Findings

The findings

The curriculum principles are expected to be the foundation of curriculum decision-making at each school. They are intended to be used for planning, prioritising and reviewing the school’s curriculum. When they are used well the principles put students at the centre of teaching and learning by fostering the design of a curriculum that engages and challenges them.

There continued to be considerable variability in the extent that the curriculum principles were evident in the schools reviewed. This evaluation shows an increase in the percentage of schools with minimal evidence of the curriculum principles, compared to ERO’s previous report. Little improvement was evident since the May 2011 report despite schools having had more time to focus on implementing the principles.

As indicated in Figure 1, in about a third of schools, the curriculum principles were highly evident, which is similar to the earlier findings. There was some evidence of the principles in 35 percent of schools, a decrease from 50 percent. Similarly, there was minimal or no evidence of the principles in 33 percent of schools, compared to 18 percent previously.

Figure 1: Curriculum Principles – level of evidence in schools

figure 1 is a bar graph called Curriculum Principles level of evidence in schools. The y=axis is called percentage and is ranged from 0-100 at intervals of 20. The x-axis is called level of evidence of principles and has four labels. Each label has two bars one for the year 2011 and 2012. They are respectively, High (2011 32% and 2012 32%), Some 2011 50% and 2012 35%, Minimal 2011 17% and 2012 29% and None 2011 1% and 2012 4%.

The principles were more likely to be highly evident in primary schools than in secondary schools. This may reflect the greater focus on the individual learning areas in secondary schools, compared to more integration of teaching across the curriculum in primary schools.

ERO carried out further analysis of data from this and other recent ERO evaluations to suggest explanations for the overall decline in evidence of the principles. The only significant variance between the cohort evaluated in 2010 and that reviewed in 2011 was the ratio of primary to secondary schools. However, the fact that the principles were more likely to be evident in primary schools than in secondary schools means that this difference does not explain the decline.

ERO considered possible impacts from schools developing their curriculum at the same time as implementing the National Standards. When information for the report Working with National Standards to Promote Students’ Progress and Achievement (2012)was reanalysed it was found that only a very small number of schools had identified this as a reason to delay the development of their curriculum. Schools that were working well with the National Standards were also more likely to be well advanced with their curriculum development. As schools were developing their curriculum and their understandings of the National Standards in both 2010 and 2011 the decline cannot be attributed to this factor.

ERO’s increased emphasis on how well schools are focused on success for Māori and Pacific students and how they are including students with high needs may have influenced reviewers’ judgements about schools' enactment of the curriculum principles. ERO expected that schools reviewed in 2011 would be further ahead in enacting the principles than those reviewed in 2010. Recent ERO findings have particularly highlighted for schools the importance of the cultural diversity, inclusion, community engagement and learning to learn principles.

The 2010 report Promoting Success for Māori Students: Schools’ Progress indicated that not all educators have yet recognised their professional responsibility to provide a learning environment that promotes success for Māori students. The report also highlighted that in a sizeable minority of schools consultation with Māori parents and whānau was limited, and Māori parents’ engagement in their children’s education is not valued. Subsequently, in 2011 ERO changed its approach to focus more on success for Māori and determined that schools would not be seen as highly effective unless they could demonstrate that Māori learners are actively engaged in their learning, are progressing well and succeeding as Māori.

Information collected from schools in 2011 and reported in Improving Education Outcomes for Pacific Learners (June 2012)1 also highlighted schools challenges responding to the diverse cultures in their schools. The evaluation found little evidence of primary and secondary schools responding to the diversity, identity, language and cultures of Pacific learners. Most primary and secondary schools in this evaluation had not drawn upon contexts and themes that were relevant to Pacific learners. Many schools were not successfully engaging with Pacific families in their communities as they used the same approaches to engaging with Pacific parents as they used with other parents.

