Wairarapa College - 01/06/2017


After a period of challenge and uncertainty, the college is now able to focus more on sustainability and improvement. Many students achieve well, but improving the achievement of Māori and boys as groups remains a key priority. Building the quality of teaching and leadership across the school is an ongoing focus.

ERO intends to carry out another review over the course of one-to-two years.

1 Context

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

Wairarapa College, in Masterton, is a co-educational school for students in Years 9 to 13. The roll is 1062, including 24% who identify as Māori. There are a small number of Pacific students. The roll has grown from 942 at the time of the January 2014 ERO report. The Poto-College House hostel is a significant part of the school character.

The vision and valued outcomes as defined by the school is for it to be: ‘A thriving, student centred learning environment, educating students for their future – Te puāwaitanga o te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga.’ LEAD values link to the desired outcome: Learn with Purpose; Engage with Pride; Act with Respect; Dare to Succeed.

Students enjoy success in the range of sporting and cultural activities available. Service and leadership opportunities are promoted. Mixed-aged form classes, house groups and peer mentoring contribute to the positive and calm school tone.

Since the previous ERO review the school has faced a number of challenges and a period of considerable uncertainty:

  • a Limited Statutory Manager (LSM) was appointed in September 2015, to support a range of board practices; the role included responding to serious financial issues
  • a Commissioner replaced the Board of Trustees and LSM in December 2015
  • reduction in the number of teachers and curriculum changes resulted from correcting overstaffing relative to student numbers
  • staffing changes and property concerns have been significant issues for the board-owned Poto-College House hostel
  • through 2016 there was a lack of continuity in professional leadership. 

At the time of this ERO review, the school is responding well to the challenges it has faced and is now able to concentrate more on sustainability and improvement. The Commissioner provides stability and is currently focused on improving achievement, supporting leadership and building community links. Finances and property have continued to be overseen by external managers. The financial situation of the school is considerably improved, but a significant capital deficit remains. Property work is underway and the college is working in association with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to determine resourcing for future short and long term property needs and development.

A new principal was appointed in August 2016. She is providing strong professional leadership, vision and a strategic approach to future direction. Issues affecting the hostel are being effectively responded to.

At a time to be determined by the MoE, the election of a Board of Trustees representing the college community will be a significant next step. Trustees then effectively carrying out their stewardship role, will be a key element in ensuring future sustainability and improvement.

2 Learning

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

Achievement information is increasingly used to make positive changes to learners’ engagement and achievement.

In Years 9 and 10 a range of assessment tools are used to identify the needs of students at risk in their learning and to indicate achievement relative to expected curriculum level. Use of this information to show progress, particularly for students requiring acceleration in literacy and mathematics, and to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching, should be strengthened.

Data for 2015, indicates the proportion of leavers with at least National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 2 (83%) is similar to comparative schools. Māori leavers as a group achieve at a similar level to their peer group. This represents a significant improvement since the previous ERO review.

Increasing percentages of Year 13 students are gaining NCEA Level 3. In 2016, the percentage was higher than national comparisons. There has not been a trend of improvement in NCEA Level 1 and 2 data however, and these remain below similar schools. Excellence endorsements are lower than comparative schools and should be a further NCEA focus.

At each NCEA level there continues to be a significant disparity between Māori and Pākehā as groups and between male and female. The differences in ethnicity and gender data are greater than nationally. Improving Māori and boys' NCEA achievement remains a key priority. Pacific leaners make up a small group, but achieving equity against other student groups is also a consideration.

In 2017, achievement targets for Years 9 to 13 and for Māori students have been set. Leaders and teachers are developing action plans for each level, linked to the targets. The plans will identify focus students, actions to support them, strengthen mentoring practices and establish processes for regular monitoring of individual progress. These action plans should encourage a systematic and more robust schoolwide approach for improving outcomes for students at risk of not achieving success.

A stronger focus on the use of data to promote achievement is developing. This has included a shift from measuring to evaluation and planning. Templates for curriculum review now emphasise this and the focus is appropriately reflected in some of the recent learning area reports. The intention to extend the use of data within teaching inquiry has been signalled.

