Willow Park School - 21/11/2016

1 Context

Willow Park School caters for children in Years 1 to 6. There has been little change to the school's roll or ethnic composition since ERO's 2012 review. Māori students form 10 percent of the roll. Since 2012 the school has experienced significant change in school leadership, and curriculum. The school has had two changes of principal and several changes in the senior leadership team. The board appointed a new principal in April 2016. In 2013 the school moved away from using the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme as its framework for implementing The New Zealand Curriculum. The school is part of a Ministry of Education community of learning initiative that is focused on raising student achievement in Northcote.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school for all children are to be enthusiastic inquirers who are respectful and strive to make a difference in the world. The school vision is reinforced through a set of caring values: Caring for ourselves, caring for each other, and caring for the environment.

The school’s achievement information shows that in mathematics and writing the school consistently meets the government achievement target for 2017 of 85 percent of students achieving at or above the National Standard. There is a small decline in the school's reading data, with 80 percent achieving the National Standard over the last two years. Māori children achieve at similar levels to the rest of the school population. School literacy data show disparity between boys' and girls' achievement, especially in writing.

The cohort of Pacific children is too small to report overall achievement in relation to the National Standards or to identify trends over time. The school monitors the achievement of these children individually.

School-wide systems and processes that support teachers to make robust and consistent achievement judgements against the National Standards have improved. This has enhanced the dependability of student achievement data across the different year levels.

Since the last ERO evaluation the school has: 

  • set more specific achievement improvement targets for some cohorts
  • implemented a variety of strategies to increase children's engagement with learning
  • restructured the school's class-level organisation to support learning partnerships between teachers and children, and their families
  • taken a strategic approach to supporting children's transitions into and out of the school
  • continued to develop school systems that monitor children's progress and achievement. 

3 Accelerating achievement

How effectively does this school respond to Māori children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The school is effective in responding to Māori children whose learning and achievement need acceleration.

The principal and leadership team place a priority on responding to the learning of all Māori children. Recent refinements to school systems at the class and team levels provide good processes that help teachers to keep a clear line of sight on the progress and achievement of the individual Māori child.

Leaders and teachers use data analysis information well to support the early identification of children who are at risk of not achieving and whose progress requires acceleration. Teachers use this information to develop class profiles and action plans that target children's progress, support ongoing monitoring, and give consideration to their next learning steps. More explicit documenting and evaluation of teacher actions that are making a positive difference to student progress, should continue to strengthen the outcomes for Māori students.

The board resources a variety of intervention programmes to support children who are below the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. School tracking data for students in these programmes, and of other programmes designed to increase children's engagement in learning, such as the Te Whare Rama writing project, show positive shifts in achievement for many children and some accelerated progress. The new school leadership is bringing a focus to ways teachers can help these children transfer new skills and knowledge into the classroom in order to support sustained progress for children.

How effectively does this school respond to other children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

The strategies and practices used by leaders and teachers to support Māori learners are the same as those used to help other children who need to make accelerated progress.

The board sets specific and relevant improvement achievement targets that enable the school to measure progress and achievement for different groups of students. Recent charter targets focus on closing the gender differences in the school's writing data and lifting reading achievement for all students. To further deepen the board's line of sight on the progress and achievement of Māori and children who are speakers of other languages, it would be beneficial for the board to set specific targets for these groups of children.

Leaders are building collective staff responsibility for children's learning progress. Team leaders oversee team development plans that focus on how to raise achievement. Teaching teams meet to discuss samples of student assessment and consider strategies for better supporting individual children's learning progress.

The recent restructure of the junior school and the move to multi-level classes are deliberate board strategies to support stronger learning partnerships between teachers, children and their families. Early student achievement data show a positive impact on the engagement and progress of children. School leaders are continuing to evaluate and develop these approaches.

4 School conditions

How effectively do the school’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices develop and enact the school’s vision, values, goals and targets for equity and excellence?

The school's curriculum, processes and practices are effective in promoting equity and excellence for children.

