Northern Health School

Education institution number:
School type:
Special School
School gender:
Regional Health School
Total roll:

Level 1 60 Khyber Pass Road, Grafton, Auckland

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Northern Health School - 20/09/2019

School Context

The Northern Health School (NHS) was established in 2000. Operating from an Auckland city base, NHS is one of three regional health schools in New Zealand. It supports students to continue their education when health-related challenges prevent them from attending their usual school. Students are supported at one of 15 satellite units, in hospital settings, or in their own homes. The school’s new mission, Te puna whakatipu/A place to grow and thrive, strongly reflects this context and purpose.

Students range in age from 5 to 19 years. The majority are dual-enrolled with their usual schools. Additional support from NHS may be for a few days or extend to a number of years. Team leaders, teachers and support staff liaise closely with health professionals and parents to enhance learner outcomes, overseen by a senior management team. The school also works closely with Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, the correspondence school, for additional NCEA senior secondary student support.

The Ministry of Education appoints board members with suitable experience and skills to uphold the special character of the school. Leaders and teachers regularly report to the board schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • mathematics, reading and writing assessments from Years 1 to 10
  • NCEA unit standard and achievement standard attainment for Years 11 to 13
  • transition goal information.

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 key goal of the school is to purposefully support students to transition back into regular schooling or further education and training when appropriate. They successfully achieve this for the majority of students.

Data also show that the school supports the majority of students to maintain their achievement levels in mathematics, reading and writing in relation to their results at their usual schools, despite key health challenges.

The varying health needs of individual students impacts on the length of their enrolment. This creates complexity in gathering and using data to determine patterns and trends in achievement.

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

Teachers provide personalised support for students to accelerate their progress via individualised learning plans (ILP). These foster sustained achievement for all students, including those who require extra support to accelerate learning.

ILPs identify specific goals for learning, with a focus on mathematics and English, and across other learning areas and relevant key competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum. They also identify goals for each student’s transition back to their regular schools or into tertiary study or career pathways outside of school. The achievement of ILP goals provides leaders with data to show how successfully students have been supported in learning and in their readiness to transition back to their usual schools.

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 NHS is one component of a wraparound structure of individualised support for each student. Leaders and teachers effectively liaise with students’ schools, medical professionals and local agencies. Staff can access extensive professional development to assist students to achieve their goals. Senior managers respond promptly to requests for additional support and resources.

Staff have a collective commitment to providing a learning-focused, caring and nurturing environment. A new curriculum leader has created a robust strategy to build quality practices in mathematics, as well as building professional networks for inquiry. Leaders plan to replicate this coherent structure and approach to build consistency in other areas of teaching and learning. They are also embedding digital platforms across the school that further support collaborative growth.

Designated leaders have researched, trialled and implemented project-based learning. They are prompting teams to share ideas and strategies to develop a more responsive and individualised curriculum. Projects particularly help initiate social interaction and hands-on activities for secondary-aged students involved in individual academic learning pathways. The school is exploring ways to foster key competencies through projects, and to develop formative and summative assessments.

Since the 2015 ERO review, local team-specific goals have been created to align with NHS charter goals. This provides leaders with opportunities to work deliberately with their team in strategic priority areas within their various settings and communities. Unit leaders and senior managers meet to reflect on these strategic priorities, prompting opportunities to guide and track progress in key areas. Purposeful collaboration supports a considered approach to leading change and improvement.

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

Leaders have received focused professional development that assists in growing and appraising their teams. Teachers are supported by a new digital platform to curate evidence of professional practice and to collaborate with peers. Their goals align to local and schoolwide charter goals. Managers appreciate the need to continue to build the new appraisal approach, including opportunities for appraisers to work together to increase consistency in the quality of feedback across the teams.

NHS has an ongoing strategic goal to develop understanding of culturally responsive practices. Leaders should consider how the school will work in partnership with whānau Māori on this key work. Leaders are working to clarify what culturally responsive practice looks like within each regional team and across the school as a whole. This will support them to evaluate the quality of practice and to plan a more defined and targeted response.

Wellbeing has been identified as a key priority. Managers are defining roles and responsibilities for leading this work. They should continue to clarify expectations for practice and establish systems for proactively monitoring and promoting wellbeing. A more planned and deliberate approach would also assist leaders to identify opportunities for training in an evidence-based and strategic way.

Annual curriculum targets are broadly based on a summative annual picture of student achievement in English and mathematics. Leaders could better use their scrutiny of data to focus on disparity in achievement. The board and managers should invest in strengthening internal evaluation at all levels of the NHS to determine how effectively the school is meeting the needs of its students. This should include deliberate opportunities to gain parent and student perspectives on the quality of provision.

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.

Areas for improved compliance practice

To improve current practice, the board of trustees should:

  • ensure that the principal is performance appraised annually
  • review and update policies and procedures in response to changing school practices and education guidelines
  • review and strengthen the complaints policy and procedures to ensure all complaints are resolved satisfactorily
  • regularly meet ‘in-committee’ to maintain the privacy of individuals.

