Whangarei Girls' High School - 09/11/2011

1 Context

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

Whangarei Girls’ High School is a distinctively New Zealand school of which the community can be justifiably proud. 

Since the 2008 ERO review, the school has made tangible progress in developing a bicultural environment that encourages the potential of Māori and advantages all students.  The supportive learning culture has been further developed so that students can enjoy their learning and reflect on their progress and achievement.  The school curriculum has become even more responsive to student strengths and interests.  School facilities have been enhanced through classroom refurbishment and the completion of the large gymnasium, ‘Manawahine’.

Stable leadership provided by the long serving board chair and experienced principal supports on‑going school improvement.  The board and staff have developed a robust school-wide culture of self review for improvement, using student academic achievement data, student and parent survey data, current educational research and the findings of the 2008 ERO report.   The school’s effective governance, leadership, management and teaching focus on empowering every one of its students to leave school well prepared to make a positive contribution to society.  

2 Learning

How well are students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

Overall students achieve very well at Whangarei Girls’ High School.  Over the past three years there has been a significant upward trend in National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Levels 1 and 2, and in NCEA merit and excellence endorsements.  In 2010 student achievement was well above the level of similar decile schools nationally, as were course endorsement awards.  The school is exploring ways to lift achievement in NCEA Level 3. 

Most students make good progress during Year 9 and 10 to reach the expected levels needed to pass NCEA Level 1 in Year 11. There are signs that some students make rapid progress to reach expected levels in reading and mathematics by the end of Year 9.  The school is now well placed to analyse and report to the board information about progress and achievement levels of Year 9 and 10 students.  Overall progress and achievement of other groups such as students with special needs including gifted and talented, Pacific and international students should also be reported to the board.

High student engagement is evident in  learning programmes and wide variety of school activities including kapa haka, sports, culture, clubs, and enterprise and leadership opportunities.  From 2010 to 2011 retention has increased at all year levels, especially from Year 12 to Year 13.  Attendance is well monitored.  However, absence from school is still a factor affecting the engagement and achievement of some students.

Senior managers, heads of department and teachers make very good use of assessment information to evaluate student performance and the effectiveness of teaching programmes and practices at the senior level.  The information is also used to support students through highly valued academic coaching and student learning support programmes.

How well does the school promote Māori student success and success as Māori?

The school has made good progress in promoting Māori student success and in providing opportunities for them to succeed as Māori.  Māori students number 383, thirty-three per cent of the roll.

NCEA results show a generally upward trend and high levels of achievement in NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.  In NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 Māori student achievement is well above national percentages for Māori, but is not yet as high as the school’s non-Māori academic achievement.

Māori students fill prominent school leadership roles in tikanga and kapa haka, performing arts and sport, as well as being student leaders and mentors.  Māori students engage well in learning programmes and school activities, though lack of attendance of some students is a concern.  The school’s inclusive culture and restorative ethos support Māori student engagement.  Whangarei Girls’ High School is a place where Māori students belong and can stand tall.

Significant progress has been made in engaging parents and whānau through kapa haka and the school’s hosting of the Tai Tokerau festival.  The introduction of academic coaching and student‑parent-teacher discussions, and the leadership of the head of the te reo me ōna tikanga department have also promoted Māori student achievement.

All heads of department analyse and report to the board on patterns and trends in Māori student achievement.  Using these data they have identified the need for teachers to develop teaching strategies for Māori.  School leaders are being more proactive in addressing this gap.  They could also consider providing the board and Māori community with a more complete picture of Māori student success and how Māori succeed as Māori.  

Prominent in the factors promoting Māori student success is the deep commitment of the board, school leaders and key staff in realising the potential of Māori students as stated in the school charter.  There is a growing commitment amongst staff to develop their knowledge and skills in te reo and tikanga.  

3 Curriculum

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

The school curriculum is highly effective in promoting and supporting student learning.

The school provides students with a broad, enriching curriculum that responds to student strengths and interests and to community expectations.  These expectations are for high participation and achievement in academic learning, sports and cultural activities, and for their daughters’ personal development.

