ERO Report

The Education Review Office reviews schools on a 3-5 year cycle. Botany Downs Secondary College was last visited in August 2016. The next review is due in 4-5 years (2020-2021).

The purpose of ERO’s reviews is to give parents and the wider school community assurance about the quality of education that schools provide and their children receive. An ERO school report answers the question “How effectively is this school’s curriculum promoting student learning – engagement, progress and achievement?” Under that overarching question ERO reports on the quality of education and learning outcomes for children and for specific groups of children including Māori students, Pacific students and students with special needs. ERO also reports on the quality of the school’s systems for sustaining and continuing improvements. The report answers four key questions about the school.

Read the findings below or view on

ERO found that

Students at Botany Downs Secondary School are highly engaged in learning and value the rich opportunities they have to grow personally and academically. Leaders and teachers work in partnership with students to learn, think and inquire. NCEA qualifications success in the college is sustained at very high levels because of the strength in the NZC focused school vision.


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

Botany Downs Secondary College is a large, diverse co-educational secondary school catering for students from Year 9 to 13. It is located in Auckland’s eastern suburbs, servicing Botany, Dannemora and Flat Bush as well as the rural area of Whitford. Students are predominantly Asian and New Zealand European/Pakeha with small percentages of Māori and Pacific learners.

Through its vision the school aspires to offer young people an inclusive educational experience where they are challenged to discover and develop their unique personal strengths in order to learn. A culture of high expectations for academic achievement is balanced with a caring focus on student wellbeing and equity.

The mission statement of the school affirms all students as being inherently capable of achieving personal excellence. High levels of opportunity for students with special learning needs is another important feature of the college that impacts very positively on student outcomes.

Since the 2012 ERO review there has been a change of school leadership. The current principal has the confidence of the board and the school community and leads the college’s continuing direction with commitment and skill. The board of trustees has sustained good stewardship practices under the leadership of the long serving board chairperson. Trustees work well with the senior leadership team and other school staff.

Strategic and annual planning to lead the school forward is informed through purposeful evaluation that is strengthened with multiple points of view including those of teachers, students, parents, whānau and the community.

The 2012 ERO report identified Botany Downs Secondary College as a high performing school. Some recommendations to further improve educational opportunities were made. These included strengthening teaching and learning strategies that allow students to better understand their learning steps and take increased ownership of their own progress. It was suggested that independent learning could be explored further to encourage students’ development of self- managing learning skills. Trustees and senior leaders have responded positively to these areas for improvement and have continued to develop further, high quality and innovative educational practices.

The school continues to enhance its architecture and develop its spacious attractive grounds. Recent building development has been mainly centred on T Block and the extended provision of good quality facilities for Dance, Drama, Biology and Science.


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

This school makes very effective use of student achievement information to make positive changes to learners’ engagement, progress and achievement. Managers and teachers modify programmes and teaching approaches to tailor learning for different student groups and individuals.

Tutor teachers effectively manage the learning progress of junior students in whānau time. A different group of mentor teachers work intensively with older students in Years 11, 12, and 13 to support pathways to success. All staff are highly committed to effective tracking, monitoring and supporting of each individual student’s progress towards achievement. Each tutor and mentor acts as the ‘significant’ adult who tracks the learning profile of each student through a five year learning journey.

The mentoring system is housed within the college’s six whānau groups, that giving students a strong sense of belonging and connection. Whānaungatanga, within the six houses, encourages older and younger students to form close bonds and is an important element in the comprehensive pastoral care in the school.

The school’s internal evaluation indicates that personal tutoring and mentoring is increasingly effective in promoting achievement, particularly for those who have different and specific learning needs and require continuing support through targeted action.

Pathways planning is a significant part of the mentoring system and each student benefits from personal counselling for subject choices, career selections and university preferences. Careers and Gateway staff contribute to individualised learning pathways to promote career and tertiary training opportunities wherever possible.

School achievement information shows that most students are successful at all levels of the New Zealand Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA). In 2015 the pass rate for Level 1, NCEA was 90% overall, for Level 2, 93% and for Level 3, 88%. The school is already exceeding the 2017 government targets of 85% of students achieving NCEA Level 2. A strategic goal, school-wide for the next phase of school development, is to increase the percentages of quality pass rates for Merit and Excellence endorsements in NCEA.

Since the 2012 ERO review substantial work has been done by a group of leaders and teachers to effectively extend the learning opportunities for Pacific students in the college. The Pacific Achievement Plan focuses on the development of learning partnerships with families to engage their young people positively. Pacific performance groups, talanoa evenings, a Pacific parent newsletter, a homework club and numerous cultural events all contribute to motivate and inspire young Pacific learners.

