Effective planning to accelerate achievement - guidance for schools


All schools have planning: Charter goals, strategic planning, annual plans and action plans. As part of your ERO external evaluation, the review team will discuss with you how effective your planned actions have been in reducing disparities among individuals and groups of children in your school. If you are finding it challenging to accelerate the progress of your targeted children sufficiently to promote equitable outcomes, we may ask you to develop more targeted planning to accelerate student achievement.

We have put together some useful questions and prompts to help you improve your planning so that it is more likely to have an impact on those children at risk of inequitable outcomes.

Planning guidance

We do not expect you to develop a completely new plan nor does it need to be in any particular format. Planning will be different for each school and takes account of their capability, strengths and capacity to change.

Effective planning:

  • includes actions, timelines and monitoring points that identify how schools will reduce achievement disparities for all current and future Māori and other children who are, or are likely to, underachieve at school
  • clearly states required shifts in practice that reflect the issues identified through the ERO external evaluation
  • is specific about the numbers and needs of Māori and other children of focus whose progress should accelerate
  • has a sense of urgency to accelerate Māori and other students’ progress along with high expectations for their achievement
  • shows the changes the school will make related to stewardship, leadership, relationships, professional capability, responsive curriculum and evaluation and inquiry, as identified in the ERO external evaluation
  • shows how the impact of any changes or teaching strategies will be evaluated and reported.

ERO’s report Raising student achievement through targeted actions found that almost all schools had parts of their action planning that needed to improve.  Therefore ERO doesn’t have an expectation of a particular planning model.

The following sections provide general explanations and guiding questions to assist when developing and evaluating planning.  

Improving stewardship, leadership, relationships, professional capability, and evaluation and inquiry issues identified during the review

ERO’s internal evaluation tool will help schools to unpack what they need to do to as they work to accelerate student achievement, including the identification of teacher development.

Planning clearly outlines the changes needed to reduce the issues identified during the review.

The School Evaluation Indicators will help schools identify the desired shifts in practice and outcomes for learners. The Effective School Evaluation resource provides schools with guidance and questions to use when deciding on the actions they will take.

ERO has found that schools that accelerated progress undertook additional assessment with those students whose progress needed accelerating.

In many cases planning will include more information about the specific needs identified and will concentrate on their capability building.

Planning is likely to include:

  • desired outcomes
  • shifts in practice
  • steps to achieve the shifts
  • actions for different people (trustees, leaders, teachers, students, parents/whānau).

Much of the identification of shifts in practice needed to bring about improvement is likely to occur during the school’s ERO external evaluation.  

Examples where the issues and shifts in practice were identified during a review should be evident in the action plan.

For more about shifts in practice see pages 33-40 Effective School Evaluation

For some schools, their Community of Learning (CoL) may have identified agreed shifts in practice. This content and alignment should be considered and included in planning. 

Guiding Questions

How does the planning build on any strengths identified in the review of the school, or in some cases the expertise from their Community of Learning?

How well do the actions logically and strategically bring together the roles and steps required to bring about improvements for students?

Is the information and monitoring in the planning sufficient for trustees to make informed decisions about the resources to fund and the impact of the resourcing?

Will the information being collected provide leaders and teachers with what they need to identify, explain and sustain any improvements or decide to discontinue actions that aren’t working?

Focusing on numbers and needs

Statements outline the extent of underachievement in the school. These statements should:

  • align with the school’s public achievement information
  • provide enough information to fully inform the board and others of the needs across the year levels, gender, etc. of Māori and then other children
  • highlight the learning areas where priority should be given to reduce disparities in the school.

The planning that ERO is asking for is not an individual education plan.

Planning needs to focus mainly on building professional capability in the school. In some instances, plans may use a combination of processes to build collective capability to do and use evaluation, inquiry and knowledge building along with some support for individuals. In other instances the plan may entirely focus on building school-wide evaluation and teaching capability. Individual learning plans would reflect the overarching improvement planning.

Manageability is one of the key considerations when preparing a raising achievement plan. 

