Te Paina School

Mercer School - 10/06/2019

School Context

Mercer School is a small rural school in the North Waikato, catering for students in Years 1 to 8. The current roll of 49 includes 23 students who identify as Māori. In recent years the roll has fluctuated due to a significant number of transient students. The board of trustees includes a range of new and experienced trustees. A new board chairperson has recently been appointed to replace a long serving trustee in the board leadership role.

Since the last ERO review in 2016, a new principal has been appointed and some teachers are new to the school. During 2018, teachers participated in school-wide professional learning in literacy and the Ministry of Education Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) initiative. The school vision is for students to leave in Year 8 as ‘effective global communicators, who are aspirational and confident self-directed learners, can demonstrate resilience and mana, and who will embody empathy’. The school’s strategic priorities are ‘effective governance, inclusive and equitable learning partnerships, the development of a student-centred local curriculum and positive wellbeing for all members of the school’. The school curriculum is supported by the values of MANA (Manaakitanga, Akiaki, Nui, Atawhai). Current key aims, goals and targets for improvement in student outcomes are focused on accelerating achievement for at-risk learners in reading, writing and mathematics and promoting student wellbeing.

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

  • reading, writing and mathematics
  • attendance.

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 working towards achieving equitable outcomes for all of its students.

School data for 2018 shows that in writing and mathematics two thirds of students achieved expected levels and in reading over 85% of students achieved expected levels.

Data gathered over the last two years shows:

  • the proportion of students achieving expected levels generally increased across literacy and mathematics, and in reading and mathematics the improvement was significant
  • disparity between Māori and non-Māori has reduced, so that in 2018 both groups achieved at the same levels in reading, writing and mathematics.

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

The school is able to show acceleration for many of Māori and other students whose learning and achievement needs acceleration.

Data gathered by the school for all students shows effective acceleration in reading and writing and some acceleration in mathematics.

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?

School leadership is effective in providing direction that is strategically focused on promoting student achievement, and wellbeing. Leaders work closely with teachers to collaboratively plan, implement and evaluate learning programmes. Teachers openly discuss with each other their practice, sharing successes, reflecting on challenges and planning programmes to engage students in meaningful learning. They regularly track, monitor and share the academic and personal development of all students, with a focus on students whose progress needs acceleration. The leadership team is visible across the school and readily available to communicate with parents and whānau. The principal reports detailed information to trustees about levels of achievement and progress, and how the school is supporting the wellbeing of students and families. Leadership enables teaching programmes to be structured so that all students have maximum opportunity to learn and achieve to their potential.

The concept of manaakitanga is evident across the school environment, including in day-to-day relationships and relationship management. Communications in the school are based on care, connectedness and inclusion. The principal, teachers and support staff know each child and whānau well. The school identifies and draws on community resources including parents, and trustees who are actively and productively engaged in school activities. Parents, whānau and teachers work together with students to identify their strengths, learning and wellbeing needs, set goals, and plan responsive learning strategies and activities. Processes to identify and address the needs of students who required additional support with their learning or wellbeing are thorough, inclusive and well managed.

The school curriculum is responsive to all students’ learning, identities, and holistic wellbeing. The curriculum is local in context, content and implementation, and well aligned with school strategic priorities. Implementation plans provide clear expectations for teaching and learning. Teacher knowledge of learning progressions enables targeted teaching strategies that engage students and support their learning. Teachers’ use of these strategies enables a balanced learning programme including problem solving, collaboration and opportunities for independent learning.

Assessment processes are contributing to effective teaching and learning. An assessment schedule is in place to guide the systematic collection of data using a range of appropriate tests and strategies. Teachers use assessment to show each student’s progress across The New Zealand Curriculum and report to parents about learners’ progress. A system is in place that ensures students receive consistent and ongoing feedback and feedforward about their learning. Leaders and teachers work together to monitor individual and school-wide rates of progress with a focus on achievement for at-risk learners. Collated assessment information is used by leaders and trustees to establish priorities for school-wide direction and teacher professional learning.

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

A useful next step for the school is to ensure that reporting processes in relation to annual targets focus more sharply on acceleration for at-risk learners. This should include the ongoing monitoring of rates and pace of acceleration in relation to school targets.

