Holy Cross Catholic School (Henderson)

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1 Context

The school has a positive ERO report history. Since the 2011 ERO review, the then deputy principal has been appointed as principal and a new leadership team has been formed. The board has a mix of new and experienced trustees. Board members and school staff reflect the widely diverse ethnicities of children and their whānau. The school has historical and mutually beneficial links with its parish and community.

The school caters for girls from Years 1 to 8 and boys from Years 1 to 6. Many of the children continue their education at either St Dominic's College for girls or Liston College for boys. Māori children comprise 9 percent of the roll. Children with Pacific heritage comprise 40 percent of students.

2 Equity and excellence

The vision and valued outcomes defined by the school for all children are evident in the school vision, 'with God we strive for excellence' and its core values of faith, hope, love and joy. The school considers that children experience success when they form authentic relationships, and show genuine care for others and the environment.

As a result of consultation with parents/whānau as part of a review of the school’s vision and values, there is a shared understanding between teachers and parents/whānau about ways in which they can collaborate to support children whose progress needs acceleration.

Since 2012, the school has reviewed the effectiveness of intervention programmes for learners who are at risk of underachieving. Staff professional learning has focused on improving outcomes for Māori children. In particular, there has been a focus on developing strong, culturally responsive teaching and learning approaches with all teachers. Refined school processes have supported the board, parents/whānau, staff and children in realising the principles of The Māori Education Strategy: Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013–2017. This development builds on the good quality provision for Māori children noted in previous ERO reports.

The school’s achievement information shows that Māori children achieve best in reading and mathematics. However, the overall levels of achievement for these children is below that of their peers, with a greater proportion achieving below National Standards in writing, reading and mathematics than for other ethnic groups.

Trustees and school leaders have responded to this disparity by prioritising and coordinating targeted teaching and learning approaches to raise Māori children's achievement. The school has used its 2013 and 2014 data to examine a range of factors that have had the potential to contribute to the lower numbers of Māori children achieving at and above National Standards. In particular instances, the school has worked closely with families and whanau to support children's engagement with school.

Information gathered in 2015 shows some positive trends in the progress of individual Māori learners achieving below National Standards. The majority of these children improved their performance in writing, with about half demonstrating accelerated progress.

Examples of accelerated progress for targeted Māori students are also evident in reading and mathematics. The school's achievement information further demonstrates the positive difference the school makes for Māori children who have been at school for a sustained period of time, with most students in Year 6, 7 and 8 achieving at National Standards.

The board, school leaders and teachers have used successful examples of progress to adapt teaching practice for other areas of the curriculum. The increase in Māori student achievement in mathematics in 2014 has been a focus for school inquiry about ways to maximise success in other learning areas.

Of interest to the school is the good levels success of Pacific children in relation to the National Standards. There are well established and significant partnerships that most Pacific families have to the church and the school. This successful connection has been explored by the board and school leaders as a means of further strengthening partnerships with whānau.

Since the last ERO evaluation the school has:

  • supported teachers to use a variety of strategies to raise the achievement of underachieving children, with a particular focus on raising the achievement of Māori learners
  • increased opportunities for effective participation and collaboration at every level of the school community
  • enhanced the school curriculum to help ensure all children benefit from being engaged in the depth and breadth of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Outcomes for Māori children as a result of these developments have been partially effective to date.

3 Accelerating achievement

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

The school is increasingly responding well to Māori children whose learning and achievement needs acceleration. Senior leaders and teachers identify Māori children at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes by closely tracking their progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards and other aspects of their education, including their ability to use inquiry. Achievement in reading, writing and mathematics is assessed across a variety of learning areas, including science and technology.

The board, school leaders and staff actively promote a positive school culture that is focused on engaging children and their families in learning. Collated information about individual children helps staff understand more fully about each child's cultural experiences and capabilities. Teachers ask whānau how the school can best support them and their children. This unassuming, respectful approach has been particularly beneficial for Māori children and whānau who have had negative experiences with school.