ERO’s report Including Students with High Needs (2010) found that approximately half of the schools demonstrated inclusive practice, while 30 percent had ‘pockets of inclusive practice’ and 20 percent had few inclusive practices. The report explained the important role of leaders in building an inclusive culture where effective systems and innovative solutions to manage the complex and unique challenges related to including students with high needs.

A recurring theme has emerged across ERO’s reports on the National Standards in schools with Years 1 to 8 students. Involving students in understanding what their progress and achievement looks like in relation to the National Standards is an ongoing difficulty. For some schools, teachers have insufficient understanding of the standards to engage in meaningful conversations with students about their learning, achievement and progress. Schools need a culture where such conversations happen in constructive ways that build productive relationships between teachers and learners and their parents and whānau.

Findings from these recent ERO reports highlight that many schools are not designing a school curriculum that reflects the cultural diversity, inclusion, learning to learn and community partnerships principles. ERO’s current findings also indicate particular concern regarding the principles of coherence and future focus. All the curriculum principles are closely interconnected and together provide a framework for a coherent curriculum. Schools that are not enacting the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum are not likely to be able to successfully accelerate the progress of priority learners such as Māori, Pacific and special needs students.

High visibility of curriculum principles in the school curriculum

Where the principles were effectively integrated into a school’s curriculum:

  • a strong correlation with the curriculum values and Key Competencies was apparent
  • very obvious links were evident between the principles and curriculum design, with very clear rationale for choices in curriculum design
  • statements for each learning area described how the principles were enacted in the curriculum
  • classroom planning was referenced to the principles
  • teachers were supported to enact the principles through professional learning opportunities
  • self review that considered the principles was ongoing.

In these schools the curriculum focused on meeting the diverse needs and interests of all learners in the school. A very broad curriculum encouraged opportunities to develop learners’ abilities and talents. Effective support programmes were in place for students with learning or behavioural needs. All learners were expected to be treated with respect regardless of their level of achievement, ethnicity or gender. Diversity was encouraged and celebrated.

Integrated and authentic learning contexts were outlined in the school’s curriculum that were intended to give relevance and coherence to the learning. Students were provided with opportunities to develop an understanding of their place and responsibilities as citizens of Aotearoa/New Zealand, and as part of a world that is increasingly interconnected.

Classrooms were strong learning communities that fostered high expectations for teaching and learning. Students showed a high level of understanding of themselves as learners. They were able to talk about their learning goals and next steps. Teachers shared information with them about their progress and achievement. Students were fully engaged in their learning.

A partnership between home and school provided parents and whānau with regular feedback on student achievement and progress. They were involved in learning and support activities with their students. Parents’ views were canvassed and given serious consideration in school decision-making. Students benefited from members of the local and wider community sharing their expertise.

Where the principles were highly evident, they were described in school documents, such as teaching and learning guidelines. In a few schools they were articulated in schools’ charters and mission statements. In some schools self review had been used to evaluate how well the school was enacting the principles, and steps were then taken to address the identified gaps. In a small number of schools the principles were considered as part of ongoing curriculum review and there was a clear alignment between the charter, The New Zealand Curriculum, teaching and learning guidelines, performance appraisal and professional learning development.

Teachers in the schools where the principles were highly evident were more likely to have been supported by external professional learning development facilitators as they examined and discussed their understanding of the principles. Sometimes participation in professional learning development in curriculum areas such as Information Communication Technologies, literacy, numeracy or implementation of the National Standards had enhanced staff understanding of the principles. In other schools the development process was guided by the senior leaders.

Leaders played an important role in helping teachers to interpret and implement the curriculum principles. In schools where the curriculum principles were highly evident, leadership was particularly apparent in the following key areas:

  • Organising consultation processes that included the community, teachers and students
  • Accessing professional development programmes that focused on building teacher clarity about The New Zealand Curriculum
  • Creating opportunities for teachers to review and develop the school’s curriculum, including supporting teachers to build a shared understanding about the place of curriculum principles in relation to the school’s vision and values, and the Key Competencies
  • Ensuring that the principles were evident in curriculum guidelines and policies
  • Helping teachers to understand how the principles could be included in classroom planning and programmes
  • Incorporating the principles into the school’s strategic and annual planning
  • Drawing links for teachers between the principles and current school learning approaches or initiatives (such as Assessment for Learning 2 and Te Kotahitanga 3).

