Ferndale Te Ahu

Education institution number:
School type:
Special School
School gender:
School for pupils with intellectual impairments
Total roll:

104 Merivale Lane, Merivale, Christchurch

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Ferndale School (Christchurch) - 13/12/2018

School Context

Ferndale School is a special school located in Christchurch. It has a roll of 111 students (aged 5 years to 21 years) with significant, wide ranging learning and other needs. A new principal was appointed at the beginning of 2018.

All students receive additional funding and specialist or other support from the Ministry of Education. The school also provides specialist teacher outreach services to local schools, for students in regular classrooms.

The school has a base school and six satellite classes in mainstream schools across the city. These classes include primary, secondary and/or post-secondary age students.

The school’s vision is for students to be engaged and empowered, with the confidence to fulfil their potential, and prepare them for the future and lifelong learning. The foundations for achieving this vision are the key values of communication (whakawhitiwhitinga), independence (tino rangatiratanga), respect (whakanui), enjoyment (painga) and excellence (hiranga). The school’s motto, ‘The Best I Can Be’, encourages both students and staff to pursue the shared vision.

Current strategic priorities are informed by all students’ unique identities and needs. The priorities are student voice, connectedness, curriculum, cultural responsiveness and wellbeing. These are the cornerstones of the school’s work in setting, and working towards, identified targets for each student to progress and achieve.

Expansive pastoral care is provided for students and families. Extensive links with a range of external agencies enable the school to support students’ learning and wellbeing.

The school has made good progress in areas identified for improvement in the 2013 ERO report, including review of assessment and the curriculum.

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

  • outcomes for students with special/additional learning needs

  • progress/achievement in relation to school and individual student targets

  • outcomes related to engagement, wellbeing and safety for success.

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?

All students are effectively supported to achieve personal equity and excellence. Most students are achieving the school’s valued equity and excellence outcomes.

School information for 2017 shows that most student target groups, including Māori students, met or exceeded targets in literacy and numeracy.

Mid-year 2018 individual progress and achievement data shows that there is no significant disparity for Māori students. School information from Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Individual Transition Plans (ITPs), in relation to valued learning and wellbeing outcomes, shows that many students made expected progress over time.

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

The school is highly inclusive and interventions are personalised, specifically resourced and closely monitored.

For those students, including Māori students, whose learning, progress and achievement requires extra support, the school provides:

  • extensive collaborative planning which includes parents/whānau and specialist service input

  • increased resourcing

  • targeted and regular professional reflection and review.

This support enables most students to engage meaningfully in their personalised learning in order to make expected or, for some, accelerated progress.

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?

Strong leadership, relational trust and high levels of collaboration, within and beyond the school, have targeted and sustained high levels of support, care and learning for students. Very effective teaching and learning practices and the promotion of a reflective school culture are priorities which drive ongoing school improvement. Teachers and support staff take collective responsibility for all students’ learning and wellbeing. Resourcing priorities encourage and support teacher capability and schoolwide capacity building to meet students’ interests and needs.

School leaders have promoted and embedded very useful models of internal evaluation for school improvement. Regular, well analysed consultation and surveys inform actions and their impact for continuous school improvement. Intentional, strategic and distributed leadership opportunities are building the school’s capacity to meet the learning and wellbeing needs of all learners.

Effective, wide ranging communication practices with the school community and a philosophy of inclusion, from the board to community, ensure that decisions, programmes and innovations for continued success are valued. These communications are systematically focused on family aspirations for their children and are aligned to the school’s vision and valued outcomes for students. Strong, enduring connections with all stakeholders, and the professional commitment of those in the school, ensure that students are at the centre of all strategic and operational decisions.

Cohesive and coherent schoolwide systems and processes have ensured consistency of practices. These provide very clear expectations and guidelines for delivering a culturally responsive curriculum which aligns student behaviour management and communication strategies with readiness to learn and engagement for success. Consistent practices foster and enhance students’ wellbeing and safety.

The school’s curriculum is very responsive to students’ strengths, needs and interests. It is broad, and relevant to the school’s specialist setting. It balances functional skills with academic learning and life experience opportunities. It is very responsive to all students’ languages, cultures and identities, including Māori students. The curriculum provides an enriched learning and care environment for students to become active lifelong learners.

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

School leaders have identified, and ERO agrees, that the school needs to complete and implement its draft curriculum guidelines and improved assessment developments.

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 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • a collaborative and inclusive school culture that builds relational trust and places all students at the centre of reflection and action

  • effective communication which strengthens the partnership with families/whānau and specialist agencies in realising shared valued outcomes for students

  • coherent systems which support processes that enhance student safety and wellbeing

  • an emerging curriculum that is responsive to students’ strengths, needs and interests

  • a reflective environment that promotes capability and capacity building for ongoing improvement.

Next steps

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

  • completing and implementing the draft curriculum, including improved assessment developments.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

ERO is likely to carry out the next external evaluation in four-to-five years.

