Hillcrest High School

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School Context

Hillcrest High School is located in Hamilton and caters for students Years 9 to 13. At the time of this review there were 1706 students enrolled including 52% Pākehā, 16% Māori, 3% Pacific and 29% of students from a diverse range of other ethnicities. The school roll includes 80 Ministry of Education funded English Language Learners (ELL) some of whom are refugees. In addition there were 57 fee paying international students.

Since the ERO review in 2013 the experienced senior leadership team has remained stable with one new deputy principal appointed. Trustees, including the chairperson, were newly elected in the 2016 election and a Māori representative was co-opted on to the board. The board of trustees has undertaken extensive governance training.

The school’s mission is to ‘value all students, enhancing their self-esteem, academic potential, abilities and sense of responsibility by helping them to develop the knowledge, ideas and skills to become active, independent, caring New Zealanders’. The school’s valued outcomes are for learners to:

  • show respect for others – manaakitangata
  • identify and develop talents and skills - whakapakari pumanawa me ngā pūkenga
  • aim for the best you can be – eke panuku
  • persevere and don’t give up - mahia te mahi
  • value diversity and differences - whaipainga rerenga kētanga me nga rerekētanga.

The school has been involved in a range of professional learning and development (PLD) programmes focussed on improving teacher pedagogy and practice. These include positive behaviour for learning (PB4L), teaching as inquiry and effective use of digital technology.

The school has developed a working relationship with Ngāti Hauā and students experience annual noho marae at Te iti o Hauā, the local marae at Tauwhare. Last year the school joined the Waikato-Tainui Kawenata Plan to enhance outcomes for Tainui students.

The school offers a range of co-curricular activities in sports, arts and culture. These include kapa haka, a Pacific performance group, and a major school production.

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

  • achievement within the New Zealand Qualifications Framework

  • progress and achievement in reading, writing and numeracy in Years 9 and 10

  • students with special/additional/high learning needs

  • Māori and Pacific students

  • attendance information.

The school is part of the Hillcrest Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako (CoL) which includes nine other schools in the Hillcrest cluster. The CoL’s achievement challenge has been endorsed.

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 more equitable outcomes for groups of students. Addressing the disparities of achievement for Māori and boys is a priority for 2018.

Overall, the school’s 2017 National Certificate of Achievement (NCEA) roll-based data shows that most Years 11 and 12 students achieved well in Levels 1 and 2, and the majority of students at Level 3. Approximately half of Year 13 students also gained University Entrance (UE). Fifty percent of students gained NCEA with merit or excellence endorsement. Thirty seven students gained scholarship in a variety of subjects including three outstanding scholarships in music, drama and maths with statistics.

Māori achievement at NCEA Level 2 and 3 and UE has improved over time. However, there is significant and ongoing disparity between Māori and Pākehā student achievement at Levels 1 and 2. In 2017 the disparity gap closed at Level 3 and Māori and Pākehā are now achieving at a similar rate. There is disparity between the achievement of boys and girls, with girls outperforming boys. This inequity has remained over time and increases at Level 3 and UE. However, the 2017 data shows that the disparity is closing at Levels 1 and 2.

Publically available achievement information for students leaving school with NCEA Level 2 or above shows a similar disparity picture for Māori and boys. The school can show that in 2017 almost all Pacific students left with Level 2 or above.

The school has collated detailed destination data for those students who left school without NCEA Level 2. It is able to show that the support these students received enabled most of them to access further training and employment.

Included in these overall NCEA roll-based figures are 15 Physical Assistance Centre (PAC) students. All Level 1 PAC students passed literacy and numeracy. Also included in this data are 27 Independent Learning Centre (ILC) students with high learning needs, and Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) students. Ten of these students completed the Level 1 certificate in supported learning. There are junior students in the PAC and ILC and in the alternative education Kauri Centre. Most junior and senior students in these facilities achieved well against their learning and developmental goals.

The 2017 roll-based results also include a significant number of English Language Learners from a range of diverse cultures and backgrounds. The school can show that most of these students achieved well in the English Foundation Programme.

The school collates, analyses and reports data for Years 9 and 10 in reading and mathematics using a standardised assessment tool. There is significant disparity between Māori and their non-Māori peers in reading and mathematics. In 2017 achievement information reported to the board for Year 10 indicated that 57% of these students were at or above expected curriculum Level 5 in mathematics and 61% in reading. Leaders have recently reported rates of acceleration in writing. The school is yet to collate, analyse and report on other curriculum areas in the junior school.

