Aquinas College

Education institution number:
482
School type:
Secondary (Year 7-15)
School gender:
Co-Educational
Definition:
Not Applicable
Total roll:
743
Telephone:
Address:

183 Pyes Pa Road, Pyes Pa, Tauranga

View on map

Aquinas College - 23/01/2019

School Context

Aquinas College is a co-educational, Catholic secondary school providing special character education for students from Years 7 to 13. It is located in Pyes Pa, in Tauranga. The roll of 737 includes 109 Māori students. At the time of this ERO review, 15 international students attended the school.

The school’s vision statement is ‘educating Catholic leaders through faith and action’ and the touchstones - truth, prayer, service, family, joy and scholarship - underpin all aspects of school life.

Aquinas College’s strategic goals for 2018 include:

  • ensuring the junior curriculum is coherent, connected and future focused
  • developing a school-wide approach to improving student achievement with a specific focus on priority learners
  • improving student achievement and engagement in Year 11 through the implementation of a digital technology environment
  • providing a supportive mentoring programme for all students that engages students and their whānau.

Student achievement goals for 2018 include:

  • removing disparity for Year 9 Māori students’ achievement in numeracy
  • improving the quality and achievement in writing for boys, with a particular focus on the Year 9 cohort
  • reducing disparity in certificate endorsements in NCEA between boys and girls
  • reducing the disparity in University Entrance (UE) for boys and Māori.

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

  • achievement within the New Zealand Qualifications Framework
  • REACH data (Years 9 and 10 Reaching Excellence at Aquinas College certificate)
  • special Catholic character
  • student wellbeing.

Since the previous ERO review in 2015, there have been several personnel changes. A new principal began at the start of 2018, a new deputy principal began in 2017, and two new internal appointments have been made to the senior leadership team. The board of trustees has several new first-term representatives.

Leaders and teachers have recently been involved in professional learning and development (PLD) in school-wide literacy strategies focused on writing, the integration of digital technologies, and culturally responsive practices.

The school is a member of the Rotorua Catholic Faith Based Community of Learning|Kāhui Ako (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?

Achievement data over the last three years shows that most students achieve well at all levels of NCEA and in University Entrance.

In 2017, roll-based achievement data shows that almost all students achieved at NCEA Levels 1 and 2, and most students achieved at NCEA Level 3 and UE. More than three quarters of Aquinas College students achieved merit or excellence endorsements in Level 1, and two thirds achieved merit or excellence endorsements in Levels 2 and 3.

Data over time shows disparity at NCEA Level 3 and in UE where Māori students are achieving less well than their Pākehā peers. Girls continue to outperform boys in University Entrance, however, boys’ achievement in both NCEA Level 3 and UE has increased significantly since 2015.

School leavers’ data since 2015 shows that most students leave the school with a minimum of a NCEA Level 2 qualification.

The school continues to achieve a number of scholarships each year across a range of subject areas in the New Zealand Scholarship examinations.

The school’s 2017 junior achievement data shows that most students in Years 9 and 10 achieved at or above expected curriculum levels in the core subjects of English, mathematics, social science and science. In Year 10, significant disparity exists in all four subjects where girls outperformed boys, and Māori students achieved less well than their Pākehā peers.

Almost all students in Year 7 achieved at or above expected curriculum levels in reading, writing and mathematics. In Year 8, almost all students achieved at or above the expected curriculum level in reading, and most students achieved at or above the expected curriculum levels in writing and mathematics. Data over time shows disparity in mathematics where Māori students achieved less well than Pākehā students. There is also significant disparity in reading and writing where boys achieve less well than girls.

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

The school is able to show accelerated progress for Māori and other students who need this.

The school’s achievement data for 2016 and 2017 shows that almost all students who began at Aquinas College in Years 7 or 8, and whose learning was at risk, made sufficient accelerated progress to achieve a minimum of an NCEA Level 2 qualification. This included all Māori students and most boys who remained at the school for at least five years.

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?

Effective systems and processes support student wellbeing. Intensive wrap-around pastoral and guidance networks are in place to promote the positive social and emotional welfare of students. The school provides extra hours of guidance counsellor support and makes good use of appropriate external agencies. School touchstones are highly visible and students describe feeling valued and well supported in a family-like atmosphere. Transition processes into the school include strong links with local schools and a buddy system that pairs senior students with junior students. Restorative practice contributes to the positive relationships evident throughout the school.

