Nelson College For Girls

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Education institution number:
School type:
Secondary (Year 9-15)
School gender:
Single Sex (Girls School)
School with Boarding Facilities
Total roll:

Trafalgar Street, Nelson

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School Context

Nelson College For Girls is situated in central Nelson. It has provided education for girls from Year 9 to 13 for over 130 years. The roll of 1018 includes 14 % Māori students. Students attend from across the Nelson area, with many also from the West Coast. There are 42 international students who are a mixture of short, medium and long-term stay.

The school’s vision is ‘to educate, empower and nurture each student so they can confidently succeed in their world.’ This is underpinned by PRIDE values: Positivity, Respect, Integrity, Diversity and Empathy.

The school states that its areas for strategic improvement are to:

  • understand our students as individuals to create meaningful relationships that enable success
  • have a culture of inspiration, innovation and excellence in our staff
  • grow the skills and attributes of our students to empower them to succeed in their world
  • strengthen partnerships with our whānau and community to enhance students’ success.

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

  • National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA)
  • standardised test data for Years 9 and 10
  • achievement for groups of students included in the school’s annual targets.

Teachers have participated in the Ministry of Education funded professional development programme ‘Positive Behaviour for Learning’ (PB4L).

The school hostel, Clarice Johnstone House, is an integral part of the school campus. It offers accommodation for up to 150 students, from New Zealand and overseas. The hostel, Nelson College For Girls Preparatory School and a young parent school all share governance with the college.

The college staffing has been generally stable over time. Since the 2016 review, two new assistant principals have been appointed to the senior leadership team.

Nelson College For Girls is a member of the Nelson City Kāhui Ako | Community of Learning.

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 college has been effective in achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for most students. High levels of achievement have been sustained since the 2016 ERO review, with most students successful in gaining NCEA, and the majority achieving the University Entrance qualification (UE).

Nearly all students finish school having achieved Level 2 or above, and almost all girls achieve Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy qualifications by the end of Year 12. In 2018, however, there were slightly lower results at Level 1 and for UE. The college’s 2019 targets reflect that increasing the number of girls achieving UE is a priority.

There is a persistent difference between the overall achievement levels in NCEA of New Zealand European students and Māori students. The school is aware of this and is acting to improve outcomes for Māori learners.

Over time, data indicates that there is an increasing proportion of girls who enter the college achieving below curriculum expectations for literacy and mathematics. Sustained levels of achievement in NCEA suggest that the school is increasing the achievement of these students as they move through the school.

The retention of girls beyond the age of 17 is high.

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

Leaders identify that the school’s effectiveness in accelerating the progress of priority learners is an area that requires strengthening.

Standardised testing information gathered in Years 9 and 10 shows that the school successfully accelerates progress in literacy and numeracy for a some of the students, including Māori, who need this.

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?

Positive and respectful relationships are clearly evident across the school. In calm and settled classrooms, ERO observed high engagement in learning activities. Leaders effectively ensure an orderly and supportive environment that is conducive to student learning. Girls have access to a wide range of educational and leadership opportunities both within and outside the school.

A sense of belonging and connection are successfully promoted. The established values have been refreshed in consultation with the community, and along with the traditions and desired outcomes, underpin teaching practice. Processes that enable a smooth transition into the school at Year 9 have been strengthened through collaboration with other schools in the Kāhui Ako.

Students with additional needs are well catered for through programmes, interventions and specific resourcing.

There is a strong focus on promoting student wellbeing. Pastoral systems and processes are well considered, responsive and effective in supporting students to be successful learners. A recently introduced coaching and mentoring system (Ārahi) is building positive relationships between students, teachers and families to foster learning success.

Teachers and leaders have strengthened the use of assessment tools to build a clearer picture of student achievement. They have better access to learning information that shows student progress over time. Improved tracking and monitoring of different groups of students, including those identified as at risk of underachieving, has led to teachers and leaders knowing more about who is achieving and who is not.

School leaders value and increasingly make effective use of key stakeholder voice to inform well-considered responses. Families are suitably engaged in actively supporting and facilitating valuable school activities.