Alan Wynyard

Director Review & Improvement Services

Te Waipounamu - Southern Region

13 December 2018

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Special School

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 69% ; Girls 31%

Ethnic composition

Māori 22%

Pākehā 60%

Pacific 9%

Other ethnicities 9%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

October 2018

Date of this report

13 December 2018

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review October 2013

Education Review April 2010

Education Review February 2007

Ferndale School (Christchurch) - 01/10/2013

1 Context

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

Ferndale School is a special school for students from 5 years to 21 years old with significant and complex learning needs and challenges. All students receive additional funding and support for their learning from the Ministry of Education.

The school oversees 11 satellite classes located in other schools in Christchurch. It also provides an outreach services to local schools, where specialist teachers regularly visit students attending regular classrooms.

The school provides high quality pastoral care for students and families. School leaders have established extensive links with a wide range of external agencies to support students’ learning and their families.

The board has established very effective safety policies and procedures to help provide a safe environment for students, families, teachers, support staff and visitors.

2 Learning

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

School leaders and teachers make very good use of achievement information. They have developed high-quality procedures to gather and analyse this information. It is well used to plan for specific next learning steps, and to monitor individual student progress.

Areas of strength

The school makes effective use of a wide variety of appropriate assessments. All students have a detailed Individual Education Plan (IEP), or an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) if they are over 16 years of age. The individual plans include appropriate goals across all areas of the curriculum. Parents and families respond positively to the communication about these plans.

School leaders regularly monitor and measure school-wide student progress. They provide good-quality analysis and detailed reports to the board about students’ progress and achievement. The analysed information is used to set appropriate learning goals and targets, for individuals and groups of students.

The school has established an effective and informative way of reporting student progress to parents. The comprehensive reports are visual, easy to understand and include next steps for the student. Older students who are preparing to leave school develop a detailed curriculum vitae to help with this transition.

School leaders have identified the need to review and further develop school assessments and procedures to better identify the individual learning needs of students.

3 Curriculum

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

The school’s curriculum is highly effective in promoting and supporting students’ learning.

Areas of strength

The comprehensive and unique curriculum is designed to give emphasis to the school values which have been developed in consultation with the community. It has a focus on individual student’s learning and development pathways. These pathways involve managed transitions into life beyond school.

Strengths of the curriculum include:

  • extensive education outside the classroom ( EOTC ) programmes
  • innovative and varied use of technology, particularly for student communication
  • useful links with tertiary institutions
  • older students having access to the Duke of Edinburgh awards.

School leaders and teachers regularly review all aspects of the curriculum. These reviews lead to detailed action plans for bringing about improvements.

Students benefit from high-quality teaching by classroom and specialist teachers, and the extensive support staff. Teachers and support staff are provided with clear expectations and guidelines, and are well supported by effective management practices.

A well-designed programme provides relevant and useful training for all staff, addressing a balance of individual teacher’s and whole staff developmental needs.

The principal has identified and ERO agrees that there is a need to further develop appraisal procedures to ensure more emphasis is placed on teacher development.

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

The school is very effectively promoting Māori student educational success.

Areas of strength

Most Māori students succeed and progress better than other groups of students in the school.

The principal's analysis of Māori student achievement shows a positive increase in achievement of Māori students in literacy and numeracy in 2011 and 2012.

Leaders, teachers and the pastoral care coordinator effectively consult and communicate with students’ whānau. The school kaumātua is extending home and school links, and whānau feel welcome in the school. The school provides significant pastoral care for Māori families, including liaison with appropriate external support agencies.

A number of staff members are confident speakers of te reo Māori.

A detailed and useful cultural audit has been carried out. This has helped to inform the Māori development plan that is part of the charter, and to integrate Māori values into planning.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

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

Areas of strength

School leaders provide a high level of professional leadership. They have a strong sense of vision and direction for the school. They have extensive knowledge of special education, and make good use of self-review information. The leaders work well together, and set high expectations for all aspects of school operations.

The board of trustees provides very good governance. Trustees are responsive and committed to the core values of the school. Board procedures are well organised and effective.

Leaders and trustees manage a detailed self review programme for each year. Review reports contain useful evaluations, and lead to relevant action plans.

Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board of trustees and principal of the school completed the ERO Board Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklists. In these documents they attested that they had taken all reasonable steps to meet their legislative obligations related to:

  • board administration
  • curriculum
  • management of health, safety and welfare
  • personnel management
  • financial management
  • asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student achievement:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)
  • physical safety of students
  • teacher registration
  • processes for appointing staff
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years.

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

1 October 2013

About the School


Merivale, Christchurch

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Special School

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 62 Girls 36

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā



Other ethnicities





Special Features

School employs therapists and provides Specialist Education support services for some schools. It has satellite classes in six schools.

Review team on site

July 2013

Date of this report

1 October 2013

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

April 2010

February 2007

May 2004