Whangarei Boys' High School - 16/01/2015

1 Context

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

Whangarei Boys’ High School provides a good standard of secondary education for young men. The school prides itself on being the only Year 9 to 13 boys’ school north of Auckland and it continues to offer boarding options for boys at Carruth House.

The school is experiencing a time of significant roll growth. Since the 2011 ERO review, the proportion of Māori students in the junior school has increased and fifty-seven percent of Year 9 students now identify as Māori. A new senior manager was appointed in 2012, and several new middle managers and more than twenty new teachers have joined the staff in recent years.

The school has responded positively to the findings of its 2011 ERO review. School leaders have participated in well chosen external professional development, including the Māori Leadership programme, He Kākano, and Auckland University’s Starpath programme.

School initiatives aimed at strengthening relationships with students and whānau to support student learning and achievement are promoting positive changes in school culture. Many other new initiatives have begun. Further time is needed for ERO to be able to evaluate the impact of these initiatives on student achievement.

2 Learning

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

Student learning takes place in a settled school environment. Students have very good opportunities to engage in a wide range of co-curricular activities and the boys are very proud of their high levels of success in arts, sports and cultural activities.

Leadership opportunities for senior students have increased and there are good examples of tuakana-teina relationships where older students guide and support their younger peers. School leaders work closely with contributing schools to strengthen learning transitions for Year 9 students into secondary education. Extending leadership opportunities for boys in Years 10 to 12 could be a worthwhile focus to now progress.

Since the previous ERO review, the school has significantly improved its collation and review of achievement information. High quality information is reported to the board on student attendance, retention, engagement in learning and achievement in Years 9 to 13. New student tracking systems are in place and a new data management system has been introduced.

Student achievement in the National Certificates of Education Achievement (NCEA) has improved over the past three years. More students are gaining merit and excellence endorsements and are achieving at higher standards. Pacific students mostly achieve very well. Students with additional learning requirements are well supported through very good school processes.

Some Māori students achieve well. School information shows, however, that overall Māori student achievement at NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 continues to sit significantly below school-wide levels of success in NCEA. The school's analysis of NCEA data identifies the growing gap between Māori and NZ European students. School leaders are working to strengthen academic counselling and other support processes for students, including Māori.

The board has set specific targets to strengthen the school's focus on supporting students at risk of not achieving and implementation of this plan is a next step. It is also clear that there is still a significant need to accelerate Māori student achievement to meet government achievement targets by 2017. The implementation of a specific plan to accelerate Māori success that is developed in consultation with whānau should now be prioritised.

New initiatives in Years 9 and 10, including the foundation literacy and numeracy support classes (FLaNs), are beginning to show improvements in student learning. Teachers are targeting students who require additional support in literacy and who could be at risk of not achieving qualifications. To further progress this work school leaders should continue to focus on:

  • identifying successful strategies for accelerating student learning and achievement
  • sharing effective teaching practices school wide
  • evaluating the success of interventions to improve learning
  • allocating further resourcing in areas that are likely to make a positive difference in accelerating Māori student achievement.

The school has made significant progress in its reporting to families/whānau. Reporting is well aligned to the curriculum, and students are now more involved in talking about their aspirations and learning with their teachers and families. The school is effectively promoting better relationships with families.

3 Curriculum

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

The curriculum is becoming more effective in promoting and supporting student learning. School leaders are appropriately planning for further curriculum review. A clear focus on student learning requirements and a willingness to design a more student-centred approach is a key part of school thinking.

School leaders have identified, and ERO agrees, that it would now be useful to consider:

  • the principles and values of The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) as review tools
  • flexible timetabling approaches to better meet student interests and learning preferences.

School leaders, working closely with staff, have made well considered changes to help ensure that programmes for Year 9 and 10 students are more responsive to different groups of learners. Changes in student groupings are showing early signs of successful outcomes, affirming school decision making in this area.

The senior curriculum has been thoughtfully expanded to provide greater variety of subjects and learning pathways for all students. This includes trades academy options, and vocational and university pathways. It is now important to ensure that all teachers have high expectations that Māori students will achieve their learning and career goals and gain meaningful qualifications.

Physical activity and health promotion activities are well supported in the curriculum. Health services are well used by the boys. The board is aware of the need to increase the resources for counselling and supporting wellbeing to meet student needs. Outside agencies are being accessed to support school-based provisions. Ongoing review is necessary to evaluate the success of resourcing in this area.

Changes to school behaviour management systems that include removal of the traditional detention system, is a positive step. Some staff are using restorative approaches very well to support student management. More widespread and consistent use of these approaches should further support student learning. The school's use of the Ministry of Education’s Inclusive Practices and Wellbeing at School guidelines should also be helpful to enhance restorative practices.

Professional development has been well used by senior managers to stimulate change. Time has been made available for heads of departments and teachers to inquire into the success of teaching approaches. This deliberate focus on evaluating the effectiveness of teaching practice is well chosen, and there are some very good examples of student-centred teaching and good curriculum leadership in the school to build on. Managing the pace of change is now a key challenge for school leaders. To improve outcomes for students, school leaders and teachers should continue to:

  • increase te ao Māori perspectives within subject areas
  • personalise learning and promote students’ decision making and self management skills
  • further integrate meaningful use of information and communication technologies (ICT) within teaching programmes
  • promote learning experiences that foster higher level thinking skills and increase student engagement in learning
  • find ways for students to better use their own achievement information to guide their learning.

