St Leo's Catholic School (Devonport)

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Education institution number:
School type:
School gender:
Not Applicable
Total roll:

102 Victoria Road, Devonport, Auckland

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School Context

St Leo’s Catholic School (Devonport) has served its community and provided education for local children for 125 years. With a current roll of approximately 85 children, the school caters for children from Years 1 to 6. Most children at the school are New Zealand Pākehā. There are also small numbers of Māori and Pacific children, and others from diverse cultures. The school also caters for small groups of short-stay international students at various times of the year. Small class sizes are a significant feature of the school.

The school’s vision is based on nurturing the whole child, being gracious in the Mercy values, and achieving excellence without compromise. The school’s values follow the Mercy tradition and include panekiritanga/excellence, aroha/compassion, manaakitanga/hospitality, te tapu o te tangata/respect, rato/service, and tika/social justice.

Current strategic goals aim to strengthen the school’s Catholic character, develop parent partnerships, improve teaching and learning, ensure that all students achieve equitable and excellent outcomes, and improve the school’s facilities. Achievement targets are individualised, especially for children whose learning requires acceleration. For a number of years, the school has followed the Reggio Emilia philosophy of teaching and learning, and more recently has investigated how play-based education could fit with this philosophy.

Leaders regularly report to the board schoolwide information about outcomes for students in the following areas:

  • progress and achievement in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to the levels of The New Zealand Curriculum
  • health and wellbeing information for students and staff
  • successes and achievement in other areas of the curriculum including sports, speaking, church-related events and cultural performances
  • outcomes of school curriculum review, and Kāhui Ako feedback.

The 2015 ERO report identified areas for development that included reviewing and refining the school’s curriculum to provide opportunities for students to be future-focused and self-managing learners. It also identified that the appraisal system was being reviewed, and that internal evaluation needed improvement. The report signalled that the principal was new to the leadership role.

At the end of 2017 the school experienced some significant changes in leadership. Two acting principals led the school in Term 4 2017 and Term 1 2018. A new principal was appointed in Term 2, 2018. New teachers joining the school in 2018 were supported by long-serving teachers and support staff. Since the principal’s arrival a new deputy principal has been appointed, and teachers and support staff have participated in professional learning to support them in their respective roles.

The school is part of the North Shore Catholic Kāhui Ako | Community of Learning (CoL).

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 achieves equitable and excellent outcomes very well for all of its students.

The school’s achievement information shows that almost all children, including Māori and Pacific children, achieve at or beyond expected curriculum levels in reading, writing and mathematics. This information indicates an ongoing trend of high achievement for learners over time.

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

The school uses a variety of evidence to identify children whose learning requires acceleration and targeted support. Short-term, targeted interventions are very effective in improving children’s skills. Parents are kept well informed about their children’s progress and achievement, including areas of learning that require additional attention.

As the Kāhui Ako develops, teachers and leaders are keen to work with other schools to moderate student achievement information. Leaders also plan to promote a shared, schoolwide understanding of acceleration, and specific strategies to cater for children with specific learning needs.

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?

Children experience positive and respectful relationships with their teachers in calm, child-focused learning environments. Children work and play well together, encourage each other’s strengths and are kind to each other. The school’s values and Catholic traditions feature significantly in children’s daily learning programmes and connect their families through the school and parish. Parents are highly involved in the wider life of the school and in their children’s learning. These significant features of the school ensure that children are settled, collaborative and eager learners.

The school has a stated and strategic commitment to promoting its bicultural curriculum, including te reo Māori and tikanga. Children enjoy participating in kapa haka and whole-school waiata. Celebratory events such as Matariki draw interest from parents and whānau. Leaders continue to support teachers as they build their capability and capacity to promote te reo and tikanga Māori.

Teachers work collaboratively to plan learning programmes around inquiry-based concepts. They prioritise and integrate reading, writing and mathematics and ensure good coverage of all other learning areas. Teachers’ very good knowledge of children’s needs, strengths and interests allows them to adapt programmes to prioritise children’s learning and wellbeing. Increasingly, children contribute to teachers’ planning and design of learning programmes.

The principal provides strong professional leadership and a clear, well-considered direction for the school. Highly evaluative in her approach, she works with staff to identify the school’s strengths and opportunities. The teacher appraisal system is now well aligned to legislative requirements and promotes an inquiry-focused approach. Together the principal, board and staff are building and restoring relationships with their community, and school leaders are managing and leading change effectively throughout the school.

Opportunities provided for professional learning are appreciated by teachers and support staff. Teachers’ professional discussions support the development of a collaborative culture in the school. Increasingly, teachers inquire into and critique their practice and are leading the evaluation of different learning areas. These experiences show respect for teachers as professionals, and as leaders and learners. The outcome of this effective leadership practice is that staff morale is high.

