Ruakaka School

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

12 Sandford Road, Ruakaka

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School Context

Ruakaka School caters for students from Years 1 to 6. The roll of 273 includes 54 percent Māori and smaller groups of children from a variety of other ethnic backgrounds. Over 28 percent of the children enrolled have additional learning needs.

The school’s strategic goals prioritise people, community, environment and culture. Ka aroha tātou ki te ako tahi, we love to learn together, is at the heart of Ruakaka School. Students are invited to live the acronym SHINE; a student Shows respect, is Helpful, Inclusive, Never gives up, and is an Environmental guardian.

The school has had significant building and redevelopment since the last review and more is imminent as the roll continues to grow. Development includes the school’s te reo bilingual unit Te Whānau Harakeke. This unit currently has four classes, one of which is a full immersion class. Its curriculum is guided by the principles of Te Marautanga. All students are assessed against the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC).

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

  • reading, writing and mathematics in relation to NZC levels
  • progress and achievement of children in Te Whānau Harakeke
  • progress in relation to the schoolwide goal for te reo Māori
  • outcomes for children with additional learning needs
  • attendance, student engagement and wellbeing.

Teachers continue to engage in whole school professional development. This includes PB4L (positive behaviour for learning) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) with the Bream Bay 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?

The school is making very good progress in achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for students.

School information shows most students achieve at or above expected NZC levels in reading, a large majority in mathematics, and a small majority in writing. Māori students and students with Pacific heritage achieve at the same level as their peers. School data show that students in Te Whānau Harakeke also make significant progress during their time at the school and most achieve well.

As a result of the school’s commitment to bicultural education, and leadership from Te Whānau Harakeke, all students are familiar and are developing capability with te reo o Ngāpuhi Patuharakeke. They know about tikanga for Takahiwai marae.

Students achieve very well in relation to other valued outcomes, consistently demonstrating the five key competencies identified in the NZC. They also demonstrate school values that support positive interactions with others. Children have fun, are caring and friendly, show pride in their school, and are well supported and cared for by staff.

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

There is good evidence that the school is successfully accelerating Māori students’ progress, and that of the substantial number of students with additional needs who attend the school.

Leaders and teachers identify students who need accelerated learning in reading, writing and mathematics. These children’s progress is carefully tracked and monitored. Strategies for promoting and accelerating learning are regularly reviewed to ensure that they are responsive to individual students’ needs. As a result, data show that learning is accelerated for the majority of these students.

The school’s belief is that inclusivity and children’s wellbeing are an essential focus for all decision making. Goals for the large group of students with additional learning needs are regularly reviewed and new plans are developed. For many of these learners, social and familial outcomes are paramount. Responsibility for their learning is shared across the school community and all students benefit from this engagement.

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?

The board of trustees has developed a sound strategic plan. Trustees consult widely, identify areas of community importance, and initiate changes in their policy framework to refresh school practices. The board is unified in its approach to representing and serving the school and community. The school’s annual plan identifies milestones, initiatives, resourcing and areas of responsibility. The board receives very good information from the principal about student progress and achievement that informs their strategic resourcing decisions and ensures that the school meets the diverse needs of all learners.

The school has capable, professional leadership, characterised by collaborative decision making that exemplifies a high trust model. There is collective responsibility for learners with additional learning needs and learners who need to make accelerated progress. Parents are well informed about their children’s learning and how to support their progress. The school’s individualised teacher appraisal and mentoring approaches are effective. They help to maintain curriculum expectations and grow teachers’ capability.

Teachers know children well as individuals and as learners, and have high levels of awareness of their capabilities and needs. Children experience an extensive and innovative curriculum that engages them and contributes to their success and achievement. Teachers create interesting opportunities for physical challenge and problem solving that foster creative thinking and a love of learning. Children make links in their learning to real world contexts through inquiry and experience-based learning.

Deliberate leadership ensures that bicultural practices are embedded and integrated into the life of the school. Tikanga Māori is part of regular school operations. All students and staff engage in bicultural practices as part of an inclusive school community. Māori children experience success as Māori and all children learn about the bicultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand. The school’s longstanding relationship with Takahiwai marae gives it a wide range of resources to support a broad curriculum, including environmental education and te reo Māori for all students.

The school has active relationships with parents, whānau and the community. Communications support reciprocal learning-centred relationships effectively. Leaders’ and teachers’ engagement with parents results in high levels of community involvement in children’s learning programmes and the life of the school.