4 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of Northern Health School, Auckland CBD’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Well placed.

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:

  • an embedded culture of care and respectful relationships
  • individualised and learner-focused curriculum plans
  • educationally powerful connections with other schools and support agencies
  • purposefully growing teams’ professional capability and shared practice to better support positive outcomes for learners.

Next steps

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

  • extending strategic leadership to grow sustainable systems and practices
  • purposefully using strategic evaluation to determine the consistency and effectiveness of practice at all levels, on outcomes for learners.

Steve Tanner

Director Review and Improvement Services Northern

Northern Region

20 September 2019

About the school


Auckland CBD

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Special School (Years 1-13)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 63% Boys 37%

Ethnic composition

Māori 23%
NZ European/Pākehā 65%
Pacific 6%
Asian 5%
other ethnic groups 1%

Special Features

School operates from multiple sites, with an Auckland-based administrative hub

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

June 2019

Date of this report

20 September 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review November 2015
Education Review September 2012
Education Review April 2009

Northern Health School - 26/11/2015


The Northern Health School provides effective education for students who are not attending their school of enrolment due to high health or wellbeing needs. Collaborative and skilled teachers provide personalised teaching and wellbeing support for students. The school is well managed and resourced by school leaders and an experienced board.

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

1 Context

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

The Northern Health School (NHS) provides education for students in Years 1 to 13 who are not attending regular school due to their high heath and/or wellbeing needs. Students come from diverse backgrounds across a wide geographical area. The school has continued to experience significant roll growth, particularly in Years 9 to 13.

The school is led and administered from Auckland. It caters for students from the central North Island to the Far North. Staff operate from hospital and community based units in Whangarei, Auckland, Thames, Hamilton, Tauranga, Whakatane, Rotorua, Gisborne, Taupo and New Plymouth. Eleven sites were visited as part of this review. Staff have developed strategic partnerships with a wide range of health and social agencies and medical professionals.

Students enter the NHS based on medical or specialist verification. They remain on the roll of their school of enrolment. While at NHS, students may complete school work provided by The Correspondence School, Te Kura. Many students have short term involvement with NHS, which aims to successfully transition students back to their school of enrolment when their wellness improves.

NHS teachers provide education programmes to students in hospitals, community support units, students’ homes and other suitable environments. Individual learning plans (ILPs) are developed with the students, whānau, medical teams, caregivers and the school of enrolment. A focus on transition to employment and tertiary education is often a focus for senior students.

The NHS mission statement is “through partnership and innovation we inspire and enrich quality continuous individualised learning”. This intention is clearly evident in the caring and compassionate ways that NHS teachers manage students’ learning. Learning and development opportunities for teachers are regular and relevant, purposefully meeting school and individual teacher goals.

2 Learning

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

The school is continuing to develop effective ways for leaders, teachers and trustees to use achievement information and improve outcomes for learners.

Teachers use achievement information meaningfully to inform Individual Learning Plans (ILPs). Students’ learning goals are becoming more specific and challenging. Teachers consult purposefully with students and their families to promote student engagement and success in learning.

ILP goals focus on helping students to develop self-belief as learners and optimism for their future. Students are well supported to develop as socially and emotionally confident leaners. Teachers provide effective support to promote student wellbeing and self-esteem. Careful monitoring shows that students make good progress towards meeting their personal goals.

Students make good progress in literacy and mathematics. They could make further use of their own achievement information to identify their next learning steps. Teachers are well placed to broaden the use of assessment in literacy and mathematics to help students extend their understanding of learning. New Ministry of Education (MoE) resources would support this work well.

Māori students achieve well in the senior school. They are known and supported effectively by teachers. Leaders and teachers are continuing to increase the challenge in Māori students’ learning goals to accelerate their success. Reviewing how well Māori students as a group progress and achieve across the school could help inform strategic goals and enable more specific target setting for these learners.

School information shows that many students who are enrolled by NHS in National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) make good progress towards achieving national qualifications. Carefully considered assessment choices enable senior students to access tertiary education and employment opportunities.

NHS is working closely with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to better evaluate the progress and achievement of students entered in NCEA through their school of enrolment. This will help leaders and teachers to evaluate the overall NCEA achievement outcomes for students who have received NHS support.

Students who are with NHS for longer periods of time develop a strong sense of belonging and connection that contributes to their learning success. Leaders could consider developing tools to evaluate the outcomes of their partnerships with students to see how much progress students make over time in their wellbeing and key learning skills.

Leaders work collaboratively and deliberatively to strengthen the use of the NHS data management system to assist with the review and reporting of student success. The board receives useful curriculum reports to inform strategic planning. It could now be useful for unit teams to use this strategic planning to identify unit-based goals that could be used as a basis for determining how successfully units have contributed to the achievement of school-wide performance.

3 Curriculum

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

The NHS curriculum promotes and supports student learning effectively. It is well aligned withThe New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) and includes a strong focus on promoting literacy and mathematics. High expectations and holistic approaches help students to engage in education.

