Totara North School - 14/04/2014

1 Context

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

Totara North School has a significant place in the Totora North community. The school celebrates over 150 years of education and promotes strong inter-generational family and community connections. The sense of whānau at the school promotes student and staff pride, and reinforces the sense of belonging that students, staff and parents have to their school and community.

The school provides good quality education for students in Years 1-6 in an attractive rural setting. Students learn in small, multi-levelled classes where they experience individualised attention and support. They care for each other, are responsible, and enjoy the connections they have with other children and staff both in their school and at the onsite preschool.

Since the 2011 ERO review school numbers have dropped as children have moved on to other schools or families have left the area. About half of the current students are Māori. All students, including Māori, and those with special education needs, experience an inclusive environment and culturally responsive approaches.

The 2011 ERO report identified good practices throughout the school, especially in the areas of leadership and teaching. At the end of 2012, the principal left and one of the school’s existing teachers was appointed as the new principal in 2013. This new principal, in partnership with a capable new teaching team and support staff, is continuing to lead the school effectively and is promoting positive learning outcomes for children. Staff are also well supported by a new board of trustees.

2 Learning

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

The school uses student achievement information very well to identify and plan for student’s individual student needs and to promote their learning, achievement and wellbeing. With the support of external professional learning specialists, teachers are continuing to strengthen their assessment practices. They make honest judgements about student achievement levels in relation to National Standards and these are supported by detailed information about how they plan to further improve individual student progress and achievement. As a result of these good practices, teachers and parents know how well students are progressing and achieving. The board uses the good information it receives to make strategic decisions about resourcing programmes and initiatives to improve student learning.

Teachers use achievement information to accelerate the progress and achievement of target groups of students. In 2013 for example, teachers identified that boys, including some Māori boys, required further support to improve their writing achievement. They worked in partnership with these students and their parents to develop interesting and meaningful ways to improve the boys’ confidence and skill in writing. The outcome of this initiative was impressive, with all boys making significant progress in their writing achievement by the end of the 2013 year.

The school’s 2012 data indicated that the percentage of students achieving at or above National Standards in reading was equal to, or better than, overall levels of student achievement nationally. School achievement data also indicates that the percentage of students achieving at or above National Standards in reading and writing for 2013 was lower than for 2012.

The movement of a large number of students to other schools between 2012 and 2013 is a possible reason for this difference. It is also possible that improvement in teachers’ assessment practices is allowing them to now present a more realistic picture of how students are achieving.

The principal has invited a Ministry of Education (MoE) specialist to support the teaching team with the analysis and use of data. The school is also interested in forging connections with other local schools to moderate the school’s assessment information. These professional practices are likely to further promote teachers’ confidence and skill in making clear and accurate judgements about student achievement. Discussion with colleagues in other schools may also help teachers as they continue to support students to understand their own learning progress and achievement.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning. It focuses strongly on students’ literacy and mathematics skills and achievement across all curriculum areas, including science and technology. Teachers balance their curriculum design with a combination of teacher and student interests. They appropriately extend students who have special talents and abilities. They design approaches that engage, motivate and promote the learning of priority students and students with special education needs.

Students are settled and focused on their learning, and are very well supported by skilled teachers and teacher aides. Classrooms are attractive learning spaces where student work is displayed and celebrated. Students have good access to digital technologies that include iPads and laptops. These devices are used effectively to engage students and to cater for their differing learning strengths and needs.

Teachers have positive learning relationships with students and parents. Teachers support and respect each other as professionals and access good quality, MoE facilitated professional learning opportunities. They focus on improving their own teaching practice and approaches in order to improve outcomes for students. The principal and teachers are continuing to strengthen the teacher appraisal process so it is meaningful and appropriately linked to the school’s strategic goals.

Promoting student wellbeing is a priority for the trustees, teachers, staff and parents of Totara North School. The school virtues, emotional safety initiatives, and physical fitness and awareness programmes are integrated into the daily life of the school. These elements complement teaching and learning programmes and highlight the school’s focus on developing the whole child.

The principal is now keen to explore how the school might further develop the social and emotional competence of new entrant children, using Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum as a guiding document. The principal and teachers also see the importance of reviewing the school’s curriculum and evaluating the extent to which bicultural contexts are part of their ongoing curriculum design and delivery. They recognise the importance of involving students, parents and whānau in this review.

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

Māori students, their parents and whānau have increasingly good experiences at the school that allow them to celebrate and feel pride in their language, culture and identity.

Teachers and staff encourage students to stand tall as Māori and have high expectations for their learning, progress and achievement. An experienced teacher in the school, who has connections to local iwi and marae, has developed a progressive te reo Māori me ngā tikanga programme. The whole school makes up the kapa haka group, with all students and staff learning and performing waiata, himene and haka. Visitors to the school are welcomed with pōwhiri, and students perform proudly at the local kapa haka festival.

A key next step for the board, principal and teachers is to develop a long-term strategic plan that gives direction for extending the school’s bicultural curriculum and for further supporting Māori students to experience success.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

ERO notes that while the principal, many staff, trustees and initiatives are new, the school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

The principal is providing strong professional leadership. She works in partnership with staff and trustees to enhance good practices throughout the school and promote positive outcomes for students and parents. Self review is well used as a tool for promoting improvement in teaching and learning.

The board of trustees is well led. Trustees are committed and enthusiastic about their governance role, and are highly supportive of the principal and staff. They access training, critically question the information they receive, and have high expectations for school success. Trustees are responsive to parents, and actively promote community engagement and support. They also use self review effectively and have redeveloped the school’s charter in consultation with parents and whānau.

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.

To improve practice, ERO and the board of trustees agree that it would be good practice to review the principal’s appointment policy to ensure that all obligations as a good employer are met.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services

Northern Region

14 April 2014

About the School


Kaeo, Northland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 15

Boys 9

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā



Review team on site

February 2014

Date of this report

14 April 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Supplementary Review

Supplementary Review

May 2011

February 2008

February 2007