The following examples illustrate how instrumental leaders were in making sure the curriculum review and development process happened effectively:

The principal created energy and enthusiasm for curriculum development that spread to the school leaders and the teachers and trustees. There has also been significant input into the review and development by students, parents and whānau. The principles are now reflected in the charter, and in the learning programmes and teaching practices. (Full primary school, Years 1-8)

The leadership team, involving team coordinators and teachers has identified how each individual principle is reflected in the school’s curriculum and also identified the principles in the teaching and learning programmes and planning. Leaders ensure that teachers are addressing all the principles and that these are thought about during curriculum reviews. (Intermediate School, Years 7-8)

Some leaders were simultaneously building their own knowledge of the principles, through networking with other leaders and by attending seminars, curriculum development courses and leadership forums.

Schools with limited visibility of curriculum principles in their curriculum

Schools involvement in professional development influenced the extent to which the principles were evident across the school. In the group of schools judged to have some evidence of the principles only a small number of teachers and leaders had accessed external professional learning development to help them explore the principles. Teachers in these schools did not always demonstrate a clear understanding of the principles and there was sometimes confusion between the principles and values from The New Zealand Curriculum. In some cases there was an attempt to align the principles to special character values and philosophies of the school. Self review against the principles was limited. In some schools, although little work had been done on implementing the principles in policy and practice at school-wide level, they were evident in the teaching in some classrooms.

In the schools with minimal evidence of the principles, professional development, if it had taken place, was a one-off occurrence. The principles were generally not incorporated into planning at school or classroom level. Teachers received limited support from senior leaders in incorporating them into their classroom planning. If any principles were evident they were intrinsic to ongoing school practices, rather than planned. These schools required external support to develop an understanding of their significance for the school’s curriculum. The principles were not considered in the school's self-review processes.

The four percent of schools where the principles were not evident had not accessed external support and most had not started to consider them. A few were at the beginning of this process.

Comparing the individual principles evident in schools’ curricula

Principles evident in schools’ curricula were similar in the earlier ERO report to those evident during this evaluation (see Tables 1 and 7). The principle that was the most evident in both evaluations was high expectations. This principle incorporated both learning and behavioural expectations, the latter being often linked to the Key Competencies. The expectation for student excellence frequently extended to achievement in sporting, cultural and leadership activities. Public celebration of success was a common factor.

The next most evident principles were: inclusion; learning to learn; and community engagement. These were also the four most evident principles in the previous evaluation, with a small variation in the order. These four principles are traditionally common elements of good pedagogical practice and have been reinforced recently in published literature. These practices are also continually reinforced by school leaders.

Future focus was the least evident, followed by cultural diversity, coherence, Treaty of Waitangi, learning to learn, community engagement, inclusion and high expectations. It is of note that in ERO’s previous report the Treaty of Waitangi was identified as the principle least evident, but this now sits in the middle of the group. The significance of this is discussed in a later section, as are the implications of the limited evidence of future focus, cultural diversity and coherence.

