Waitomo Caves School - 24/01/2018


The 2015 ERO report identified a need to strengthen aspects of school operation and curriculum implementation, which have since been systematically addressed through advice from external consultants. This review notes the positive progress the school has made in relation to these matters along with areas of further progress to support ongoing improvement. 

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

1 Background and Context

What is the background and context for this school’s review?

Waitomo Caves School is located near the Waitomo Caves. Students attending the school come mainly from the surrounding rural district. Many local families have intergenerational associations with the school. Of the 65 children on the roll, 38 identify as Māori.

Since the 2015 ERO review leadership has remained the same and there have been some changes to the teaching team and board of trustees.

The 2015 ERO review found that the school’s family-like atmosphere was reflected in the way students spontaneously supported each other in the classroom and playground. Students appreciated a range of sporting opportunities, cultural activities, and educational experiences outside the classroom. The report also identified a need to strengthen aspects of governance, leadership, assessment and teaching practice. This review evaluates progress in relation to these matters along with areas of further progress to support the school’s ongoing improvement.

A significant recent development since the 2015 ERO review has been the construction of a new multi-purpose building, which facilitates the school’s implementation of modern learning practices.

2 Review and Development

How effectively is the school addressing its priorities for review and development?

Priorities identified for review and development

  • Curriculum and assessment
  • Teaching practice
  • Student agency
  • Leadership
  • Governance


Curriculum and assessment

The principal and teachers have made good use of external professional development to implement robust systems and processes that ensure a consistent school-wide approach to assessment. The school’s assessment schedule has been reviewed and revised and now includes a useful range of nationally referenced assessment tools in both literacy and mathematics. There are sound systems for tracking and monitoring student progress through the year. Teachers use achievement information well to deepen their understanding of students’ needs, discuss learning progress with students and evaluate teaching programmes. Anniversary reporting is now well understood, scheduled and completed by the junior teacher. Teaching programmes respond more consistently to the learning needs of children.

Moderation of teachers’ judgements about individual children’s achievement has been strengthened with support from an external adviser. Teachers now engage in both internal and external discussions about their assessment decisions, and this contributes to higher quality overall teacher judgements.

School-wide curriculum expectations continue to be reviewed so that they more accurately reflect current practice. Continuing review is necessary to ensure that high-quality teaching practices are consistently promoted and sustained and that teaching programmes maintain coverage of all required learning areas over time.

Teaching practice

Teaching practice is now more responsive and is more clearly aligned to identify student needs. Teachers use assessment information consistently to inform their planning and teaching. A collaborative process of teaching as inquiry is being used effectively to improve teacher practice, particularly in reading, writing and mathematics. This has led to better analysis of assessment data, more effective planning, a greater range of deliberate acts of teaching and co-construction of learning goals and success criteria with students. Flexible grouping strategies are being used to enhance learning. There is an emphasis on meaningful learning contexts and integrating literacy with other learning areas. Most students are progressing well in relation to national expectations.

Student agency

There has been a significant increase in students' ability to take responsibility for their own learning. A student-centred approach has increased students’ motivation and ability to reflect on and direct their own learning. Students analyse their progress in mid and end-of-year reports. They have opportunities to develop their own social and relational skills through cooperative processes, and have input into the organisation of classroom programmes.


Professional leadership has had a positive impact on student wellbeing, achievement and progress. The principal is developing a collaborative culture whereby teachers work effectively as a team to improve student learning and take responsibility for school programmes and events. She ensures that there is alignment between student learning needs, teachers’ professional learning and staff appraisal. Leaders, teachers and students are involved in the development of a learning environment that supports student wellbeing. Students demonstrate understanding of school-wide expectations and are well engaged in learning.


Trustees have a clear focus on raising student achievement. They have developed annual targets which focus on specific groups of students who are at risk of not achieving year level expectations. The current principal appraisal process is meaningful and is leading to improved practices. Finance and health and safety processes are well managed. The recently reviewed charter reflects parent and community aspirations for children’s learning and achievement. It effectively guides and promotes the school’s strategic aims and direction.

Key next steps

ERO, trustees along with the principal and teachers agree that key next steps are to:

  • continue the development of the school’s curriculum as outlined in this report
  • develop systems and strategies that enable students, teachers and parents/whānau to use assessment information and learning progressions to develop specific next steps for learning
  • ensure that the principal undertakes professional development in leadership
  • strengthen professional working relationships by ensuring that trustees continue to be involved in relevant training
  • support and maintaining a programme of regular review against the strategic plan.

3 Sustainable performance and self review

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

Waitomo Caves School demonstrates significant progress in addressing development areas identified in the 2015 ERO report. The school is now well placed to sustain and continue to improve and review its performance.

Key next step

For sustained improvement and future learning success, the school needs to continue to develop its internal evaluation processes and practices. ERO will provide an internal evaluation workshop for trustees and school leaders.

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.

4 Recommendations

Recommendations, including any to other agencies for ongoing or additional support.

ERO recommends that trustees, the principal and teachers ensure that key next steps identified in this report are incorporated into the school’s 2018 annual plan and forward to ERO for consideration and feedback.


The 2015 ERO report identified a need to strengthen aspects of school operation and curriculum implementation, which have since been systematically addressed through advice from external consultants. This review notes the positive progress the school has made in relation to these matters along with areas of further progress to support ongoing improvement.

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

Lynda Pura-Watson

Deputy Chief Review Officer

Te Tai Miringa - Waikato / Bay of Plenty Region

24 January 2018

About the School


Waitomo, Waikato

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 35. Girls 30

Ethnic composition



Review team on site

November 2017

Date of this report

24 January 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

June 2015
June 2012
August 2009