Learning @OAS

Our Vision

Onewhero Area School – A community where we all thrive and strive.

Adopted in 2020, our vision encapsulates our focus over the next three years at OAS. Our aim is for every student, no exceptions, to first be able to thrive in a safe and welcoming environment at school from the age of 5 to 18.

We will teach them how to monitor and improve their own well-being as part of our curriculum so they are able to live better lives at school and beyond. We then expect them to aim high, to be their best selves and to be able to take responsibility for their own learning.

Our Values

We weave our values throughout our curriculum. In the classroom where we discuss values in relation to learning:

  • Using our character strengths to work through challenging learning

  • Learning contexts that focus on our values

  • Key pedagogies that emphasise working together, taking responsibility and celebrating success

We have partnered with the Ministry of Education to develop our Positive Behavior for Learning (PB4L) program – this helps learners throughout the school know and show our values where ever they are at school.

We promote and recognise students who show our values at our whole school assemblies.


For centuries the river has stood at the heart of everything that happened in the area from transport to commerce to agriculture and horticulture. For our school, it is a tremendous opportunity to connect to a real and significant context in our learning and it will play a significant part in our local curriculum. There are opportunities for us to learn about and contribute to conserving our region’s lifeblood.

A theme from our review talks about having shared direction and understanding. We liken this to a journey on a river in a waka. For those that have ever paddled in a waka together, it is not an easy task, particularly on a long journey. Each person will have their ups and downs and will feel like giving up at times. We will all get tired and we have to look after each other because we are part of a team and together we can be so much better than on our own. We all want the same thing. In the case of our journey, it’s to get our young people to the mouth of the river where they will leave our waka well-prepared for the next phase and challenges of life.

‘Waikato te Awa’ is of great metaphorical significance for us at Onewhero Area School. As students move through their educational journey at Onewhero Area School they encounter many challenges. We see this journey as a voyage down a river. When a river starts it is a small trickle, building up over time as new water (learning) is added to it.

In Tainui there is a proverb about the river, ‘Waikato-taniwha-rau, he piko, he taniwha, he piko, he taniwha’. The river of a hundred taniwha, on each corner, a taniwha. Often the learning is challenged or tested by Kaitiaki or guardians. These Kaitiaki are our Taniwha. We expect that as our learners continue through our school they will encounter Taniwha who will guide, support, challenge and have high expectations of them.

As the student begins to prepare to leave OAS, they can explore the delta of the river – Te Puuaha o Waikato. The different styles of water flow, the different environments, and challenges. They begin to guide their own journey. Eventually, they make their way to the sea and begin their journey into the world on their own. They take with them the learning from their time at OAS and the challenges from our Taniwha along the way.

Local Curriculum

Here is the Local curriculum short presentation:


Click here to download the full 56mb image


Hearing from you

In 2019 our team worked to get your voice and ideas about what should be included in our curriculum. We ran 3 workshops over successive nights at the Onewhero Rugby Club, Te Awamarahi Marae and the Tuakau Cosmopolitan Club.


We ran three activities on these nights that were designed to get participants talking to each other and sharing their learning and experiences.

  • What are the key skills and contexts that our learners should know about?
    • This was a chance to share the different skills and ideas that students needed to know about or be exposed to during their time at Onewhero Area School. We were interested to hear from our community about the learning that makes a student from Onewhero Area School different.
  • What does success look like at the different ages within the school?
    • The objective of this activity was to get people talking and thinking about how we should measure success and what are the important attributes for success that we should look for in our students.
  • How can you help? – in this question we wanted you to help us make connections to people in our community that can help us achieve what you’ve asked for. These might be local businesses that we can connect with, local people who can share the history of the area or local places that our students should visit to support their learning in a context that we already cover at school.

What you told us

When we consolidated the responses from the questions about the skills and contexts that you wanted us to teach these were the key areas we needed to focus on

When we spoke with local Hapū about how we could best support our Māori students, they helped us to identify some areas to work on:

Inaianei – Where our Hapū perceive we are currently

Tautoko – What our hapu think is going well

Kaha Ake – What we need to make stronger

Ngā Arai – What is stopping us from achieving the best outcomes for our Maori learners

When you talked about the success you mentioned having kids who know themselves, know how to work with others, and can be successful in their own way.

This is what some of our kids said:

We would be successful when we can:

  • Deal with our money

  • Manage our mental health

  • Face challenges

  • Be employable

  • Achieve in our classes

  • Be practical

  • Have some understanding of flatting, managing a budget, and employment rights.