The school has identified that a programme of training is needed to systematically build trustee knowledge and understanding of the role of trustees. This is particularly important as many experienced trustees are stepping down after very long periods in their governance roles.

The school has also identified the need for a programme of professional learning for teachers to continue to support the development of meaningful and contextual te reo and tikanga Māori in the school curriculum. This is important to continue to support culturally responsive practice and authentically reflect the language, culture and identity of Māori learners at Mercer School. ERO’s evaluation confirm these are useful priorities for ongoing development.

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 Mercer School’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:

  • school leadership that is effective in promoting excellence and equity, achievement and wellbeing
  • a learning environment that promotes high levels of participation, support and inclusion
  • a local curriculum that successfully promotes the vision and values of Mercer School students and whānau
  • assessment practices that support targeted teaching and learning.

Next steps

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

  • planning and reporting processes to focus more sharply on acceleration for at-risk learners
  • a planned programme of trustee training to cover all aspects of trustee roles and responsibilities
  • the development of te reo and tikanga Māori in the school curriculum to further support authentic culturally responsive practice.

Actions for compliance

ERO identified non-compliance in relation to identifying and addressing earthquake hazards in the environment.

In order to address this, the board of trustees must:

  • ensure adequate processes to identify and address hazards in the environment.
    [National Administration Guideline 5]

Phil Cowie

Director Review and Improvement Services

Central Region

10 June 2019

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Male 28 Female 21

Ethnic composition

Māori 23
NZ European/Pākehā 22
Other 4

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

March 2019

Date of this report

10 June 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review January 2016
Education Review February 2013
Education Review July 2011

Mercer School - 22/01/2016


Students benefit from the school’s positive and inclusive culture. They enjoy a broad, meaningful and localised curriculum. This is successfully promoting and supporting students to actively engage in learning. The school roll has significantly increased, reflecting the community’s renewed confidence in the school and the principal’s emphasis on collaboration and parent partnership.

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?

Mercer School is a small rural school that serves its local community in northern Waikato. Students in Years 1 to 8 work in two age-related classes and enjoy opportunities to come together for some combined learning sessions. The school’s mission is to be a culturally dynamic learning community. The aim is to encourage students to reach personal standards of excellence academically, socially and physically. This vision drives school practices and developments.

Mercer School’s core values are called the ‘Six Kinds’. These values inspire the trust and confidence of students to meet challenges in their learning and are clearly evident in the respectful and appreciative student and staff interactions. An inclusive culture supports students to have a sense of belonging in the school and encourages them to positively contribute to the learning environment.

There have been several changes of principal since the 2013 ERO report. The current principal has been in the role for 18 months. He has made a positive impact on the school’s culture and reputation. As a result, the school’s roll has significantly increased over the past year. The majority of students are Pākehā and a third are Māori. Roll growth has allowed a third teacher to be employed.

Through the leadership changes, the board has continued to develop the school property, maintain sound financial management, and meet legislative requirements. Trustees and the principal welcome external feedback and use it to strengthen school self review.

2 Learning

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

Teachers monitor and evaluate students’ progress and achievement to support them to be successful learners. They use a wide range of appropriate assessment tools and information to help them make overall judgements about each student's progress and achievement. Teachers take advantage of opportunities to moderate their assessments with other schools and this helps them maintain the accuracy and reliability of their judgements.

The school’s information indicates that the majority of students, including Māori students, achieve National Standards. Writing and mathematics achievement is generally comparable to regional and national levels of achievement. Reading achievement levels are lower.

The school’s charter targets aim to accelerate the progress of students not yet achieving the National Standards. This year, professional learning has prompted changes to the way writing is taught. As a result, there have been pleasing lifts in achievement.

Students are encouraged to be confident learners and they engage well in class programmes. They are being motivated to take more responsibility for their own learning and progress through student-centred approaches to teaching and learning. Teachers encourage students to think about how to learn and how to build on their achievement. This is successfully extending students’ ability to use assessment information and to talk about, and evaluate, their own learning.

Teachers share a collective responsibility for promoting successful learning. They strategize together to help students who require additional learning support. The support these students receive is very good and features inclusive and responsive practices. Students requiring additional support also benefit from the well-tailored programmes that teachers provide to address specific learning needs.

