5 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • an inclusive environment that reflects commitment to the college’s special character
  • relational trust and collaboration between leaders, teachers, and students and their families
  • a strong belief in students’ potential to succeed.

Next steps

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

  • planning deliberately for accelerated learning for all students in Years 7 to 10 who need this
  • setting accelerated progress targets and identifying the rates of acceleration in Years 7 to 10
  • developing evidence-based evaluation and inquiry to determine the impact of programmes and practices on student progress.

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should ensure that policies and related procedures meet statutory requirements, particularly policies and procedures related to class and school trips outside of school.

Steve Tanner

Director Review and Improvement Services Northern

Northern Region

6 December 2018

About the school


Ponsonby Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Integrate Catholic Boys’ Secondary (Years 7 to 15)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 100%

Ethnic composition

Māori 12%
NZ European/Pākehā 3%
Samoan 31%
Tongan 30%
Niue 7%
Cook Island Māori 5%
other Pacific 6%
Asian 5%
other ethnic groups 1%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

September 2019

Date of this report

6 December 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review June 2016
Education Review September 2012
Education Review January 2010