Totara Park School - 13/10/2016

1 Context

Totara Park School is a family-focused, suburban, community primary school for Years 1 to 6 in Upper Hutt. Of the 292 students enrolled, 61 students are Māori and 11 are Pacific. A small core group of long-serving staff, teachers and trustees provides continuity. The Totara Park 'TP Kid' continues to define the desired outcomes for students by the end of Year 6.

Recent roll growth resulted in the introduction of an enrolment scheme. The school is strengthening how it reflects its unique environmental setting. This involves adopting an understanding of te ao Māori concepts and terms for landscapes and wildlife to name teaching syndicates and classrooms.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school for all children, as outlined in the strategic plan, are to prepare them to be lifelong learners in an ever-changing world. The school vision is to be the school of choice, where effective learners and self-managers contribute with integrity to their global community.

School values include a positive 'can do' attitude, with a focus on the child. Treating people with respect and valuing the uniqueness of each individual, along with their culture and the diversity of the community, are central to this. The celebration of achievement and success are also important.

The school’s achievement information shows that most students achieve in relation to the National Standards in reading and mathematics. However, progress in increasing the percentages achieving has plateaued since 2013. Writing continues to be an area where a larger number of students need to accelerate their learning to achieve well. This includes Māori students and boys in both reading and writing. Pacific students' progress as a group is reported to the board annually and indicates that most students achieve well in literacy.

The board and staff recognise that lifting achievement through closer monitoring is a priority. Developing a clear, shared schoolwide understanding about the importance of accelerated achievement, equity and excellence in learning outcomes for all learners, should assist with this work.

School assessment processes in writing continue to develop. Regular writing moderation with a local school and as part of a larger local cluster of schools, contributes to improved teachers' judgements about student achievement. Future external moderation is planned in mathematics. Continuing to develop consistent schoolwide practices should improve the reliability of student achievement information. Consistent and reliable assessment information should further support teaching strategies.

Since the previous ERO evaluation the school has:

  • continued to participate in the Upper Hutt Schools Cluster to access teacher professional learning and development (PLD), including writing in 2013-14
  • participated in a Massey University Successful Early Learning research project for Year 1 students
  • consulted with parents and started developing students' ability to use digital technology and lead learning in increasingly modern learning environments
  • begun to strengthen two-way information sharing between the school and parents and whānau, through better use of digital technology
  • continued to actively develop connections with early learning services to support the transition to primary school of younger children and their families.

3 Accelerating achievement

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

The school's understanding about how best to respond to Māori children whose learning and achievement need acceleration is at early stages of development.

The school improvement targets set for Māori students should be reviewed to ensure they are equitable and support high expectations for learning. This should include more regular monitoring, tracking and reporting of students' progress by the board, school leaders and teachers.

Further developing the school curriculum and teaching strategies to affirm and celebrate the identity, language and culture of Māori students and their whānau is a key next step. Forming stronger learning partnerships with whānau and local iwi should underpin the development of a more culturally responsive school curriculum and the school's strategic direction.

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

The school is revising its processes for identifying and monitoring students who require additional support to accelerate their learning. The Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) is part of a Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) cluster that is clarifying systems and the respective role of support programmes, classroom teachers and external agencies.

A next step is to report more clearly to parents, teachers and the board, about how resourcing decisions impact on students' learning.

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 targets for equity and excellence?

Students learn in calm, well-organised and settled learning environments. Attendance is strong and the use of restorative practices supports students' purposeful participation in learning activities.

The board has recently consulted with the school community to clarify the strategic direction and keys goals. This process was well received and confirmed the focus on developing student-led learning in future-focused, modern learning environments. Trustees continue to participate in appropriate professional development to support them in their roles and responsibilities.

Trustees are highly aware of the importance of making resourcing decisions to support equitable access to learning opportunities. They recognise the need to continue to strengthen learning partnerships with families. Evidence-based approaches should assist trustees to monitor and evaluate how school developments contribute to increased student achievement, agency and wellbeing.