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

There is a wide range of support programmes to accelerate the learning for Māori and other students who need this and some of these are effective.

Initiatives to support and accelerate at-risk learners in Years 9 and 10 include literacy, numeracy and science. These initiatives were more successful for learners in Year 9. Recent analysis of achievement information across the junior support programmes highlighted that these were less effective for Year 10 students, especially Māori and boys.

Cohort tracking data shows that 81% of Māori students and 86% of boys who were achieving below expected curriculum levels on entry at Year 9, made accelerated progress to achieve NCEA Level 2 or above by Year 12 and 13. Similarly, a significant majority of other students made accelerated progress to achieve NCEA Level 2 or above.

The school can show that the students in the PAC, ILC and Kauri Centre facilities all have made significant sustained progress towards their learning development and achievement goals with an emphasis on the key competencies, social interaction and oral language. Most have exceeded their personal goals.

Progress and achievement data provided by the school demonstrates that a significant number of ELL who stay for a year or more, make accelerated progress in the ELL Learning Progression Framework in listening, reading, writing and speaking.

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?

Relational trust and effective collaboration across the school community contribute to an environment conducive to learning. Leaders have actively built strong relationships with Ngāti Hauā and successfully engaged with whānau, hapū and iwi. Theses meaningful partnerships are contributing to students’ sense of connectedness and cultural identity.

Trustees and leaders provide purposeful resourcing. This ensures that all students and staff have access to health and wellbeing services, and equitable opportunities to learn across the curriculum. Leaders and teachers have effectively implemented academic mentoring with groups of students including Māori, Pacific and a Year 12 boys group. This has had a positive impact on student levels of engagement and achievement. Students are benefitting from a positive, respectful culture and a calm, settled environment for learning.

The school actively promotes a culture of care and inclusion for students with additional and high learning needs. Leaders and teachers set high expectations for all learners and this helps build students’ self-efficacy. The pastoral care team work effectively with families and outside agencies to provide comprehensive wrap-around support for students. Teachers provide individual education plans that are tailored to each student’s personal, developmental and achievement goals. These goals are regularly reviewed to ensure classroom programmes meet student needs and support their progress. The school, whānau and community work well together to support students’ successful and effective transitions at critical points on their educational journey.

The school provides effective technical and vocational education training programmes. These occur within the school and in partnership with tertiary and trade providers. Senior students have access to a significant range of vocational courses. The comprehensive careers programme in Years 11 to 13 provides personalised pathways for students based on their needs, interests and strengths. The school can show that most of the students in these programmes are successful in gaining qualifications. Students fully participate and can access coherent, meaningful pathways to further education, training and employment.

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

In-school processes and practices need to be further refined to achieve equitable and excellent outcomes for all learners.

A next step for senior leaders is to build school-wide understanding of internal evaluation in relation to targets on accelerating the progress of at-risk students. This is necessary to:

  • establish a clear line of sight through the alignment of targets to at-risk learners, from trustees, leaders, faculties and teachers

  • regularly track, monitor and report to the board on the progress of target students

  • identify the effectiveness of programmes, processes and practices to accelerate the learning of students at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes.

This development includes refining the process for teaching as inquiry to more effectively use data to focus on individual at-risk students. A key component of the process is to plan for their needs, evaluate the effectiveness and modify programmes accordingly.

Senior leaders need to broaden the junior curriculum review to better respond to the interests, needs and strengths of students. Developing a shared understanding of curriculum levels and assessment for learning and moderation across learning areas to ensure consistency is a priority. Teachers need to develop more contextualised, individualised and personalised learning programmes. Further development of student agency and understanding of learning and progress will enable students to track and monitor their own progress and acceleration.

Culturally responsive relational pedagogy and practice needs to be extended and embedded across the school. Consideration should be given to acknowledging the unique place of tangata whenua by reflecting and unpacking the newly revised Treaty of Waitangi policy and what it means in practice for:

  • trustees, leaders and teachers

  • departmental and learning programmes, planning and evaluation

  • the authentic integration of te reo and tikanga Māori and learning resources

  • critically evaluating effective practice and programmes using student and whānau voice.

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 Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the code.Education (Pastoral Care of International Students)2016

At the time of this review there were 57 international students attending the school, including one exchange student.