A wide range of learning opportunities support a diverse curriculum. Positive relationships are valued and evident in settled classrooms where students learn in respectful and unhurried environments. Students demonstrate a willingness to participate and engage in learning. Aspects of the curriculum allow for some student choice in what and how they learn, and include examples where students learn in meaningful, authentic contexts. Teachers know students well and provide individual and group support inside and outside the lesson times. Students also support one another in their learning. There is a wide range of co-curricular opportunities with high levels of student participation.

Trustees and leaders collaboratively develop and pursue the school’s vision and goals. These are clearly communicated. Distributed leadership and a collaborative approach are used to develop staff capacity and shared ownership of the direction of the school. Professional learning is schoolwide and is clearly aligned with annual goals. Purposeful consultation with teachers, parents, whānau and students is helping inform internal evaluation. Trustees have a wide range of useful expertise and a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. They have undertaken appropriate professional learning, including recent workshops on the Treaty of Waitangi and culturally responsive leadership. The school’s Catholic character is prioritised through representation on the board and a specific senior leadership portfolio.

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

School leaders and ERO agree that key next steps are to:

  • increase the presence of te ao Māori in the curriculum and strengthen te reo and tikanga Māori practices schoolwide
  • strengthen the response to individual student needs, particularly for at-risk learners, including Māori and students with additional needs.

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 theEducation (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 15 long-stay international students attending the school. The school has effective and supportive systems and practices in place for international students to support their integration into a positive school culture and promote appropriate learning opportunities.

4 Going forward

Key strengths of the school

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

  • pastoral care that effectively supports student wellbeing
  • learning opportunities that provide a holistic experience for students
  • strategic decision-making that provides clear direction and focuses on continuous improvement.

Next steps

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

  • a school curriculum that effectively responds to students’ language, culture and identity
  • building capacity to address disparity and improve outcomes for priority learners.

ERO’s next external evaluation process and timing

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

Phil Cowie
Director Review and Improvement Services

Central Region

23 January 2019

About the school

Location

Tauranga

Ministry of Education profile number

482

School type

Secondary (Years 7 – 13)

School roll

737

Gender composition

Boys 45% Girls 55%

Ethnic composition

Māori 15%
Pākehā 75%
Asian 7%
Other 3%

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)

Yes

Provision of Māori medium education

No

Review team on site

October 2018

Date of this report

23 January 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review September 2015
Education Review September 2012
Education Review October 2010

Aquinas College - 10/09/2015

Findings

Aquinas College is a Years 7 to 13 Catholic school situated in Tauranga. Students enjoy learning in a safe environment, with well-maintained facilities. Students' spiritual and educational needs are catered for and their achievements are recognised and celebrated. Positive and mutually respectful relationships are a school feature.

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 special Catholic character of Aquinas College is focused on spiritual and educational outcomes for all students. The ongoing commitment by the college to promote collaborative relationships with students, parents, whānau, the parish and wider community contributes to positive learning experiences for students. All aspects of college life are underpinned by the ‘Touch Stones of Prayer, Truth, Scholarship, Service, Joy and Family’. These values underpin all aspects of school life and the curriculum. Adults and students have mutual understandings and knowledge about learning. Significant features that contribute to students’ development and engagement in learning include:

  • students having a strong sense of belonging and being optimistic about their future
  • students having a good understanding of college expectations where they share common understandings and values
  • students' dignity as young individuals being well supported by a strong pastoral care process that is focused on their development into adulthood.

Trustees are committed to developing student strengths and interests within the school’s special character. A highly skilled chairperson, elected parent representatives, proprietor representatives, and a co-opted whānau trustee guide college governance/stewardship responsibilities. Trustees have clear expectations for future development and have a strong presence in the school.

The experienced principal continues to build on previous strengths within the school. He has a distributive approach to leadership and is well supported by a knowledgeable senior leadership team. Extended self review and the implementation of school-wide initiatives, particularly in the development and implementation of the school’s curriculum, is well organised.

