Waitakere College - 30/05/2014

1 Context

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

Waitakere College in Henderson enrols students in Years 9 to 15 from a culturally diverse community. The school’s roll of 1361 includes 29% who have Pacific heritage, 27% NZ European/Pākehā, and 25% who identify as Māori. Samoan students make up the large majority of the school's Pacific population.

The school provides a culturally responsive learning environment. It has a positive and supportive school tone and a clear focus on student engagement and achievement. Students are friendly and enthusiastic. They are at the centre of decision making and demonstrate a clear sense of identity and belonging in the school. The Inclusion Support Centre provides high quality care and education for 38 students with high needs. At the time of this review 18 international students were enrolled at the school.

A strong feature of the school is the relationship it has established with families, particularly the Pacific community. The board of trustees and school leaders have responded well to ERO’s 2011 recommendations in relation to further support for the success of Māori students. The school has continued its commitment to the Te Kotahitanga initiative, which focuses on improving learning outcomes for Māori students. This professional learning initiative for teachers benefits all students. Through extensive professional learning opportunities, teachers continue to develop their teaching practice. This learning supports them to critically reflect on their teaching practice in order to enhance student success.

Useful partnerships with the local community provide extensive opportunities for students to experience success and develop individual learning and career pathways. The school continues to be involved in a variety of initiatives and partnerships with other schools to share expertise and knowledge.

Since ERO’s 2011 report, school leadership has remained relatively unchanged. School leaders continue to provide and model clear, focused direction for ongoing school improvement. The board is well led and provides the school with sound governance. They have made strategic staff appointments to enhance students’ learning opportunities. Trustees reflect the school’s diverse community and bring a range of relevant skills and experience to their role.

2 Learning

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

The school is making very good progress in using student achievement information effectively. It is in a good position to now consolidate, build and extend on the good practices developed during 2013. Research by the principal during his sabbatical leave in 2013 has contributed to improvements in teaching practice. Through his study across New Zealand schools, leaders and teachers are defining strategies to improve retention and academic achievement, especially for Māori and Pacific students. The school is committed to positive relationships and further developing a whole-school restorative practice model that values people.

Individual education plans guide learning programmes effectively for students with high needs. The plans are regularly reviewed with parents, teachers and appropriate support staff. Several students in the Inclusive Support Centre benefit from learning in mainstream classes.

School self review of National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) data from 2010 to 2012 indicated a declining trend in achievement. In response to this analysis, there has been a comprehensive school-wide focus on improving outcomes for students. In 2013 the school’s strategic focus prioritised improving results at NCEA Level 1. This approach included:

  • increased teacher ownership and sense of accountability for the achievement of students, particularly Māori and Pacific students
  • the use of student achievement information to give urgency to improving students’ success
  • effective systems for ongoing monitoring of each student’s progress and achievement
  • high levels of additional support for students, including homework clubs, summer school, extra tuition and strategies that promote their wellbeing
  • linking student achievement and progress to teacher performance management systems.

These strategies are contributing to increased levels of student engagement in learning. NCEA results from 2013 show significant improvements in Level 1 results. Results at NCEA Levels 2 and 3 were also improved, and school leaders continue to strive for significant, ongoing improvements. Since 2011, Waitakere College students, including Māori and Pacific, have shown a general trend of NCEA merit and excellence endorsements well above results for schools of a similar type. While NCEA information shows that Māori and Pacific are still achieving at lower levels than are other students, more students, including Māori and Pacific, are staying at school to gain qualifications. The board, through the strategic plan, has set useful targets to reach the Government’s goal that, by 2017, 85% of students leaving school will have at least an NCEA Level 2 qualification or the equivalent.

The school’s analysis of achievement data for students in Years 9 and 10 shows that progress and achievement in aspects of reading, writing and mathematics is below national expectations. School leaders agree that the achievement of students in Years 9 and 10 should be given strategic school-wide priority.

3 Curriculum

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

The curriculum is effective and is increasingly responsive to student engagement and learning.

The positive and affirming relationships that underpin interactions between students and teachers are a special feature of the school. These relationships support the school’s commitment to student wellbeing. Comprehensive pastoral care systems enable students to access a wide range of health and wellbeing professionals. Extensive peer mentoring systems assist students as they enter the school at Year 9, and promote tuakana/teina relationships.