International students are actively supported and empowered to fully participate in a wide range of opportunities and events. A well-considered and inclusive approach builds learners confidence and independence. The diverse cultures represented in the school are acknowledged and celebrated.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • productive relationships with trustees, parents, whānau, iwi and community that provide equitable opportunities for all students to learn

  • an holistic approach to student wellbeing that actively creates an inclusive environment for learning

  • educational partnerships with tertiary and trades institutes that provide meaningful coherent pathways through the senior school and on to further training and employment.

Next steps

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

  • internal evaluation processes that ensure the alignment of targets, action plans, teacher inquiry and regular reporting to monitor progress and acceleration for at-risk learners

  • curriculum development in junior school to ensure a rich, integrated, contextual programme that better responds to students’ needs, interests and strengths

  • school-wide processes and practices that fully reflect the newly revised Treaty of Waitangi policy of protection, participation and partnership.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Lynda Pura-Watson

Deputy Chief Review Officer

Te Tai Miringa - Waikato / Bay of Plenty Region

23 May 2018

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 55% Boys 45%

Ethnic composition

Māori 16%
Pākehā 52%
Asian 16%
Other European 5%
Indian 4%
Pacific 4%
Other 3%

Review team on site

March 2018

Date of this report

23 May 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review August 2013
Education Review June 2010
Education Review June 2007

1 Context

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

Hillcrest High School is a large co-educational secondary school located in the eastern Hamilton suburb of Hillcrest. The culturally diverse roll of 1630 includes 215 Māori, an increasing Pacific roll and a significant number of Asian students. There are currently 35 international students, which add further diversity to the school community.

The board of trustees includes a combination of newly elected and experienced members. The chairperson is experienced in her role. Together, trustees bring a range of appropriate skills to their governance roles.

The school has had a positive reporting history with ERO. The 2010 ERO report identified many areas of strong performance. This ERO review finds that the school has sustained and enhanced these areas including:

  • a positive, supportive and inclusive environment
  • extensive opportunities for students to achieve
  • high-quality systems to support student wellbeing
  • knowledgeable and enthusiastic teachers
  • effective school management
  • strong and effective governance.

The 2010 ERO report also identified that improvements were needed in the use of assessment information, particularly at Years 9 and 10, and in aspects relating to the success and achievement of Māori and Pacific students. The school has made significant progress in addressing these aspects through relevant professional development and the strengthening of the school’s relationship with Māori whānau and the wider community.

2 Learning

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

The school makes highly effective use of achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement.

Data gathered by the school shows that on entry at Year 9, patterns of achievement are consistent with national expectations in reading and mathematics. The data also shows that students make good progress with their learning. Achievement data for National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Levels 1, 2 and 3 shows that a large majority of students achieve very well. A significant number of students achieve NCEA merit or excellence endorsements and a large group of students succeed in scholarship examinations. The school continues to build on historically high levels of student academic, sporting and cultural success.

School trustees receive detailed reports about student progress and achievement. The information in these reports assists them to:

  • be very well informed about overall school effectiveness in promoting student learning
  • provide generous funding for learning resources in response to student needs
  • make well-informed decisions about school priorities, strategic goals and school direction.
  • School leaders gather, collate and thoroughly analyse data about student achievement in order to:
  • prioritise, plan and implement school-wide professional learning programmes for teachers that are aligned with school strategic direction
  • identify students achieving below expected levels (priority learners) and put relevant support programmes in place to address the needs of these students
  • increase teacher accountability for the progress and achievement of priority learners
  • set and monitor annual achievement targets and faculty goals.

Teachers are using student achievement information effectively to:

  • identify effective strategies to accelerate progress for priority learners, particularly in reading and writing
  • identify and address the learning needs of groups of students
  • reflect on and examine the effectiveness of their professional teaching practice with a view to improving student achievement
  • report levels of achievement to parents and families and involve them in decisions about individual student learning pathways.

Students with special learning needs are receiving high-quality support through a range of focused interventions. Teachers and support staff ensure these students are included in school activities and experience success.

Students experience high levels of success in an extensive range of sporting, cultural and performing events and enrichment programmes offered at the school.

Achievement information for Pacific students is gathered and progress is monitored. Appropriate goals to raise achievement have been set in the annual plan. Achievement levels for Pacific students have improved since the last ERO report.

ERO and school leaders agree that important next steps to promote learning are:

  • to gather, collate and analyse school-wide achievement information about writing at Years 9 and 10
  • to provide students with regular access to their assessment results and further develop strategies that allow them to monitor their own progress and next learning steps.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning. The curriculum is focused on addressing the strengths, interests and learning needs of students. It is broad based, inclusive and designed to provide students with relevant choices and pathways as they progress through the school.