Students and teaching staff benefit from learning relationships that are respectful and reciprocal. Students at all levels of the school demonstrate a strong work ethic and a high level of cognitive engagement with learning. The cohesion and responsiveness of student support services, further reflects the commitment of the board, leadership team and teachers to ensuring all students are successful, engaged learners.


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

The Botany Downs Secondary College’s curriculum is highly aligned to the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). It promotes and supports student learning very effectively through its mission, values and key competencies which inform and influence the eight learning areas. The curriculum is designed to be inclusive and culturally responsive, while challenging students to develop and grow academically and personally.

Students reported to ERO that they value the opportunities they have in the curriculum programmes to make meaningful choices about their learning and to know about themselves as learners. They understand and appreciate teachers who engage with them in exploring ideas about new ways to learn. Respectful relationships between students and adults are evident throughout the school.

The school’s curriculum is designed to enable students to explore through inquiry and investigation. Within the eight learning areas, various courses, experiences and projects allow students to deepen their learning and to develop key skills such as problem solving, critical and creative thinking. The akonga principle where both adults and young people learn together is evident in classrooms, particularly in relation to digital learning. Student voice is a major and essential aspect of the college’s focus on engaging and connecting learners to their chosen interests and pathways.

The learning environment throughout the school is focused and purposeful. Teachers make good use of the diverse teaching spaces to provide whole class, small group and individual learning opportunities. Digital technologies support and enhance student learning and are currently a key element in teachers’ professional development. The board and school leaders plan initiatives and opportunities for effective teacher professional learning and frequently use the expertise of teachers within the school to promote different approaches and teaching strategies.

The college offers an enriching range of co-curricular activities. There are many opportunities for students to experience success and build leadership capability and social competencies. Again the whānau house structure enables more leadership opportunities to become available.

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

The college is steadily developing its capacity to promote educational success for Māori as Māori. The school continues to celebrate good levels of academic success for Māori. Most students are succeeding in NCEA qualifications and achieve above national averages. These learners are supported to achieve success through the whānau mentoring system in the school, Māori teaching staff and the te reo Māori teacher, a kaumatua, who has a further focus on targeted students.

Liaison with the local Ngaitai iwi is supporting the ongoing development of school kawa and tikanga to strengthen Maori students’ language, culture and identity. All students in the college gain from sharing bicultural understandings about New Zealand and school leaders promote the significance of this learning in the school community.

The school’s strategic Māori Achievement Plan has clear goals to further develop the school’s capacity to promote success for M?aori as Māori. There is now a stronger likelihood that te reo will be sustained as a language option through to senior qualifications. The whānaungatanga ethos, hui for students’ whānau, the rebuilding of the kapa haka group and tuakana teina relationships are other aspects of the school’s context which significantly support the cultural identity of Maori learners.

The school’s curriculum has Māori knowledge reflected in course planning and the history of the local Howick area, including both Māori and Pakeha perspectives, is featured throughout school programmes. This is helping to develop students’ understanding of how the past can inform the future and deepens their understanding of where they live.

During the review ERO and school leaders discussed further steps to promote Maori achievement including:

  • teachers continuing to embed culturally responsive practices
  • using the Māori Achievement Plan to strategically and systematically address disparity between Maori achievement and that of other learners in the school.

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. This school provides a model of teaching and learning that is highly engaging for students.

Trustees have established a sound platform of internal evaluation to guide the ongoing growth of the school. They are able to focus as a board on stewardship, the implementation of the vision and to consider how best to serve the school community. The board’s ongoing commitment is to education that promotes equity and excellence. The importance of global citizenship is reflected in the mission statement which was recently refreshed through community consultation.

Senior leaders in the school work very effectively as a team. Their practice is underpinned by a culture of rigorous inquiry and personal challenge and informed by ongoing research into best practice. The clearly articulated college vision, mission and values are shared throughout the school community.

Middle managers in the school benefit from the culture of distributed professional learning. This encourages and affirms their effective leadership skills. Teachers’ success in engaging learners is assisted through high quality performance management, appraisal processes and professional development programmes.

A next step discussed during this review, is for the board to consult with Māori whānau collectively about their aspirations for their sons and daughters. The board could consider using the voice of whānau to help guide the school’s strategic direction in relation to specific goal setting for Māori learners.

School leaders, trustees and ERO agree that the development points for the ongoing growth of the college are:

  • the formation of a Community of Learning with contributing schools to make pathways for students more seamless through the system
  • the continuation of high quality stewardship and leadership that values the best outcomes for each learner.
Provision for international students

The Education (Pastoral Care for International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (the Code) was introduced on 1 July 2016. The school is aware of the need to update its policies and procedures to meet the new code requirements by 1 December 2016. At the time of this review there were 143 international students attending the college.

The school is making good progress in aligning its policies and procedures to meet requirements for the 2016 Code.

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.

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