The school has a deliberate focus on meeting student needs and responding to their interests. Its cohesive curriculum is designed to provide a variety of learning pathways that lead to future study and career opportunities. These pathways provide students with access to several academies, such as those for Engineering, Health, Hospitality and Services. A comprehensive Gateway programme enables students to access structured work experience and gain relevant qualifications in a wide variety of local businesses. There is good alignment between Gateway programmes and vocational pathways.

Teachers engage students in learning by incorporating contexts for study that reflect the students’ interests and cultural backgrounds. Many teachers make good use of students’ reflections about class programmes and teaching strategies. They consciously seek ways to ensure that their teaching is relevant and improves outcomes for students. Recently introduced course selection interviews that involve students and their families strengthen home/school partnerships. These also help to give students a clear understanding of what is needed to fulfil their learning and career aspirations.

Students enjoy many opportunities to experience success and build their leadership capability in a wide variety of sporting, cultural and academic competitions and events. Student progress and success are publicly acknowledged and celebrated.

To further enhance the school’s curriculum for Years 9 and 10 students, consideration should now be given to:

  • reviewing the curriculum to ensure a school-wide focus on literacy and numeracy
  • ensuring that reports to parents provide clear and valid information about achievement and progress in each learning area
  • ensuring the school’s curriculum clearly aligns with the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Discussions between ERO and leaders have prompted the school to investigate pathways for students who have left school without formal qualifications and to consider why the students have left. This information could help the school to evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum.

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

The school is increasing its effectiveness to promote educational success for Māori students, as Māori.

The school’s commitment to Māori students’ success is evident in the way student success is prioritised in charter targets, teacher professional learning programmes, and specific initiatives. Māori leadership includes key teachers, Māori student leaders, Uenuku Komiti, and well respected kaumātua and kuia. These people support the board and school leaders to meet strategic school goals for Māori students to experience success as Māori.

Māori students’ identity and sense of belonging are promoted through several initiatives. The Waipuna o te Mātauranga home groups programme offers Māori students mentoring and pastoral care in a supportive whānau environment that reflects tikanga Māori. All students and teachers new to the school are welcomed with pōwhiri at the start of the year. A new initiative for 2014 is the Māori Performing Arts course available to students in Years 9 to 11. This course has been established particularly to engage Māori boys in learning and increase their pride in being Māori.

The board and school leaders continue to investigate effective ways to consult and engage with Māori parents and whānau to strengthen their participation and partnership in their children’s learning.

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 because:

  • the board has a clear focus on raising student achievement, and ongoing improvement
  • ongoing analyses of student achievement data are well used to inform interventions and initiatives to address any identified issues
  • experienced school leadership, led by a skilled principal, has a cohesive focus on improving student achievement for all students, with a focus on learners who need additional support to be successful
  • teachers support the school’s direction for improvement and benefit from responsive professional learning opportunities
  • the performance management system, especially for teachers, is focused on developing consistency across the school so that teachers implement the school’s agreed teaching and learning practices
  • increasing levels of community support and involvement are evident
  • the school demonstrates its commitment to success for all students in an inclusive environment that celebrates its diversity.

School leaders and trustees are well aware of the challenge of sustaining the significant progress made in 2013. In order to further enhance and sustain ongoing improvement, it is essential that the school extend its self-review process by:

  • where appropriate, further developing indicators of high quality practice as a basis for self review
  • planning for a more strategic inclusion of community, parent, and student views and perspectives in review processes
  • linking self-review recommendations to further strengthen ongoing reporting and strategic planning that is focused on positive outcomes for students.

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 38 international students attending the school, including 12 short-term international students from Japan. The school usually hosts a group of short-term international students for a period of two weeks each year. International students attending the school are mainly from China and Japan.

The school provides a high standard of pastoral care for the international students. The director for international students has frequent discussions with the students and their homestays to help ensure their wellbeing. International students participate in carefully considered courses specific to their needs and abilities. Their progress in courses is well monitored and students are fully included in school events and activities, as well as in community events.

The director and leaders responsible for international students agree they could further develop self review to enhance the care and provision for international students. More detailed reporting to the board, including reporting on students’ progress and achievement, would provide further evidence of the high quality of this provision.

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.

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

About the School


Henderson, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls       51%
Boys      49%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā
Cook Island Māori
other Pacific
other European
other Asian


Special Features

Inclusion Support Centre

Review team on site

March 2014

Date of this report

30 May 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

January 2011
November 2007
May 2004