Parents of Māori children report that they have been well supported to help their children at home. They value the ways that teachers keep them informed about their children’s learning, and seek their advice to help promote Te Āo Māori in the school's curriculum.

Teachers are supported by the board, school leaders and their colleagues to reduce the achievement disparities in their classrooms. Work in this area has included:

  • the development of programmes that specifically build on Māori children’s strengths, target their needs and match their interests
  • staff using a variety of well planned strategies to personalise learning for Māori children who are achieving below the National Standards
  • teachers using feedback from a robust mentoring and appraisal process to respond to diverse learners’ requirements.

The school has successfully accelerated the progress of some Māori children at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes, particularly those involved in programmes with this express purpose. Teachers have a shared commitment to excellence and contribute their various talents to cater for children’s individual learning requirements and wellbeing. They are increasingly using evidence to be more deliberate in their actions for accelerating the progress of Māori learners who are at risk of underachieving.

The school’s whānau group gathers Māori children together to build on their sense of whanaungatanga and to provide opportunities for them to support each other in their learning. Regular reports to the board about how well Māori children are progressing help trustees to ask questions about achievement trends and patterns, and to target resources.

Māori children who do not achieve at National Standards are better positioned for success in reading, writing and mathematics because of the progress they have made and the support the school provides.

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 needs acceleration. The principles for accelerating the progress of Māori children have a positive influence on outcomes for all learners.

Well documented action plans to raise achievement inform teacher practice and the board’s strategic plan. This learner focused approach is evident in the way teachers apply their knowledge of individual children and their whānau to modify their teaching practices to cater for each children’s wellbeing and learning.

Consistent with principles of accelerating children progress, teachers:

  • treat relevance as a key component to children's motivation
  • provide opportunities for children to apply skills immediately to what they are learning
  • plan active, fast-paced, hands-on experiences
  • support children to keep pace with what their peers are learning.

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’s curriculum and other organisational processes and practices have a positive impact on developing and enacting the school’s vision, values, goals and priorities for equity and excellence. School decision-making is focused on the requirements of all children. Internal and external evaluation are used by the board and school leaders in the school’s drive for continuous improvement. It is strategic and focused on positive outcomes for children.

The school's well considered Treaty of Waitangi policy commits the board, school leaders and teachers to working together to promote and support Māori interests and address inequality of educational outcomes. The school’s kawa acknowledges Māori as tangata whenua and gives Māori children a sense that their school is a place for them to learn and develop.

Ako, the notion of reciprocal learning relationships, features strongly in the school’s culture. Staff are open to possibilities and suggestions for improvement from children, whānau and colleagues in order to make a difference for children who are at risk of underachieving.

Teachers’ high expectations of all students achieving personal and holistic excellence and succeeding in relation to the National Standards are evident in action. Teachers skilfully support children's growth in confidence, cultural identity, and leadership skills. Biculturalism provides a framework for the school community to understand and promote multiculturalism. This stance impacts positively on all learners, and particularly for Māori learners.

The school’s responsive curriculum successfully incorporates connections to children’ prior understandings and experiences outside school. It encourages children to pursue their various interests. The school’s inquiry learning process has been refined and is successfully used by children to deepen their learning across the curriculum.

The school leadership team, board and teachers regularly consider ways to improve provision for children who are at most risk of underachieving. This has resulted in a refinement and alignment of the school’s charism, curriculum, appraisal system, school values and communications. As a result, coherent systems and approaches support continuous school improvement.

Support is provided by the school to whānau in various ways to help strengthen families and improve outcomes for children. The whole school community considers itself as a larger whānau with deep and meaningful connections. Children easily make connections to each other, and their Catholic faith, school and family/whānau. They actively contribute to their learning and are supported in the knowledge that whānau, with the school, have confidence in them as successful learners.

Trustees provide effective stewardship by being committed to developing great people and a successful community. The principal’s purposeful leadership enables staff to develop their strengths and expertise in meeting realistic school achievement targets that are based on a variety of sources of evidence.

