Tomarata School - 23/05/2016

1 Context

Tomarata School is a rural primary school that caters for students in Years 1 to 8. The majority of children travel to school by bus from a wide geographical area. Over the past six years there has been considerable roll growth and Māori children now represent 22 percent of the school roll.

The school's recent involvement with the Ministry of Education's Learning Change Network (LCN) has resulted in the formation of Ara Tuhono, a local cluster of eight schools. The cluster is designed to support consistency in teaching practices, as well as provide opportunities for networking between leaders.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school for all children are "to grow and nurture each student's potential through authentic and engaging learning programmes that foster a lifelong love of learning". Equity and respect feature strongly in the school's values.

The school's motto of Learning Smarter, Tomarata, introduced in 2014 after extensive student, community and teacher consultation underpins professional practice at the school. Children speak of having a sense of fairness, wellbeing and belonging in the school.

The school has responded to ERO's 2013 recommendation to improve outcomes for Māori learners by developing a plan for accelerating their progress. It is too early to evaluate the overall effectiveness of these plans and strategies however school leaders and teachers are aware of each individual child's progress.

In the past three years school achievement information shows that overall, three quarters of nonMāori children have consistently achieved at or above National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. For the proportion who are not achieving the National Standards there is evidence of progressive acceleration.

Key actions the school has taken to accelerate progress for those children at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes include:

  • continued investigation into ways to accelerate student progress
  • deepening the analysis of student achievement data and further increasing teacher accountability through the performance management system
  • identifying strategies and possible actions to improve outcomes for Māori, and thereby all, learners.

3 Accelerating achievement

How effectively does this school respond to Māori children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

School leaders and teachers are vigilant in identifying Māori children at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes. They are also aware that overall Māori student achievement in National Standards for reading and writing is below that of their non-Māori peers. However, the school's data also shows that there is a greater and increasing acceleration of progress for the school's Māori learners.

Leaders and teachers continue to review and analyse data about Māori children's achievement to inform future teaching programmes and practices. The setting of specific targets in reading for Māori children in 2016, together with the action plan to lift Māori achievement, is likely to have a positive impact on outcomes for these children.

Since 2013, school leaders and teachers have, with input from an iwi advisor, redefined the strengths of Māori learners and developed Mana Tamariki a strategy to support success for Māori, as Māori. This acknowledgement of Māori learner strengths is being used to identify effective strategies to engage all Māori children in learning. The school has also introduced a waiata club in 2016 and a weekly programme of te reo and tikanga Māori to strengthen Māori children's confidence in their identity, language and culture as citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The school is continuing to develop its home-school partnership, extending its previous focus on reading to also include mathematics. This initiative aims to further strengthen the school's targeted approach to teaching and learning. Children's "learning maps" provide good information for teachers and parents, and promote a personalised response to each child's interests, learning preferences, challenges and next steps.

Teachers are building a kete of effective strategies to engage Māori children in learning. Teachers' class profiles are an important part of this kete. These profiles identify the needs of each child and the strategies being used to address their identified needs and accelerate their progress. Teachers also have a specific performance management goal that documents their responsibility for accelerating Māori student progress.

How effectively does this school respond to other children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

School leaders have been deepening their analysis of data about accelerated student progress to further inform their response to findings about children's achievement. This is likely to support increasingly effective responses to all children whose learning needs acceleration. Student progress and achievement is collated and analysed at various levels in the school and reported to the board.

Leaders and trustees agree that they continue to progressively lift the school's achievement targets in relation to National Standards in order to ensure that they are well placed to meet the government's achievement targets for 2017. Leaders and teachers are in the process of enhancing the rigor of the school's assessment practices relating to National Standards by moderating their assessments with other schools.

4 School conditions

How effectively do the school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices develop and enact the school’s vision, values, goals and priorities for equity and excellence?

The Tomarata School curriculum, organisational processes and systems provide a good foundation from which to develop excellence and equity for all children.

Children demonstrate pride in their school. The purposeful and respectful school tone promotes a strong sense of care and responsibility for self and others. Children with special learning needs are supported through teaching and learning programmes.

The school curriculum reflects The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) within the Tomarata context. The school's inquiry-based approach is responsive to children's interests. The curriculum prioritises reading, writing and mathematics as foundations for learning, while being broad enough to incorporate all learning areas of the NZC. Most children are well engaged in the school's learnercentred curriculum that provides many opportunities for children's input and for student leadership. Classroom displays demonstrate a valuing of children's cultures, as well as their progress and achievement.

The school's te reo and tikanga Māori programme is building teacher confidence in participating in, and leading, this initiative. Leaders agree that a more scaffolded programme, starting at Year 1, could provide Māori children with greater leadership opportunities and better enable teachers to respond to their abilities and prior knowledge.

Children are able to talk about their levels of achievement and next learning steps. Their confidence continues to grow as the school further refines their approach to student agency. Purposeful transitions into and across year levels are also contributing to children's confidence. School leaders now agree it would be beneficial to have a progressive structure of expectations for children's skills and attributes as they progress through the years, and onto secondary schooling.

Self-review for improvement underpins the school's vision for its learners. Policies, processes and practices are strongly aligned with the school vision, values and strategic direction. The school values community input and consults with their community in numerous ways to gain their perspective.

School leaders promote a working environment that values the strengths, talents, interests and contributions of all staff members. The professional capacity of the staff continues to develop through staff collaboration, professional development initiatives, and opportunities for teachers to take on leadership roles.

The board and principal actively contribute to the growth and development of their educational community through the LCN, shared board training and cluster-based teacher aide training. Trustees value the principal's leadership and are very aware of the importance of supporting her professional growth through effective performance appraisal.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children?

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond effectively to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how well teaching is working for these children
  • act on what they know works well for each child
  • build teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children
  • are well placed to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children.

The school is well placed to make ongoing improvements that impact positively on all children's learning. School leaders and teachers are vigilant in identifying children at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes. They are systematically strengthening their capacity to assess, teach and evaluate the impact of their strategies to accelerate children's progress.

Leaders have identified relevant priorities for further development. These include:

  • progressively refining achievement targets in the school's charter
  • using moderation with other schools to enhance the reliability of assessment information
  • continuing to strengthen evaluative capability and capacity at all levels of the school
  • developing and documenting a progressive set of expectations regarding children's skills and attributes as they move through the year levels of the school
  • taking a more scaffolded approach to the teaching of te reo Māori in order to build on children's knowledge and strengths

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

6 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 the following:

  • board administration
  • curriculum
  • management of health, safety and welfare
  • personnel management
  • 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
  • processes for appointing staff
  • stand down, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance
  • compliance with the provisions of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

7 Recommendations

ERO recommends that leaders and teachers continue building strategies that successfully accelerate children's learning and progress and grow evaluative capability and capacity at all levels of the school. Evidence-based evaluation should focus on the effectiveness of practices and the impact they have on children's progress in order to inform the school's ongoing development. 

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

23 May 2016

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 52% Boys 48%

Ethnic composition







Review team on site

March 2016

Date of this report

23 May 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

May 2013

May 2010

June 2007