Tarras School - 20/05/2014

1 Context

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

Tarras School is a very small Years 1 to 8 school in Central Otago. Most students bus to school from local farms. The school has a family feel. Older students describe their school as fun and friendly. They work and play well with each other and with younger students.

The parents are involved in the school in a variety of ways, ranging from coaching sports, helping in the school garden and assisting with school trips. Locally-raised funds pay for a second teacher every morning. This means that classes can be kept small for literacy and mathematics teaching.

Over the last three years the school has had high levels of achievement against the National Standards. This reflects the high expectations of teachers and parents that students will achieve well.

In 2012, parents and teachers reviewed the school’s vision and values. The vision emphasises students as self-managing learners. This vision and the school’s values are evident in classrooms. Students appreciated the recent addition of a large covered veranda. This has created shade and an extra learning area.

In 2014 a new principal was appointed. He had been in this role for six weeks when this review was carried out. The board and previous staff had made good progress in addressing the recommendations in the 2010 ERO report.

2 Learning

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

Teachers make very good use of achievement information to meet their students’ strengths and needs.

ERO found that teachers:

  • students know theirwell as learners
  • have effectivesystems for tracking students progress over time
  • use a range of assessment information and approaches to make well-informed judgements about students’ progress and achievement against the National Standards
  • ensure that their teaching is targeted and purposeful
  • give students specific feedback about their learning and help them set useful next steps/goals
  • reflect on the impact of their teaching.

Students have:

  • an increased awareness of how well they are learning and what they need to do to improve
  • regular opportunities to assess their own and their peers’ work.

The board and staff have:

  • set challenging targets to lift achievement levels
  • made effective resourcing decisions to improve teaching and learning.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is broad, interesting and effectively engages students.

Teachers make good use of the school’s local context, people and places to enrich students’ learning. They place a strong focus on building students’ knowledge and skills in literacy and mathematics. They integrate literacy into topic studies in a natural and meaningful way. Teachers are increasingly using ICT for teaching and learning.

ERO also found that students:

  • benefit from relevant, well-paced and purposeful teaching
  • show good levels of interest and engagement in their learning
  • know how to work well independently and with their classmates
  • benefit from easy access to a wide range of resources
  • appreciate having small classes and individual time with their teachers.

The school has gathered parent and student views when reviewing some of the different learning areas. This information was reported to the board and used for future planning.

Areas for review and development

The school’s curriculum plan and supporting guidelines need further development to provide better guidance and ensure continuity and coherence. The next steps are to:

  • develop learning statements for science, technology and social science
  • update and improve assessment and reporting guidelines
  • develop clearer statements about local curriculum priorities.

Aspects of curriculum review need to be strengthened. Key points are that:

  • all curriculum areas need to be reviewed over time
  • reviews need to evaluate how well the school’s curriculum goals and expectations are being met, how well the area is resourced and taught, and how well it contributes to student wellbeing.

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

The school provides a supportive learning environment for Māori students. Māori students make good progress and achieve well over time.

Key findings

The new principal has made a useful start in building relationships with the parents of Māori students.

With input from these parents, the school has begun to develop an understanding of what success for Māori students, as Māori, might look like at this school.

The school employs a parent as the te reo Māori teacher. Teachers and students benefit from this.

The next steps are:

  • to ensure that Māori identity, culture and language are visible in the school’s curriculum documents and in day-to-day classroom programmes
  • to develop a Māori language curriculum that develops new learning over time
  • for staff and the board to familiarise themselves with relevant Ministry of Education resources.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

ERO recommends that trustees provide appropriate support for the new principal and continue their commitment to increase their understanding of effective governance. With these things in place, the school should be well placed to sustain and improve the education it provides to students.

The past principal and trustees worked with parents to review the school charter, strategic and annual plans. These now provide a more useful guide for the school. The links between the strategic and annual plans and what happens in the school are evident.

The board of trustees is made up of experienced and new members. In 2012 and 2013, external advisors worked with current and past trustees to strengthen their understanding of effective governance, build positive relationships and respond to the financial challenges that some small schools face.

Trustees have regularly reviewed the school’s policies and procedures and checked that these are followed. They have also ensured that teachers have relevant and useful professional support.

Areas for review and development

The next steps are for the board and principal to:

  • ensure that key priorities identified by the school are evident in the strategic and annual plans
  • make the annual plan more useful by describing in more detail the planned actions to achieve the goals
  • strengthen aspects of the appraisal process and ensure that all requirements are met.

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.


ERO recommends that the school:

  • reviews its procedures for risk analysis for trips beyond the school
  • carries out a fuller consultation with parents about the school’s health programmes.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

20 May 2014

About the School


Tarras, Central Otago

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls: 9

Boys: 6

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā


Japanese/NZ European




Review team on site

March 2014

Date of this report

20 May 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Supplementary Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2010

September 2009

March 2007