Schools are expected to be preparing for the implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum by February 2010. As part of its regular reviews from Term 3, 2008 until the end of 2009, ERO is evaluating and reporting on schools’ readiness to implement this curriculum. This is the second of two reports intended to inform the Ministry of Education about schools’ progress. The previous report was published in January 2009.
This report is based on a study carried out in 31 secondary schools and 265 primary schools, reviewed in Terms 1 and 2, 2009. ERO evaluated the extent to which each school considered vision, values, key competencies, learning areas and principles as part of its own curriculum review and design. It also reports on schools’ immediate priorities for curriculum review and design, and the extent to which they were working towards offering opportunities for learning a second or subsequent language.
ERO found that most schools were progressing well in their preparations for implementing The New Zealand Curriculum. As expected, overall they were more advanced in their progress towards implementation than those reviewed in Terms 3 and 4, 2008.
Ninety-eight percent of both secondary and primary schools reviewed during this period had begun preparing for implementation. Sixty-four percent of secondary and 56 percent of primary schools were either well under way or ready, compared with 44 percent and 39 percent respectively at the time of the previous evaluation.
Developing a shared, school-wide understanding of the key competencies, aligning these to their school vision and values, and integrating them into the planning of teaching and learning programmes were important priorities for most schools. Many schools were well down the track with these processes, and some were focusing on modifying their assessment and reporting practices to align with the key competencies.
Consultation with the school community is still a high priority for primary schools, while for many secondary schools curriculum-related professional development is an important next step in their implementation strategy. All secondary schools in this study offered students opportunities for learning a second or subsequent language. A significantly higher proportion of primary schools offered their Years 7 and 8 students a second or subsequent language learning than was the case at the time of the previous report.
In both primary and secondary sectors, many schools were now focusing on reviewing their curriculum frameworks and developing documentation and practices to support teaching in each of the learning areas. This is very timely because reviewing, developing and/or refining organisational systems and teaching practices will give reality to the curriculum. This report includes a set of questions that school leaders could usefully ask about the extent of their progress in these areas.
A critical driver in successful curriculum design, implementation and delivery is the effectiveness of the school’s self review or inquiry processes. These processes operate from board to classroom level but essentially focus on evidence about what needs to change to help students learn.
Schools that were well advanced with design and implementation were basing their decisions on evidence gathered as part of various internal review processes. In the context of the national curriculum, they were using this information to help them tailor their school curriculum to what was already working well for them, to what they saw as priorities for their learners, and to the local resources and opportunities available to them.
The other critical factor in schools’ readiness for, or lack of progress towards implementation is the impetus school leaders give to the process. In schools progressing well towards implementation, either the principal or another delegated school leader had taken responsibility for managing the change process. They were providing direction and coherence for activities involving trustees, teachers, parents and community members by keeping all parties in the communication loop, facilitating opportunities that gave expression to opinions and ideas, and monitoring agreed actions against the expected timeline.
Although February 2010 is designated as the date by which schools should be implementing The New Zealand Curriculum, it is important that curriculum design and review is seen as a cyclic process. Students’ needs change over time and, in response, so too should each school’s curriculum change. Curriculum design and implementation is informed by ongoing inquiry into what is working well for each school community, and how well it is working for diverse students.