Wairau Valley School - 22/04/2013

1 Context

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

Wairau Valley School provides education for students with intellectual impairment between the ages of five and twenty-one. The school caters for students with very high and high needs, and for a smaller number who receive no special external ongoing funding. A significant number of students fall within the autistic spectrum. Students come from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They are united by the school’s strong inclusive practices, its celebration of students’ strengths and successes, and by effective home and school partnerships.

The school is a complex organisation. Students with severe, multiple disabilities are generally provided for in the base school. Four satellite classes cater for students who are able to benefit from increased mainstream opportunities. The twenty-four percent increase in the school roll over the past three years is being carefully managed, although a reduction in space available at the base school has led to some reduction of programmes. In 2013 a satellite class will open in a local secondary school and planning for a further primary school satellite is underway.

The school staff is increasing as the roll grows. Full-time and part-time employees include teachers, teacher aides, specialists and therapists, and other support staff. As new staff join the school they are well inducted into its vision and goals, as well as into its specialised teaching and learning programmes. The appointment of the two current deans has considerably enhanced staff support and has sharpened the improvement focus of the school.

2 Learning

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

The school is increasingly able to use achievement information to make positive changes to outcomes for students. Planning and monitoring for individual students is well incorporated into individual education plan (IEP) processes. School managers review the percentage of IEP goals achieved in each classroom. They use this information to identify teachers who would benefit from additional support in IEP goal setting and writing, and in working in this special school setting.

Newly introduced assessment frameworks enable teachers to monitor and plan for more direct student progress. New resources are also being well used by teachers to plan for and monitor student progress in the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum. Teachers and school leaders can now make more evidenced-based judgments about resourcing needs, and about the impact teaching and learning programmes are having on student learning and development.

One of the school’s charter goals for 2012 was for all junior students to make fine-grained progress towards Level 1 of the National Standards. School leaders intend to use their analysis of the 2012 results to evaluate the impact and outcomes of the extensive professional development and support provided to teachers throughout the year. The results were not available at the time of this ERO review.

The school is improving its processes for reporting formally to parents on student progress and achievement. The new and attractively presented e-portfolios demonstrate the learning and engagement of all students and are written in more parent-friendly ways than were the school’s previous reports. Where appropriate, parents are being advised of student progress in relation to the National Standards.

The positive school tone and highly inclusive school practices encourage student involvement in all school programmes, routines and special occasions. School activities enable students to participate in a variety of group sizes and settings, thus supporting their overall socialisation.

Affirming classroom environments and focused teaching sessions support students’ in-class engagement. Students are supportive of each other and celebrate their own and the achievements of others as individuals and as important members of the school. School performances are particularly important in developing students’ growing confidence and ability to participate in group situations.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports the learning of all students. Staff are making notable progress in developing and implementing programmes based on the philosophy that all students are learners who are able to make progress at their own level and rate. Programmes focus on enhancing learning opportunities for all students in individualised and relevant ways.

The curriculum has undergone significant improvement over the past three years. Effective professional learning and development (PLD) has impacted positively on the quality of teaching. The programmes introduced through PLD are researched for their effectiveness, and their implementation is well monitored.

Teachers have improved their planning for students’ learning. They place a more noticeable focus on what students are to learn, rather than on what they are to do, especially in literacy and numeracy programmes. Stronger alignment of the school’s curriculum with the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum has provided an additional and appropriate direction for student learning.

Students are advantaged by the wide range of learning activities available to them. The curriculum has an appropriate focus on the local community. It includes coherent, well planned and well implemented transitions from one class to another, from base to satellite classes and, for older students, from the school to the community. Programmes support students’ creativity. They provide access to physical activity through good playground provisions and a well set up gymnasium/exercise room. The base school swimming pool is used daily for hydrotherapy as well as for learn-to-swim opportunities.

As a next step in programme implementation, teachers should reflect on the purpose and the outcomes of whole class teaching sessions and daily routines. In doing so, they could ask themselves how they maximise student learning opportunities in these contexts.

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

School leaders are aware of Ka Hikitia, the Ministry of Education’s initiative for promoting educational success for Māori, as Māori. Some school practices reflect and acknowledge the language, culture and identity of Māori students and their whānau.

School leaders have prepared a strategic plan that includes general goals for the future, based on Ka Hikitia. These goals could now be broken down into a specific annual plan that includes dated timeframes and details about how the impact of new provisions will be evaluated.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance. The school benefits from thoughtful, knowledgeable and experienced senior leadership. The deans are enthusiastic motivators and effective change managers. School leaders have high expectations of staff. They have recently documented more explicit expectations and have strengthened quality assurance processes. There is now greater school-wide consistency in the quality of programmes available to students.

The school’s climate of trust cultivates ongoing school improvement. Over the past three years effective building of staff capacity and capability has occurred through all levels of the school. School leaders and staff immerse themselves in professional learning and adapt their practices accordingly. They engage more frequently in formalised, open and honest self review. The school’s climate of trust provides a sound foundation for a meaningful focus on the home-school partnership.

Members of the board of trustees have had a long association with the school and know its strengths and challenges well. Trustees represent the perspectives of a wide range of families served by the school. They work well with school leaders to set school direction and maintain governance oversight.

As part of the school’s progress, trustees and school leaders should continue to strengthen:

  • the evaluative content of school reporting processes
  • the use of specific and well monitored annual plans that show how strategic goals will be implemented
  • formalisation of board policy review and updating of policies
  • the links between the deans’ ongoing discussions with teachers and the teacher appraisal process
  • the documented delineation of governance and management roles, particularly in the principal’s performance agreement and school financial responsibility delegations.

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. No international students were enrolled at the time of the ERO review. However, the board should annually review policies related to international students.

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.

The board does not have a signed performance agreement with the principal and has not annually undertaken a formal review of the principal’s performance. The deputy principal has not been appraised. This lack of effective senior management performance review weakens demarcations between school governance and management, and makes the board’s overall self-review processes less effective.

To improve current practices the board should ensure that a performance agreement is signed annually with the principal and that the principal and deputy principal are appraised annually[State Sector Act 77c].

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

22 April 2013

About the School


Glenfield, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Special School

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys 78% Girls 22%

Ethnic composition

New Zealand European/Pākehā







other European











Special Features

Satellite classes at Glenfield Primary School, Glenfield Intermediate School and Oteha Valley School

Review team on site

December 2012

Date of this report

22 April 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

February 2010

December 2006

June 2004