3 Curriculum

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

The curriculum supports many students to achieve well and move into pathways linked to their interests and aspirations. However, the curriculum structure and teaching needs to consistently promote learning more effectively for some groups of students, particularly Māori, boys and Pacific.

Students in Years 9 and 10 experience a broad curriculum that assists them to make informed subject choices as they move through the school. Senior classes provide a variety of ways to achieve success in national qualifications and prepare for specific careers and training beyond school.

The range of pathways is being extended at all year levels to better meet the needs of learners. Online learning and the use of a variety of external providers have contributed to this. Career programmes and the Vocational Pathways framework are used to guide student course choice and encourage engagement. These should continue to be developed to ensure they effectively respond to all students' needs.

Programmes are in place to support students most at risk of not succeeding. The Language Resource Department is highly responsive to students with a range of identified literacy and other needs. A well-coordinated team approach includes close liaison with classroom teachers and the involvement of teacher aides. The progress of these students is closely monitored.

The supported learning centre provides opportunities for students with complex needs to develop skills to better enable them to live independently. Academic programmes are based on The New Zealand Curriculum and adapted as necessary. Parents are active participants in determining learning priorities. All students are encouraged to participate fully in college life. Transition out of schooling is well supported.

Positive pastoral and guidance programmes and practices promote student wellbeing. LEAD values are very evident in the learning environment, are integrated into a range of school practices and provide a foundation for developing learning behaviours. Many students are actively involved in school-based programmes designed to support their peers.

Internally collected data indicates there has been limited progress in developing culturally responsive and relational practices schoolwide. Recent professional learning has established a framework and identified areas that could be focused on moving forward, to better support every students' engagement and outcomes. 

The Commissioner and school leaders have identified the need to urgently develop expectations for effective curriculum provision and teaching practice. ERO's evaluation affirms this is a priority. The focus is to include:

  • extending the structure of the curriculum to ensure it is student-centred, reflects te ao Māori more consistently and contributes positively to appropriate aspirational pathways for students
  • improving the quality of teaching to ensure consistently good practice schoolwide, that promotes success for individual students, is based on culturally responsive and relational practices and increases student involvement in learning.

Communication with parents focuses on reporting and informing. More actively encouraging parent partnership in students' learning is developing. The school has identified that teachers will review reports to parents to determine the extent to which parents feel well informed about student progress, achievement and wellbeing.

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

Culturally responsive practices, supportive of Māori educational success, are becoming more evident:

  • Te reo Māori classes at all levels and the re-introduction of kapa haka are reflections of the valuing of Māori language, culture and identity
  • Māori students confidently carry out senior leadership roles
  • active engagement in the college by Māori whānau has been encouraged through the re-introduced kapa haka; a recent hui for parents of Year 9 Māori students has been held
  • learning across the school includes some activities that value the cultural knowledge of Māori students.

The school has identified the need to continue to build teacher understanding and use of culturally responsive and relational practices.

It is also necessary to ensure shared leadership of planning, implementing and reviewing strategies to promote educational success for Māori learners. The revised job descriptions of the senior leadership team are part of reflecting this.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The role of the Commissioner, a new principal and teacher involvement in professional learning are all supporting the school to be better placed to sustain and improve its performance.

The Commissioner receives a range of reports that assists him to carry out his role. He ensures that decision making is focused on ensuring better outcomes for students. Staffing and finances are becoming more sustainable. Property maintenance and development programmes are being reestablished.

A re-defined charter aligns strategic priorities more closely to the vision and provides clarity of direction. Regular revisiting of the valued outcomes in the college vision is contributing to an increased focus on all staff contributing to high quality future pathways for all students.

The senior leadership team is making strategic decisions focused on improvement. Outcome indicators within planning, including for Māori students, are more closely considered to assist monitoring of progress towards goals and evaluation.

