South Westland Area School

We maintain a regular review programme to evaluate and report on the education and care of young people in schools.

We are in the process of shifting from event-based external reviews to supporting each school in a process of continuous improvement.

There may be delays between reviews for some schools and kura due to Covid-19 and while we transition to our new way of reviewing.

Read more about our new processes and why we changed the way we review schools and kura.

Find out which schools have upcoming reviews.

School Context

South Westland Area School is a rural school with a roll of 94 students in Years 1 to 13. Of these, 17% identify as Māori. The school is situated in the remote West Coast township of Harihari, and students travel significant distances to attend.

The school’s mission is to prepare students to meet the demands of life confidently, and to ensure the effective, efficient use of its available resources. Its agreed values are respect, honesty, excellence and tolerance.

The school values academic and creative excellence, and providing a quality and inclusive environment to enhance learning. To achieve this trustees and leaders have identified strategic aims and goals in the areas of mathematics achievement, improvement of NCEA outcomes, collaboration as part of its Community of Learning (CoL), transitions into and from school, connecting with support services and the wider community, and the use of current resources.

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

  • achievement in Years 2 to 8 and in the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEAs), and for students identified as having special learning needs
  • engagement, especially attendance.

Since ERO’s January 2015 review, there have been ongoing building developments and classroom replacements. There has been a recent change of principal.

The school is a member of the Top of the South Kāhui Ako I CoL, and participates in a range of CoL initiatives, including sports tournaments and teacher professional development.

The school is a community hub, hosting the local library, support services, and activities for preschool children and their parents.

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 progressing well towards reaching its achievement targets for equitable and excellent outcomes for all students.

Learning information from 2016 to 2018 shows that the majority of students in Years 1 to 8 achieved at or above the expected curriculum level in mathematics, reading and writing. There is some disparity in Years 1 to 8 for girls, and for Māori students in mathematics achievement in relation to school expectations.

In Years 9 and 10, a large majority of students targeted for improvement achieved the expected curriculum level in mathematics and reading. Less than half of targeted students achieved the expected curriculum level in writing.

In the NCEAs, small student cohorts have experienced variable achievement over time. Achievement information for 2017 and 2018 shows that students who remain at school until Year 13 attain positive outcomes in NCEA Level 3. In 2018, the majority of students gained NCEA Levels 1 and 2, and most gained Level 3.

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

The school can show that in 2017 and 2018 some progress was made by students identified as needing accelerated learning.

All students identified as requiring support in mathematics made accelerated progress, following completion of a 10 week support programme in 2017.

Less than half of the students in Years 3 to 10 identified as requiring support made accelerated progress in mathematics, reading or writing in 2018.

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?

The school is addressing its students’ wellbeing and achievement challenges effectively within its unique geographical context. Leaders are developing and pursuing the school’s vision, goals and targets for equity and excellence, with appropriate support. Students participate in a caring, collaborative, inclusive learning community.

Relationships within the school and with the wider school community are respectful, responsive and productive. The learning environment is increasingly managed in ways that support student participation, engagement and agency in learning. Much of the school’s play equipment was designed and built over time by senior students. Students are actively supported to be confident, connected citizens and are progressively encouraged to pursue personal excellence.

Leaders and teachers know most students very well as learners and individuals. They have systems for identifying individual learning needs. Students benefit from the school’s proactive engagement of a wide range of pastoral support partners from across the region.

Māori perspectives and culture are increasingly evident in school practices, and are valued and being strengthened. As a result, student identities, and whānau and community knowledge and culture, are now represented in the wider curriculum.

Leaders and teachers proactively manage transitions for students into the school, between learning contexts, and beyond school for further education and employment. Development of teachers’ digital skills is building technological fluency for students and staff.

Leaders have identified and are beginning to develop internal teacher expertise, with appropriate external support, to further strengthen a responsive local curriculum. The challenges and opportunities presented by the school’s geographical isolation are being systematically addressed by forward thinking governance and leadership.

The school is capable of developing and sustaining its progress for ongoing improvement.

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

Trustees and leaders need to continue developing and strengthening the processes and practices they have identified for sustained improvement over time. They are in the early stages of building collaborative practices that include whānau and student voice for implementing strategies that respond to individual needs and promote engagement.

