Waitomo Caves School - 30/06/2015


Students learn in a warm, inclusive family-like atmosphere within an attractive rural setting. Community support for the school is strong. A growing roll is necessitating new buildings and increased staff in the near future. Professional development is needed to ensure students continue to benefit from effective assessment and teaching practices.

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?

Waitomo Caves School is located near the Waitomo Caves, which bring a steady flow of tourists to the local community. Students attending the school come mainly from the surrounding rural district. Since the 2012 ERO review, the roll has increased to 67, 34 of whom identify as Māori. Many local families have intergenerational associations with the school. The growing roll necessitates the planned development of new buildings and increased staffing in the near future.

The 2012 ERO review found that students benefit from a safe and inclusive school culture where there are high expectations for behaviour and learning. Over the past three years, there has been further development of school-wide expectations for students and teachers to work together within a positive and supportive learning environment. School values have been reviewed in consultation with parents. The school continues to receive strong support from families and local businesses in the community.

The school’s family-like atmosphere is reflected in the way students spontaneously assist and support each other in the classroom and playground. Students appreciate sports opportunities, cultural activities, and educational experiences outside the classroom, which are provided by school staff and well supported by whānau.

A significant recent development has been the construction of a striking and meaningful school entrance. Designed and created by parent artists, it includes work by students and, along with a pou pou already in place, skilfully reflects the Māori history and heritage of the school and its community.

2 Learning

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

The school uses aspects of achievement information to improve students’ learning. Trustees use assessment results to make decisions about staffing and resources to enhance student achievement.

The principal identifies trends and patterns of achievement from year to year and works with teachers to ensure that students at risk of not meeting National Standards are specifically targeted for extra support with their learning. Teachers have engaged in the moderation of overall teacher judgements about achievement levels with another school of similar size.

Parents receive regular reports about progress and achievement and appreciate opportunities for formal and informal discussion with teachers about their children’s progress.

In order to improve the use of achievement information as a guide for teaching and learning, there is a need to:

  • review and revise the purpose and use of school-wide assessment tools
  • ensure that there is consistent school-wide use of achievement information to inform planning and teaching
  • provide students with learning progressions to assist them in monitoring their own learning and progress
  • revise procedures for National Standards assessment in Years 1 to 3 so that they comply with regulatory requirements.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes student engagement in learning. Teachers maintain an appropriate emphasis on developing literacy and mathematics skills. The curriculum is underpinned by the school’s mission and values. Tourism in the local community provides opportunities for spontaneous teaching and learning.

A range of effective teaching strategies includes specific planning for instructional groups, incorporating meaningful learning contexts to sustain students’ interest, and using computers for learning, presentation and sharing of work.

Next steps

ERO and the principal agree that, in order to better cater for a growing roll, there is a need for professional development to:

  • ensure that effective teaching practices are consistently implemented
  • define school-wide expectations for teaching as inquiry
  • further develop and document school-wide curriculum expectations.

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

Success for Māori students as Māori is explicitly promoted through the school’s cultural connectedness plan which is included in the charter. The plan defines expectations for teaching and learning in relation to the values of manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, ngā whakapiritanga and ako. It gives direction for including local Māori history and places of significance within teaching programmes. Staff have culturally responsive teaching goals using Tātaiako as a guiding document. There are regular whānau hui and their opinions and aspirations influence teaching and learning for Māori students. Overall, Māori students achieve as well as non-Māori and above comparisons with Māori students nationally.

Next steps for the school are to implement a sequential approach to teaching te reo Māori from Years 1 to 8 and to continue to develop opportunities for students to participate and excel in creative and performing arts, and mahi toi.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The following factors support sustainability and improvement of the school’s performance:

  • Governance is effective. Strategic direction is clear and cooperatively developed. The board regularly reviews its performance and policies.

The principal demonstrates sound professional knowledge of effective teaching practice. She also seeks appropriate external advice as needed.

Relationships between the school and community are positive. The board and principal consult the community about strategic decisions. Parents are well informed about school programmes and events.

The appraisal process includes opportunities for teachers to reflect on their practice and to set personal development goals.

Next steps

Key next steps for sustainability are to develop a framework for self review that includes:

  • an action plan that prioritises and addresses the next steps identified in sections 2 , 3 and 4 of this report
  • refining charter targets to focus on groups of students who are at risk of poor educational outcomes and monitoring their progress throughout the year
  • regular curriculum review based on the evaluation of analysed student achievement information
  • clear and measurable expectations for teachers in ensuring the accelerated progress of targeted students
  • a strengthened appraisal process that includes teacher accountability for the continual improvement of student achievement through teaching as inquiry.

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.

Recommendations to other agencies

ERO recommends that the Secretary for Education consider support under Part 7A of the Education Act 1989 in order to strengthen school and curriculum leadership that addresses the next steps identified in sections 2, 3 and 4 of this report. The board and principal welcome ERO's recommendations to the Secretary for support as outlined above.


Students learn in a warm, inclusive family-like atmosphere within an attractive rural setting. Community support for the school is strong. A growing roll is necessitating new buildings and increased staff in the near future. Professional development is needed to ensure students continue to benefit from effective assessment and teaching practices.

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

Dale Bailey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

30 June 2015

About the School


Waitomo, Waikato

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 36 Girls 31

Ethnic composition




Other European





Review team on site

May 2015

Date of this report

30 June 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

June 2012
August 2009
September 2006