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

Leaders recognise that more explicitly identifying expected outcomes for each strategic goal and reporting evaluatively against these would be helpful for the board in evaluating the effectiveness of its governance 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 Children’s Act 2014.

4 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of Ruakaka School’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Strong.

ERO’s Framework: Overall School Performance is available on ERO’s website.

5 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • steadfast leadership that guides and supports rich and varied learning experiences for all children
  • commitment from teachers and support staff to improving their practices and learning outcomes for all children
  • learning partnerships with parents that promote children’s enthusiasm for life-long learning.

Next steps

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

  • continuing to strengthen the effective processes already in place including the board’s evaluation of its overall effectiveness.

Steve Tanner

Director Review and Improvement Services Northern

Northern Region

11 December 2019

About the school


Ruakaka, Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number


School type


School roll


Gender composition

Girls 55% Boys 45%

Ethnic composition

Māori 54%
NZ European/Pākehā 39%
other ethnic groups 7%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Number of Māori medium classes


Total number of students in Māori medium (MME)


Total number of students in Māori language in English medium (MLE)


Number of students in Level 1 MME


Number of students in Level 2 MME


Review team on site

August 2019

Date of this report

11 December 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review June 2016
Education Review June 2013
Education Review August 2010

1 Context

Ruakaka School is located within the Bream Bay area, Northland. The school caters for students from Years 1 to 6, and is currently experiencing roll growth. It is becoming more culturally diverse, with growing numbers of Māori students and a small number of students from Pacific, Asian and European nations. Some of these students receive support to learn English as part of their learning. The school caters for increasing numbers of children with special education needs both within mainstream classrooms, and in The Sanctuary, a high sensory learning space dedicated to this group of learners.

The school sits on the boundary of four iwi: Ngā Puhi, Ngati Wai, Ngati Whatua and Patuharakeke. It has strong connections with the local Takahiwai Marae and follows Ngati Wai kawa. Working closely with Ngati Wai, the school has opened two bilingual classes since the 2013 ERO review. One class caters for older students in Years 4, 5 and 6 and the other class is for students in Years 2 and 3.

The principal is experienced and has led the school for more than 10 years. She is supported by a good mix of long-serving and newer staff, including teachers and teacher aides. The board of trustees is supportive of the school and includes trustees who whakapapa to Takahiwai Marae.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes for all learners in this school community are reflected in its mission statement of permission to shine and in its vision of providing children with a learning environment that promotes innovation and creativity, where everyone pursues excellence, and becomes their own navigator in all areas.

The school's whakatauki, Ka aroha tātou ki te ako tahi: we love to learn together, further exemplifies the values and principles the school seeks to promote.

The school's achievement information shows that many children achieve at and above the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Children who remain at Ruakaka School from Years 1 to 6 make good progress and achieve very well in relation to the National Standards.

The school's data also shows small but continuing declines in its overall levels of achievement in National Standards for reading, writing and mathematics between 2012 to 2015. The school's roll growth is reflected in this schoolwide data. School leaders and teachers continue their work to accelerate the progress and achievement of all students, with emphasis on some Māori learners and boys in particular, to help address disparities in educational outcomes for some learners. These students include a number who have enrolled in recent years. Improving achievement in writing is a key focus, especially for Year 5 boys.

Since the 2013 ERO report teachers have participated in school wide professional learning to further improve their skills in accelerating student learning in mathematics and in literacy. Teachers and school leaders attribute the success of their efforts in improving and accelerating student achievement in writing and mathematics to this professional learning.

Teachers have also participated in externally facilitated professional learning in science, and teacher aides have led the use of computer-based literacy learning programmes throughout the school.

3 Accelerating achievement

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

The school responds very effectively to Māori children whose learning and achievement need acceleration. School leaders and staff are highly responsive to the increasing number of Māori students who arrive at various times during the year from different schools. Many of these students have experienced a number of school changes and have gaps in their learning. There is a strong sense of urgency in this area, with leaders and teachers working to ensure that student achievement information is increasingly accurate and valid.

This information is very well used to identify students' learning needs, and to design meaningful and individualised programmes aimed at accelerating progress and achievement. School leaders and teachers regularly evaluate the impact of specific and targeted learning programmes on the progress students make.

The school is highly responsive to whānau. The school's whānau liaison staff member, appointed in 2016 specifically to engage Māori parents and whānau, is having a positive impact in forging relationships with parents and caregivers and in providing support for children's learning and wellbeing. In 2015 the school received positive feedback from the Ministry of Education about its te reo Māori programmes.