The curriculum allows students to access a wide range of flexible learning pathways, experiences and qualifications. The ongoing monitoring and review of learning programmes is ensuring that the curriculum remains responsive to students’ needs. ERO and the school agree that the next step in curriculum development is to document how the curriculum is giving effect to the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum.

The Hillcrest curriculum provides high-quality and holistic support for students’ wellbeing. This is evidenced by:

  • an inclusive and collaborative approach to establishing shared school values
  • the recent review and establishment of a school-wide positive approach to behaviour management
  • high-quality support for students with high and complex learning and development needs
  • an emphasis on the inclusion of students with diverse needs in the life of the school
  • extensive student leadership opportunities including their involvement in initiatives that promote a positive school culture
  • the celebration of student success across a wide range of academic and extracurricular activities.

There are very high levels of student motivation and engagement across the school. Examples of high-quality teaching practice are:

  • the way teachers deliberately and consistently share high expectations for learning and behaviour with students
  • positive and respectful interactions among and between teachers and students
  • differentiated teaching to cater for the range of students learning needs
  • teachers clearly identifying priority learners in their planning and adapting their practice to meet the specific needs of these students.
How effectively does the school promote educational success for Māori, as Māori?

The school has significantly strengthened its capacity to promote educational success for Māori, as Māori. There is extensive consultation with Māori students and a meaningful relationship has been established with local marae and whānau. All Year 9 students visit the marae and staff have attended school-wide professional learning based at the marae.

There are positive trends in Māori achievement and progress across the school, and retention and attendance rates for Māori students are improving.

There are growing opportunities to celebrate Māori student achievement, including a Māori achievement evening held each year to provide a focus for affirming Māori success in academic and sporting endeavours, and across the wider curriculum. A Māori dimension is now more visible around the school and there is a growing commitment by staff to being culturally responsive.

The formation of a Māori achievement committee, which includes student representation, has created a forum for discussing Māori achievement. This group is providing valuable leadership and initiatives in planning school direction about improving Māori success.

Teachers' and school leaders' involvement in the He Kakano project has provided an ongoing focus on culturally responsive leadership and teaching. The impact of this programme is evident in teachers’ increased understanding of students and their learning needs. In addition, it is enhancing teaching and learning across all cultural and ethnic groups. To further support these positive aspects, ERO and school leaders agree that the school continues to work towards embedding the principles and practices of the He Kakano project in teacher practice.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is very well placed to sustain and improve its performance because:

  • governance is highly effective
  • the school vision, values, strategic direction and annual planning processes are clearly aligned and well supported by school-wide and faculty procedures and systems
  • the principal and senior leaders are providing effective professional leadership
  • heads of faculty are providing clear direction for faculty development and maintain a focus on continual improvement in teaching and learning
  • there is wide spread high-quality classroom teaching practice
  • there is a strong emphasis on using student voice to guide decision making
  • a culture of review and ongoing improvement is evident.

Senior leaders and ERO agree that there is a need to review the appraisal process to ensure all teachers receive frequent, constructive and documented feedback to enhance their classroom practice.

Provision for international students

Hillcrest High School provides high quality care and tuition for international students (IS). Since the last ERO review in 2010, a new, purpose built facility has been constructed to house the IS department. This high-quality building provides distinct learning areas, administration areas and a meeting point where the needs of IS can be met.

IS students have access to an extensive range of sporting, cultural, pastoral and guidance facilities. The IS department is well led by an experienced and knowledgeable manager who ensures that all aspects of student life are carefully monitored and managed.

The school has three qualified English as a second language (ESOL) teachers who provide effective tutoring to raise students’ skills in English. Students’ proficiency in English is assessed and closely monitored so that students can be integrated into mainstream classroom programmes as appropriate.

A well-managed induction programme is provided for new students. Extensive and consistently implemented review systems are in place to monitor and improve the quality of education and care for IS. Staff in the IS department work closely with pastoral staff to identify and address students’ ongoing need for pastoral care and support.

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (the code) established under Section 238F of the Education Act 1989. At the time of this review there were 35 international students attending the school.

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

ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school’s self-review processes for international students are thorough.

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 four-to-five years.

Graham Randell National Manager Review Services Northern Region (Acting)

23 August 2013

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 53% Boys 47%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā



Other European


South East Asian


Other Asian


Cook Island Māori



Other Pacific














Review team on site

July 2013

Date of this report

23 August 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2010

June 2007

June 2004