So what are we going to do?



We will refine our ways of teaching – Play, Student Agency, Project Based Learning, Inquiry, Well-being, and Integrated Learning.

Check out the different pages on this site for more details about how will measure success and what changes we make to our plan along the way.

Learner Profiles

Begin developing Graduate Profiles so we can map the key stages of learning and adapt our programmes to suit our students.

Click the link above to see the updates.

Reporting what matters

Refine our reporting and assessment so we can report the stuff that matters to you.

This work began in 2019 and will continue as we revise and iterate. Currently, our Junior Team is exploring how we can use SeeSaw to report.

To support our Māori learners these are the steps and timelines we will work towards.

To help us we will work with Manawhenua representatives from the Ministry of Youth Development and Huakina Youth Development Trust.


Why do we use Learning through Play at OAS?

Starting at school is an anxious time for many of our younger students. Often many of them have been transitioning from ECEs or home environments where they are generally free to follow their urges with regard to their learning and interest. You might see, for example, a child starts playing with dolls, moving to play with blocks to making art with their hands and then reading or being read a story. This is an example of a child following their urges and building on each experience with the one following.

It is not uncommon for us to see children who are reluctant writers, show a lack of resilience, escalate their emotions quickly, opt out of activities or show poor attention spans, underdeveloped motor skills and slow transition into school routines.

Through focused play, children practise and consolidate their learning, play with ideas, experiment, take risks, solve problems, and make decisions individually, in small and in large groups. First-hand experiences allow children to develop an understanding of themselves and the world in which they live. The development of children’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth are critical.

Learning through play is a pedagogical approach where play is the valued mode of learning – where children can explore, experiment, discover, and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways. Learning through play is also called play-based learning. This philosophy easily incorporates all the key competencies when carried out effectively.

In 2017 the Education Review Office (ERO) reviewed OAS and part of their recommendations were that our school needs to focus on increasing student decision making with regard to their own learning, with the aim of achieving greater engagement.

“When children start school, they have often little experience with a system designed to manage large numbers of people, where for efficiency, everyone does the same thing at the same time. This is because it doesn’t really fit with where their brain development and learning development is, at the moment. Children learn through play. They have by moving, exploring discovering and practising. Intellectual and physical is critical for children’s development. This is a settled global consensus amongst child psychologists, leading educators, child development experts and pediatricians. ” (Pasi Sahlberg 2019)

The play has for a long time be incorporated into our curriculum areas, in areas like science, technology and social sciences. It is balanced with the need to target literacy and numeracy teaching.

We have been working to build the well-being of our young people at OAS. This means (for students in years 1 & 2) that they:

  • feel more confident in themselves

  • can identify their emotions and those of others in their classes

  • can regulate their emotions and control their actions related to these feelings.

We want our students to have equitable outcomes so that no matter what their background is, they can contribute to the learning because learning through play is something that they have done before they arrived at school. We also want our students to be accepting of others’ ideas and the contribution that they can make. Learning through play enables this. Research demonstrates that children who learn through play and are supported in their learning have increased rates of motivation for school, self-efficacy, confidence and resilience. (Longworth Education 2020)

New Zealand research (Best Evidence Synthesis) suggests that great teaching through play improves key learning skills that students can apply to numeracy and literacy learning.

The NZ Council of Educational Research says in their research that for students to be successful we need to move away from teachers being in charge of student learning, to more shared responsibility with home, the student and the teacher.


Key Skills developed through Play

Effective learning through play programmes enables children to engage in self-directed play that is internally motivated. Teachers can support children in play-based learning by providing an enabling environment and sensitive interaction. There is a role for the teacher to discuss, embed and extend the learning with students.

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that learning through play has a number of benefits for learning and development.

Smooth transitions to school. Schools that have adopted learning through play in junior classrooms report that new entrant students settle into school quickly because of improved continuity between school and early childhood education.

Interpersonal skills (between learners). Play-based learning often requires playing with others and gives students the opportunity to practise cooperation, negotiation, leadership, empathy, compromise and active listening. These skills support language development.

Intrapersonal skills (within learners). Play contributes to a child’s sense of well-being and is shown to develop self-esteem, motivation, resilience, concentration, persistence, and time management. Important skills for learning.

Thinking skills. Play-based activities enable students to engage in flexible and higher-level thinking processes. These include inquiry processes of problem-solving, analysing, evaluating, applying knowledge, innovation, and creativity.

Student agency and engagement. Play-based learning can encourage student agency and often results in deeper levels of student engagement in learning. Agency learning is the foundation of pedagogies used in years 3-10.


