Westbridge Residential School - 31/01/2019

School Context

Westbridge Residential School in West Auckland is a special school for students with learning and social difficulties. The school caters for students in Years 3 to 10. Nine students from across New Zealand were resident at the school at the time of ERO’s review.

Westbridge is part of national provision of intensive support for children and young people with highly complex and challenging behaviour, social or education needs. Students are currently referred to the school as part of the Intensive Wraparound Service. They are resident there for up to two years, with most staying less than one year. The school has capacity for 32 students.

The school and residential cottages provide a programme that is designed to support students to learn new skills and to stay engaged in education. Valued outcomes for students focus on them acquiring new ways of behaving and interacting with others that enable them to successfully transition back to their whānau and into a mainstream educational setting.

A Ministry-appointed board was established in 2014. The board governs Westbridge Residential School and Halswell Residential College in Christchurch. The school sets targets for the achievement of students in reading, writing and mathematics. These targets focus on all students making at least 18 months progress during their time at the school.

Since the 2015 ERO review there have been many changes to staffing. These included a number of principals and deputy principals, some of whom were employed in an acting capacity.

Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board, schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • participation in the school and residential programme

  • development of self regulation and social skills

  • social and behavioural incidents

  • progress and achievement in reading, writing and mathematics

  • transition into the school

  • enrolment of leavers in mainstream schools.

Evaluation Findings

1 Equity and excellence – achievement of valued outcomes for students

1.1 How well is the school achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students?

The school is committed to providing conditions that promote better outcomes for all students.

The small roll, very small cohorts of groups of students and the short term nature of residential stays limit the dependability of analysis of schoolwide data.

The key competencies, especially managing self and participating and contributing, are key drivers of the curriculum. The school gathers useful information about individual students in relation to these areas. Refining the use of the data could further inform students’ next steps and meet students’ learning needs.

School data related to the valued outcomes for students show that in recent years 80 percent of leavers have enrolled in mainstream schools.

Entry levels of achievement in reading, writing and mathematics are low. Over time, while the greatest improvement has been in writing, achievement is higher in reading.

1.2 How well is the school accelerating learning for those Māori and other students who need this?

The school is successful in accelerating learning in relation to the key competencies for most students.

This improvement is measured by progress in relation to the school’s criteria for development of social competencies and self regulation. Students’ achievement is motivated by incentives and recognised with rewards.

Teachers use appropriate assessment tools to determine students’ instructional levels in reading, writing and mathematics. Information gathered from assessment tasks helps teachers to identify and plan for students’ next steps.

Recent achievement information shows that 40 percent of students make accelerated progress in reading and writing and 50 percent in mathematics.

Collaborative approaches between teachers and teacher aides, and cottage managers and youth workers, support students to learn new skills and extend their knowledge. Explicit teaching of skills develops self-awareness and social skills through the school and residential programmes.

2 School conditions for equity and excellence – processes and practices

2.1 What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

Staff are committed to the work they do with students. They focus on developing students’ academic and social skills. As a result, improvements in learning and wellbeing are prioritised.

Relationships between students and staff are seen as paramount. Small class sizes, along with low cottage rolls, enable staff to develop in-depth knowledge of students’ preferences and learning needs. This knowledge helps staff to work in the interests of students.

The school’s curriculum prioritises the teaching of the key competencies. This focus is promoted across both the school and residential operations. Students benefit from the consistent use of strategies and approaches.

Staff reflect on their practice during opportunities that are incorporated into school processes. Spontaneous reviews of events and situations promote shared understandings among staff. These opportunities help staff to respond better to students’ needs and the immediacy of day to day situations. Professional learning and development for staff supports the implementation and consistency of appropriate practices.

The school has good systems for knowing about students, their background and health, and their wellbeing and learning needs. Staff share their knowledge of the student as they contribute to comprehensive, cumulative records. Regular review meetings provide opportunities for people who are closely involved with or have expert knowledge of the student to consider his progress and achievement.