The college is situated in a western suburb of Tauranga and caters for students in Years 7 to 13. The roll has remained relatively constant and 82 of the 753 students are of Māori descent. Most Māori students whakapapa to Tauranga Moana iwi and hapu. The school is a member of the recently established Faith Based Community of Schools (CoS), which includes Catholic schools in the Tauranga and Rotorua diocese. This collaboration is likely to contribute to a wider range of positive educational opportunities for college students.

2 Learning

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

School leaders, teachers, students and parents make effective use of achievement information to promote student engagement in learning. Trustees are well informed about student achievement and make good use of this information to inform resourcing decisions. Teachers and students are able to use school information and communication technology (ICT) systems to monitor student progress and achievement over time.

Robust moderation practices in Years 7 and 8 align reading writing and mathematics to National Standards and support overall teacher judgements (OTJs). Teacher collaboration increases the accuracy of OTJs and builds their understandings about student learning. These practices are responsive, guide department self-review, and ensure that students’ progress is effectively monitored.

Students in Years 7 and 8 have a strong sense of ownership of learning and are focused on achieving their learning goals. They benefit from teachers sharing their achievement in reading, writing and mathematics. Students are able to reflect on their progress and achievement, and report this information to their parents and whānau during student-led conferences. This sense of responsibility is a significant factor that contributes to their learning.

A well-considered approach to standard based assessment for Years 9 and 10 students provides the college with a useful framework, which is aligned to National Certificate Education Achievement (NCEA) assessment. The senior leadership team recognise the possibility of aligning the Years 9 and 10 framework to National Standards at Years 7 and 8. This would provide a more seamless approach to assessment practice, which could subsequently include contributing schools and students from Years 1 to 13.

Māori students who are identified as being below in reading, writing and mathematics are provided with specific learning programmes to accelerate their progress. Long term achievement trends in NCEA indicate that nearly all of these students achieve success over time. In 2012 a large group of Year 10 students were identified as being at risk of not achieving in NCEA. A number of initiatives were introduced and recent NCEA data suggests that the achievement of these students has improved.

Student achievement in NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 are well above the national and similar schools' averages and have steadily improved over time. Provisional school leavers’ data for 2014 shows that 96% of all students achieved above NCEA Level 2. This is well above national comparisons and the Ministry of Education (MoE) goal of 85% by 2017 attaining Level 2. A college focus in recent years has been on increasing the proportion of merit and excellent endorsements across all NCEA levels and in national scholarships.

Students with high needs benefit from individual education programmes (IEPs). Parents of these students are actively involved in their child’s learning, and take a keen interest in how the curriculum is designed to meet their child’s learning needs. Educational opportunities for these students and their access to a range of courses at local tertiary institutions contribute to their vocational pathways and opportunities for success in NCEA. 

3 Curriculum

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

The following features of the Aquinas College curriculum promote and support student learning:

  • access to a wide range of sporting, cultural and leadership experiences, including the Arts
  • involvement in a programme of religious education, which provides opportunities for spiritual, liturgical and community service activities
  • strong support for student wellbeing through a comprehensive pastoral care network
  • a curriculum that is focused on learning, celebrates success, and encourages purposeful links to the wider world.

Students enjoy a sense of belonging and realise their potential as learners in well-managed learning environments. They have the opportunity to work collaboratively with one another and actively participate in the implementation of college values. Students are highly engaged and well supported by teachers and staff.

Ongoing curriculum review is purposeful and designed to be responsive to students needs. An appropriate balance of learning pathways takes into account the academic and vocational aspirations of students. Currently seven students are working towards university qualifications while still at school. The school has strong links with local employers and there are supportive relationships among careers department teachers, employers, students and parents.

There are many examples of high quality teaching practices evident in classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms demonstrate a range effective teaching strategies that promote learning. These include:

  • well-considered curriculum topics, which build on students’ prior knowledge
  • teachers effectively differentiating the context of programmes to meet the needs of individuals and groups who need either extension or support with their learning
  • questioning strategies that provide students with opportunities to lead the learning
  • modelling task design and developing a classroom learning community that promotes active learning.

The high level of relational trust among teachers and students is underpinned by a three year professional learning and development programme about restorative practice. This initiative has resulted in a clear vision based on a very positive behavioural approach to building mutual respect and responsibility. It has had a significant and positive influence on students learning, behaviour and college culture.