What does Learning through Play look like @ OAS?


At OAS you will see and hear our teachers:

Draw on curriculum knowledge to recognise the learning within the play and be able to support the student to reach for the next step. This means that they let students lead the play, and then jump in to ask questions which link to areas of the curriculum.

  • Support students to develop their social interactions.
  • Provide lots of diverse and interesting opportunities for students to engage in different types of play – physical, intellectual, and emotional.
  • Work with whānau and our community to create authentic connections that support students to continue to learn at home.
  • Engage a student’s prior knowledge and interests to help them feel connected to their learning and to help strengthen the home/school partnership.
  • Create a classroom environment that develops diverse interest areas that offer rich play opportunities. We want students’ learning to broaden and deepen.
  • Challenge students’ learning and thinking by having meaningful learning conversations that stretch their thinking.

Addison had organised what she needed to make a new game at school. She had asked her Mum to make playdough and picked flowers as she wanted to make cakes. The group had all naturally assigned themselves to jobs to make their game fun and successful. They worked out what their responsibility was, and went about being a part of the “Cake Shop”.

Aria designed a menu and was writing it up.

Addison, Ketia, Kohine, Willow and Camryn were designing and making cakes and then cooking them.

Anna had a clipboard and was taking orders from customers in Rooms 3 & 4.

Mrs McLean and Mrs Foote got to place orders and have their cakes delivered to them.

How you can support Play and learn at home?

The Key Competencies

At school we are trying to help your child learn about 5 critical skills; The Key Competencies – thinking, using language, symbols and texts, managing themselves, relating to others and participating and contributing. You can support these competencies:

  • Thinking

Give children chances to be creative and critical with their thinking. Notice and praise them when they try to think about things differently.

  • Managing self

Notice and praise when your kids do things without being asked – taking the dishes from the table, doing chores, finishing homework. Help your kids get through tricky learning, challenges are part of life, help them see this with your support.

  • Relating to others

Talk about differences in the world and why this is. Be open and respectful of difference. Model listening and negotiating with your kids.

  • Participating and contributing

Encourage your child to take part in new things, help them to take on leadership roles; look after a pet or be responsible for a household chore.

  • Using language, symbols, and texts

Check that your child understands the meaning of different types of texts or languages, ask them how they know that or what makes them think this answer. Talk about the different symbols that you see around your life. $ % @ – what do they mean?

Reading at home
Reading at home is one of the best strategies that whānau can use to help develop your child’s learning. You can read together with your child, taking turns reading. Visit libraries together, read different types of texts (books, mail/email from whānau, junk mail) play games together.

Talk about reading with your child. Talk about what story the pictures tell before you read the words, sing together, make up rhymes and point out words on signs and journeys you take together.

Make writing fun, go on a letter treasure hunt around your house, write shopping lists and birthday cards, and write in the sand at the beach. Write notes for your child to find around your house (or lunch box), help them with an email or write letters to whānau. Label special things – their bedroom door or their special toys name. Celebrate their writing by sticking it up around your home (the fridge).

Talk about writing with your child, “What letters does your name have? What about my name?”, make picture stories of special events or trips, then help them (or you’re writing it) write about the picture, underneath. Have tools for writing available, crayons, pens, felts and paper. Put magnetic letters on the fridge.

Find numbers (they are everywhere!) and count forwards and backwards whenever you get the chance. Play with patterns (red block, blue block, red block, blue block) and make them increasingly more interesting. Talk about simple sums with objects “Oh, look! Everyone at the table has 1 orange and there are 5 people. How many oranges at there on the table?” Count the fruit into the bag at the supermarket.

Talk about sharing, time, amounts, and comparisons between objects (over, under, big, small, up, down…) and use different maths words (first, second, third, before, after….). Cook together and measure the ingredients out, play with measuring tools in the bath or sink, collect objects on your walks (stones, feathers, leaves) and compare them, put them in groups, and arrange them into patterns.

Be SUPER positive about reading, writing and maths – even if you didn’t/don’t enjoy them at school. It is really important for your child’s learning.

Learner Agency


Why do we develop

Learner Agency at OAS?

Our recent ERO report suggested that we take measures to increase student decision making with regard to their own learning with the aim of building greater engagement in learning and promoting well-being for the learners.

“Students must develop the capacity to engage strategically in their learning without waiting to be directed. They must take ownership of and responsibility for their learning. And, they must possess the skills to learn independently, without heavy dependence on external structures and direction.” – Jean Grarrity

  • Agency is interdependent. The learner is not working in isolation doing their own thing and what suits them, there’s connectedness.

