Willowbank School (Howick) - 29/07/2015


Willowbank School promotes student learning very effectively. Students benefit from a broad, relevant and well delivered curriculum. Students are highly engaged in the learning process and are supported well to be successful and independent learners. A spirit of leadership is nurtured in students.

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

1 Context

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

Willowbank School opened in 2001 to serve a new suburban development in East Auckland. The school caters for Year 1 to 6 students, who come from diverse cultural backgrounds. Six percent of students are Māori and six percent have Pacific Island heritage. The school has a positive ERO reporting history.

Willowbank School’s vision statement “Discover, Develop, Nurture” has been integral to the Willowbank Way school curriculum since 2005. In 2012 the board and senior leaders consulted with staff, students and their community as part of reviewing the school’s vision for learning. This consultation resulted in the vision being further developed into key statements underpinning each of the vision key words that identify a Willowbank School learner profile. These statements more clearly articulate the educative purpose of the Willowbank Way and vision.

Since the 2010 ERO report, a different and larger leadership structure has been put in place to support collaborative practices and build teacher capacity to promote and support student learning. Strengthening partnerships with families to support their child’s learning has also been a focus.

There is a positive tone in the school that supports the learning of all students. Constructive relationships and connections underpin all practices. Students, staff and parents display a strong sense of belonging and pride in the school.

2 Learning

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

The board, senior leaders and teachers use achievement information well to make positive changes for learners.

School achievement information shows that students make expected, or greater than expected, academic progress over their time at the school. Good systems support teachers to make reliable and valid overall teacher judgements in relation to the National Standards. For reading and mathematics the school is making good progress towards meeting the government determined achievement goals for 2017 of 85 percent of students achieving at or above National Standards. There is presently a focus by the school on learner achievement in writing to accelerate student progress. Māori students overall are achieving at similar levels to the school population. The school is aware of the need to focus on Pacific student literacy achievement.

School leaders and teachers closely monitor the progress of all students and put in place useful strategies to improve their achievement. Senior leaders and teachers use achievement information very well to plan programmes and deliberate acts of teaching to cater for their students’ different strengths and learning needs. Achievement information is also used effectively to enquire into the effectiveness of teaching practices and to identify suitable professional learning and development opportunities for teachers.

Students are highly engaged in the learning process and display ownership of their learning. Teachers share assessment information with students and support them in decisions about how to further improve their achievement. Staff have high expectations of students and believe in them as capable, competent learners. Students talk about their learning with confidence and support the learning of their peers.

The school has inclusive and responsive practices and systems to support students with special talents and learning needs. Teachers and learning assistants share a commitment to and responsibility for student progress. This shared approach ensures students participate fully in appropriate learning programmes and classroom activities.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum promotes and supports student learning very effectively.

Students benefit from a broad, engaging and relevant curriculum. The curriculum has an appropriate balance between literacy and mathematics, and offers a range of learning opportunities in other learning areas. The curriculum meets and effectively supports the school’s diverse cultural community. Opportunities exist for students to participate in and strengthen their own and each others’ culture, language and identity.

The Willowbank Way and vision is highly evident in the curriculum. It shifts the focus of teaching and learning to students knowing themselves as learners, and learning how to learn.

The school is committed to ensuring that students have positive learning experiences. Students are taught the skills to scaffold new learning and are set up to be successful and independent learners. The curriculum promotes a learning approach that is negotiated with students. This is evident in the design of the curriculum. Opportunities for students to have a say in selecting meaningful contexts for learning, and sharing their knowledge as teachers of other students, contributes to ongoing expansion and change in the curriculum.

The curriculum includes some aspects that reflect the bicultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand through the school’s te reo Māori and tikanga implementation plan. This is an area the school is progressing. Senior leaders continue to increase the expectations for teaching practice and for students to experience a progressive te reo Māori and tikanga curriculum across the year levels.

A group of staff members have responsibility to promote bicultural awareness and practice in the school, and to build staff confidence to deliver the school’s te reo Māori and tikanga curriculum. Provision for staff to learn and develop their own te reo Māori through professional development is available.

Teachers and learning assistants deliver the curriculum very well, with high quality teaching practices evident across the school. Staff share teaching approaches and ideas. They are well supported to grow their practice through involvement in professional learning programmes and participation in a valuable teacher appraisal processes. Strong management systems also help teachers to meet the diverse needs of students.

School leaders and teachers work successfully with families, early childhood services and local intermediate schools to support students to make smooth transitions into and out of the school.

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

The school has taken some positive steps to promote educational success for Māori, as Māori.

The school has 41 students who identify as Māori. These students have positive attitudes to school and learning and are represented in enrichment programmes and leadership roles in the school.

Students at all year levels have opportunities to engage in kapa haka which promotes discipline, teamwork, and deeper understanding of tikanga Māori. Aspects of Māori culture and language are evident in learning programmes and school practices. An initiative to support groups of Māori students is having a positive impact on the engagement of Maori students in the learning process.

School leaders and teachers have high expectations for Māori students and foster positive relationships with whānau. Partnerships between whānau and the school focus on providing parents with the knowledge and skills to support their children’s successful learning. A change in enrolment processes to capture whānau goals and aspirations for their children, plus an investment in liaison people to gather community voice are other initiatives that are supporting engagement. These strategies are creating a shift in ownership, with increased collective responsibility for the raising of Māori student achievement.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is very well placed to sustain its current good practices and continue to grow its performance.

There is cohesion and alignment across areas of the school. The work of the board and senior leaders is well coordinated through the school’s strategic and operational planning process. A sense of collectiveness and collaboration allows the school to work on meaningful change and supports the sustainability of successful initiatives.

The board provides effective governance. Decision-making is well informed and inclusive and has a focus on improving outcomes for all students. Trustees contribute to and support school activities. They have good working relationships with school management and the community. There are good systems in place to ensure school accountabilities are met.

School leadership is highly effective. The principal and senior leaders clearly articulate the school’s teaching and learning model, ensuring that it is very evident in practice. Team leaders and curriculum focus leaders skilfully lead the improvement of classroom programmes. There is a focus on growing leadership capacity at all levels. A spirit of leadership is also nurtured in students through many meaningful opportunities. Students of all ages see themselves as leaders.

Self review is used well to support ongoing improvements and to meet and respond to the diverse expectations of the community. Self-review processes are robust and include the opinions of different groups of people, including students.

The board and school leaders build networks with other schools, and make good use of external advice and sound educational research to support improved outcomes for all students. The board continues to seek effective ways to connect with the changing diversity of groups in the school’s community.

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 was one international student 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.

Standards of education, pastoral support and access to English language tuition are of a very good standard. International students enjoy many opportunities to participate in school activities.

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.


Willowbank School promotes student learning very effectively. Students benefit from a broad, relevant and well delivered curriculum. Students are highly engaged in the learning process and are supported well to be successful and independent learners. A spirit of leadership is nurtured in students.

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

Graham Randell
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

29 July 2015

School Statistics


Dannemora, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys      50%
Girls       50%

Ethnic composition

Middle Eastern
Pacific Nations
other European
other ethnicities


Review team on site

June 2015

Date of this report

29 July 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

December 2010
May 2007
September 2003