Effective school leadership that focuses on improving outcomes for children is evident. School leaders are experienced and are creating a positive environment to support the school through times of change. Their focus on good communication and building relational trust is laying a sound foundation to bring in other initiatives that promote equity and excellence. Good quality leadership is distributed across teaching teams. This is supporting greater consistency of good teaching practices and contributing to continuity of learning for children.

School leaders and teachers work well with families, early childhood services, and the local intermediate school to support children to make effective transitions. The school has a comprehensive transitioning into school programme that provides children with experiential learning and specific strategies to support their readiness for further learning. The senior school and local intermediate align teaching approaches that help children move seamlessly into their new learning environment.

Programmes are well planned and teaching demonstrates good quality practices. Staff are presently engaged in a useful professional learning and development programme to help them strengthen learning focused relationships. Changes in school leadership have led to a lack of opportunities for teachers to participate in valuable appraisal processes. Some recent work on reviving an effective appraisal system should help teachers and school leaders monitor and evaluate the impact of teaching practices on student outcomes. This will also contribute to building a shared understanding of good practices that accelerate learning progress and build organisation of capability.

Children experience broad learning opportunities. The school's curriculum supports children well in the five key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum: thinking, using language symbols and texts, managing self, relating to others, and participating and contributing. Good progress is being made towards developing a curriculum that is more personalised for and self-directed by the learner. Teachers use the school's well embedded student inquiry learning model to integrate the core learning areas of reading, writing and mathematics into other learning areas. This is helping children transfer new skills and knowledge and make meaning of their learning.

School leaders could consider ways the school's curriculum can build on what is familiar and relevant in students' lives to develop new learning and maximise children's potential. Priorities include:

  • strengthening the bicultural curriculum
  • providing learning opportunities that are culturally connected for children of different cultures
  • increasing the use of culturally responsive teaching practices. 

In 2016 school leaders created new opportunities for gathering the voice of Māori children and whānau and other groups within the school community. Outcomes of this consultation will provide useful information to help guide curriculum developments.

An appropriate emergent self-review approach is used well to navigate the school through a time of considerable change. The professional learning culture supports collaboration, and openness to change and learner-focused improvement.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it?

Leaders and teachers: 

  • know the children whose learning and achievement need to be accelerated
  • respond effectively to the strengths, needs and interests of each child
  • regularly evaluate how well teaching is working for these children
  • act on what they know works well for each child
  • build teacher capability effectively to achieve equitable outcomes for all children
  • are well placed to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children. 

The school is well placed to build on initiatives that engage the learner and to make ongoing improvements that impact positively on all children's learning.

Leaders have identified relevant priorities for further development. These include: 

  • strengthening bicultural and multicultural approaches in the school curriculum
  • deepening engagement with the Māori community to help develop a strategic approach to the enactment of the school's commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi
  • strengthening the evaluative component of self review to evaluate actions that make a difference for the learner
  • deepening the board's line of sight on learning outcomes for different groups within the school. 

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

6 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 the following:

  • board administration

  • curriculum

  • management of health, safety and welfare

  • personnel management

  • 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

  • processes for appointing staff

  • stand down, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions

  • attendance

  • compliance with the provisions of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014

  • provision for international students

The Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (The Code) was introduced on July 1st 2016. The school is aware of the need to update its policies and procedures to meet the new Code requirements by December 1st 2016. At the time of this review there was one international student attending the school. The school has not yet started to align its policies and procedures to meet requirements for the 2016 Code.

ERO identified the following area of noncompliance:

The board must ensure that all teaching staff are appraised annually.State Sector Act 1988, 77C

7 Recommendation

ERO recommends that school leaders continue to build coherent organisational conditions that promote evaluation, inquiry and knowledge building, and engage in evidence-based decision making to promote positive outcomes for all children. 

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

21 November 2016

About the school


Hillcrest, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 51%, Boys 49%

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā






other ethnicities









Review team on site

August 2016

Date of this report

21 November 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

January 2012

September 2008

June 2005