  • Agency includes an awareness of the responsibility of one’s own actions on the environment and on others. Every decision a learner makes, and the action she or he takes will impact the thinking, behaviour or decisions of others – and vice versa.


Learner agency has been part of the curriculum since it was updated in 2007. Here, it is called the Key Competencies. “The capabilities that young people need for growing, working, and participating in their communities…The school curriculum should challenge students to use and develop the competencies across the range of learning areas and in increasingly complex and unfamiliar situations” (Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 38 ).

These key competencies are, “about developing the dispositions and sense of agency that not only empower the individual but help them better understand and negotiate the perspectives and values of others, contributing towards more productive and inclusive workplaces and societies” (NZC Online ).

Teachers in our senior school noticed that many students need support even when given learning guides, to understand how to create personal deadlines in order to meet the final ones for NCEA assignments (Year 11 – 13 national qualification).

The skills developed in agency enable students to make clear decisions around set tasks, understand their strengths and use these to complete work more independently. They take ownership over their schedule and form strategies to deal with situations they find challenging.

Students learn to recognise the strengths in others as well as themselves and gain confidence in approaching and selecting people in their community, who can help them achieve their goals.


How do we build Learner Agency?

  • Give them the opportunity to discover what resilience is, and how to fix challenges and find solutions.

  • Give the students responsibility for their environment.

  • Allowing them opportunities to make the right choices and working alongside to support them when they need it.

  • Openness to be honest about whether they are doing the right thing.

  • Encourage them to drive their own learning.

Your children are all unique individuals, work in different ways and have distinctive learning styles. Developing their learning style and how they retain information best, is an important aspect of experiencing greater success.


Why are there Agency Plans?

The beauty of student agency is that instead of teachers instructing the key competencies, they are discovered as students make decisions around their learning. Identifying their needs, initiating new learning, planning, monitoring and assessing learning and reflecting on their own learning goals and pathways.”

Maxine Pattinson (Team Leader & Y5/6 Teacher)

These plans include the following:

  • Must-do activities

    • Literacy – specifically targeted with activities that often cross the curriculum, working as a class and in smaller groups.

    • Numeracy – group/classwork and tasks that support the learning of the individual.

    • Inquiry – Encouraged to be student-led from a particular focus, leading to active learning that crosses the curriculum into Science and Technology.

    • Self-monitoring – Students are in charge of ensuring they complete tasks, supported by the teacher. Greater Agency earns greater independence.

    • Fitness – To be taken daily as a Can Do and/or PE classes.

  • Can do activities

    • Maths / Reading games.

    • Creative activities – art-based activities, construction, dance, drama.

    • Fitness – Outdoor activities such as basketball, netball or field activities.

    • A personal exploration into a topic-driven by the student.

How are we assessing knowledge?

With Agency students become more aware of the steps in their learning, and with support, to independently use a learning matrix to guide them on the journey through the curriculum. As they gain proficiency in this, they are able to include and reflect on choosing tasks more independently, extending their learning. In this way, students are able to grow at their own rate, achieving and expanding their knowledge and are measured on the growth in their skills. Our main Learning Hubs contain these matrices that support student knowledge, link to the curriculum and are reflected in one to one student conferences with our students.

Assessment is not an entirely independent activity. The progress of a student is measured with others in their peer group, reflected on in discussions and shared with the family on the online app, Seesaw. Students and teachers are responsible for reporting to parents and reflecting on their progress, encouraging deeper knowledge and reflection on their learning. This process enables greater communication around student learning and helps parents to have relevant conversations around agency and skills with their child.


This section of the writing matrix shows the areas of learning to Level 3 of the curriculum.

We have begun using Seesaw to share the progress of our learners in real-time. We have plans to continue to develop this mode of reporting and value any input you have that could improve our connection between home and school.

Integrated Learning

Why do we Integrate?

“All learning should make use of the natural connections that exist between learning areas.” -New Zealand Curriculum.

Integration is about finding the common skills and content that is present in the different subjects that students study at high school and teaching them together so that there is a deeper level of understanding developed.

  • Works to create a more seamless connection between programmes in Years 5-8

  • Make connections within and across subjects

  • Greater engagement and perseverance for students

  • Fewer attendance concerns, less disruptive behaviour and fewer discipline problems

  • More personalised learning for each student benefits both high achieving and at-risk students

  • Greater preparedness for the work environment of 2020 and beyond

  • Transference – the ability to extend/use what has been learned in one context in new contexts

  • The conceptual level of understanding

  • Consistent strategies, language and expectations

  • Making learning relevant to the students’ lives and society

How do we Integrate learning at OAS?

