Birkenhead College

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

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School Context

Birkenhead College is a co-educational school catering for students from Year 9 to 13. There are currently 674 students enrolled at the school. The school roll includes 17 percent Māori, 14 percent Pacific and 11 percent Asian students.

The school’s mission is ‘to provide education of the highest quality for all students’. The school values inclusiveness and this is encapsulated in its motto ‘Where everybody is somebody’. These two statements are integral to the school’s vision of providing a culture of excellent teaching, learning and achievement within a caring and supportive school environment.

The school’s strategic goals and targets for improving students’ learning outcomes include:

  • maintaining high participation rates and achieving success in co-curricular programmes

  • learning outcomes and quality achievement in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and University Entrance (UE)

  • success for Māori and Pacific students.

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

  • achievement within the New Zealand Qualifications framework

  • student engagement, wellbeing and attendance over time.

Since the 2012 ERO review, a new principal has been appointed together with two new senior team leaders. Recent schoolwide professional learning and development has focused on digital tools to enhance literacy learning and achievement.

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 continues to raise achievement levels for all students in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), and has good numbers of students staying at school until Years 12 and 13.

The school’s roll-based data show that most students are achieving well in NCEA Level 1 and 2. Approximately 70 percent of students are achieving well at NCEA Level 3. The number of merit and excellence endorsements continues to rise and numbers are comparable with the average proportion of endorsements nationally and in similar type schools.

Māori students achieve well compared with Māori students nationally and in similar type schools. In-school achievement information shows that there is parity for Māori and Pacific students in NCEA Level 2, but some disparity at Level 1 has been evident over time. The school identifies that addressing in-school disparity for Māori and Pacific students at NCEA Level 3 and University Entrance is also a priority.

Year 9 and 10 students are regularly assessed in their literacy and mathematics achievement. Since 2017, teachers and deans target and monitor individual students who are at risk of not achieving in order to gauge their accelerated progress.

Other valued outcomes that are highly evident, are in the ways that students are:

  • inclusive, respectful, supportive and accepting of others

  • able to build good learning relationships with each other and their teachers.

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

The school is working towards achieving parity in outcomes for Māori, Pacific and other students whose learning needs accelerating.

During 2017, Year 9 students who required additional learning in reading and writing participated in a targeted programme that focused on addressing learning needs within a short timeframe. Seven of the eleven students made accelerated progress and were able to reach the expected curriculum level or beyond. In 2018, this approach has widened to target groups within all classes. This initiative is supported and informed by teachers’ inquiry into the effectiveness of their practice, and the use of teaching and learning strategies that are designed to accelerate student learning.

Disparity for Māori and Pacific students is beginning to be addressed in various ways across different departments. For example, more manageable credit amounts are offered to students for some courses. Staff have adopted culturally responsive practices and provide individualised content and assessment opportunities. Student input influences course planning.

A priority for the school is to build a longitudinal picture of Māori and Pacific students’ achievement and progress across a five year period. This information would help to clearly identify those teaching and learning approaches that make a difference.

Learning support for students with additional needs is well coordinated. There is effective liaison between specialists, classroom teachers and deans. This considered approach helps students participate fully in appropriate learning programmes and be involved in all aspects of school life.

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?

A positive school culture provides a good foundation for learning for all students. Students and teachers have respectful and productive learning relationships. Students enjoy very settled learning environments and display good levels of engagement in their learning.

School leadership is effective and responsive to strengthening conditions for equity and excellence. The new team of leaders encourages a culture of teaching innovation to respond to students’ varied strengths and interests. The school attracts and nurtures high quality professional staff who are encouraged to contribute to the school’s learning community and new curriculum direction. A recently introduced student leadership programme fosters students’ confidence and skills to contribute to, and actively influence school development.

