Whangarei Heads School

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Whangarei Heads School has a roll of 108 children, including eight percent who identify as Māori. Low numbers of British and Irish children and other ethnic groups also attend the school.

A new principal appointed in 2015 leads an experienced senior leadership team. The team continues to focus on developing high quality teaching practices that support children who are at risk of not achieving the National Standards. Since ERO’s 2014 evaluation, new trustees have joined the board, which is led by a long-serving board chair.

The school has sustained good levels of children’s achievement in relation to the National Standards over the last three years. Valued outcomes for children are targeted in the school’s strategic planning, professional development for teachers, and the involvement of parents in their children’s learning.

Whangarei Heads School is a member of the recently formed Ngā Kura mo te ako o Whangarei Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako – (Group 2).

How well is the school achieving equitable outcomes for all children?

Whangarei Heads School responds well to children whose learning and achievement needs acceleration.

Collaborative leadership and teaching approaches to support child-centred learning continue to be developed. This collaboration is building leaders’ and teachers’ professional capability and collective capacity to accelerate children’s progress.

The learning environment is characterised by the school’s values: ‘belonging, responsibility, creativity and achievement’. Children enact these values by participating in group-based learning activities where they draw on individual strengths to complete group tasks.

Senior leaders are focused on promoting child-led inquiry learning with an emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving. This has resulted in further opportunities for children to take greater ownership of their learning.

Children are achieving well. The school demonstrates strong progress toward achieving equity in educational outcomes, supported by effective, sustainable processes and practices.

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

Equity and excellence

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

The school responds well to children whose learning and achievement needs acceleration. Teachers and leaders are addressing a slight disparity for boys in writing achievement, through a targeted acceleration focus.

Senior leaders and teachers know the priority learners 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 the needs of children, 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 and evaluating the effectiveness of strategies to accelerate priority learners’ progress.

Children’s progress and achievement is well analysed, monitored, and regularly reported to the board. Effective school-wide moderation helps teachers to make dependable judgements about children’s achievement in relation to the National Standards.

Leaders and teachers have been working together to build expertise in the teaching of writing through the Accelerated Literacy Learning (ALL) programme. They set timeframes with key benchmark points to closely monitor children’s progress. Rigorous, flexible, responsive planning and targeted teaching is resulting in accelerated learning progress.

School conditions supporting equity and excellence

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

The school processes are effective in supporting equity and excellence for children. Leaders and teachers share pride in the school’s vision ‘Our Place to Grow and Learn’ through mahi ngātahi, manaakitanga and whanaungatanga.

Teachers are reflective practitioners and they follow an inquiry cycle of teaching. They use assessment data to review the impact of their teaching on children’s progress, and then change teaching practice to better support children’s learning.

Teachers encourage children to be self-managing, reflective learners. Children identify their own learning needs, and use self-assessment skills and criteria to evaluate their own and others’ work. Children can apply these skills when working independently or in groups. They have opportunities to talk about and critique what they are learning and how they are learning.

Teachers scaffold and set strategies for children’s skills and learning. They gain information about children’s progress through observations, engagement and assessment moderation. Teachers give children regular feedback about what they have mastered and what they should focus on next. Children with additional learning needs are included in classroom teaching during literacy time. This practice is beneficial for these learners and for the rest of the class.

Children learn in stimulating, inclusive environments. Curriculum contexts are meaningful and linked to real life inside and outside of the classroom. Children are enabled to follow their own interests in the context of their learning. This has had a positive impact on their ability to see themselves as successful writers. Children are able to recognise and articulate what a good writer does and what their next steps should be. This is promoting children’s agency to lead their own learning.

Teachers develop partnerships with parents and some whānau to support their children’s learning. Parents collaborate with their child and teacher in planning the child’s next learning steps. Teachers support and guide them by providing them with strategies to continue their child’s learning at home through daily notebooks or parent evenings and three way conferencing where aspects of the school’s learning programmes or assessment processes are shared.

Sustainable development for equity and excellence

What further developments are needed in school processes to achieve equity and excellence?

The school has made progress towards promoting bicultural school practices through pōwhiri, kapa haka and a te reo Māori programme. However, further development is required to enable the achievement of equity and excellence for Māori children and others. This development could include the board and senior leaders:

  • reviewing the school’s charter using the Hautū evaluation tool

  • ensuring the school’s vision, mission, and values are relevant to Māori learners, reflecting their language and culture

  • strengthening partnerships with whānau Māori and the local Māori community.

Senior leaders should continue developing a culturally responsive curriculum that acknowledges the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This would enable all children to learn about te reo Māori me ōna tikanga and the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand.

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

  • 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 has set out a clear process for teachers to gather evidence relating to the Education Council requirements. The principal acknowledges that appraisals should be more individualised, and monitored on an ongoing basis. Professional development could help teachers’ shared understanding of the appraisal process and expectations for effective teaching.

Going forward

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

Children are achieving well. The school demonstrates strong progress toward achieving equity in educational outcomes, supported by effective, sustainable processes and practices.

Agreed next steps are to continue developing:

  • children’s ‘agency’ by ensuring that children understand their achievement and next learning steps

  • partnerships with whānau Māori and the Māori community

  • curriculum and programmes that recognise and respond to children’s languages and cultures

  • collaborative teaching and learning practices.

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

Violet Tu’uga Stevenson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

7 September 2017

About the school 



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 57%

Girls 43%

Ethnic composition

Māori 8%

Pākehā 76%

British/Irish 10%

Other 6%

Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

June 2017

Date of this report

7 September 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review May 2014
Education Review February 2010
Education Review June 2007

1 Context

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

Whangarei Heads School sits beneath Mt Manaia, overlooking the Whangarei Harbour. The school provides good quality education for students from Years 1 to 8. It has a long history of providing education in the district. Students and families are proud of the school and its long-standing and inter-generational connections with the community. Students are predominantly Pākehā, with a small number of Māori students.