Learning units are co-constructed, taught and assessed collaboratively by teachers from both the English and Social Studies curriculum learning areas in response to student needs and interests. We use real-world contexts to foster deep learning and student engagement, with meaningful connections across the learning areas.

  • Stands of knowledge

Key aspects of content from the New Zealand Curriculum relating to each subject area.

  • Specific skills

Specific skills from each of the subject areas allow the knowledge to be processed and learned.

  • Shared skills

Skills that are shared between both curriculum areas and that allow the content knowledge to be processed and learnt.


Supporting learning at home

  • Keep in touch with the whānau teachers and SLT (senior leadership team) through the 3-way conferences and emails. In the first instance, you should speak with the whānau teacher about the challenges or support that is needed. This is also a chance to let us know if you have any special interests or expertise that you could contribute.

  • Stay involved with your child by making it part of your day to ask what they are learning and what are the biggest challenges for them. Don’t do their homework for them, but set shared expectations about homework. It might be worth talking to teachers about their expectations too. As your child gets to Y10, it is a good idea to talk about subject options for the future too. Maybe make a meeting with our Careers Advisor by sending an email.

  • Get involved when there is an opportunity through feedback surveys, contacting teachers, talking with the members of the Board of Trustees (BOT), or running for a position on the BOT at the next election. There may also be an opportunity to participate as a member of a Parent-Teacher Association or by volunteering your time.

At school we are trying to help your child learn about 5 critical skills; The Key Competencies – thinking, using language, symbols and texts, managing themselves, relating to others and participating and contributing. You can support these competencies:

  • Thinking

Give children chances to be creative and critical with their thinking. Notice and praise them when they try to think about things differently. Encourage them to plan meals, and what needs to be on the shopping list?

  • Managing self

Notice and praise when your kids do things without being asked – taking the dishes from the table, doing chores, finishing homework. Help your kids get through tricky learning, challenges are part of life, help them see this with your support. Encourage them to manage their own fitness and offer to support them to do this.

  • Relating to others

Talk about differences in the world and why this is. Be open and respectful of difference. Model listening and negotiating with your kids.

  • Participating and contributing

Encourage your child to take part in new things, help them to take on leadership roles; look after a pet or be responsible for a household chore. Encourage them to participate in pōwhiri at your marae or be in a sports team.

  • Using language, symbols, and texts

Check that your child understands the meaning of different types of texts or languages, ask them how they know that or what makes them think this answer. Talk about the different symbols that you see around your life. $ % @ – what do they mean?


How do we measure progress?

Students in Year 9 & 10 Integrated are “measured” against the Achievement Objectives at Level 5 for Social Sciences and English. Assessments are created to incorporate elements of both areas.

Examples of student work showing the integration of Social Science contexts and skills with English Skills.


Student Feedback


Mathematics Approach

The Research

Please use this link to access the research that we talked about in the evening.

We also have hard copies of this research available from the school.

OAS Assessment Strategy

At OAS we believe that students who take an active role in the assessment process have greater success. Therefore our assessment processes are done with the students. The use of rubric and assessment criteria assists students to recognise where they are at and what they need to work on next. This allows OAS students to lead conversations around their learning. The assessment information is gathered from a range of sources, focusing on students strengths. It covers all areas of the New Zealand curriculum as well as the skills and competencies that students need to be life-learners.

The assessment information is used for two purposes. Firstly to identify students next steps in their learning journeys. Secondly, to evaluate the level a student is at against the New Zealand curriculum.


In Years 1-10 students are evaluated against the curriculum levels using an Overall Teacher Judgement (OTJ). OTJ’s combine all the assessment information gathered from a range of assessment tools to come up with an overall level of where the student is against the curriculum levels.


Along with side curriculum assessment, OAS also assess the key competencies which are a set of skills students need to become lifelong learners.

Please click here to know more about OAS Key Competencies.

In Year, 7-10 students set goals and work towards achieving them in Mauria te Pono. Mauria te Pono supports students to see success in all areas of school life, not just academic success. It values the contribution students make to our school through our school values, curriculum, and extracurricular. The students maintain a portfolio of evidence that is added to each year.

Please click here to know more about Mauria te Pono.

OAS Reporting

Here at OAS in Years 1-10, we report achievement progress against the National Curriculum, key competencies, and our school values. In Years 1-6 this is done via the platform Seesaw.