Teachers provide parents with clear information about their children's learning. Parents have regular opportunities to discuss their children’s achievement. They also work in partnership with teachers to support students’ learning progress.

The principal and the board agree that a key next step is to investigate why the school’s reading achievement has, for the past three years, been lower than the school’s overall achievement in writing and mathematics. This is likely to require an in depth evaluation linking teaching strategies to student learning outcomes.

3 Curriculum

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

Students engage well in a curriculum that is successfully supporting them to become confident and connected learners. The broad curriculum has a strong emphasis on literacy, mathematics and learning skills. Teachers promote the values, principles and key competencies of theNew Zealand Curriculum. Meaningful curriculum contexts help students to make connections across the different learning areas and with their local environment.

Students are respected as capable learners who can make decisions about their learning. They develop a good sense of themselves as leaders and role models. Their perspectives are valued by teachers and included in curriculum programmes and reflected in the school environment.

Students benefit from good quality teaching and caring relationships with their teachers. Teachers know students well and they adapt their teaching practices to students’ learning needs and interests. Students and their families are well supported as they make transitions into and out of the school.

Teachers work collaboratively, regularly sharing and reflecting on the effectiveness of curriculum programmes and strategies. They have shared understandings about what constitutes effective teaching. Teachers value ongoing professional learning. They integrate knowledge of current theories and best practice into their teaching and learning programmes.

ERO endorses the priorities to develop the curriculum identified by the principal. These include:

  • continuing to review and adapt the school’s curriculum document to reflect teaching practice and curriculum developments
  • developing a sequential te reo Māori programme to grow students’ language knowledge
  • increasing student e-learning opportunities.

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

Māori students are well supported to have pride in their language, culture and identity. School data show the majority of Māori students achieve well in relation to the National Standards and their peers in the school. Their results are higher than Māori achievement regionally and nationally.

Māori students benefit from the reciprocal relationships between the school and local kaumatua. These relationships are helping to promote bicultural recognition and practices in the school. Aspects of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga are integrated within curriculum programmes and in whole-school settings including pōwhiri. Visits to a local marae affirm Māori students’ sense of identity as Māori and enrich all students’ knowledge and understanding of Māori culture.

The kaumatua and Māori trustees and staff are helping the school to gain insight into whānau perspectives and aspirations for their children. Whānau have many opportunities to communicate and build partnerships with staff and trustees to promote their children’s learning.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to make ongoing improvements that impact positively on students’ learning. ERO is confident that the school’s clear focus on student learning outcomes will guide future school developments.

The board, principal, staff and community share ownership of and commitment to the school’s direction. The principal and trustees value and are responsive to the perspectives of the school’s community. The school now enjoys high levels of community engagement.

The board provides well considered governance and stewardship. Trustees have a good understanding of their responsibilities on the board and they bring complementary skills and experience to their roles.

The principal’s leadership is strategic. He has quickly established a knowledgeable and reflective teaching team. His leadership inspires teachers’ and students’ confidence and motivates them to succeed. Shared leadership is a feature of the school. It helps to build capability and maintain shared expectations and understandings that support successful outcomes for students.

Teachers are supported well to think more deeply about their teaching programmes and practice. The principal is considering ways to support them to collect evidence of how the Practising Teacher Criteria are being developed in their teaching practice. This evidence would support the principal’s endorsement of teachers’ practising teacher certificates.

Trustees are considering succession planning in preparation for the 2016 board elections. They acknowledge that it would be timely to review and reorganise the board’s policies next year to align them more clearly with the school’s strategic priorities. Training regarding strategic planning and self-review and evaluation would also be of benefit for the new board.

The board and principal could more regularly review progress towards annual and strategic goals. They recognise the value of people responsible for these goals and targets playing a key role in reviewing and updating information about progress in strategic and annual plans.

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.


Students benefit from the school’s positive and inclusive culture. They enjoy a broad, meaningful and localised curriculum. This is successfully promoting and supporting students to actively engage in learning. The school roll has significantly increased, reflecting the community’s renewed confidence in the school and the principal’s emphasis on collaboration and parent partnership.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

22 January 2016

School Statistics



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 25, Girls 18

Ethnic composition





Middle Eastern






Special Features

Social Worker in Schools (SWIS)

Review team on site

December 2015

Date of this report

22 January 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

February 2013

July 2011

January 2008