Whangarei Girls' High School - 17/06/2016


Whangarei Girls’ High School is a high performing school. Students are provided with a responsive, relevant curriculum and achieve very well. High levels of collaboration between students, teachers and leaders are key factors in the school’s continued success. School governance and leadership are very effective. 

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

1 Context

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

Whangarei Girls High School is a large secondary school with strong links with its local and wider Northland community. The student roll reflects the cultural diversity of the community and includes 35 percent who identify as Māori. At the time of this review, 23 international students were enrolled at the school.

The school has a positive ERO reporting history. Previous reports have commended the school’s robust self-review processes that underpin the board’s vision of Empowering Tomorrow’s Women. Positive relationships and a broad curriculum were identified as contributing to the school’s inclusive, student-centred culture. Highly capable professional leadership of teaching and learning was noted. These positive features of the school continue to be evident.

The school has experienced steady roll growth over the past five years. School facilities continue to be developed and refurbished to respond to this growth and to provide students with appropriate modern learning environments. Students play a proactive role in leadership and initiate innovative projects to advance the learning culture of the school.

School leaders and the teaching staff share a commitment to ongoing improvement. Ongoing professional development contributes to the effectiveness of teaching and helps sustain the school’s strong culture of professional learning.

2 Learning

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

The school makes very effective use of achievement information to make positive changes for learners, particularly in Years 11 to 13. Students are actively engaged in their learning and are motivated to achieve success across a wide variety of school activities, including kapa haka, sports and the arts, as well as cultural and student leadership opportunities.

Student achievement in the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) at levels 1, 2 and 3 and in University Entrance continue to improve each year, with increases in the number of merit and excellence endorsements in 2015. Senior leaders regularly set targets for improvement based on national expectations and in response to the learning needs of students.

Achievement rates for Māori students, while not yet matching overall school levels, are higher than national results and also show improvement over time. Senior leaders continue to focus on raising Māori student achievement and to prioritise strategies that support these learners to achieve success.

Achievement information is particularly well used to:

  • tailor courses based on students’ identified strengths and learning needs
  • closely track and monitor students’ progress and achievement
  • identify effective strategies and programmes that engage students in meaningful learning
  • deliberately focus on raising the achievement of Māori students whose progress needs to be accelerated.

Senior leaders and teachers use a wide variety of information to ease students’ transition into the school. Additional data, through targeted assessment, enables appropriate placement and programmes for students who may find transitions more challenging. Information about students, including a strong emphasis on students’ own contributions, is contributing to the development of engaging programmes at Years 9 and 10.

Targets and goals are well focused on learners at risk of poor educational outcomes to provide challenge and to promote continuous improvement.

The school also has a particular focus on increasing students’ ability to know and talk about their learning. Developing valid and robust systems to more accurately and consistently assess student progress and achievement in Years 9 and 10, across all areas of the curriculum, is now a priority. Improved information in this area should enable leaders and teachers to better track progress and evaluate students’ engagement in learning, progress and achievement. Strategic target setting for student achievement in Years 9 and 10 could help to improve outcomes for students at this level. This would enable the board to be more fully appraised of learning strengths and priorities for these learners, and to resource initiatives accordingly.

Leaders and teachers are highly responsive to NCEA data, using this information to inquire into how they can continue to improve their practice. They are developing ways to analyse, and report student achievement data more succinctly and in meaningful, systematic ways to further guide the board’s work in making strategic school-wide decisions.

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 learning, and good progress is being made to ensure it is culturally responsive.

Very strong student input is a feature in the design and direction of the curriculum. Many aspects of programmes build on students’ interests and strengths. Students participate and learn in caring, collaborative and inclusive learning communities.

The school fosters change and innovation to benefit students. Leaders and teachers introduce and trial programmes and courses to promote student engagement and involvement in learning. A recently introduced Year 9 curriculum initiative is providing good opportunities for student-centred learning in interesting and relevant contexts. Many junior programmes provide sound foundations that link with future learning pathways and opportunities. There is a deliberate focus on catering for Māori students’ interests and strengths in programme design, and in teaching and learning expectations.

A flexible approach to curriculum design allows students to build their course of study around their interests. They experience an environment where errors provide opportunities for new learning and help build resilience and confidence. Some departments are working together to integrate learning across subject areas, providing continuity and seamlessness in students’ learning, particularly in the senior school.

A wide range of courses and innovative programmes provide authentic opportunities for students to make learning connections within and beyond school to inform their future learning plans. Careers information could now become a more collective, shared responsibility across learning areas. This could further strengthen support for students as they transition to further study or employment. It should also provide additional opportunities for helping students understand the purpose of their learning.

