Totara Grove School

We maintain a regular review programme to evaluate and report on the education and care of young people in schools.

We are in the process of shifting from event-based external reviews to supporting each school in a process of continuous improvement.

There may be delays between reviews for some schools and kura due to Covid-19 and while we transition to our new way of reviewing.

Read more about our new processes and why we changed the way we review schools and kura.

Find out which schools have upcoming reviews.

School Context

Totara Grove School in Whangarei, caters for 324 children from Years 1 to 6. Māori children make up 71 percent of the roll, and 4 percent are Pacific.

The school’s vision and mission are expressed as ‘Tupu Tahi’, children growing together, standing strong, and reaching high. The school’s goal is for children leaving the school to be confident, resilient, intelligent leaders and contributors to society, and achieving their potential academically, socially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. These aspirations are underpinned by the school’s values and guiding principles of ngā mātāpono – whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, ako and tū rangatira. Parents, teachers, and children understand and support these values.

Since ERO’s 2014 evaluation, the board has appointed a new principal, and there have been other changes to the leadership team. Staff have participated in professional learning relating to the teaching of reading and mathematics, to increase their capability to make positive changes for children.

Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board, schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • achievement in reading, writing and mathematics
  • progress in relation to the school’s targets
  • other valued outcomes in relation to ngā mātāpono, as defined by the school.

Totara Grove School is a member of the Ngā Kura mo te ako o Whangarei (Raki Whangarei) Kāhui Ako Group 3.

Evaluation Findings

1 Equity and excellence – valued outcomes for students

1.1 How well is the school achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students?

The school is making progress towards achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all students.

School data show an upward trend in overall student achievement for reading, writing and mathematics. The school is working towards parity in achievement for Māori children and boys.

Students achieve very well in relation to other school valued outcomes. Most students:

  • demonstrate tū rangatira, confidence in themselves as learners

  • have a strong sense of turangawaewae in the school as their place of belonging

  • demonstrate the school values, whanaungatanga, manaakitanga and ako in their inclusion and acceptance of others, and in their everyday school life.

1.2 How effectively does this school respond to those Māori and other students whose learning and achievement need acceleration?

Totara Grove School is increasingly effective in responding to children whose learning progress needs acceleration. The board of trustees, leadership team, and staff prioritise equity and excellence for all children. They have a commitment to supporting Māori children to achieve success as Māori.

Senior leaders and teachers know the learners who are at risk of not achieving, and their learning strengths and needs. Targeted support is provided for these children. Teachers use a variety of assessment information to plan programmes that meet children’s needs, and to identify those who would benefit from additional support. Teachers, the special needs coordinator (SENCO), external experts, and parents are all involved in developing strategies, and evaluating their effectiveness, to accelerate priority learners’ progress.

Children’s progress and achievement is analysed, monitored, and regularly reported to the board. Schoolwide moderation helps teachers to make dependable judgements about children’s achievement in reading, writing and mathematics.

Leaders and teachers have been working together to build teaching expertise through the Accelerated Literacy Learning (ALL) and Accelerated Learning in Mathematics (ALiM) programmes.They set timeframes with key benchmarks to closely monitor priority children’s progress. These interventions promote collaborative approaches, and have impacted positively on literacy and mathematics learning.

2 School conditions for equity and excellence

2.1 What school processes and practices are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence?

The school has a strong emphasis on social skills, the school’s bicultural vision, and its values. These underpin the attributes and achievements sought for children. Children demonstrate a strong sense of ownership of the school’s vision and values. They show pride and confidence in their own cultural heritage, and the bicultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Whānau and parents strongly support and believe in the school. Close connections with whānau through hui and events enable families to participate in their children’s learning. Teachers discuss acceleration plans with whānau of priority learners. They use culturally responsive practices to foster children’s engagement in their learning.

Children benefit from many opportunities to learn collaboratively. This approach has helped children to develop skills and competencies for successful learning. It has supported inclusive practices and relational trust across all levels of the school community.