Table 1: Evidence of each principle in the curricula of schools in 2012 4

Ranking

Principles identified as most evident in the school curriculum

No. of schools

1

High expectations

91

2

Inclusion

81

3

Learning to learn

73

4

Community engagement

69

5

Treaty of Waitangi

65

6

Coherence

48

7

Cultural diversity

43

8

Future focus

40

Ranking

Principles identified as least evident in the school curriculum

No. of schools

1

Future focus

50

2

Cultural diversity

46

3

Coherence

39

4

Treaty of Waitangi

33

5

Learning to learn

28

6

Community engagement

24

7

Inclusion

15

8

High expectations

11

Ranking

Principles identified as not evident in the school curriculum

No. of schools

1

Coherence

9

2 =

Learning to learn

8

2 =

Cultural diversity

8

4 =

Treaty of Waitangi

7

4 =

Future focus

7

6

Inclusion

5

7

Community engagement

3

8

High expectations

2

Individual principles enacted in the classroom curriculum

ERO visited 200 classrooms in 113 schools and evaluated the enactment of the curriculum principles and the use of teaching as inquiry. Overall, the principles were less evident in the classrooms’ curriculum than they were in school-wide curriculum planning. This reflects the independence that teachers often exercise in implementing their classroom curriculum.

In classrooms where the curriculum principles were highly evident, they were present in teachers’ planning. What teachers were doing in their programmes for students in their class closely aligned with what the school leaders expected of teachers. Some teachers were supported by school leaders to plan units of work collaboratively that focused on incorporating the principles.

One of the visions for education outlined in The New Zealand Curriculum is that students develop as confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners. 5 Teachers had taken up the challenge of fostering this vision in classrooms where the principles were highly evident. They provided students with good opportunities to undertake independent learning and encouraged them to set goals and evaluate their progress against these goals.

Sitting alongside these good practices were curriculum management processes that brought coherence to the curriculum and therefore had benefits for students’ learning. Specifically, opportunities for students to:

  • experience a curriculum and learning approaches (such as inquiry learning models) that built progressively on their understandings and skills
  • make links between knowledge acquired in different learning areas of The New Zealand Curriculum
  • learn about concepts through multiple contexts and over multiple time periods
  • move smoothly between schools and classes through well-coordinated transition processes
  • make choices about the curriculum, such as selecting topics that interested them.

In only 14 percent of classrooms were the curriculum principles highly evident, compared with 32 percent at school level. There was some evidence of them in a further two-thirds of classrooms. In 21 percent of classrooms the principles were not evident. These findings show a reduction in the percentage of classrooms where the principles were fully enacted and an increase in the percentage of those with minimal enactment of the principles when compared to the previous ERO report (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Curriculum Principles – level of enactment in classrooms

No significant difference was found in the extent to which the principles were enacted in different subject or year levels in secondary schools or in different year levels in primary schools.

In a small number of schools where the principles were highly evident in documents and guidelines they were not enacted in some of their classes. No monitoring occurred to check that classroom programmes and practices reflect those outlined in the school’s curriculum. This difference between school policy and practice was also found in the ERO report Improving Education Outcomes for Pacific Learners (June 2012). While references to Pacific students might have appeared in the overarching statements of a school’s curriculum, classroom planning and practice frequently missed opportunities to reflect the culture, knowledge and understanding of these learners.

The curriculum principles were more likely to be enacted in classrooms when they were highly visible in the school’s curriculum. In a few classrooms the principles were more evident than in the school-wide curriculum. On occasions, some of the principles were evident in the teacher’s practice but not documented in planning, indicating an incidental, ad hoc enactment. This was true of those principles that reflected what has been traditionally regarded as good pedagogy, such as high expectations, learning to learn and inclusion. For the principles to have the expected impact on students’ learning they need to be an integral part of the process of planning classroom programmes.

The most evident principle in classrooms was high expectations, which was visible in more than 80 percent of classrooms. In some classrooms, students were involved in developing these expectations and were given the opportunity to set high expectations and challenge targets. Teachers in these classrooms viewed the students as capable learners and thinkers. Students were empowered to self monitor their own progress. High levels of self management and perseverance were expected, as in the following example.

In a combined Year 5 and 6 class different types of learning spaces were available where learners chose to work depending on what they were doing. Students came into class when they arrived at school and planned their learning day, choosing what to complete and when. Teachers were available to support, discuss and question. (Years 1-6 Contributing School)

Learning to learn and inclusion were evident in the curriculum in approximately two-thirds of classrooms.