The school is at an advanced stage in implementing The New Zealand Curriculum which became mandatory in 2008.  The vision, values and key competencies of this curriculum are well embedded in the school charter and in teaching practice.  Students take pride in gaining formal recognition of their successes in the values and key competencies embodied in the school’s Fideliter code.  Curriculum leaders and teachers continue to review and revise senior school programmes to align with changes in the New Zealand Qualification Authority’s requirements.

The school’s mission statement of ‘Empowering Tomorrow’s Women’ could well apply to teachers as well as students.  Teacher professional learning and development is well supported by the board and by effective performance management systems.  Good use is made of data to inform teaching programmes and practices.  Teachers are well placed to continue to refine their teaching practice especially through the use of ako/shared learning.  The school has a strong professional culture of reflection and continuous improvement to benefit student learning.

Overall the quality of teaching is high.  There are many examples of teachers expertly facilitating hands-on, cooperative learning and students having fun and enjoyment.  Students are encouraged to express their ideas, be creative and to manage their own learning.  They are motivated to become engrossed in learning, complete their work and achieve well. Classroom and corridor displays of student work and events inspire students to achieve, compete, and win competitions and scholarships. 

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is very well placed to sustain and continue to improve its performance.

The overall quality of school self review is high. The board of trustees, principal and staff make very good use of data to inform their governance, leadership and teaching decisions.  Self review is complemented by a readiness to accept new ideas from best practice research, professional sharing and external evaluation.

The school is capably led at all levels – by the board, principal, senior and middle managers, teachers, support staff and students.  Positive and supportive relationships, teamwork and a shared commitment to the school’s vision, values and goals provide a firm foundation for sustaining school improvement.

Effective professional leadership is evident in well considered ongoing curriculum review and development.  The principal and staff are reviewing the Year 9 curriculum and are well placed to explore further the extent to which the principles and pedagogy of The New Zealand Curriculum are being used in programme planning and teaching practice.

Several school initiatives have increased the engagement of parents and whānau.  Especially significant amongst these is the introduction of academic coaching and student-parent-teacher discussions, fostered by the University of Auckland, and led by the principal and key staff.  The school has well developed links with the Whangarei community.

The school has effective governance.  The board of trustees has a strong focus on student achievement and is very supportive of the principal and staff.  The board is well informed through the school’s self review and reporting processes so it can allocate and develop school resources and facilities.  The next step is for the board to progress its policy review and development to reflect current school practice and sustain school development.

The inclusive student-centred culture and positive respectful relationships support the board of trustees, school leaders and staff to continue the school’s growth as a strong learning community with a bicultural environment. 

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.  At the time of this review there were 16 international students attending the school.  The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.  ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school’s self-review process for international students is thorough and that the management of international students is systematic and highly effective.

Most international students spend only a year or less at Whangarei Girls’ High School.  A few achieve New Zealand qualifications and go on to tertiary education.  The international students speak highly of the school, the fun they had and the friends they made.  They are especially attracted to the many sports and outdoor activities made available to them through the school and their homestay families.  

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school hostel, Lupton House, currently accommodates 81 students [seven percent of the school roll].  The licensee is the Lupton House Management Committee, a subcommittee of Whangarei Girls’ High School board of trustees.

The hostel makes good provision for its students. The culture and climate of the hostel reflects the school’s culture and values.  Relationships are positive and respectful and support students learning.

Noteworthy features of hostel management are the close links between the hostel management and the school board of trustees and the valued role of the parent committee.  Hostel management is efficient and effective in sustaining an orderly and supportive living and learning environment for students and staff. 

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
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years. 

Richard Thornton
National Manager Review Services
Northern Region

9 November 2011

About the School 



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)



School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā
Other European


Special Features

Girls’ boarding facilities 

Review team on site

September 2011

Date of this report

9 November 2011

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Supplementary Review

August 2008
November 2005
September 2002