The board is well led and highly supportive of the principal and staff. Trustees are dedicated to serving their parent and church communities. They generously resource the school to maintain small class sizes. Trustees bring varied skills and professional expertise to their stewardship roles. A clear policy framework guides the school operation so that improvement and accountability processes are met.

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

Leaders and teachers are currently reviewing the school’s curriculum. They plan to redesign the curriculum so that it reflects their espoused Reggio Emilia and play-based learning philosophies and further promotes biculturalism. In addition, they intend to focus on teaching and learning approaches that enhance children’s ownership and leadership, including how assessment information is used.

Further developments for the board include reviewing its policies more strategically against practice.

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 Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (the Code) established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code. At the time of this review there were no international students attending the school, and no exchange students. However, the school hosts small groups of short stay international students in Terms 1 and 3. All international students come to New Zealand and reside with at least one parent. The school has very good systems in place to ensure that students are well integrated into classroom programmes and the wider life of the school, and that their wellbeing and pastoral needs are met.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • strong, professional leadership that uses internal evaluation as a mechanism for strategic and purposeful change and improvement

  • capable governance group that serves its school community very well and ensures equitable and excellence outcomes for children

  • schoolwide commitment to promoting success for Māori children

  • teachers who are skilled and reflective practitioners, designing learning programmes based on children’s needs, interests, strengths and talents

  • collaborative, family-focused approaches that enhance children’s learning and wellbeing.

Next steps

For sustained improvement and future learner success, priorities for further development are in reviewing and designing the school’s curriculum, and reviewing policies more strategically against practice.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Violet Tu’uga Stevenson

Director Review and Improvement Services Te Tai Raki – Northern Region

9 November 2018

About the school


Devonport, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

State Integrated Catholic Years 1-6

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 54 Boys 30

Ethnic composition

Māori 3
Pākehā 62
other ethnic groups 19

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

September 2018

Date of this report

9 November 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review August 2015
Education Review May 2012
Education Review March 2009


St Leo’s Catholic School (Devonport) is welcoming and inclusive. Students engage in a purposeful curriculum and high levels of student achievement are evident. The Mercy Catholic Character and excellence for all are central to the school’s ethos. The board is effective and shows strong commitment to students, staff and parents.

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?

St Leo’s Catholic School (Devonport) is located in a seaside suburb of Auckland. It is a small, integrated school catering for students from Years 1 to 6. The school has had a long association with the local community since its establishment in 1893. An historical feature of the school is the old school building which now forms part of the parish hall.

The school is inclusive and welcoming and has a strong pastoral care focus. Students and staff benefit from the school’s very good relationships with the local parish, parents, the wider community, and a number of Catholic colleges. The board of trustees has a very good understanding of its governance role. A professional and respectful working relationship exists between the board and principal.

Since the 2012 ERO review a number of staffing changes have taken place. A new principal was appointed as of term 4, 2014. A new deputy principal was appointed internally and a Director of Religious Studies and several new teachers have also joined the school. These changes have brought some new directions in school management, particularly those related to building more distributed ownership and leadership for school improvement initiatives in teaching and learning. The principal is carefully managing the pace of change to support the new direction of the school.

The school gathers its inspiration from the Mercy charism. Mercy values are taught and lived, and the expectation that all within the school community will show a concern for the wellbeing of others is evident. The recently developed school motto of ‘Nurture - the whole child; Gracious - Mercy Values; Excellence - No Compromise’ draws its insight from the charism and values, as well as capturing the current school philosophy. These underlying concepts are supporting the future direction of the school. An outdoor prayer and reflection space for students enhances the Catholic character of the school.

A school culture of high expectations for all permeates across all school systems and processes. The 2012 ERO report recommended strengthening bicultural practice, self review, student directed learning and the curriculum. The school has responded well to these recommendations and progress in these areas of school performance is evident.

2 Learning

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

The school makes good use of achievement information to make positive changes to student learning. Students are highly engaged in learning and motivated to achieve. Student engagement is supported by very respectful relationships between teachers and students.

High levels of achievement in relation to the National Standards are evident, with the large majority of students, including Māori and Pacific, achieving well in reading, writing and mathematics. Achievement in these three areas compares favourably with other schools locally and with national achievement levels.

Analysis of student achievement information by teachers is shared across year levels to identify emerging trends and patterns. This promotes well informed decisions about directions for teaching and learning, and for setting targets for improved performance. Student achievement information is also well reported to the board and used to make informed resourcing decisions.

Sound monitoring systems are in place for students with special education and behaviour needs. Teachers and teacher aides provide in class support. Systems at board level for identifying and monitoring the progress of students not achieving at expected levels have recently been strengthened, further enabling the board to prioritise its support for these students and their teachers, as needed.

The school also works actively to help students accelerate learning. A current literacy focus across the school is helping to further accelerate student achievement in writing.