Staff have opportunities to participate in meaningful and relevant professional learning that reflects the school’s strategic priorities for improvement. An appropriate appraisal system is in place that has the potential to support teachers to grow and develop their capabilities. A clear and well considered programme is in place to support the induction and mentoring of new teachers to the school.

A measured approach to review and reflection is evident across the school. It is improvement focussed. The school’s review process includes suitable research, is well considered and aligns with best practice pedagogy. There are examples of reviews leading to changes and refinements of school systems and processes.

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

The school’s curriculum requires modernising and needs to increase its response to students’ needs. Future curriculum review should focus on:

  • strengthening the response to students’ culture, language, and identity
  • developing a localised curriculum, reflecting the community’s history, culture and context
  • accelerating progress for priority learners
  • continuing to develop shared expectations for teaching and learning practices that deliver new pedagogical developments that are effective in supporting student achievement
  • being future focused, innovative and creative.

Leaders and teachers need to strengthen their shared understanding of evidence-based evaluation, inquiry and knowledge building. Measuring the impact of initiatives and teaching practices on improving outcomes for all learners, in particular priority learners, will assist the college to establish how well it delivers its valued outcomes and strategic goals. This should also support the newly- established leadership team to increase the pace of change, particularly for curriculum development.

While some teachers are engaging in the appraisal process well, there is the need for a more consistent and rigorous approach to strengthen its effectiveness in promoting improved practice across the school.

The school should strengthen partnerships with the community to enhance student learning. Exploring new strategies to engage different groups of parents, particularly whānau Māori, in school decision making is important for full whānau engagement.

The newly-elected board of trustees need to further develop their understanding of governance roles and responsibilities.

3 Other Matters

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school hostel is an integral part of the school and can accommodate up to 151 students. At the time of this review, it catered for 100 girls, drawn from all areas of Aotearoa New Zealand, although predominately from the West Coast of the South Island. 25% of girls in the hostel are international students.

Trustees have attested that all the requirements of the Hostel Regulations are met. The principal and the hostel manager are responsible for its day-to-day operation on behalf of the board of trustees.

The hostel provides suitable accommodation for full-time and weekly boarders from Years 9 to 13 in two buildings integrated into the main school campus. Hostel practices effectively complement and support pastoral care and learning within the school. Good provision is made for girls to study independently and supervised.

The hostel staff provide pastoral care in an environment that successfully promotes student wellbeing. Students have opportunities to participate in a range of school-based activities and sports.

The next steps for improvement are:

  • developing self review and evaluation that determines what is effective and what needs to be improved
  • formalising and increasing the frequency of reporting to the principal and to trustees
  • strengthening routines and raising expectations for the day-to-day running of the hostel.

Provision for international students

The college 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. It has attested that it complies with and meets all aspects of the code. At the time of this review there were 42 international students drawn largely from Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Processes for orientation to the school are well considered. Care is taken to provide courses that reflect the needs and interests of students and their families. Students’ pastoral and wellbeing needs are well supported. Students who set goals for academic achievement in NCEA qualifications are nearly all successful.

Students are encouraged to be actively involved in the life of the school and participate in a range of sporting, cultural and social activities both in the school and the wider community.

Students have good opportunities to share and celebrate their cultures with other students.

The next step is to strengthen internal evaluation processes to support the college to continue to improve its provision.

4 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.

5 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of Nelson College For Girls performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Well placed.

ERO’s Framework: Overall Findings and Judgement Tool derived from School Evaluation Indicators: Effective Practice for Improvement and Learner Success is available on ERO’s website.

6 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • sustained, high levels of achievement
  • strong, respectful relationships and a positive environment conducive to learning
  • effective pastoral systems and a strong focus on promoting wellbeing
  • good systems and processes to support teachers to improve their practice.

Next steps

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

  • implementing a more strategic approach to the planned curriculum review to be more responsive to all students needs
  • strengthening understanding of internal evaluation to measure the impact of initiatives and teaching practices for improving student outcomes
  • building partnerships with all groups of parents that promote learning and support school decision making.