Trustees and school leaders are keen to enhance and extend professional networking for accelerating the progress of underachieving children, particularly Māori and Pacific children. The good work that has been developed to promote culturally responsive practice is an area that the school continues to value. This area is also a focus for the Waitakere Community of Schools that the school joined in 2015. Senior leaders and teachers are receptive to new ideas and confident in sharing their successes with colleagues in other schools.

5 Going forward

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

Leaders and teachers:

  • know the children whose 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.

Professional development is well aligned to school goals that are focused on improving outcomes for Māori children whose learning and achievement need accelerating.

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.

  • Provision for international students.

7 Recommendation

ERO recommends that the school further support teachers to develop their capability to achieve equitable outcomes for Māori children.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

23 May 2016

About the school


Henderson, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 59%, Boys 41%

Ethnic composition









Latin American

other ethnicities











Special Features

Arohanui Special Unit

Review team on site

February 2016

Date of this report

23 May 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

August 2011

June 2008

March 2005

1 Context

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

Holy Cross Catholic School (Henderson) in West Auckland is an integrated, multicultural Catholic school catering for girls from Years 1 to 8 and boys from Years 1 to 6. The school has a long history of positive ERO reports. ERO has consistently noted the school’s sound governance and management procedures, positive community relationships, high quality teaching practices, and good provision for its Māori students. The school continues to offer students high quality learning opportunities, supported by a knowledgeable, reflective board of trustees and provided by motivated, professional leaders and staff.

Students are central to the school culture and are at the heart of all decision making. They are actively consulted about matters that affect them. The school vision of ‘igniting the flame of knowledge’ drives expectations for trustees, managers, teachers and students to be continual learners and to learn together. Teacher professional development, readings about best practice, and professional discussions with colleagues are used to improve student achievement levels and to support the teacher to better understand the learner.

Since the 2008 ERO review, teachers have undertaken professional development to ensure continued improvements in the teaching and learning of literacy and numeracy. Trustees and school managers have continued to build strong links with the parish community and effective partnerships with parents. The school enjoys a strong sense of family, with fourth generation children of some families attending.

The school’s special Catholic character is reflected in all aspects of school operations.

2 Learning

How well are students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

Students are well engaged in their learning. They are articulate, and are confident to initiate, explore and discuss their own learning. Together with their parents, they are involved in goal setting and identifying their progress and achievement. High levels of student participation are evident in class programmes and students have access to a wide variety of support, extension and leadership opportunities.

A useful range of achievement data is collected by teachers and used by trustees and school managers to reflect on ways to improve outcomes for groups of students. Student progress in literacy and numeracy is monitored over time. Teachers use data to plan for different ability groups, to identify students who need particular help, and to tailor their teaching to meet students’ strengths and needs. Students who are not progressing at expected rates are identified early, and well monitored processes are put in place to support them to make accelerated progress.

Parents receive written reports twice yearly on their child’s progress and achievement in relation to the National Standards. School achievement data show that increased numbers of students, including Pacific students, are achieving at levels that are at or above the National Standards. School managers have supported teachers to develop their confidence to make overall teacher judgements about student achievement levels. Moderation processes have supported effective assessment at year group, syndicate and whole school levels.

Trustees are well informed about, interested in, and have set targets for, students’ progress and achievement in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to the National Standards. They have sought information to increase their knowledge about the National Standards and now have a good understanding of their role in this area of national assessment.

How well are Māori students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

Holy Cross has a strong bicultural focus. The board and staff have undertaken self review from a bicultural point of view. Trustees, managers and staff all take responsibility for raising the achievement levels of Māori students. The board has appointed a t Māori lead teacher to drive bi-cultural initiatives that can be used as a model to improve outcomes for students of other ethnicities.

Changes are being made reflectively, are research-based, use information from the Ministry of Education, ERO and Māori initiatives, and have whānau input and support. School initiatives have been documented in a framework that encourages teachers to reflect specifically on success for Māori. This focused work supports Māori students to achieve as Māori.