There is a strong focus on developing teachers as learners, within a collaborative learning community. Useful systems and strategies include:

  • meaningful and well implemented staff appraisal

  • relevant professional learning opportunities that support the implementation of effective teaching practices across all curriculum areas

  • teachers leading professional inquiries in order to evaluate the effectiveness of school initiatives and set future school priorities.

School leaders have a focus on building stronger connections and relationships with parents, whānau and the community, that increase learning opportunities and enhance student achievement and wellbeing. Some successful recent initiatives are strengthening the school’s connection with its Māori and Pacific communities. Students are positive about the higher profile that their cultures have in the school curriculum. School leaders are also building stronger relationships with the college’s contributing intermediate school to support student transitions and curriculum developments.

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

School leaders are appropriately reviewing and redesigning the school curriculum to increase the learning opportunities and pathways available to students. The key focus areas for the school are:

  • developing cross-curricular learning opportunities, supported by the school’s vocational pathways and careers programme

  • increasing flexibility in the timetable to enable wider curricular learning opportunities

  • using student voice in evaluation to inform school curriculum design and implementation.

Continuing to investigate meaningful and useful ways of analysing, reporting and using progress and achievement information at Years 9 and 10 should help the school’s progress towards a more responsive curriculum. Using the Year 9 and 10 achievement information to identify students’ strengths and interests and inform strategic curriculum planning decisions is likely to increase student engagement and support learning pathways for all students.

It is timely for the board and school leaders to develop action plans that will drive the school’s progress towards reaching its strategic priorities. An action plan to guide the current school curriculum review would be beneficial for school leaders. This action plan should identify key signposts, timeframes and areas of accountability.

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 46 international exchange students attending the school.

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

Birkenhead College provides international students with high quality pastoral care. Students integrate well into the school’s education programme and are involved in all aspects of school and community life. The school provides good quality English language support that is customised for each student.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • a positive school culture that promotes participation and collaboration

  • very good leadership at different levels of the school, that focuses on strengthening school conditions that contribute to equity and excellence

  • systems and strategies that develop confident professional teachers within a collaborative learning community.

Next steps

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

  • reviewing the school’s curriculum to increase learning opportunities and pathways for students

  • developing action plans that will support the school’s progress towards its strategic priorities

  • enhancing internal evaluation to inform decisions that focus on improving student outcomes.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Julie Foley

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

Te Tai Raki - Northern Region

21 June 2018

About the school


North Shore, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary School

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 52% Girls 48%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā 44%
Māori 17%
Tongan 9%
South East Asian 7%
Samoan 5%
Chinese 4%
Other 14%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Review team on site

April and May, 2018

Date of this report

21 June 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review November 2012
Education Review February 2010
Education Review November 2006

1 Context

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

Students at Birkenhead College on Auckland’s North Shore are confident, friendly and proud of their school. They benefit from a caring and inclusive school culture and have many opportunities to participate in a wide range of academic, cultural, arts and sporting activities. Students have a variety of leadership opportunities across the school.

The school has a history of positive ERO reports. Previous reports have commended the school’s high aspirations and commitment to developing the potential of all learners. Teachers’ support for students’ learning and involvement in extra-curricular activities was noted. These positive features of the school continue to be evident.

The school has well-established links with the local community and contributing intermediate and primary schools. School sports and performing arts facilities are well used by the wider community. Students have opportunities to participate in community-based learning experiences. The principal, senior managers and teachers continue to make meaningful connections with local Māori and iwi.

The board of trustees plans strategically and continues to provide students and teachers with high quality teaching and learning facilities. Trustees bring a variety of professional backgrounds and experiences to their role.

2 Learning

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

Students at Birkenhead College are progressing and achieving very well.

Positive relationships between students and teachers support students’ engagement with their learning programmes. Students have many leadership opportunities and actively engage in the wider life of the school.