Parents are given good opportunities to discuss the progress and achievement their children are making in relation to the National Standards. Student reports have been refined and provide a good record of learning and progress over time.

3 Curriculum

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

The school is presently in the process of reviewing and refining its curriculum. It is making good progress with this work which aims to heighten opportunities for students to become future focused, self-led learners. Its developing curriculum is effective in promoting and supporting student learning. It aligns well to The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) principles and values, and reflects the school’s Catholic character. Students engage in meaningful and purposeful learning activities. These activities are complemented by strong school-home relationships, which further adds to the effectiveness of the school’s curriculum.

Curriculum planning and implementation is underpinned by effective systems which set high expectations for teaching and learning. Ongoing reflection by senior leaders and teachers about new curriculum initiatives and implementation is guiding the school’s transition towards more future focused learning. Senior leaders provide relevant support for teachers in delivering the curriculum. Professional conversations about teaching are encouraged and a school culture of shared responsibility and collaboration is evident. These good practices are raising teacher awareness and capability to deliver new initiatives effectively.

Students benefit from a curriculum that is enhanced by contributions from external specialists. These include learning experiences in weekly te reo Māori sessions, and for instrumental music lessons and sport.

The curriculum builds on the school’s bicultural practice that is interwoven into all school programmes and reflected in learning environments. Students are highly receptive to the Enviroschool’s programme and can confidently talk about their involvement with this. Teachers recognise that this programme aligns well with aspects of te ao Māori and further supports the school’s bicultural focus.

The school’s culturally responsive and inclusive environment supports diversity and promotes student engagement and participation in learning. Pacific families identify with the spiritual dimension of the school and actively contribute to supporting student learning. The curriculum provides opportunities for Pacific students’ cultures to be recognised and valued.

Senior leaders are looking at ways to further strengthen children’s transition into the school. A deeper understanding of Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum, should help to support this development.

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

The school is effective in promoting educational success for Māori students. These students achieve well across all learning areas. They benefit from the respectful relationships that exist throughout the school and enjoy the opportunities they have to succeed as Māori. These opportunities are enriched by the school’s inclusive culture where Māori spirituality, te reo and tikanga Māori are part of the curriculum. The school’s religious education programme provides another dimension for Māori students to achieve success as Māori.

Māori students have a strong sense that their culture is valued in the school. They are represented in leadership roles and benefit from a school house structure that supports the concept of whānau. They engage fully in the school’s kapa haka group and have specific leadership roles during school pōwhiri.

The school’s bicultural practice is guided by a local kaumatua. Senior leaders actively consult Māori whānau and, as a result, effective school/home partnerships have developed. Staff and students keenly seek opportunities to explore and learn more about the history of Māori in the local area.

The school has used the Ministry of Education Strategy Ka Hikitia-Accelerating Success 2013 – 2017, to promote the potential of Māori students. Senior leaders and teachers acknowledge that tikanga Māori is a strong and valued part of the school culture. They also identify, and ERO agrees, that the use of te reo Māori across the school is an area to further develop and strengthen.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

St Leo’s Catholic School (Devonport) is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

A dedicated and motivated board provides effective governance. Board decision making is responsive and strategic. Trustees are focused on supporting a school ethos of excellence. They acknowledge the importance of reviewing their own practice, and undertake reviews of school policies and procedures. Trustees are well informed through good school reporting processes.

The principal is implementing a strategic approach that supports and monitors progress against new school directions. She is developing a culture of distributive leadership that empowers and values teachers. Senior leaders and teachers are working together effectively to ensure a consistent and shared vision about school systems and student learning approaches. The school’s performance appraisal system is being reviewed to support this development. Senior leaders acknowledge the importance of aligning the Ministry of Education resource Tātaiako - Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners, with teacher appraisals. They plan to merge this resource into the school appraisal system.

The school is increasingly establishing self-review practices that support ongoing improvement and value the contributions of staff, students and the school community. Senior leaders and teachers are committed to professional development and value the learning that this brings to their practice.

Senior leaders and ERO agree that the key next step for the school is to continue to embed and consolidate new initiatives, empowering students, teachers and parents to embrace future focused learning.

Provision for international students

St Leo’s Catholic School (Devonport) 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. No international students were enrolled at the time of the ERO review.

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 robust and compliant with all sections of the Code.

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.


St Leo’s Catholic School (Devonport) is welcoming and inclusive. Students engage in a purposeful curriculum and high levels of student achievement are evident. The Mercy Catholic Character and excellence for all are central to the school’s ethos. The board is effective and shows strong commitment to students, staff and parents.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

12 August 2015

About the School


Devonport, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Contributing (Years 1 to 6)

School roll


Gender composition

Girls 51% Boys 49%

Ethnic composition













Review team on site

June 2015

Date of this report

12 August 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

May 2012

March 2009

May 2006