The school has sound governance. Trustees make strategic decisions that support equitable outcomes for children. The board is well informed, and reviews school performance against charter goals, targets and governance responsibilities.

The board and school leaders work collaboratively, and have a focus on best outcomes for students. Their collective commitment to building capacity supports a curriculum that increases the achievement of equitable outcomes for children.

The school has good quality leadership. Leaders continue to focus on developing high quality teaching and learning practices that make a difference for children who are at risk of not achieving.

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

The school has set relevant strategic goals for ongoing school development, including:

  • refining processes for monitoring and analysing target students’ progress

  • enhancing opportunities for students to make decisions about their learning

  • internal evaluation processes, to better identify strengths in the school’s performance and where improvements are needed.

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.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • the vision and values, and culturally responsive approaches enacted in the school, that support children’s confidence as learners

  • a professional leadership team that is focused on best practice in leading the school forward

  • positive relationships and partnerships across the school community, and a collective responsibility to improving student outcomes.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, development priorities are in:

  • reporting about outcomes for target children, to support strategic decisions about their learning needs

  • increasing students’ agency in decision making so they become leaders of their own learning

  • critical inquiry and internal evaluation that supports ongoing improvement.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

Te Tai Raki - Northern Region

13 December 2017

About the school

Location

Kamo, Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number

1028

School type

Contributing

School roll

324

Gender composition

Boys 52% Girls 48%

Ethnic composition

Māori
Pākehā
Pacific
other ethnicities

71%
22%
4%
3%

Provision of Māori medium education

No

Review team on site

November 2017

Date of this report

13 December 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

February 2015
October 2011
September 2007

Findings

Totara Grove School is highly inclusive and gives priority to student wellbeing. Most students achieve well in reading and mathematics. Teachers continue to focus on strengthening writing. The school offers a values-based curriculum that encourages positive social development through provision of programmes that are effective, challenging and stimulating for students.

1 Context

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

Totara Grove School is a primary school in Whangarei, Northland, that caters for children from Years 1 to 6. It is situated between the suburbs of Kamo and Tikipunga. Due to continuing roll growth the board of trustees has put an enrolment scheme in place since the last ERO review in 2011.

Seventy-three percent of the children attending the school are Māori. The school’s motto is 'Tupu Tahi – growing together', illustrating its bicultural focus on inclusion for all. The long serving principal and his team have firmly embedded a values-based education approach over several years.

The school’s culture is one where children and teachers work and learn together collaboratively. Participation in school life by families is a key priority and is actively promoted by school leaders, teachers and the board of trustees. The school is a community hub for parents and whānau. They report high levels of confidence in teachers’ commitment to their children’s learning and wellbeing.

ERO’s 2011 report identified many areas of good performance and made some recommendations for improvement. These included teachers using assessment approaches that would encourage their students to become more capable and responsible for their own learning goals. A second requirement was that reports to parents must be compliant with Ministry of Education expectations relating to National Standards. There has been some progress in both of these areas.

2 Learning

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

Most students are well engaged in classroom tasks and activities. Strong and affirming relationships with teachers and peers underpin children’s learning at all levels of the school.

School leaders and teachers use school achievement information well to track and analyse the learning progress of individual children. Priority students who need additional learning assistance are well served by the school’s systems.

A good proportion of students are achieving at or above the National Standard in reading and mathematics. Teachers are working intensively with students achieving below the standard in writing to lift performance school-wide. Improvement of children’s writing is a 2014 and 2015 charter target.

The school is assessing against National Standards and reporting this data to the board of trustees and to parents. However the format of the school reports does not make it clear to families where the children are performing in relation to the National Standards. Reports to parents also need to include a section on how parents can help their children to learn at home.

Students can talk confidently about some aspects of their learning. Teachers should continue to work with students to increase their understanding about the importance and benefits of taking more responsibility for achieving their learning goals and aspirations.

During the course of the review school leaders and ERO also identified a series of next steps for the school to further promote students’ learning through:

  • prioritising the acceleration of writing skills so that more children achieve at or above the National Standard expected for their age
  • providing a set of expectations for teachers to guide their practices for helping children to take more ownership of their individual learning
  • tracking and evaluating cohorts of children to show trends and patterns of progress and achievement over time
  • involving parents and whānau in learning partnerships that may help children to progress more quickly.