Academic results for students in Years 11 to 13 show that there has been significant and sustained improvement in National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) achievement over the past three years. Most notably:

  • student achievement in NCEA at all levels is significantly higher than national averages
  • Māori student achievement has increased significantly and exceeds national averages at Level 1
  • there has been a significant increase in merit and excellence endorsements at all levels
  • Level 1 literacy and numeracy achievement is higher than the national average.

Pacific students’ achievement in all three levels of NCEA is higher than for Pacific students nationally. Lifting the achievement of Pacific students to align with overall school achievement and improving Māori and Pacific rates of gaining University Entrance have been identified as next steps for improvement.

School leaders and ERO agree that more systematic processes are needed to measure student progress in literacy and mathematics at Years 9 and 10. Student progress and achievement is measured against The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) levels within each subject. Collating and analysing this information across the school would further strengthen reporting to the board and community, and would assist in the identification of strengths and areas for development.

Students receive high quality learning support. The progress of all students is closely monitored. Programmes of targeted support are tailored for individuals identified as being at risk of not achieving to their potential. Teachers and senior students give time and expertise to support students to make accelerated progress and to achieve success.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum effectively promotes and supports student learning. It is influenced by students’ experiences, backgrounds and needs, and provides relevant and meaningful learning opportunities for all learners. A focus on developing citizenship and promoting a caring society is evident across the school.

School leaders and teachers regularly review the school’s curriculum. New programmes and teaching approaches are introduced in response to the findings of this self review. Collaboration between teachers from different learning areas provides support for cross-curricular approaches. Students and teachers benefit from the board’s support for innovation, including a commitment to the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in learning.

High quality teaching practices are evident across the school. Students respond very positively to teaching that acknowledges and values their cultures and identity. Professional development contributes to the effectiveness of teaching and to a culture of continuous learning in the school.

Students benefit from the school’s strong commitment to their individual learning pathways. These pathways enable students to plan their learning at school and prepare for their future education, training and employment. Strong relationships with the local community provide valuable opportunities for students to experience learning beyond the classroom.

ERO and school leaders agree that useful priorities for further development of the school’s curriculum could include:

  • using The New Zealand Curriculum as a strategic resource for considering new initiatives and future directions for the school
  • more consistently sharing progress and achievement information with students to increase ownership of their own learning.

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

Sixteen percent of students at Birkenhead College are Māori. Māori students and their whānau appreciate the school’s support for them to be successful as Māori. A well-established whānau class and the school’s whare wananga support Māori students’ sense of belonging. Students and whānau value kapa haka and see this as an important part of being Māori at the school.

Senior leaders and teachers are committed to supporting and enhancing Māori students’ success at the school. Māori culture and contexts are evident across the curriculum. Māori students are well known by their teachers. Students respond to the school’s high expectations and Māori students are well represented in academic, sporting and cultural activities and successes.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The school is very well placed to sustain and further improve its performance. Self review is student focused and helps to ensure that school systems are effective in supporting students’ academic, social and cultural learning.

Leadership is very effective. The experienced principal and his supportive senior leadership team work collaboratively to foster strong relationships in the school. Senior leaders mentor and support teachers, actively growing leadership at all levels of the school. The board and school leaders value the school’s strong and mutually beneficial relationships with the local community.

Trustees plan strategically in response to the high quality information that they receive from school leaders. The board and school leaders use self review to identify and prioritise areas for development and to monitor the progress and success of existing initiatives. Trustees value staff and provide well for their ongoing professional learning and development.

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. At the time of this review there were 41 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 process for international students is thorough and effective.

The school has well documented systems to guide its education and care of international students. The international department monitors the progress and achievement of individual students. Students are encouraged to participate fully in the wider life of the school. Staff regularly review their practices and identify areas where additional support and guidance would benefit students.

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.

Violet Tu'uga Stevenson

National Manager Review Services Northern Region (Acting)

7 November 2012

About the School


Birkenhead, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys 53% Girls 47%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā










Other Asian














Review team on site

August 2012

Date of this report

7 November 2012

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

February 2010

November 2006

July 2003