Leaders and teachers need to strengthen internal evaluation processes and practices. They need to use the achievement and wellbeing information they gather to evaluate the impact of teaching programmes and the sufficiency of student progress in their reporting to the board.

The school is committed to developing more culturally responsive learning programmes to enable all learners to be confident in their identity, language and culture. Leaders and teachers need to continue to develop schoolwide practices that include increasing understanding and knowledge of te ao Māori, and understanding and use of tikanga and te reo Māori in classroom programmes.

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.

4 ERO’s Overall Judgement

On the basis of the findings of this review, ERO’s overall evaluation judgement of South Westland Area School’s performance in achieving valued outcomes for its students is: Developing.

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:

  • the provision of learning pathways that respond well to most students’ interests and needs within a positive family atmosphere
  • its cohesive and committed board and leadership team who are future focused in their aspirations for all learners
  • its position as an educational leader within a geographically expansive area that benefits the entire community.

Next steps

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

  • embedding recently developed school processes and practices so that they support trustees, leaders and teachers to deliver consistent achievement and progress for all learners
  • building culturally responsive content and practices into the local curriculum to improve schoolwide understanding and appreciation of te ao Māori
  • deepening internal evaluation to better know the impact of programmes, interventions and practices on students’ learning and wellbeing.

Alan Wynyard

Director Review and Improvement Services Southern

Southern Region

29 May 2019

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Composite (Years 1 to 13)

School roll


Gender composition

Male 49, Female 45

Ethnic composition

Māori 16
NZ European/Pākehā 72
Other ethnic groups 6

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

April 2019

Date of this report

29 May 2019

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review January 2015
Education Review January 2012


Students value the wide range of learning experiences available. The school’s values and high expectations support their learning. Students achieve well against the National Standards and in NCEA. They are well supported to leave school with qualifications that will help them succeed beyond school. The principal is leading effectively.

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?

South Westland Area School provides education for students from Years 1 to 13. Many students travel to school by bus. School leaders and trustees work hard to ensure the relative isolation is not a barrier to providing good learning opportunities for all students.

The school’s roll is stable at 96 students, with increased retention in recent years into Years 12 and 13. The school works with the neighbouring early childhood centre to support successful transitions to school. The school is very family friendly, welcoming and helping parents become more fully involved in their children’s learning.

The school’s positive culture is based on supportive relationships. A strong focus is placed on ensuring students learn and achieve well enough to leave school with appropriate qualifications for success beyond school. The community has a positive view of the value of the school in the community. Many community members are well involved in the life of the school. Though isolated, the school ensures external support services are used appropriately.

The school is continuing to respond to aspects of the 2012 ERO report, including:

  • finding more ways to support Māori students’ understanding of their language, culture and identity
  • extending the use of self review for strategic improvement.

Linked to its isolation, the school has a relatively high turnover of staff. The board and principal place a high priority on managing staff changes and the induction of new staff to ensure the best possible outcomes for students. The board has identified three financial challenges due the school’s location. These are:

  • resourcing professional learning that meets the needs of teachers but may be available only at a considerable distance and cost
  • matching the available financial resources with the actual cost of maintaining a good-quality learning environment
  • responding to the impact of the recent cyclone and resolving issues in the face of the barriers caused by the school’s isolated location.

2 Learning

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

The school makes very good use of learning information to support students’ achievement, encourage them to stay on at school, and make successful transitions beyond school.

Information from 2013 shows that the school had very good levels of achievement in mathematics, reading and writing in relation to the National Standards. Every student entered in each level of NCEA achieved a certificate. The school tracks students after they leave school to be assured of their ongoing success in their work or further education.

Students are well supported to set goals for improvement and monitor those goals. Parents get fortnightly updates on aspects of the effort and progress of senior students.

Teachers are using achievement information purposefully to:

  • monitor student achievement and progress
  • share with students what they have achieved and the next steps for learning
  • identify what they need to teach next to ensure students continue to progress.

The principal and other senior leaders are using achievement information well to:

  • identify students at risk of not making sufficient progress
  • determine where an extra focus needs to be placed
  • report to the board on achievement and progress in relation to the school’s achievement targets
  • focus on how well strategies are working and what might need to be done differently.