The two bilingual class teachers lead the learning of te reo and tikanga, and ensure that school kawa is followed. More than half the school is involved in kapa haka, and students ably lead pōwhiri. The school day begins for all students and staff with complex karakia and himene. A teacher of te reo Māori, strategically appointed by the school for some years, also works to ensure that all students and staff outside of the bilingual classes learn very good quality te reo and tikanga. In 2015 the school received positive feedback from the Ministry of Education about its te reo Māori programmes.

These significant features of the school create a welcoming and positive environment for Māori students and their whānau, strengthening their sense of wellbeing and belonging, and promoting pride in their language, culture and identity.

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

The school responds very effectively to other children whose learning and achievement need acceleration, including students with special educational needs and an increasing number of children from other nations with English language learning needs.

School leaders promote the same sense of urgency about accelerating the learning and achievement of these learners as they do with Māori students. They use data effectively and seek to ensure that programmes and interventions are purposeful and have a significant impact on learning.

Leaders and teachers work closely with the parents of children with special educational needs and value their specialist expertise. Teachers also access specific professional learning when required to further support students' particular learning requirements.

The school's English language learning programmes support students very well to speak and learn in a new and/or different language. Teachers focus on the strengths students bring to their learning, including promoting the use of their home or first languages to support new language development.

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 priorities for equity and excellence?

The school promotes a welcoming and inclusive learning environment for children and their whānau. The principal and trustees work in partnership with whānau Māori and staff to enhance Māori student success, and to promote bicultural and bilingual learning opportunities for all children. Children take advantage of the various co-curricular opportunities available in sports, culture and the Arts, and in leadership. The school's values-focused curriculum helps children to be confident, selfmanaging learners.

The school's vision is strongly evident in the school's approach to curriculum design. Children and staff are encouraged to be innovative and take on challenges in their learning. In line with the school's whakatauki, teachers and school leaders work collaboratively to plan learning programmes that promote children's confidence, and that focus on their strengths, talents, interests and needs.

The curriculum provides children with very good opportunities to learn about and within their local area, and to experience innovation and real world problem solving. They especially enjoy increasingly rich learning in science. Teachers and teacher aides adapt learning programmes to the interests, strengths and needs of individual children.

Teachers' enthusiasm and energy engages and motivates children. They respond well to the high expectations teachers and staff have for their learning and behaviour. Older children especially have a very good understanding of their own learning and achievement, setting and evaluating their learning goals and next steps.

In line with the school's green-gold environmental status, the school's garden-to-table programme engages the whole school community and enhances children's learning and wellbeing. Children also benefit from significant physical activity, including safe cycling and swimming.

In partnership with senior leaders, staff and community, the principal provides effective professional leadership. She makes strategic staff appointments, and promotes good opportunities for teachers and staff to lead programmes and initiatives. She networks with other schools, leads school principal associations and accesses funding to support the vision for a constantly improving school. School leaders and teachers are solution-focused. They are reflective, and are constantly looking for ways to improve their practice and promote children's learning. Staff morale and parent engagement in the school is high.

The board of trustees are highly supportive of the school. They have a good understanding of their governance roles and responsibilities, and they receive good information about how well the school is managed. They connect well with the community and are currently planning for succession.

5 Going forward

How well placed is the school to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children?

The school is well placed to achieve and sustain equitable and excellent outcomes for all children.

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children who need their 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.

Trustees, school leaders and ERO agree that useful next steps for the school include:

  • strengthening the use of Te Marautanga and Nga Whanakitanga in designing the bilingual curriculum, and assessing and reporting student learning in panui, pangarau and tuhituhi
  • enhancing the use of te reo Māori throughout the mainstream curriculum, including connecting te reo Māori to the language of science, mathematics and other authentic curriculum concepts.

Trustees agree that they would benefit from professional learning in Hautu, the self-review tool designed by New Zealand School Trustees' Association (NZSTA) to build culturally responsive understandings among school boards. The board also recognises the importance of reviewing policies against practice, and in line with legislative changes.

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.

7 Recommendations

ERO recommends that the school continue to progress its well considered processes and practices for reducing disparity and promoting equity and excellence in outcomes for all children. 

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

21 June 2016

About the school


Ruakaka, Northland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 52% Girls 48%

Ethnic composition







Review team on site

March 2016

Date of this report

21 June 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2013

August 2010

December 2007