Kaihu Valley School

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Education institution number:
School type:
Full Primary
School gender:
Not Applicable
Total roll:

Maropiu Road, Dargaville

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School Context

Kaihu Valley School All 16 students are Māori. The local Maori community and marae affiliate to Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara and/or Te Roroa hapū. The school manages a fluctuating roll.provides education for students in Years 1 to 8 in a small rural community north of Dargaville.

The board’s vision is to create “a place where the dreams of our students are our focus and are achieved with the support of the whole community”. The school values, as poutokomanawa, are underpinned by cultural concepts and promote whakawhanaungatanga, manaakitanga, ūkaipōtanga and kaitiakitanga.

Current achievement targets focus on lifting the achievement of all learners in reading, writing and mathematics. The principal regularly reports to the board on these priority areas.

Since the 2015 ERO review a new principal has been appointed and the school has joined the Northern Wairoa Community of Learning|Kāhui Ako.

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?

Since the 2015 ERO report, the school has continued to improve processes that support learners to achieve equitable and excellent outcomes.

Due to the small number of students and a fluctuating roll it is difficult to reliably identify trends and patterns in achievement data. The 2018 mid-year school achievement information shows that most students achieve at or above The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) levels in literacy and mathematics. Most children make progress and some make accelerated progress.

The board’s valued outcomes for students are highly evident in the school’s positive learning culture. Students know each other well and value the tuakana/teina relationships that they have with other students. They have a strong sense of place and belonging.

Whānau report that the school’s inclusive environment is highly responsive to children’s social, emotional and learning needs.

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

The school continues to build its capability to accelerate the learning of those students who need to make accelerated progress. For example:

  • the board sets specific targets to lift literacy and mathematics achievement

  • staff promote powerful learning connections and relationships with whānau.

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?

Intergenerational whānau relationships and the school’s history foster a deep shared commitment to the community and the school. The board and whānau have strong connections with local marae and hapū.

The curriculum’s focus on building students’ knowledge of local contexts helps strengthen their sense of identity, and connection with Kaihu Valley. Authentic learning experiences outside the classroom maintain the school’s commitment to environmental sustainability and provide opportunities for students to experience a broad curriculum. This is a sound foundation for further developing the responsiveness of the school’s curriculum.

The board’s focus is on improving outcomes for students and enacting the school’s vision and values. Together, trustees work well to represent and actively serve the school and education community. The board prioritises resourcing for individual learners who need additional support.

Teachers have a strong focus on knowing the learner and responding to their social, emotional and academic strengths and needs. Students are supported by whānau who volunteer their time to provide additional learning support for individuals and groups of students. The school values the relationships and connections they have with whānau.

The principal fosters a collaborative and supportive school culture that promotes children’s learning and wellbeing. She encourages community kōrero and engagement with the school through regular hui. Community ideas and opinions contribute to school review and development.

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

The principal notes that the school’s curriculum continues to evolve and that there is progress towards strengthening:

  • the implementation of schoolwide strategies to further promote students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills

  • opportunities for students to lead their own learning.

The principal regularly documents individual education plans for each child. To make better use of these plans teachers could include students and whānau when developing and evaluating them. This process could help students to increase their own understanding of their learning and their next steps, and further develop learning-centred partnerships with parents and whānau.

The board and teachers have yet to develop internal evaluation and professional inquiry processes. It would be useful to explore current educational research to help the school to develop evaluation and inquiry, and improve the appraisal process. These developments could assist the principal to gain a better understanding of what works and makes the most positive difference for learners.

The principal recognises the need to have effective professional conversations about ‘teaching as inquiry’. Accessing support from external facilitators could support the teaching staff to develop focused inquiry to help them enhance teaching practices.

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.

Appraisal audit

The principal acknowledges that it is timely for her to seek professional learning and development regarding recent changes to the Educational Council requirements and standards that impact on aspects of appraisal including the collection of evidence. The principal has yet to appraise support staff.