Staff members responsible for strengthening assessment practices are supporting other teachers effectively. The next step is to spread the school’s high expectations for teachers’ assessment practices throughout the school.

The board makes use of achievement information to:

  • contribute to goal setting for improvement
  • inform decision making to achieve these goals
  • monitor progress towards achievement targets.

Area for development

The next step for trustees is to strengthen the evaluative quality of the reports they expect to come to the board. When an aspect of the school that impacts on students’ learning is reported to the board, the report should show:

  • how well it is going
  • how much impact there is on accelerating student progress
  • what, if anything, needs to be done differently.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports students’ learning.

Students enjoy and value the wide range of learning experiences they have and the opportunities for sport and trips. They understand how the school’s values and expectations support their learning. They know about and appreciate effective teaching. Students feel well supported by the school’s efforts to provide a wide range of subject choices where possible through multi-level classes, distance learning, and many job-related courses in the senior school.

Students who need extra help are provided with well-planned assistance. The school provides laptops for senior students and makes good use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to ensure no student is disadvantaged by the school’s staffing capacity or location.

Teachers make appropriate use of the local environment for authentic learning contexts. They show high levels of commitment to support students as individual learners. All teachers are expected to follow the school-wide high expectations for good quality teaching practices. Each curriculum area leader has developed specific guidelines for high-quality teaching in that particular subject area.

Areas for development

School leaders have indentified, and ERO agrees, that the work underway in the following areas should be continued and strengthened. The school plans to:

  • continue to extend the range of course pathways in the senior school as resources permit
  • strengthen the use of student folios of progress across all curriculum areas in Years 9 and 10
  • extend the ways ICT can support students, parents and staff
  • improve the consistency of teacher implementation of recent initiatives, including expectations for best-practice teaching
  • continue to strengthen the three-way conferences that involve students, parents and teachers.

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

There are three Māori students currently enrolled in the school. The school has been involved in a professional development programme with an explicit focus on improving culturally responsive leadership and teacher practices to ensure Māori learners enjoy educational success as Māori. As a result, students are supported by academic-review interviews involving the student, whānau and teachers. Nearly all Māori whānau have attended these interviews. The aim is to keep Māori students at school longer and ensure each student leaves with appropriate qualifications.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

There are strong links between well-considered strategic planning and annual plans to implement key priorities.

The board and principal are working collaboratively to ensure:

  • systems for school operations are sustainable
  • future leaders and trustees can follow clear processes for good quality governance
  • processes to review effectiveness continue to be strengthened.

Trustees are well supported by comprehensive guidelines and recent useful training for their governance role. They show a strong commitment to improvement and sustainability.

Senior leaders have strengthened the appraisal system for teachers. The school is improving the way teachers record how they inquire into their practice, with a focus on improving outcomes for students.

Students value the way the school gathers their opinions about a range of topics and responds where possible to these opinions.

The principal is leading well. He models and leads high quality teaching, supports teachers to meet these high expectations and monitors their progress in doing so. Students appreciate his approachability and visibility. He:

  • has worked to establish positive, two-way relationships with the community
  • understands the school’s strengths and areas requiring development
  • recognises people’s strengths and develops potential leaders
  • has a measured and considered approach to moving the school forward.

It is clear to students, staff and parents that he is leading the school positively in a sound direction.

Area for development

The board needs to strengthen the appraisal process for the principal to help improve support for this important role. All aspects of a robust appraisal process should be implemented thoroughly and recorded appropriately.

Provision for international students

The school is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. No international students were enrolled at the time of the ERO review.

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 value the wide range of learning experiences available. The school’s values and high expectations support their learning. Students achieve well against the National Standards and in NCEA. They are well supported to leave school with qualifications that will help them succeed beyond school. The principal is leading effectively.

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

Graham Randell Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern Southern Region

21 January 2015

About the School


Hari Hari, South Westland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Composite (Years 1 to 13)

School roll


Gender composition

Male 50; Female 46

Ethnic composition







Review team on site

October 2014

Date of this report

21 January 2015

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review
Education Review
Supplementary Review

January 2012
November 2008
May 2006