School wide systems for success

By Diana Wilkes on October 19, 2021 in Leadership

To achieve success, each school in Aotearoa has the autonomy to design and develop their own school-wide systems.

But how can we define what success means for a school? A school is successful when it has systems that:

  • Ensure equitable outcomes for all tamariki, where every child makes constant progress over time to reach their potential.

  • Cultivate a positive culture of learning where all tamariki feel safe and included.

  • Nurture tamariki to become 'connected, actively involved lifelong learners' who are confident in their identity.

Let's now explore five system areas, and how each can contribute to success for students.

Teacher with students


The Board of Trustees has four very important jobs:

  1. Designing the future of the school (e.g. creating a clear direction in line with the school’s vision through the strategic and annual planning).

  2. Accountability for the school’s performance (e.g. processes that ensure changes are being made to improve the wellbeing, and/or accelerate the progress of the learners).

  3. Acting on behalf of the board’s stakeholders (e.g. consultation, policy review and acting on feedback).

  4. Being a good employer (e.g. participation of all staff in an appraisal/professional growth cycle).

When done well, their stewardship brings cohesion to many aspects of the school. This provides a strong foundation for the principal and leadership team to manage the day to day running of the school.


The principal and strategic leadership team in a school have responsibility for:

1. Establishing goals and expectations. This requires an organisational system that outlines the roles and responsibilities of every team member when co-constructing the annual plan.

2. Resourcing in line with the strategic plan. This requires a finance and budgeting system that is transparent to all members of the team (e.g. a shared budget spreadsheet).

3. Leading the professional growth cycle for all staff. This involves setting clear expectations for the process, goal setting, and annual review that grows and develops each individual in order to improve the organisation (e.g. use of PACs- practice analysis conversations, engaging in coaching conversations to set and monitor goals, co-constructed quality teaching statements based on the six Teaching Standards, collaborative spirals of inquiry, professional learning opportunities etc.)

4. Ensuring a safe environment for all. This involves a system for school transition and inclusive practices (learner, family and staff induction process, consultation with ECEs and high schools, review that includes learner voice).


When a school has a strong communication system in place that promotes a healthy and productive home-school partnership, it reinforces a positive school culture that fosters powerful relationships. A strong LMS - Learning Management System - is often at the crux of this and enables the school to:

1. Communicate regularly with whanau (e.g. daily notices and weekly update messages).

2. Communicate daily with staff and students (e.g. daily 'What's on Top' messages).

3. Communicate with transparency and ubiquity the learning progress of the child in a holistic manner. This could include sharing learning stories, real time progress towards the NZC levels and the key competencies. It can also include providing the learner with the agency to share learning artefacts, active reflections and self-assessments (e.g. creating and using online learning portfolios).

This enables the members of the school community to collaborate on goals/next steps, contribute to learning conversations and stay united with the priority of focus on the learning outcomes for each child.


A school-wide system of values connects all members of the school community with shared expectations for both the behaviour and the wellbeing of all the students and adults within that learning community. These systems apply whether the interactions take place onsite 'face to face' or virtually. This requires:

1. Clear policies that are accessible to staff, parents, and even learners (e.g. school docs, policies on school website).

2. Clear processes for pastoral care which includes a strong values programme grounded in desired learning dispositions through a range of practices (e.g. PB4L, restorative practices, graduate profile, mindfulness).

3. A learning support system that includes clear support processes in place for those learners who are at risk of not achieving, have high learning needs, are English language learners and/or who have behavioural needs (e.g. SENCo, PB4L, learning support register).

Teaching & Learning

Many would say that teaching and learning is the core business of schools. Therefore, it makes sense that to be successful, schools would have systems in place for designing, reviewing and leading the curriculum. This involves a system that:

1. Implements an authentic, inclusive and responsive local curriculum that is grounded in; the cultural narrative of the school, the Treaty of Waitangi, appropriate tikanga, community strengths/opportunities and the local history & geography (e.g. conceptual curriculum, transdisciplinary approaches like project based learning, learning through play).

2. Evaluates the curriculum content (e.g. annual review of the curriculum plan, model and/or map, critique of the curriculum website, adaptations made based on policy changes, MOE mandates, and community, mana whenua, staff and learner voice).

3. Critiques the pedagogical approach and delivery (e.g. through conversations, observations, Teaching as Inquiry, learner feedback).

4. Includes strong assessment for learning practices.

Finally, what can really make a school successful is when their systems are synergistic. When the governance, leadership, communication, hauora and teaching & learning systems are all interconnected it makes the whole, the school, more effective at achieving success for all learners. These systems also ensure that there are measures in place for evaluation, and that the progress and wellbeing of every learner is at the heart of all decision making.

If you’d like to discuss your school-wide systems, evaluation, or if you are moving to an ILE, contact Diana today

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