The school continues to provide a te reo Māori programme run by a specialist teacher. Most staff use te reo Māori incidentally while teaching. For sustainability, professional development is planned for all staff to further increase their knowledge of, and confidence in using, te reo and tikanga Māori during classroom programmes.

The Māori lead teacher has specific responsibility for collating, analysing, tracking and monitoring the achievement of Māori students during each school year and over time. An holistic approach is taken to sharing Māori student success with parents and to developing a partnership for meeting parents’ aspirations and improving outcomes for students.

3 Curriculum

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

The Holy Cross curriculum has been collaboratively developed, with input from trustees, staff, students and the senior leadership team. Since its introduction, the school curriculum has been reviewed and changed several times. Most recently a new value, ‘joy’, has been added to align with the school’s special character.

The curriculum embraces the school’s inquiry learning approach, information literacy and thinking skills. The school has recently increased its focus on languages with the introduction of Mandarin. The school’s curriculum is closely aligned to The New Zealand Curriculum and processes are in place to monitor students’ access to all aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum. The key competencies are displayed in classrooms and discussed by students so that they understand the relevance of the competencies to their learning. Students enjoy the rich, relevant learning experiences that teachers provide for them. These experiences are building skills that will enable students to become life-long learners.

The attractive, well resourced class environments celebrate students’ work. Learning prompts and clearly defined achievement expectations support teaching and students’ independent learning. Good relationships are evident between teachers, between students, and between teachers and students. Teachers are enthusiastic, committed to the school and have high expectations for students’ learning and behaviour. High levels of student interest and motivation are evident across all year levels.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

Holy Cross is well placed to sustain its effective practices and to continue to improve outcomes for students. The board has effectively engaged its community in developing the school’s vision, values and strategic direction. Trustees bring a range of useful skills to their governance role, have a good understanding of their responsibilities, and have sought to keep themselves well informed about new initiatives. Trustees use student achievement information to guide decisions about future planning.

The long-standing principal is a highly effective professional leader who has successfully built a community of learners in the school. She has distributed leadership roles, developing leaders and using teachers’ strengths. As a result, teachers have increased ownership and understanding of effective professional practice. The principal, trustees and senior leaders:

  • have a strong, shared understanding of the vision and direction of the school
  • are committed to, and focused on, improving outcomes for all students
  • have developed comprehensive self-review processes that are robust, consultative, well understood and embedded in practices across the school
  • use student achievement as a basis for all self review and are continually seeking ways to improve student achievement
  • are consultative and sensitive in their dealings with diverse groups of parents and ethnic communities
  • value Māori and include multicultural perspectives in decision making
  • have implemented a robust, ongoing performance appraisal system to support teachers to meet student needs and the board’s strategic goals.

The board ensures, through the principal, that there is clear alignment between the strategic plan, the annual plan, classroom programmes, and curriculum delivery.

Holy Cross provides a nurturing, caring, respectful learning environment that supports students’ learning and achievement very well. Regular surveys of staff, students and parents help to ensure that the school is a happy place for staff and students.

ERO endorses the plans of the board and senior staff to:

  • review the school’s assessment tools to ensure they align with the school’s teaching and learning needs, and the National Standards
  • continue to provide all students with the best possible opportunities to progress and achieve
  • continue to review and develop partnerships with staff, students, parents and communities.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (The Code) established under the section 238F of the Education Act 1989. At the time of this review, one international student was attending the school.

The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

ERO’s investigations confirm that the school’s self-review process for international students is thorough.

Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board of trustees and principal of the school completed an ERO Board Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklist. 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 students' achievement:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)
  • physical safety of students
  • teacher registration
  • 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 four-to-five years.

Richard Thornton

National Manager Review Services

Northern Region

19 August 2011

About the School


Henderson, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Integrated Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)



School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 54%

Boys 46%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/ Pākehā





other ethnicities







Special Features

Arohanui Special Unit

Review team on site

June 2011

Date of this report

19 August 2011

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Accountability Review

June 2008

March 2005

June 2001