Waitaki Girls' High School - 25/05/2016


Students at Waitaki Girls' High School are proud of their school and its history. Staff are highly committed to providing well for their students. More students are experiencing success in NCEA. The principal is effectively leading staff development and a focus on improvement. Effective partnerships to support students’ learning are strengthening. Relationships are positive throughout the school and supportive of all students.

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

1 Context

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

Waitaki Girls’ High School is a long-established secondary school for girls in Oamaru. Students are proud of their school with its extensive history. Students enjoy the tuakana-teina relationships that are fostered through the whānau group, peer support and competitive house system. The school’s boarding hostel, Waitaki House, is well established and on site. Along with New Zealand students, a small number of international students live there as boarders.

The school’s values of being ‘Respectful, Responsive and Resilient’ are helping to support the school in embedding a school-wide, positive-behaviour-for-learning programme. Students are well aware of these values. The school’s positive culture, recognised in the last ERO review, continues to be very evident.

Staff members work well together, ably led by the principal. There has been a small number of staff changes since the last ERO review (including two senior leaders). The student roll overall has remained stable. However, Māori and Pacific student numbers have increased.

Recent and ongoing external staff development has included participation in the (Pacific) Talanoa Project and the positive-behaviour programme.

Since the last ERO review, the library (Whare Mātauranga) has been relocated and successfully upgraded with increased student usage. In addition, some classrooms have been refurbished. The school has made good progress in addressing many areas identified in ERO’s 2013 report as needing to be improved. These areas include:

  • teaching as inquiry
  • shared (collaborative) inquiry into effective teaching practice
  • strategic use of learning information
  • curriculum review.

2 Learning

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

The school is using individual student achievement information well to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. This has been an area of substantial progress since the last ERO review. Student achievement is widely acknowledged and celebrated.

Student achievement information

Senior student achievement information shows:

  • achievement across the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Levels I, 2 and 3 is increasing and higher than national comparisons
  • significant gains in the percentage of students gaining NCEA Levels 1 and 2 in 2015
  • most school leavers leave after their 17th birthday and have attained at least NCEA Level 2
  • achievement in literacy and numeracy for NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 has increased over the last four years
  • students in transition programmes experience high levels of success in gaining credits towards NCEA.

Students throughout the school participate and achieve in a wide range of sporting and cultural activities.

Use of student achievement information

Students in Years 9 and 10 are collating portfolios of their achievement and progress. All students are being encouraged and supported to reflect on the quality of their learning. Some senior students could have better access to individual NCEA credit tracking.

A current school-wide focus is for teachers to ‘know the learner’. Teachers are:

  • using electronic profiles well to record, track and share achievement, progress and the support provided for junior students
  • mentoring and supporting senior students who are at risk of not achieving NCEA
  • providing specific feedback and next learning steps to students.

A challenge for teachers is to ensure all students understand their next steps.

There is improved reporting to parents, for example by sharing attendance and achievement information through an online portal.

Curriculum, pastoral and senior leaders are making good use of student engagement and achievement information to provide specific support for students at risk with their learning. Senior leaders have implemented effective systems to ensure early identification, more frequent sharing, appropriate support and close monitoring for these students. Staff are now confidently using the relatively new student-management system to support them in this.

The board is receiving useful information, mostly about senior student achievement, from the principal and curriculum leaders. This includes trends and patterns in NCEA achievement and future actions identified to promote improved outcomes for students.

Next steps

With improved use of student learning information, the school is now in a better position to:

  • focus charter targets specifically on accelerating the progress of groups of students who are achieving at low levels with specific, collaborative planning for this
  • ensure there is ongoing monitoring and reporting of progress towards meeting these targets at all levels of the school (involving teachers, curriculum and senior leaders and the board)
  • provide the board with more useful information about the achievement and progress of students in Years 9 and 10, including for specific groups.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is effective in promoting students’ learning. It actively supports students’ opportunities to learn and is responsive to their immediate and future needs.

Students benefit from a curriculum increasingly focused on meeting their needs, interests and abilities. This can be seen through:

  • increased opportunities for senior students to explore vocational pathways
  • useful collaborations with local businesses and tertiary providers
  • Level 1 NCEA adapted courses and increased use of distance learning
  • extensive use of local learning contexts including local history, businesses, galleries and gardens
  • high levels of achievement in literacy and numeracy in NCEA enabling students to achieve certificates in Levels 1, 2 or 3.

The school is making very effective use of connections that are educationally powerful. These include useful links with the Pacific community, teacher networks with other schools and transition processes with contributing schools.

There has been a school-wide focus (including useful professional learning and development) on developing and supporting the capabilities of middle leaders. Middle leaders are reporting student achievement and progress to senior leaders more frequently. There are increased opportunities for collaborations across departments. A cycle of curriculum review has begun. Useful departmental goals and reporting mean that senior leaders are very well informed about how well departments are providing for students.