3 Curriculum

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

Totara Grove School’s curriculum is well aligned to the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). It is a values based curriculum that encourages positive social development in children. It is a responsive curriculum that allows children to follow their interests and passions and listens to their voice.

Within the curriculum there is emphasis on the importance of key competencies, such as participating and contributing. Co-operative and collaborative learning in classrooms helps to promote children’s wellbeing and their sense of belonging.

Teachers run well managed classrooms. Middle management leaders provide good leadership and role modelling for teachers in their syndicates. The junior school teachers blend elements of the early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, into their classroom programmes. This helps to promote smooth transitions for children into primary school learning when they enter school in Year 1.

Literacy and numeracy are appropriately prioritised in the curriculum as foundation learning areas. Other subject areas in NZC are positioned within the school’s integrated learning programme. This programme focuses on inquiry into various issues and events, allowing children to make choices and take ownership of their topics for study. Children also learn from a variety of curricular opportunities outside the classroom where authentic experiences add to their knowledge of their local surroundings and region.

High quality professional learning for teachers is a valued and essential part of strategic planning for the school’s development. The positive behaviour for learning (PB4L) initiative is an example of ways teachers are gaining new knowledge that is changing the school’s approaches for managing children’s behaviour.

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

The school community promotes educational success for Māori students as Māori very effectively. Māori children are the largest ethnic group within the school. The principal seeks appropriate advice from whānau and iwi. Perspectives and aspirations from the Māori community are listened to and formally documented by both the board of trustees and school leaders.

Leaders and teachers are currently pursuing their commitment to further develop te reo Māori to ensure that it is frequently used within the school. There is an increasing dimension of Te Ao Māori in curriculum planning and the school environment reflects a sense of turangawaewae for children.

Māori students are generally making good progress with their learning. They continue to achieve at a slightly lower level than other students in the school in relation to National Standards in reading and mathematics. Student progress in writing needs acceleration school-wide.

Whānaungatanga, manaakitanga and tuakana/teina are examples of embedded Māori values that enhance school processes and strengthen Māori children’s wellbeing.

The visible presence of Māori language, identity and culture in the school affirms Māori students and helps all children to develop an understanding of New Zealand’s bicultural heritage.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain its ongoing development and capability. There is a clear strategic plan in place to guide the board’s direction for the next three years. Reviewing progress against this plan at regular intervals would help to refine strategic direction further.

The principal has recently signalled his intention to resign and the board has put in place community consultation to enable families to have input into the appointment process for a new principal. The board values parent voice.

The board of trustees is supportive of school leaders and works productively with staff. The board chairperson is experienced and confident in her leadership role. Trustees bring varied community and business expertise to their governance responsibilities. Board resourcing decisions are firmly based in student learning needs.

During the course of the review ERO, school leaders and trustees agreed on the following next steps for the school’s ongoing development:

  • refining and making charter targets more specific to better identify and support particular groups of students who need to make accelerated progress with their learning
  • school leaders undertaking regular review of progress being made in relation to annual and strategic plan goals.

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 meet its legal obligation the board and school leaders must:

  • report in writing twice each year to students and their parents on students’ progress and achievement in relation to National Standards [National Administration Guidelines, 2A(a)].

Conclusion

Totara Grove School is highly inclusive and gives priority to student wellbeing. Most students achieve well in reading and mathematics. Teachers continue to focus on strengthening writing. The school offers a values-based curriculum that encourages positive social development through provision of programmes that are effective, challenging and stimulating for students.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Dale Bailey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

19 February 2015

About the School

Location

Kamo, Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number

1028

School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll

347

Gender composition

Girls 51%

Boys 49%

Ethnic composition

Māori

NZ European/Pākehā

Pacific

73%

21%

6%

Review team on site

December 2014

Date of this report

19 February 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

October 2011

September 2007

November 2004