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

  • review its processes for documenting complaints, and meetings when the public is excluded

  • ensure that school appraisal processes meet Education Council requirements

  • seek external support to help keep well-informed about new legislation and undertake regular review of policies in relation to legal requirements including the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • the ongoing and collective commitment of the board and staff to enacting the school’s vision and values

  • leadership that creates an environment that focuses on children’s social, emotional and learning needs

  • children who know each other well and value the tuakana/teina relationships in the school

  • proud whānau who value the strong intergenerational connections with the school and its continued support for their children.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are to:

  • continue developing a culturally responsive curriculum, which includes a variety of teaching strategies that engage students and encourage them to be leaders of their own learning

  • develop and document internal evaluation and inquiry processes that will help the board, leaders and teachers to measure the impact the curriculum has on outcomes for learners.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Violet Tu’uga Stevenson

Director Review and Improvement Services

Te Tai Raki - Northern Region

13 September 2018

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 10 Boys 6

Ethnic composition



Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

August 2018

Date of this report

13 September 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

October 2015
December 2012
June 2009

1 Context

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

Kaihu Valley School serves a small rural community north of Dargaville, including four marae communities that are affiliated with Ngāti Whatua or Te Roroa hapū and whānau. The school roll has fluctuated, and currently stands at 20. Nearly all of the children are Māori. The school is well supported and valued by whānau, including those who are new to the community.

The school is going through a period of uncertainty and ongoing change. The board of trustees has made very good use of guidance from the New Zealand School Trustees’ Association (NZSTA). This has helped the board to address significant staffing and financial challenges over the past 18 months. A relieving principal has led the school since July 2014. The board expects to appoint a new principal before the end of 2015. A new part-time teacher has recently been appointed to assist the principal.

Children’s learning and whānau wellbeing are supported by variety of agencies and initiatives, including Duffy Books, a free monthly medical clinic for the community (Te Ha), and community classes for adults. The community supports a koha based second-hand shop that has been established at the school. Whānau appreciate food that is made available through external organisations.

A local grazier helps to maintain the school’s extensive grounds. The sports fields and swimming pool enable the school to host inter-school events. The Puna Reo that had been operating in a school classroom has recently been discontinued as a result of low numbers.

Previous ERO reports have recognised the culturally responsive environment in the school and the good strategies for supporting children’s learning. The 2012 report recommended improving reporting against the National Standards, increasing children's understanding about the learning process, and improving the teacher appraisal processes. ERO also identified the need to police vet all employees and improve risk analysis documentation for trips. Some improvements have been made in these areas.

2 Learning

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

The relieving principal uses achievement information very well. A variety of assessment processes enable her to identify and monitor individual students’ learning needs, progress and achievement. Information is analysed and presented clearly in reports to the board, whānau and the community.

Children’s engagement with, and enjoyment of, learning is apparent in the classroom. The settled tone in the classroom is based on well established routines and expectations, and results in children having positive attitudes to learning. Children support each other to learn, and can work independently. Their oral language development is well promoted and they are increasingly confident to present their work to the class and visiting adults.

A Resource Teacher, Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) helps to identify and focus support for specific children. Teaching strategies are targeted appropriately and some children have made accelerated progress in their learning. Steady improvement has been achieved in numeracy and students are making some significant gains in reading. About two-thirds of the children are achieving at or above the National Standards.

Children are developing better knowledge about their progress and achievement levels. They set and monitor progress against their own learning goals. This information is included in reports to their whānau. These reports provide information about children’s progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards and across the curriculum. They also indicate how whānau can support learning at home.

Whānau are welcome in the school and report that they now feel much more able to talk freely with the teacher about their children’s learning. Whanaungatanga is promoted and there is a growing sense of connectedness, inclusion and belonging. Children’s positive, happy playground interactions and social relationships are evidence of this.

3 Curriculum

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

The relieving principal has made good progress ensuring that all children have equitable opportunities to learn. She has established a useful framework for the delivery and monitoring of a broad curriculum. This new approach has been introduced gradually, alongside a focus on establishing trusting relationships with children, a positive atmosphere, and open communications in the classroom.

Curriculum plans provide clear guidance for teaching. They also contain expectations in relation to the National Standards for the broad range of abilities in the school's single, mixed-age classroom. There is a focus on literacy, mathematics and regular physical activity. Children also have increased opportunities in art, music, science and technology. Digital technologies (ICT) are used by children as part of the everyday curriculum. This use of ICT is helping to remove the boundaries of rural isolation for children and provides extra depth to topics of study, particularly for older students.

