Totara North School - 14/09/2017


Totara North School is a small rural school beside Whangaroa harbour. The school was established in 1862 and remains a central hub for the small, close-knit whānau oriented community. An early childhood centre shares the school site.

The school provides good quality education for children from Years 1 to 6. Māori children make up almost half of the school’s roll of 24. The principal has resigned since ERO’s 2014 review, and the acting principal has been managing the school for most of this year. The board is in the process of appointing a new principal. The 2014 ERO report identified many positive aspects that continue to be evident.

Student achievement information shows that most students are achieving very well against the National Standards. However, disparity remains for some Māori children.

The school has been involved in a professional development Learning Change Network, (LCN) with a science focus, and Accelerating Literacy Learning (ALL) with a writing focus, over the last two years. The next step for school leaders is to ensure that they develop internal evaluation that is focused on and aligned with valued student outcomes.

How well is the school achieving equitable outcomes for all children?

Some school processes are effective in enabling the achievement of equity and excellence. These include curriculum documentation, community consultation, and some teaching and learning practices.

The school has begun working towards being more responsive to Māori and other children whose learning progress needs acceleration. The board has prioritised a focus on improvement, in order to achieve parity for all children.

Learners are achieving well. The school demonstrates strong progress toward achieving equity in educational outcomes, supported by effective, sustainable processes and practices.

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

Equity and excellence

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

Teachers are becoming more effective in responding to Māori and other students whose learning and achievement need acceleration.

School achievement data shows an overall improving trend in reading from 2013 to 2016. Writing and mathematics achievement has remained relatively constant. Teachers use data to identify students needing additional support to accelerate achievement. Targeted students’ progress is closely tracked and monitored over regular three week cycles. Teachers moderate their overall judgements (OTJs) about achievement in relation to the National Standards. A next step is to moderate with other schools to ensure rigour and validity of assessment and OTJs.

In addition to moderation and regular reflection, teachers could now increase the depth of their analysis of achievement data. Formally documenting their evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of strategies and interventions would help teachers to know how well they have accelerated learning and improved outcomes for all children over time. This information should be included in the principal’s reports to the board to inform decisions relating to the acceleration of learning progress, particularly for targeted children.

School conditions supporting equity and excellence

What school processes are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence?

Some school processes are effective in enabling the achievement of equity and excellence. These include:

  • curriculum documentation that is well aligned with the principles and values of the New Zealand Curriculum

  • community consultation that has enabled the school to define its graduate student profile

  • the development of a matrix of learner competencies, culturally responsive practices, and expectations for teaching practice

  • teaching and learning practices that help children to experience success at school

  • a positive culture of learning.

Teachers are progressing children’s capability to be responsive self-managing learners. Some junior and senior students are beginning to identify their levels of achievement in maths, reading and writing more clearly, and know what they need to do next to improve. Students are surveyed about the quality of their learning experiences. There is mutual respect between teachers and students that leads to a positive tone and class culture. Students are very confident and are engaged in their learning.

Curriculum guidelines are useful and detailed. The curriculum design allows children to experience a wide variety of activities in contexts that are relevant to them. They provide clear expectations and good support for teachers. Positive relationships between teachers, students and parents benefit children’s learning.

The board includes some new trustees from recent elections. Trustees have capability, and continue to seek training to support them, in their governance roles. They are aware of what is required of them for the school to progress.

Sustainable development for equity and excellence

What further developments are needed in school processes to achieve equity and excellence?

The board should develop and implement a rigorous and systematic process of internal evaluation across all school operations. Regular monitoring and improved internal evaluation processes could result in a more informed system for ongoing improvement. Trustees should regularly evaluate the impact of new initiatives on student progress, achievement and wellbeing. They should also evaluate the extent to which these are an integral part of the curriculum and teaching practices.

The principal and teachers must ensure that specifically individualised programmes for students who need to accelerate their achievement continue to be carefully and systematically monitored.

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

  • 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.

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

  • review policies and practices related to provisions for emotional and physical safety, and documentation of staff appointment processes, to ensure they align with all legal requirements, especially the Vulnerable Children Act 2014

  • ensure monitoring and supervision expectations are met, particularly in relation to areas that are out of sight

  • ensure that teacher appraisal processes are robust and consistently implemented for all staff.

Going forward

Learners are achieving well. The school demonstrates strong progress toward achieving equity in educational outcomes, supported by effective, sustainable processes and practices.

Agreed next steps are to:

  • increase the rigour of internal evaluation across all aspects of school operations

  • provide professional development to support increasingly robust moderation of teachers’ judgements about achievement in relation to the National Standards

  • continue to focus on accelerating learning progress for children who are risk of underachieving.

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

Violet Tu’uga Stevenson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

14 September 2017

About the school


Totara North, Northland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Years 1 to 6

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 14, Boys 10

Ethnic composition

Māori 11
Pākehā 13

Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

June 2017

Date of this report

14 September 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)
Education Review
Education review
Supplementary Review

April 2014
May 2011
February 2008



Ko te Tamaiti te Pūtake o te Kaupapa

The Child – the Heart of the Matter