Next steps

Leaders and teachers should extend their current e-learning planning and implementation to explore how modern teaching and learning strategies can be effectively used for all students.

Reporting to senior leaders and the board should be strengthened so that is it more evaluative.

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

The proportion of Māori and Pacific students achieving NCEA qualifications has increased over time. Some Pacific students are receiving support with their English language learning.

Since the last ERO review, the language, culture and identity of Māori and Pacific students have been increasingly reflected in the life of the school. This is being actively promoted by the principal.

Pacific students feel a strong sense of belonging in the school. Their levels of attendance, engagement and achievement have improved significantly. School leaders say that this is largely due to the collaborative efforts of staff and the local cluster of the Pacific Talanoa project.

School leaders acknowledge that work still needs to be done to achieve equitable and excellent outcomes for Māori students. A dean has been appointed to oversee the school’s cultural initiatives and pastoral care and support for Māori and Pacific students. Students can learn te reo Māori through distance-learning. A challenge for this and other local schools is to find a teacher of te reo Māori.

ERO endorses the intention of school leaders’ to use the Talanoa model to guide the school’s planning for Māori Success. To help achieve this, the school should, in consultation with Māori students and their whānau:

  • extend the ways in which Māori and Pacific language, culture and identity are promoted and made an integrated part of the school
  • seek and act on ideas and opinions from Māori and Pacific students and their parents and whānau/aiga to inform internal evaluation and planning
  • formalise planning to better show, monitor and report progress in enacting the above plans for Māori success.

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. A school-wide culture of collaboration, reflection and improvement is focusing the board, leaders and teachers on achieving the best outcomes for students.

Board members bring a wide range of expertise and skills to their roles as trustees. Since the 2013 ERO review, the board has developed a useful governance manual to guide effective school governance. Trustees have participated in board training that has contributed to the review of school policies and procedures and strategic planning processes. The board is receiving more timely information about departmental performance, senior student achievement and future areas of development.

Senior leaders are focused on continuous improvement to school processes and practices. They are establishing clear expectations and systems that promote consistency and alignment throughout the school. The principal is effectively leading and prioritising time for teachers to reflect on, inquire into and share teaching practice which works for their students. This is strengthening a staff culture of collaboration and support across learning areas. Senior leaders have responded appropriately to staff perceptions about changes within the school. The school’s much-improved appraisal system is supporting and building teachers’ professional practice.

Areas for review or development

The board and senior leaders should now extend the scope of internal evaluation in the school. This should include:

  • extending staff knowledge and understanding of high-quality internal evaluation practices
  • establishing and formalising key principles and processes to guide and promote effective evaluation practice
  • identifying internal evaluation priorities over time such as pastoral and learning support
  • developing a cycle of review/internal evaluation that informs strategic planning
  • ensuring student voice informs all internal evaluations/reviews.

The board should also ensure that robust processes are in place that provide regular anonymous feedback from all staff about their wellbeing and suggestions for ongoing improvement at the school.

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. ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school’s internal evaluation process for international students is carried out each year.

At the time of this review there were three international students from Asia who live at the school hostel which supports their wellbeing and learning.

International students benefit from a high level of individual pastoral care and assistance with learning. This includes helpful English language support.

A new director of international students has been appointed. She monitors and ensures that international students have ample opportunities to be involved and included in the life of the school and wider community. A next step for the school is to provide an annual report to the board of trustees evaluating the success of the international student programme (for the students and the school).

Provision for students in the school hostel

Waitaki House, the school’s hostel, accommodates 49 students who make up 12% of the school roll. It is owned by the Waitaki Girls’ High School board of trustees. Girls attend the hostel from a wide geographical area.

The hostel manager works closely with the school principal and staff to provide a welcoming place for boarders that helps them to settle and develop a sense of belonging. Positive relationships among the boarders and with staff promote a caring atmosphere and support ongoing friendships. This is especially evident in the way older girls help younger girls. Some school staff come to the hostel regularly to help girls with their learning.

Since the 2013 ERO review:

  • hostel policies have been reviewed and changed
  • some aspects of hostel governance have been updated
  • access to digital technology has improved throughout the hostel.

Parents have opportunities to meet with staff and provide their views about matters relating to the hostel. Although a formal survey has been conducted with the girls since the previous ERO review, feedback from boarders tends to be gathered and responded to informally.

Areas that need further development include:

  • completing aspects of the governance manual for the hostel
  • formalising processes for obtaining student and parent feedback about the hostel and increasing opportunities for consultation.

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.


Students at Waitaki Girls' High School are proud of their school and its history. Staff are highly committed to providing well for their students. More students are experiencing success in NCEA. The principal is effectively leading staff development and a focus on improvement. Effective partnerships to support students’ learning are strengthening. Relationships are positive throughout the school and supportive of all students.

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

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

25 May 2016

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls: 100%

Ethnic composition











Review team on site

March 2016

Date of this report

25 May 2016

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2013

November 2009

December 2006