Cultural diversity, future focus and Treaty of Waitangi were the least well represented principles in approximately a third of classrooms. These three principles were not evident at all in about a sixth of classrooms. The significance of this is discussed in a later section.

These findings are very similar to those reported by ERO in 2011, with the exception of the Treaty of Waitangi which has moved from being the least evident of the principles to a middle ranking (see Tables 2 and 8).

Table 2: Evidence of each principle in the curricula of 201 classrooms in 2012 6

Ranking

Principles identified as most evident in classroom curriculum

No. of classrooms

 
 

1

High expectations

165

 

2

Learning to learn

134

 

3

Inclusion

127

 

4

Coherence

93

 

5

Treaty of Waitangi

88

 

6

Community engagement

83

 

7

Future focus

62

 

8

Cultural diversity

61

 

Ranking

Principles identified as least evident in classroom curriculum

No. of classrooms

 
 

1

Cultural diversity

74

 

2

Future focus

70

 

3

Treaty of Waitangi

65

 

4

Community engagement

63

 

5

Coherence

57

 

6

Learning to learn

38

 

7

Inclusion

32

 

8

High expectations

18

 

Ranking

Principles identified as not evident in classroom curriculum

No. of classrooms

 
 

1

Future focus

40

 

2

Cultural diversity

33

 

3

Treaty of Waitangi

32

 

4

Community engagement

26

 

5

Coherence

19

 

6

Learning to learn

11

 

7

Inclusion

9

 

8

High expectations

6

 

Very few classes were observed where most or all of the principles were enacted. One example of high quality enactment of the principles in the classroom is outlined below.

In a secondary school fabrics technology class, with a diverse range of student cultures and some older students following a mixed-materials programme, the principles were infused into teaching and learning. The teacher individualised student learning programmes. Individual student records showed all the principles were enacted over time.

The teacher provided links with what the students were learning in other curriculum areas such as tourism and hospitality, and art. Te ao Māori was explored in the design process and learners were encouraged to experiment with colours and patterns from a range of other cultures. Enterprise Education was evident as students created a sellable garment. Links were established to global business enterprise through an investigation of what would work in a local context as opposed to a wider New Zealand and a global context.

The teacher modelled high expectations through the use of exemplars and her expectations for learners to meet deadlines. The individualised approach encouraged students to challenge themselves and accelerate their learning. The teacher and students worked together to develop ideas and plan next learning steps that were documented in individual learner’s reflection books.

The teacher provided access to outside experts to develop the skills of the students focused on mixed materials who were constructing a pizza oven. Community surveys, as part of market research, provided links to students’ lives outside of school. For some learners, links with the local marae had influenced pattern design. (Secondary School, Years 7-15)

It is disappointing that the examples of high quality classroom practice outlined above were not reflected in most classrooms. Students should participate in a curriculum that is ‘engaging and challenging’ and ‘forward-looking and inclusive’.7 This was not always the case in the classes where there was minimal or no enactment of the principles. Teachers of these classes had a poor understanding of the importance of the principles in curriculum review and design, and limited knowledge about how to use the principles as the foundation for designing their classroom programmes.

Leaders have a role to play in ensuring that teachers consider the curriculum when making decisions about classroom planning, teaching priorities and programme review. The focus of their attention should be on supporting teachers to implement programmes that provide learners with:

  • a broad and deep curriculum that caters for their interests, strengths and learning need
  • learning that fosters their independence, self responsibility and engagement.

Successes and challenges in the least enacted principles

Future focus, coherence, cultural diversity and Treaty of Waitangi were curriculum principles that many schools have yet to enact effectively. In many schools:

  • there was a clear lack of understanding of the implications of the future focusprinciple, resulting in a very restricted interpretation of its scope
  • providing students with clear, sequential learning pathways had not been given high priority, particularly in the earlier stages of curriculum revision and implementation
  • while an improvement in acknowledging the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand under the Treaty of Waitangi was evident, some still had much to do in this area
  • teachers provided inclusive school and classroom environments but had not taken the next step of celebrating their school’s and New Zealand’s growingcultural diversity and using these as valuable resources for 21st century teaching and learning emphases.