2.2 What further developments are needed in school processes and practices for achievement of equity and excellence, and acceleration of learning?

School leaders are considering ways in which the combined experience and knowledge of residential and school staff can strengthen practices. This collaboration would promote greater consistency across the school and contribute to the school culture.

Leaders and teachers need to review the school’s vision for teaching and learning. They could then establish a curriculum that is informed by best practice, research and theory. Student engagement, enhanced independence and readiness to reintegrate into mainstream schools should be desired outcomes that are promoted through the curriculum.

It is timely for leaders and staff to strengthen cultural responsiveness within programmes and the curriculum. Making te ao Māori more visible in the school through the use of te reo and tikanga Māori could help promote the cultural identity of Māori students and bicultural perspectives of Aotearoa New Zealand for all students. The Ministry of Education documents Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners and Hautū - Māori cultural responsiveness could be helpful tools to support this process.

Strengthening internal evaluation processes is a priority for leaders and staff. This would enable them to measure the effectiveness of decisions made and the impact of programmes, initiatives and interventions on positive outcomes for students.

As the new Direct Referral Pathway to residential schools is implemented, the school should ensure it has robust plans in place to cater for the increased roll so that high quality outcomes can be expected for all students.

The board should ensure that good progress is made in addressing the areas identified for development.

3 Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board 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 the following:

  • board administration

  • curriculum

  • management of health, safety and welfare

  • personnel management

  • finance

  • asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student safety and wellbeing:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)

  • physical safety of students

  • teacher registration and certification

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspension, expulsion and exclusion of students

  • attendance

  • school policies in relation to meeting the requirements of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Provision for students in the school hostel

All students are accommodated in three cottages. The cottages are licensed as the school hostel by the Ministry of Education. The board has attested in a Hostel Assurance Statement that it meets minimum standards as specified in the hostel regulations.

The cottages are appropriately staffed and managed. Residential staff develop supportive relationships with students as they work closely with them individually and in groups. Staff organise a range of recreational activities for students. They support students to participate in their interests or sports within the wider community. Most students are in regular contact with their family or whānau.

Staff focus on helping students to learn new ways of behaving and interacting. Regular professional learning and development facilitated by specialists from the Intensive Wraparound Service (IWS) supports staff to understand the young people in their care and to develop their own practice. Students are supported to develop self-management and social skills that are important for their return to their own communities.

Residential staff contribute significantly to the body of information that the school collects about each young person’s growth and development. Residential staff, along with other school staff, work closely with IWS to bring together appropriate plans and approaches for individual students. They are aware of the challenges for the students in independently using the skills they have learned when they are in the wider community.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

For sustained improvement and future learner success, the school can draw on existing strengths in:

  • relationships that help staff to work in the best interests of students

  • teaching that prioritises the key competencies

  • opportunities to reflect that help staff to better respond to students’ needs

  • systems for knowing about students that help staff to understand their backgrounds and their health, wellbeing and learning needs.

Next steps

The leadership team and ERO agree that for sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are in:

  • sharing experience and knowledge to promote greater consistency across the school and to contribute to the school culture

  • reviewing the school’s vision for teaching and learning to establish a curriculum that promotes student engagement, independence and readiness to reintegrate into mainstream schools

  • strengthening cultural responsiveness to promote identity, language and culture for Māori students and bicultural perspectives of Aotearoa New Zealand for all students

  • ensuring there are robust plans in place to cater for the anticipated roll increase so that high quality outcomes can be expected for all students

  • strengthening internal evaluation to determine the effectiveness of decisions made and the impact of programmes, initiatives and interventions on positive outcomes for students. (ERO will provide an internal evaluation workshop for trustees and senior leaders.)

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Alan Wynyard

Director Review & Improvement Services

Te Waipounamu - Southern Region

31 January 2019

About the school


West Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Special School

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 9

Ethnic composition

Māori 6

Pākehā 3

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

November 2018

Date of this report

31 January 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review August 2015

Education Review December 2010

Education Review May 2009