Priority should also be given to ensuring all students have equitable access to the curriculum. In particular, the school should revisit requirements for parents to pay fees for class-based resources and align school practices with Ministry of Education guidelines. It should ensure students are not withdrawn from education for matters related to the collection of fees and examine ways to reduce course pre-requisites that impact negatively on students' learning aspirations and choice of senior subjects.

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

The school is promoting success for Māori and working towards strengthening success as Māori. Changes in leadership thinking and the valuing of tikanga Māori has resulted in a more positive school culture. The school has:

  • a successful kapa haka group and haka as a well embedded features of school culture
  • engaged in many leadership hui through the He Kākano professional development project
  • promoted te reo Māori learning opportunities for staff and staff wānanga at local marae
  • developed a useful and relevant staff handbook to guide cultural responsiveness
  • identified and appointed key staff to promote Māori success
  • promoted better communication with whānau and links with local iwi.

It is critical that the school continues to focus on successful ways to help realise the potential of, and accelerate the success of, Māori students. The school plans to engage in the upcoming Ministry of Education's professional development programme Building on Success to consolidate school progress.

ERO recommends that the school also:

  • develops an effective teacher profile for teaching Māori learners that has explicit links to performance management
  • ensures key staff have the opportunity to work together to improve cultural responsiveness across classroom practice
  • expands the provision of te reo Māori for bilingual and immersion learners and further develops culturally relevant courses.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school has several strengths to support its continuing improvement, as noted in this report. The development of a new strategic plan is another step towards planning for the school's future sustainability, as is work by the board to significantly improve the school’s financial position. The hostel is now viable and financial resourcing is better monitored.

The school is also moving into a time of significant change and development, while continuing to seek improvements in several areas of performance. The board acknowledges the services of the school's retiring headmaster over the last 15 years and is now looking to appoint a new leader. A new headmaster is likely to take over management of the school in term 3, 2015.

Discussions with the Ministry of Education about major property development work have also commenced and should result in considerable upgrades and modernisation of school facilities over the next several years.

It is important that these property upgrades are accompanied by well informed curriculum development planning that reflects current educational research about the needs of 21st century learners. This would help ensure that opportunities to create new learning environments are closely linked to future focused teaching and learning approaches that promote successful life-long learning. ERO advises that school leaders and the board seek external advice and guidance from the Ministry of Education to support school development in these areas.

The board also acknowledges benefits to be gained by continuing to improve other areas of school performance. It recognises the need to develop more evaluative thinking throughout the school and to strengthen the quality of self review. Ongoing work is needed to promote more equitable outcomes for Māori students. This includes work to develop a more bicultural school vision and culture to accelerate Māori success and to promote strategic plan goals relating to putting students' educational success first.

To further improve school governance and management, ERO also recommends that the board:

  • receives regular and timely information about school systems and processes for meeting legal responsibilities, including those relating to student and staff wellbeing
  • develops succession planning and promotes trusteeship that represents the school community
  • continues to work with the MoE on managing school property
  • continues work to reduce the high number of stand-downs that interrupt student learning.

Given the changes, opportunities and planned improvement work that lie ahead, the board has requested that ERO continue to work alongside it over the next two years to monitor and provide regular evaluative feedback on school developments. ERO has agreed to this request.

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 15 international students attending the school.

EROs investigation found that the school has complied with the Code and continues to provide high quality pastoral care for international students. These students are well integrated into school life and make good use of school facilities and personnel to support them. Regular reports to the board could now be enhanced by inclusion of information about educational and other outcomes for international students.

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school’s hostel, Carruth House, accommodates 80 students, or seven percent of the school roll. The school board, as hostel owner, has attested that all the requirements of the Hostel Regulations are being met.

EROs investigation found that the hostel meets requirements. Students receive very good quality care and support from considerate staff. Effective hostel leadership and good self-review processes have enhanced hostel life for the boys.

Students report they value their experiences at the hostel and ways in which hostel living has helped develop their social skills and independence. International students living in the hostel report they have very good opportunities to make friends and share in the ethos of brotherhood.

Hostel procedures continue to promote a safe emotional environment. Students have good opportunities to communicate with home. Families are warmly welcomed. Hostel staff are aware that the facilities have several access points and are considering how best to manage visitors to the site.

To enhance student wellbeing in the hostel trustees could continue to strategically plan to:

  • provide more quiet study spaces and extend the lounge area for junior students
  • develop physical recreation spaces adjacent to the hostel
  • improve heating in the dining area and refit existing dormitory furniture.

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.

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should now:

  • align charges to parents with Ministry of Education guidelines
  • ensure appropriate information is reported regarding student stand-downs
  • improve school record keeping about complaints and actions taken
  • ensure education outside the classroom policies and practices align
  • improve the storage of in-committee minutes.

Recommendations to other agencies

ERO recommends that the Ministry of Education consider providing support for the board in order to bring about improvements in student learning outcomes, particularly for Māori students; to strengthen self review; and to further support school property development.


The school provides good quality education. Students experience a curriculum that is becoming increasingly aligned to their interests. Key developments include those to promote cultural responsiveness and success for Māori students. Further work is now needed to ensure the school is able to sustain and improve on existing good performance.

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

Dale Bailey

Deputy Chief Review Officer - Northern Northern Region

16 January 2015

About the School


Whangarei, Northland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys 100%

Ethnic composition


NZ European



other European








Special Features

Student boarding hostel, Carruth House

Review team on site

June 2014

Date of this report

16 January 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

September 2011

August 2008

August 2006