Curriculum planning includes opportunities for extended learning outside the school and events with other local schools. A newly recruited community member tutors kapa haka and is building children’s understanding of te reo me ōna tikanga Māori, as well as of the local history and environment. A planned classroom programme for increasing children’s knowledge and use of te reo Māori has not yet been implemented.

The relieving principal notes that developing children’s inquiry learning skills is a future priority. She has also identified the need for a new principal to review the school-wide curriculum, based on the school’s values, vision and local context.

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

The board has a clear focus on providing an environment where children’s identity and success as Māori are fostered. The school’s mission statement makes a direct connection between children’s identity and the gifts handed down from their tupuna. The board and whānau could now review school practices, policies and systems to ensure they reflect this commitment and the associated values identified in the Charter.

The board, principal and staff could also review school policies and practices in relation to the principles and strategies identified in the Ministry of Education documents, Ka Hikitia and Tātaiako. This review would help them to identify further ways to enrich learning opportunities and promote successful outcomes for tamariki Māori.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The board of trustees has been conscientious and remained highly committed to the community and children through a difficult time. Trustees have increased their understanding about their role and built their capacity to do what is required for the benefit of the school. An additional trustee, who is experienced in school governance, has recently been appointed. There is a positive tone and sense of potential in the school, as well as a clearer awareness of expectations for effective school operation and high quality provision for children.

The relieving principal has worked effectively with the board and whānau. This has resulted in establishing relationships and practices that provide a model for successful partnership and a sound basis for ongoing improvements in the school. The board is in a good position to ensure that governance and management practices are sustained, and further developed. Current systems should help the board to continue monitoring the effectiveness of the curriculum in promoting educational success for children.

The board and relieving principal have made significant progress in ensuring that the school provides a positive physical and emotional environment for children and their whānau. Whānau appreciate the culture of greater collaboration and openness that the board and principal have created. As a result, children enjoy coming to school and whānau are comfortable spending time at the school.

Communications with whānau focus on children’s learning and promote a sense of optimism for the community. Whānau have appreciated receiving information about the school’s strategic plans and are keen to be involved in future planning discussions. Recent opportunities for whānau to contribute to school decisions, and very good whānau contribution to ERO’s review, show the improved sense of partnership between whānau and the school.

The board’s strategic plan identifies relevant goals and provides a sound basis for moving forward. A detailed annual plan is regularly monitored. A board work plan supports this framework for the ongoing review of school operations and development. The board has already planned to develop a longer term plan and to review the school’s vision, values, goals and priorities with the community and new principal.

The board and principal could consider using ERO’s publication, Wellbeing for Success, to help them regularly evaluate provision for wellbeing in the school. This review would help them to build on recently improved provision for children’s emotional and physical safety.

The board plans to continue working alongside NZSTA to:

  • appoint a new school principal and to carefully consider and plan for the period of transition
  • establish a robust policy framework to guide school operations
  • strengthen processes for regular self review, so that the board can be assured that the school is meeting its legal obligations, and to help identify areas for further school improvement.

Many of the good systems and practices in the school are recent and require further development. There remains a sense of uncertainty pending the appointment of a permanent principal. However, the board is committed to ongoing development with the support of NZSTA and the Ministry of Education.

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 practices, the board should ensure that:

  • the principal’s performance is formally appraised each year in relation to the performance agreement and in accordance with Education Council requirements
  • parents/whānau receive reports about their children’s progress in relation to the National Standards after one and two years at school
  • there is a staff member on site at all times who holds a first aid qualification
  • health and safety policies and procedures, including child protection, guidance for positive social interactions, cyber-safety and emergency procedures, are up to date and well understood by all staff on site
  • there are clear guidelines that restrict access to minutes of in-committee board meetings.

Recommendations to other agencies

ERO recommends that the Ministry of Education and NZSTA continue supporting the board to consolidate and continue developing recently introduced governance and management systems and practices, and during the transition to new school leadership.


The board and relieving principal have made significant progress improving the school culture and environment for learning. There is a strong sense of whānau and students enjoy being at school. With ongoing support, the board is well placed to manage the transition to a new principal and to promote continued improvement.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

9 October 2015

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 12

Girls 8

Ethnic composition

Māori 19

Pākehā 1

Review team on site

August 2015

Date of this report

9 October 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review December 2012

Education Review June 2009

Education Review September 2007