Totara School - 07/08/2019

School Context

Totara School is a rural school providing education for students from Years 1 to 8. It has a current roll of 42 students, a quarter of whom are Māori.

The school's vision is for its students to succeed to their potential and to develop pride and self-belief. This is reflected in its motto ‘Tu ake, ka rangatira. Ako tahi, manaakitia’ and its RICH values of respect, honesty, care and inclusion.

To support these valued outcomes, the school’s strategic goals focus on improving achievement in reading, writing and mathematics, building teacher capability, and providing a learning environment that fosters community involvement and sustainability.

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

  • achievement in reading, writing and mathematics
  • accelerated progress for those students who had not reached curriculum level expectations
  • student wellbeing.

The school is a member of the Whitestone Kāhui Ako | Community of Learning (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?

Totara School is working toward achieving equitable and excellent outcomes for all its students.

Between 2016 and 2018 overall levels of student achievement in literacy and mathematics was high, with most students achieving at or above the school’s expected levels in reading and mathematics, and the majority in writing. Girls in particular achieved consistently highly in reading, writing and mathematics.

In 2017, overall levels of student achievement in literacy and mathematics rose. Levels of achievement for boys in writing have varied over time.

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

The school is accelerating learning for those students who need extra support.

At the end of 2018, the school had effectively accelerated learning for over half of those students who needed extra support to succeed in writing and mathematics. All students needing extra support made expected 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?

Totara School continues to provide a responsive and integrated curriculum for its students. The curriculum makes good use of the local environment. Teachers provide students choice in their learning. This includes regular opportunities for students to follow interest-based topics of learning, and to learn from specialist teachers of science, art, music, and te reo and tikanga Māori. The school’s RICH values are highly evident across the school.

This board, principal and staff have built a positive culture and family-like relationships within the school and between the school and whānau, parents and community. There is increased communication between school and home and a higher involvement of parents in the life of the school.

The board of trustees ensures students have increased opportunities to achieve. The board supports funding of an extra classroom teacher to enable small class numbers for students in literacy and mathematics. All students have access to a range of useful resources for learning and play. In particular, children and parents are benefiting from use of digital resources that support learning.

The principal and teachers are collaborative and reflective. They place the learning of students at the centre of what they do. They regularly share learning information with each other to progress achievement for each child in areas needed for support, including literacy and mathematics. Teachers are well supported in professional development and processes for ongoing improvement of teaching and learning.

Students spoken with, appreciate their teachers and the family-like nature of their school. Students who achieve highly have opportunities to extend their learning. Their learning is differentiated to meet their levels of interest. They are provided engaging activities for learning. Teachers are beginning to inquire more deeply into how they can best support learners who are at risk of not achieving.

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

The board and staff’s understanding of internal evaluation should be developed further. Leaders and teachers should be more definitive about the impact and effectiveness of teaching practices for supporting targeted students. The board currently receives progress reports for students targeted to have their learning accelerated. These reports can be improved by including specific targets, and evaluative consideration of what has worked for accelerating achievement.

Leaders and teachers should ensure sustainable and ongoing development of school curriculum for te reo and te ao Māori in the school’s strategic plan.

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 Children’s Act 2014.

4 ERO’s Overall Judgement

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

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:

  • a school culture, where each student is known and cared for that supports students’ wellbeing
  • a rich authentic curriculum that provides relevant and meaningful learning for students
  • a collaborative staff culture, which places students at the centre of teaching and learning.

Next steps

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

  • further improving monitoring and support for target students to accelerate their learning

  • continuing to develop approaches for equity and excellence to ensure consistency of learning for all

  • building understanding of effective internal evaluation to better know what is working and what is not.

Dr Lesley Patterson
Director Review and Improvement Services Southern
Southern Region
7 August 2019

About the school



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Full Primary (Years 1 to 8)

School roll


Gender composition

Boys 22, Girls 21

Ethnic composition

Māori 10

NZ European/Pākehā 30

Other ethnicities 3

Students with Ongoing Resourcing Funding (ORS)


Provision of Māori medium education


Review team on site

May 2019

Date of this report

7 August 2019

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review March 2016

Education Review March 2012