The pastoral care team have a major role in monitoring the overall engagement and wellbeing of students. A wrap around approach from senior leaders, deans, guidance counsellor and careers advisors help each student to engage and gain purposeful credits that are linked to their goals.

The introduction of teacher professional learning communities (PLC) forums currently aims to promote teacher reflection about their practice. PLC provides the college with the opportunity to review the effectiveness of professional development programmes.

Leaders and trustees recognise the increasing number of diverse cultures in the college and in 2014 requested the MoE to run an ‘Inclusive Survey’. The school acknowledges that there is a need to promote a curriculum that promotes, celebrates and affirms the identity of all students. This should strengthen the college’s curriculum and contribute to the richness of existing school culture.

Parents are involved in interviews, information evenings and orientation of their children into the school. These activities are designed to provide new students with an open transition process and a welcoming connection to the college. Form groups include students across all year levels and new students are provided with support from older peers to support a sense of belonging.

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

The college has developed a curriculum that aims to promote success for Māori as Māori.

College leaders recognise the importance of reciprocal relationships with the whānau group. It is important for the college to work with the whānau group and contributing schools to build on current plans to include the aspirations of the college’s whānau and Māori students. This community approach is likely to enhance relationships and build an equitable partnership focused on Māori student’s success as Māori.

All students in Years 7 to 9 have te reo and tikanga Māori programmes. Te Taumata Wharenui, provides a presence and place of learning for these students and a unique place for Māori ako tangata whenua and Māori students from other iwi to congregate. Major aspects that promote Māori student success and success as Māori include:

  • annual aims to strengthen the presence, engagement and achievement of Māori students through the curriculum
  • the appointment of a Māori trustee
  • a strategic goal to increase all teachers capability in te reo and tikanga Māori so they are able to support Māori identity throughout the school
  • the use by some teachers of the MoE ‘Tātaiako’ document about building teacher competencies in te reo and tikanga Māori in English medium schools.

It is important that the school review the strategic goal about teacher capability to determine how they promote te reo and tikanga Māori through the curriculum.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

The college is committed to promoting and sustaining productive and collaborative relationships among trustees, teachers, students, parents, whānau and the wider community. Strategic and spontaneous self review is effective and informs decisions about change. This approach to self review is focused on enhancing learning outcomes for students, teachers, parents and whānau.

The principal and senior leadership team provide well-informed educational leadership for the school. A collaborative approach to school development enables teachers to contribute their strengths, talents and ideas. Together school leaders have a good understanding about high quality education and care for all students.

College leaders skilfully manage and review all learning areas to improve and increase student achievement. Leaders of faculties biannually review their learning area in relation to student achievement and curriculum design, and share this information with trustees.

The teacher appraisal process and Practising Teacher Criteria are clearly aligned and provide teachers with the opportunity to reflect on their practice. Further review of implementation practices in response to recent Education Council requirements and previous expectations should strengthen teacher reflection about teaching strategies that promote positive learning outcomes for students.

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 self-review process for international learners is thorough.

At the time of this ERO review there were 18 international fee-paying students in the school. These students are well supported by an experienced coordinator of international students who is also the home-stay coordinator. Policies and procedures are clearly documented and reviewed annually by the board of trustees.

Students have access to good quality education programmes that include English language support based on students’ individual needs. Students are encouraged to participate in school activities. There is a strong focus on ensuring students’ wellbeing and pastoral care. Student progress is well monitored and appropriate support in planning their learning pathways is provided. 

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. 

Conclusion

Aquinas College is a Years 7 to 13 Catholic school situated in Tauranga. Students enjoy learning in a safe environment, with well-maintained facilities. Students' spiritual and educational needs are catered for and their achievements are recognised and celebrated. Positive and mutually respectful relationships are a school feature.

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

Graham Randell
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

10 September 2015

About the School 

Location

Tauranga

Ministry of Education profile number

482

School type

Secondary (Years 7 to 13)

School roll

753

Number of international students

18

Gender composition

Girls       51%
Boys      49%

Ethnic composition

Pākehā
Māori
Asian
Pacific
Other

82%
11%
  5%
  1%
  1%

Review team on site

August 2015

Date of this report

10 September 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review
Education Review
Education Review

September 2012
October 2010
November 2007