Development of too many different curriculum areas at the same time is unlikely to benefit students in the long term. If significant underachievement is evident across reading, writing and mathematics, it is expected that capability building should foreground the school-wide issues identified in the school’s ERO report and only focus on one curriculum area.

The key overarching question is:

How well does the plan focus on the student achievement issues identified in the ERO review?


Guiding Questions

How well does the plan focus on all Māori, and other students whose progress needs to accelerate in the school?

How well have the board, leaders and teachers identified and understood the extent of underachievement and the needs of the students whose progress should be accelerated?

How manageable is this plan for the leaders and teachers in this school?

If external support is needed, is it included in the targeted planning?

A sense of urgency - high achievement expectations to accelerate progress 

Planning includes timeframes for actions and monitoring. These actions and timeframes should logically move through the steps outlined in pages 30 -31 of Effective School Evaluation:

  • noticing
  • investigating
  • collaborative sense making
  • prioritising to take action
  • improvement action
  • shifts in practice and outcomes for learners.

The starting point for each school will vary and is dependent on what the school was already confident with at the time of the ERO review. However, it should be evident that the school will undertake new actions and have high expectations that their children can succeed. 

A critical element in schools successfully accelerating progress is that teachers’ expectations focus on the child’s potential rather than on current or past performance.

Action planning versus urgency to make improvements
ERO’s report Raising student achievement through targeted actionsidentified that in the best instances, schools had layers of action plans from:

  • board - plans and analysis of variance
  • syndicate and team - plans and monitoring
  • classroom and individual teacher - plans and goals

These plans were added to or modified as part of the evaluation and knowledge building for improvement. Development of layered planning like this can take time especially if data analysis is poor and/or if there is an aim to involve more people in the goal setting and monitoring process.

The challenge is to avoid planning that is so multi-layered and complex that it delays progress for children.  The depth of planning will vary from school to school, depending on the extent of the underachievement and the capability of the board, leaders and teachers. 

Guiding Questions

Is the planning specific about students’ outcomes?

Are the outcomes expressed as high expectations for students?

Are timeframes for key actions evident? Do they express a sense of urgency?

Does the planning indicate the school will do something different to what they have already done?

Is the monitoring focusing on teaching effectiveness as well as students’ support?

Everyone involved and understanding their role in the improvements

ERO has identified that schools able to accelerate the progress of students’ not achieving success had a “line of sight” from the board to the children of focus.  Everyone, from the board to the leaders, teachers, parents/whānau and children contributed to the individual goals, understood their responsibilities and were involved in monitoring and celebrating progress.

Trustees were then able to scrutinise the impact of their resourcing.

Parents and whānau could share information about their child’s interests and strengths along with their needs.

Children and teachers understood what they needed to focus on most to make the desired improvements and knew what success looked like.

Taking additional time to make connections with teachers, whānau, and the children who are not achieving well is of considerable benefit to these students. 

If the school is part of a Community of Learning their planning may link to the achievement challenge and/or use some of the resources and expertise from within their community. This sort of information and alignment will have been discussed as part of the school’s ERO review.

Guiding Questions

Does the action planning, implementation and monitoring include students, parents/whānau, teachers, leaders and trustees?

Are students and parents provided with opportunities to discuss what worked or didn’t work?

Reflective Questions

  • Does the planning establish a viable pathway to the right actions to address equity?
  • Will it cause the right things to happen within the right timeframes?
  • Does it address the right issues? [Does it address impediments to /progress factors promoting equity?]
  • Does it show how the school will know that this is actually happening?

The following publications may be of use:

School Evaluation Indicators

Effective School Evaluation

Educationally Powerful Connections with Parents and Whānau (November 2015)

Raising Achievement in Primary Schools (June 2014)

Raising Achievement in Secondary Schools (June 2014)

Accelerating the Progress of Priority Learners in Primary Schools (May 2013)

Raising Student Achievement through Targeted Actions (December 2015)

Exemplars of good practice [as found in BES and ERO National reports]