Recent professional learning (PLD) has supported teachers to develop additional strategies likely to better engage students. Although the PLD has yet to have sufficient impact on the practice of some teachers and on improving achievement outcomes for some groups of students, it is contributing to greater readiness for improvement.

A comprehensive improvement plan to support groups of students at risk of not achieving success has recently been developed and approved. Support for a programme that focuses on developing teaching and leadership, is being determined.

Building leadership capability and cohesion across the school have been appropriately identified as priorities and are an integral part of professional learning and development in 2017. The school should:

  • clearly define leadership roles in relation to school priorities
  • align appraisal to leadership expectations
  • build collective capacity to use evaluation and inquiry for sustained improvement, particularly in relation to learners at risk of not achieving success.

The framework for the performance management system introduced in 2016, included aspects that had the potential to contribute to effective appraisal. There was considerable variability in how well the process was used by teachers and appraisers. Leaders need to urgently put in place a rigorous, improvement-focused appraisal process for 2017 and ensure a shared understanding and completion of its various components. This process should include:

  • alignment with school priorities and targets
  • evidence-based teaching as inquiry using achievement information to show impact and gauge effectiveness
  • regular, recorded observations linked to teachers' goals and areas identified for improvement
  • professional conversations and documented constructive feedback linked to teacher development needs
  • an annual summary that includes an evaluation of how well the appraisee meets all of the Practising Teacher Criteria
  • monitoring of the implementation of appraisal to support completion and increasing robustness.

Since the onsite phase of the review the appraisal process has been revised to take account of the development areas identified by the school and ERO. It has the potential to more effectively support teacher improvement.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

At the time of this review there were nine international students attending the school, including two exchange students. They all come from Asian countries. One is accommodated in Poto-College House, the school hostel.

Students and their families are well informed about procedures and expectations. Careful consideration is given to easing transition into the school, with appropriate emphasis on early integration and inclusion in school routines and activities.

Students’ wellbeing and learning are closely monitored and nurtured. A suitably individualised programme for English language learning is in place when required. The dean and principal work closely together to promote each student's success in achieving his or her goals.

The effectiveness and outcomes of the school’s provision for international students are constantly evaluated.

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school hostel, Poto-College House, accommodates 73 students, 7% of the school roll. Most students are five-day weekly boarders. The hostel is owned by the Wairarapa College Board of Trustees. The hostel owner has attested that all the requirements of the Hostel Regulations are met.

Closure of the original Poto-College Hostel has led to a reorganisation of some areas. The newly developed, attractive communal areas are well used by boarders. A start has been made on refurbishing and modernising some of the current dormitory and annex areas.

Students value the family-like atmosphere that is developed. Relationships between boarders and with hostel staff are generally positive and supportive. The new hostel manager and staff take all reasonable steps to provide an environment that assists students’ learning and wellbeing.

All boarders participate in supervised evening study based in Poto-College House. Tutors are available to provide additional learning support where it is required. The principal is seeking to build closer links between teachers and boarders to further improve academic outcomes.

Opportunities are provided to participate in a range of on and off-site recreation, cultural and sporting activities. Using these activities as part of encouraging the development of Poto-College House spirit is a current priority.

Contact with boarders' families is timely and includes the opportunity to comment on future hostel direction. Regular meetings involving school and hostel management take place. The Commissioner is kept well informed about provision for students in Poto-College House.

There is limited documentation to support the functioning of the hostel. The owner should ensure that written policies and procedures are in place to guide hostel management and operations. These should complement the school policies and procedures that also apply to the hostel.

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.


After a period of challenge and uncertainty, the college is now able to focus more on sustainability and improvement. Many students achieve well, but improving the achievement of Māori and boys as groups remains a key priority. Building the quality of teaching and leadership across the school is an ongoing focus.

ERO intends to carry out another review over the course of one-to-two years. 

Patricia Davey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Central (Acting)

1 June 2017

About the School 



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Female 51%, Male 49%

Ethnic composition





Other ethnic groups






Review team on site

March 2017

Date of this report

1 June 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

January 2014

November 2010

October 2007