The board should:

  • refocus on their key role of supporting improved student achievement, including accelerating the learning of students who need this to achieve well
  • receive regular, useful student achievement reports that show the impact of their strategic, targeted actions to raise achievement
  • build stronger community and parent learning partnerships, particularly for the whānau of Māori students
  • improve the process for reviewing and implementing school policies and procedures to meet legal requirements, particularly for managing personnel and health and safety.

The board and school leaders have identified and begun to put strategies in place to improve professional and curriculum leadership. A plan is being developed to increase schoolwide understanding and expectations for teaching that encourages students to lead their learning. Initially this work is being supported by shared teacher planning in syndicates. Further enhancing the school curriculum to reflect expectations for effective teaching and learning, including culturally responsive practices is a next step.

Using parent feedback, the school has redeveloped how it reports students' progress. The new online approach allows students to regularly share their successful learning between parent report meetings. This positive start should be extended to:

  • ensure that students, parents and whānau are involved in setting goals, supporting, monitoring and making decisions for how best to accelerate the progress of students who need support to achieve well.

The school is in the early stages of redeveloping a local school curriculum to focus on increasing students' capability to lead learning in modern learning environments. The senior end of the school is trialling different teaching approaches observed at other schools. Students are beginning to make choices and have their views heard about their learning. This is encouraging more purposeful engagement. The planned review of the 'TP Kid' graduate profile provides an opportunity to reflect these changes and to improve culturally responsive practices for Māori and Pacific students.

The school is at the beginning of a journey to develop a cohesive professional teaching and learning community. Teachers are formally inquiring into their practices. Professional learning groups (PLG) provide opportunities to share new ideas and approaches across the school. Teachers are at the early stages of thinking about, challenging and changing their professional practices and beliefs. This inquiry process should assist them to inquire, evaluate and report on the progress of target students as a priority.

The appraisal system requires redevelopment to meet the Education Council requirements. The induction and mentoring of Provisionally Certificated Teachers (PCT) is suitable. Clear expectations for how school leaders and teachers take an active role in leading their appraisal through goal setting, reflection, observation and suitable evidence should be developed and implemented.

Improving the understanding and use of internal evaluation for school improvement is a key next step. This should include evaluation of the strategic plan, curriculum developments and governance practices. These processes should focus on students who need to make accelerated progress to achieve well.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it?

Leaders and teachers:

  • have not yet adequately built their knowledge of the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • have not yet adequately established necessary conditions to effectively accelerate learning and achievement
  • are not well placed to achieve and sustain accelerated achievement for all children who need it.

ERO intends to carry out a process of ongoing evaluation to support development over the course of one-to-two years.

The school has identified, prior to the external evaluation by ERO, that key areas required development to support improved teaching and learning. New initiatives are in the early stages of implementation.

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.

During the course of the review, ERO noted that a teacher's Practising Certificate had lapsed. In addition, police safety checks on non-teaching staff had yet to occur - this has since been addressed.

To improve current practice, the board should further develop processes for undertaking safety checks of non-teaching staff.

The school's teacher appraisal system and its implementation is being redeveloped to meet requirements.

The board and school leaders must review personnel policies and procedures to meet legislative requirements and ensure:

  • teachers hold a current Teacher Practising Certificate
    [S77C State Sector Act 1988]
  • the appraisal policy, process and evidence supports teachers to meet the Practising Teacher Criteria and Education Council requirements.
    [S77C State Sector Act 1988]

7 Recommendation

The board, school leaders and teachers should develop a planned response to the findings in this report. This plan and supporting actions should focus on developing robust school systems and processes to support ongoing improvement in students' learning.

Joyce Gebbie

Deputy Chief Review Officer Central

13 October 2016

About the school


Upper Hutt

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll


Gender composition

Male 55%, Female 45%

Ethnic composition





Other ethnic groups






Review team on site

August 2016

Date of this report

13 October 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2013

March 2010

October 2007