The board ensures the school environment is attractive and well maintained. The school’s vision and values underpin the positive tone of the school and support student wellbeing. The board of trustees and staff promote a safe learning environment.

The board has responded positively to the recommendations of the 2010 ERO report. The many noteworthy features identified in that report have been maintained.

2 Learning

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

The school has developed useful processes that help teachers to use achievement information and make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. Students enjoy learning. Teachers interact with students in positive and respectful ways. Teachers use responsive teaching practices to promote student-centred learning and develop students’ emerging interests.

School achievement data shows that most children, including Māori students, achieve well in relation to the National Standards. Students make expected progress over time and some children make accelerated progress in reading, especially those who participate in learning support programmes. The board and staff are continuing to improve and clarify their reporting to parents on students' achievement in relation to the National Standards.

Achievement information is shared with students and they are becoming increasingly confident to talk about their learning. Students’ learning journals are a rich record of their work and are used to complement formal reporting to parents. Students are setting their own goals in discussion with their parents and teachers. Students are increasingly leading these discussions.

The board receives good information about students’ progress in relation to the National Standards and the New Zealand Curriculum. Trustees use this information to set relevant achievement targets that are focused on improvement.

The school identifies its priority learners and appropriate strategies are used to help these students to accelerate their learning. Strategies include those aimed at supporting student wellbeing.

School leaders have identified the importance of having regular professional learning conversations with teachers that:

  • focus on looking at outcomes for students and on critiquing the effectiveness of strategies used to provide targeted teaching for students who need specific support or extension
  • help teachers to extend the teaching strategies they are using to enhance students’ ownership of their learning
  • strengthen moderation processes used to make overall judgements about student progress and achievement.

3 Curriculum

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

Whangarei Heads School’s curriculum promotes and supports student learning and engagement effectively. Students are confident and capable learners who are positive about their school. They enjoy positive interactions with each other and their teachers. An inclusive culture is promoted that supports student wellbeing. Students know each other well and help each other within tuakana (older) and teina (younger) relationships. Individual difference is valued and accepted.

Students value and appreciate the range of meaningful and authentic learning experiences in which they can enjoy success. Student leadership opportunities enable students to be role models, lead assemblies and participate in mentoring programmes.

Positive features of the school’s curriculum are:

  • teaching programmes that make good use of local contexts and the rich resources surrounding the school
  • approaches that build on students’ interests, extend their thinking and inquiry, and allow them to direct their learning
  • students accessing information and communication technologies (ICT) to support their learning
  • parent volunteers and members of the wider community contributing to the curriculum.

The board have recently set up a modern learning environment to promote self-directed learning for students in Years 7 and 8. Trustees recognise the importance of students making decisions about their learning as a basis for fostering their interest in, and enthusiasm for, extending learning.

A notable feature of the school’s curriculum is the cross-curricular environmental education programme that encourages and values kaitiakitanga (guardianship of local resources). Students know their role in looking after the local environment.

The principal believes it is timely to review the school’s health and physical education curriculum to reflect current initiatives being used to support student wellbeing. This could include reviewing related policies and procedures. The board also acknowledges the need to review the questions they ask when consulting with parents and whānau about health and physical education programmes. Using current research about student wellbeing should help the board with this review.

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

The school has some initiatives in place that positively promote educational success for Māori, as Māori.

Māori students report that they feel valued and safe at school. They have positive relationships with their teachers, participate well in the life of the school and enjoy opportunities for leadership, including those connected to school pōwhiri and kapa haka.

Parents of Māori students are supportive of the school. The principal and board acknowledge the importance of establishing a Whānau Māori parent group to further promote educational success for Māori, as Māori within the curriculum. Actions to support this initiative could include:

  • discussing current research about promoting Māori students’ language, identity and culture with the board and teachers
  • reviewing the school-wide te reo Māori programme to ensure there is a progression of language learning within the programme
  • investigating local iwi education plans that promote Ngāti Waitanga.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The board is well placed to sustain and improve school performance. Trustees have participated in some training to support them with their governance role and have a good understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Experienced trustees provide very good support to newer board members. Board decision-making focuses on improving student outcomes based on good quality information.

The experienced principal uses good processes to develop leadership capability within the school. She identifies strengths in staff, parents and members of the community and ensures this expertise is used well. This approach values the contributions of others and fosters the skills and talents people have.

Professional learning and development is having a positive impact on teaching and learning programmes. The principal meets with a cluster of local school principals who are focused on raising student achievement, especially in writing. This collaborative approach is strengthening professional dialogue within the cluster group.

Staff participate in local networks and training that build their capability and are focused on positive outcomes for students. Teachers are committed to new learning and participate in professional conversations at school that enable them to reflect on and critique their practice. This recently introduced aspect of professional practice continues to develop and enables teachers to inquire more deeply into how they can improve outcomes for students.

Parents and the community have high expectations of the school. They appreciate that leaders and teachers are approachable and enjoy reciprocal relationships with them. The board consults regularly with the community.

The board and staff use self review to identify areas for development. To enhance this work, reviews could identify actions that focus on improving student progress and achievement.

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.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

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

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services

Northern Region

16 May 2014

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 53%

Boys 47%

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā



other European






Special Features

Community library and art facility

Review team on site

February 2014

Date of this report

16 May 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

February 2010

June 2007

April 2004