Dr Lesley Patterson

Director Review and Improvement Services Te Tai Tini

Southern Region

13 March 2020

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Gender composition

100% Female

Ethnic composition

Māori 14%
NZ European/Pākehā 74%
Pacific 2%
Other Ethnicities 10%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

October 2019

Date of this report

13 March 2020

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review May 2016
Education Review November 2012


Nelson College for Girls has a long history of providing secondary education for girls. The school is well resourced for learning and has a history of high achievement in NCEA.

Strong leadership by the principal and senior leaders and a major change in teaching and learning are contributing to a stronger focus on student-centred and future-focused learning.

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

1 Context

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

The college is well established in the city and has provided 130 years of secondary education for girls, mostly from the Nelson region. The girls are proud of their school and its traditions. They enjoy the many opportunities provided for their learning and wellbeing, and particularly the positive relationships fostered with staff and their peers from across the school.

The school’s positive culture, recognised in the 2012 ERO review, continues to be very evident. The school’s vision ‘to educate and empower young women to achieve their potential’ and its ‘PRIDE’ values, guide teaching and learning and are regarded as what matters most by the girls, staff and school leaders.

The school is well resourced for learning and provides many on-site facilities. These include a gym and swimming pool, a private preparatory school for girls from Years 7 and 8 and a boarding house which hosts a number of girls from overseas. A young parent school, located offsite, is governed by Nelson College for Girls.

The school has made good progress responding to the recommendations identified in ERO’s last report. A number of major developments are currently underway. These include ongoing curriculum development.

The school is working alongside other local schools to help improve opportunities for their girls to achieve. The school roll has remained stable with an increase in the number of Māori girls.

2 Learning

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

The school has a history of high achievement in NCEA, when compared to similar schools. The school’s data shows lower levels of achievement in Years 9 and 10 and lower overall success for Māori girls compared with their school peers. These are a current focus for school-wide improvement. Achievement information is being increasingly used to promote students’ engagement, progress and achievement and to better inform effective teaching and learning.

Work with an external Ministry of Education student achievement facilitator (SAF) to improve achievement in reading for a small number of junior girls has resulted in improvements to the ways learners are identified, monitored and supported.

Junior school leaders and teachers are using achievement information well to help ensure all girls make progress in their literacy learning. The next step is for leaders and teachers to extend these good practices to mathematics and writing.

Senior leaders use a range of data to identify areas for improvement within the school and areas that require further support. They have improved the use of achievement data across the school, to promote equity and excellence for all girls. Curriculum leaders keep teachers well informed about the levels of achievement in all learning areas and for all year levels. Leaders make good use of engagement and achievement information to provide support for girls who are at risk with their learning.

Trustees are well informed. They use achievement information to monitor progress in meeting the strategic goals and targets and to inform decision making.

Next steps

The school is in the early stages of developing an effective system and process for meeting the needs of girls with high needs. Key appointments have been made and an action plan developed to centralise current support and give strategic direction. Increased collaboration is needed across the school to discuss and plan for meeting the needs of these girls.

There needs to be better use of the New Zealand Curriculum levels in assessments at Years 9 and 10 so achievement can be more accurately reported to parents and the board.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes girls’ learning. It has a strong values and skills emphasis. Ongoing improvements are being made to teaching and learning practices.

A positive culture is evident across the school. Girls benefit from a broad range of experiences and opportunities for learning. The school is well resourced for in and out-of-class learning. There are many opportunities for girls to extend their skills and interests in areas such as sports, art, music and cultural activities. A competitive house system helps build relationships and whanaungatanga across all year levels. Deliberate strategies are in place to build a culture of cooperation and collaboration across the school, for example, through student leadership roles and senior assemblies.

A review of the curriculum vision and values has resulted in an increased focus on building students’ confidence and resilience and a greater emphasis on students leading their learning.

There have been a number of improvements in how well girls are supported to move in, through and out of the school. These includes girls' involvement in planning for their future within learning areas, the increased use of information technology, more focused pastoral care and support, and on strategies for supporting transition of students into the college.

Senior and middle leaders agree that they need to continue the development of student-centred learning across all learning areas and school operations.