Teaching practices are of high quality. Teaching is informed by a good knowledge of students and the use of effective strategies that recognise, respond to, and enhance student engagement in learning. A systematic process of professional inquiry involving all teachers promotes sustained improvement in teaching and learning programmes.

Senior leaders use the school’s performance management system to facilitate ongoing teacher improvement and accountability for student progress and achievement. Systematic and well structured learning programmes promote responsive teaching practices across the school.

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

The school is becoming increasingly effective in promoting educational success for Māori students, as Māori.

Promoting educational success for Māori is a fundamental principle embedded in the school’s culture, vision, values and approach to teaching and learning. In many areas, Māori students are achieving as well as, or better than, non-Māori students. Senior Māori girls speak very positively about their learning and value the opportunities they have to lead school developments. They demonstrate a strong sense of responsibility and care for other students.

Whanaungatanga and manaakitanga are actively fostered to build strong relationships in warm, nurturing learning environments. An ongoing focus on improving the school’s retention of Māori students is resulting in more girls remaining at school and achieving educational success.

Strong leadership within the Māori department is providing well considered guidance about cultural responsiveness and ways in which it can be meaningfully expressed in the school environment. The systematic whole-school approach taken in this area underpins teaching and learning across the school. Māori students appreciate teachers’ efforts to be culturally responsive and to affirm their language and cultural identity. Staff are showing considerable openness and receptiveness to personalised professional development that is building their bicultural capability.

4 Sustainable Performance

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

Whangarei Girls High School is very well placed to sustain and continue building on current high quality performance. The following key features have a positive influence on sustainability and educational success for students.

The leadership and advocacy of students for their learning and development as empowered young women is central to the school’s positive culture.

The board’s vision of the school as a culturally responsive community of learners underpins effective governance practices. Clear alignment is evident between the school’s strategic plan, annual plan, learning charter and programme implementation.

The board’s student-centred decision making is strategic, evidence based and aimed at sustaining improvement and promoting innovative practices across the school.

There is strong professional leadership in the school. The principal is instrumental in building leadership capacity across the school. Senior leaders are active and influential in local and regional educational networks.

High levels of trust between students, whānau and staff supports collaboration and willingness to take on new challenges, contributing to sustainability and positioning the school well for ongoing improvement.

These positive features generate a considered and thoughtful approach to review and development that promotes and sustains school improvement.

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. At the time of this review there were 23 international students attending the school, mainly from Europe.

The education, involvement and integration of international students in the school and community are strongly encouraged and well monitored. Individualised pastoral care, together with sound academic and sporting programmes, enable international students to be involved in a variety of learning opportunities. Good quality language and other programmes help students to develop their competency in English, and access further study as required.

Staff responsible for the care of international students work well as a team to support them. Self review is used well to help ensure students receive high quality care and education. Leaders agree that more regular reports to the board about international student involvement, progress and achievement would assure trustees of the effectiveness of provision for these students.

Provision for students in the school hostel

Lupton House provides accommodation for 63 students who attend the school. The Lupton House Management Committee comprises elected parents, the hostel manager and representatives of the board, past pupil’s association, staff and students. It works strategically to provide hostel services for Northland students and their families. The board has attested that all requirements of the Hostel Regulations are met.

A new hostel supervisor was appointed at the beginning of 2016. She is supported by a team of trained supervisors. A school nurse is on site during the week, providing medical support when required by students. Staff who hold current Practical First Aid Certificates are also able to care for students who are unwell.

Key features that contribute to Lupton House being a welcoming and positive place for girls include:

  • well considered guidance and leadership of the hostel manager and the commitment of all staff to promoting an affirming and inclusive hostel environment
  • the emphasis given to ensuring positive relationships are established and sustained
  • increased student input into hostel review and improvement, and decisions that affect them
  • frequent and responsive communication between staff and families.

Students enjoy the family-like atmosphere of the hostel and the friendships that they develop. Older students provide leadership and care for more junior students. Students are positive about the changes being introduced by the new hostel manager.

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.


Whangarei Girls’ High School is a high performing school. Students are provided with a responsive, relevant curriculum and achieve very well. High levels of collaboration between students, teachers and leaders are key factors in the school’s continued success. School governance and leadership are very effective.

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

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

17 June 2016

About the School


Regent, Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Years 9 to 15)

School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Girls 100%

Ethnic composition





other European








Special Features

Girls boarding facilities

Review team on site

May 2016

Date of this report

17 June 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

November 2011

August 2008

November 2005