Students clearly benefit from positive relationships with highly skilled leaders, teachers and support staff. Teachers promote learners’ independence and confidence. The community units provide settled and inclusive student-centred learning environments.

The curriculum is highly responsive. Programmes are flexible to meet students’ individual learning and wellbeing requirements. Students have many opportunities to make informed decisions about what they learn and how they learn. They have a variety of meaningful and relevant learning experiences.

Teaching programmes are effective and based on students’ individual strengths, talents and aspirations. They also promote and develop the NZC key competencies and affirm students’ effort, success and progress. Good use is made of Te Kura to extend and support students’ learning in specialist curriculum subjects.

Students benefit from teachers who work closely with their whānau. This collaboration helps develop positive relationships and offers good opportunities for families to share in decision making about their children’s education. Parents who spoke to ERO deeply appreciate these learning partnerships. They feel “affirmed” and “valued” by the whanaungatanga and manaakitanga that teachers promote.

A broad range of agencies support the educational success of learners. The curriculum includes a relevant and clear focus on supporting students’ transition back to their school of enrolment. Teachers use a wide variety of approaches to develop relationships with students’ schools of enrolment. A challenge for NHS is to maintain these partnerships through staffing changes in secondary schools.

Teachers use effective teaching practices in contexts that are diverse and often challenging. They work skilfully in collaborative and complementary teams. Leaders provide helpful and useful professional support and guidance for teachers. Performance management systems are well structured and focused on supporting improvement.

School leaders agree that they could further consolidate teachers’ understanding of the highly effective and innovative teaching practices that exist across the organisation. Finding additional ways to connect personnel in the units could help to build consistency and capability. ILPs could more consistently include information about students’ home language capabilities, long-term aspirations and cultural heritage. This could further support the learners’ sense of identity and future learning success.

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

NHS promotes and supports educational success for Māori effectively. Māori students benefit from positive, close relationships with their teachers.

Leaders are developing teachers’ understanding of culturally responsive teaching approaches. The school has a number of staff who have experience and expertise working in a Māori context. The school has appointed a leader with responsibility for promoting Māori success. The school has developed:

  • useful on-line resources to support te reo Māori me ōna tikanga
  • a self-review tool for teachers to evaluate their teaching practice for Māori students
  • organisational and teacher professional development through hui, marae experiences, partnerships with iwi and links with Māori health providers.

Over time, it would be useful to evaluate how well these initiatives benefit Māori students and help them transition back to their school of enrolment and on to further education.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

NHS has experienced leaders who share a clear educational vision and focus. They model high expectations and empathy for learners and staff. A well designed new management structure is distributing leadership through the organisation and building staff capability. Management systems are effective and the use of communication technologies has improved.

The NHS leadership philosophy is clearly underpinned by respect. Leaders and teachers model a positive attitude and considerate, inclusive approaches that contribute to high levels of relational trust. Leadership decisions support students to become more resilient through their challenging life experiences and medical needs.

The board is appointed by the Minister of Education. Trustees are highly skilled and capable. They work collaboratively with school leaders in the best interests of the students they serve. They manage property and personnel matters well. Trustees are especially responsive to the school’s unique context, increasing student numbers and complex needs.

The board and leaders manage the pace of change through effective consultation and communication. Increasing ways to consult with groups of parents about specific school goals could add value to the quality of self review. This could also help leaders to develop and document bicultural values and perspectives in the school charter. The New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) resource, Hautū, could be very helpful in this process.

With the current roll growth and the expansion of the school, it is timely for leaders and trustees to strengthen the quality of self review. To sustain success, they could consider:

  • developing a self-review process to guide inquiry and evaluation
  • introducing annual planning and reporting processes for larger units or groups of smaller units that identify specific student learning goals and clear measures for success
  • finding ways to meaningfully evaluate the quality of student wellbeing outcomes.

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.


The Northern Health School provides effective education for students who are not attending their school of enrolment due to high health or wellbeing needs. Collaborative and skilled teachers provide personalised teaching and wellbeing support for students. The school is well managed and resourced by school leaders and an experienced board.

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

About the School


Epsom, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Composite (Years 1 to 13)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls       62%
Boys      38%

Ethnic composition



Special Features

Whangarei Unit,
Regional House and Auckland Central,
Wilson Unit, Takapuna,
Starship Unit, Child and Family Unit, Ronald McDonald, House at Auckland City Hospital,
Pohutukawa Unit, Mason Clinic,
Youth Transition Programme, Greenlane,
North Auckland Unit, Albany,
South Auckland Unit, Papatoetoe,
Kidz First Hospital, Middlemore,
Thames Unit,
Tauranga Unit,
Rotorua Unit,
Taupo Unit, Mountview School,
Gisborne Unit, Kaiti School,
Waikato Unit, Whitiora School,
Rongo Atea Unit, Hamilton,
Whakatane Unit, Apanui School,
Taranaki Unit, Devon Intermediate School.

Review team on site

September 2015

Date of this report

26 November 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

September 2012
April 2009
March 2006