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

Since the 2012 ERO review, the language, culture and identity of Māori students is being actively promoted by the principal and senior leaders and becoming more visible in the life and culture of the school.

The school has increased opportunities for Māori students to take leadership roles and to positively influence the school culture. All girls have a variety of opportunities to learn te reo Māori. A challenge is to increase the number of students opting to take te reo Māori classes. The ‘Pikimai’ kapa haka group provides extended opportunities for learning and is growing in size.

School trustees and leaders have identified that Māori girls should achieve equitable and excellent outcomes. A Māori trustee and the college kaumātua are helping to strengthen the ways in which Māori parents and whānau are involved with the college and relationships with local iwi.

The next steps for the school are to:

  • continue to implement the school-wide plans to make teaching and learning more culturally responsive
  • seek the views of Māori students to inform internal evaluation and ongoing planning
  • improve how the school engages Māori girls in in their learning and the life of the school.

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

The levels of engagement and achievement of Pacific girls are similar to their school peers. External support has made a positive difference to understanding the use of a range of data for Pacific students.

Next steps

School leaders have identified that they need to:

  • review the college’s action plan for Pasifika to include outcomes for students and the effectiveness of initiatives
  • continue to investigate ways to include Pasifika families in the life of the school and student learning.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to make positive improvements to sustain its performance. A focus on achieving the best outcomes for students is contributing to positive changes to teaching practices and how students are engaged in their learning.

Trustees are very aware of their stewardship role and seek training as needed. They have a strong focus on improving student achievement and retaining senior students at school.

The capacity of the board to achieve its goals for students’ learning has been strengthened through some strategic staff appointments. Trustees share the principal’s vision for teaching and learning and have sound plans in place that support school development. They know the community well and are building stronger links within the school’s community.

A culture of improvement and collaboration is being developed across the school. The principal, with the support of a strong senior leadership team, is ably leading significant change. A number of changes to staff have been made to ensure key school initiatives are well led and supported. Good use is being made of the strengths of staff and new leadership roles have been established. Teacher capability is being built through well-targeted teacher professional learning and effective appraisal.

Next Steps

The board and senior leaders should now extend the scope of internal evaluation in the school. This should include:

  • improving issues of equity and excellence
  • establishing clear processes to guide effective evaluation practice for all
  • embedding and implementing current developments in inclusive ways for staff and students
  • building more systematic and strategic evaluation at all levels of the organisation.

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 section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The school has attested that it complies with all aspects of the Code.

ERO’s investigations confirmed that the school’s internal evaluation process for international students is carried out each year.

At the time of this review, there were 53 international students at the school, many from Asia and Europe. International staff work well together so that students are provided with high quality pastoral care and education. Students’ individual progress and achievement is well tracked. They receive effective support for learning English in a variety of ways. Students are well integrated into the school and community.

Provision for students in the school hostel

The school hostel, Clarice Johnston House, provides accommodation for a maximum of 150 students. This is 15% of the school roll. It is owned by the Nelson College for Girls' Board of Trustees. Girls attend the hostel from a wide geographical area. A number of the girls are international students.

The hostel provides a welcoming place for boarders. Students’ safety and wellbeing is well managed. Positive relationships are maintained between students and the hostel staff. These are supported by clear routines and expectations for all.

The manager works closely with the school principal and staff. Students’ individual needs are closely monitored and responded to. This is especially evident in the way older girls help younger girls. Some school staff come to the hostel regularly to help girls with their curriculum programmes and achievement.

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.


Nelson College for Girls has a long history of providing secondary education for girls. The school is well resourced for learning and has a history of high achievement in NCEA.

Strong leadership by the principal and senior leaders and a major change in teaching and learning are contributing to a stronger focus on student-centred and future-focused learning.

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

Chris Rowe

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern (Acting)

24 May 2016

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 13)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 100%

Ethnic composition





Other ethnicities






Special Features

School Hostel, Teen Parent Unit, Preparatory School

Review team on site

March 2016

Date of this report

24 May 2016

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2012

September 2009

June 2006