The following section discusses further the challenges that these curriculum principles present for many schools. It also provides examples of good practice that may assist their enactment.

Treaty of Waitangi

It is difficult to ascertain the reasons for the increased evidence of the Treaty of Waitangi in school and classroom curriculum. Previously there have been indications of some teacher and board resistance, including the egalitarian response of ‘we treat all students the same’ by teachers and school leaders. Teachers have lacked knowledge and understanding of the Treaty and its implications for classroom and school practice. Some of the improvement may be due to Ministry of Education initiatives such as Ka Hikitia 8, Te Kotahitanga 9, and He Kākano 10 but this is not possible to quantify.

In schools and classrooms where this principle was very evident there were high expectations for the achievement, attendance and behaviour of Māori students. The programme incorporated aspects of te ao Māori. Tikanga Māori was valued and promoted. There were opportunities for all students to hear and use te reo Māori. Students had opportunities to participate in kapa haka and pōwhiri.

In these schools targets were set for Māori student achievement and these were reported to the board and the Māori community. The school consulted its Māori community and called on their expertise to provide advice and guidance. Māori were well represented on the board. A strategic plan outlined a planned approach to raising the achievement of Māori learners. Trustees made available sufficient funding to provide for a Māori dimension across the school.

A few schools, particularly secondary, had a marae and this was usually central to school values and protocols. It served as a respected bridge between the local Māori community and the school. It may have been linked to a local community marae. In other schools, staff developed a relationship with a local marae that provided students with marae experience.

A pertinent observation in one school’s curriculum documentation was:

The Māori world is very diverse. One student’s experience of Te Ao Māori is as valid as another. (Secondary school, Years 9-13)

It cautions against a stereotyping, ‘one approach fits all’ attitude to Māori students.

Cultural diversity*

The limited evidence of this curriculum principle at both school level and in classrooms is of concern as the diversity of New Zealand society and schools grows. Cultural diversity has perhaps been overlooked as teachers focused on meeting bicultural, Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

There is a close link between this principle and inclusion. Both require teachers to value students as individuals and celebrate the diversity that they bring. Schools need to consider whether their inclusive practices encompass valuing the richness and diversity that students of different cultures bring. Many teachers appeared to lack knowledge about how to engage with culturally diverse families and use the resource these students and their families can potentially provide to enrich the learning of all students.

In the schools and classrooms where cultural diversity was acknowledged and celebrated, teachers were aware of students’ different cultural identities. Their cultural contexts were incorporated into teaching and learning programmes and into the classroom environment. Teachers provided practical opportunities for all students to be proud and share their language and culture through cultural groups, special events and school festivals that celebrated cultural difference. All students experienced learning contexts from multiple cultures.

There were clear expectations in these schools’ charters for celebration of diversity, stating the right of all children to feel culturally safe. Boards that had developed such charters sought representation from all the cultures of their school community and the staff were representative of many cultures.

Providing students with culturally diverse experiences appeared to be a particular challenge for schools that were more culturally homogeneous. However, one inland South Island school actively responded to this challenge. As an outcome of a ‘Pacific Partners’ inquiry learning topic the students of this largely homogenous school participated in many interesting activities from Pacific cultures.

Special character secondary schools often demonstrated a strong commitment to valuing and celebrating cultural diversity. Some of these schools were particularly successful at using the cultural advantage that their students and community provided. This was especially the case where schools used the opportunities gained from having international students when the school was not otherwise as culturally diverse. The merging of school values such as ‘universal [brother]hood’ with this curriculum principle fostered an empathy, respect and understanding of how others view the world and what they value.

* See also ERO's 2012 report Improving Education Outcomes for Pacific Learners (June 2012).

Future focus

‘Future focus is about supporting learners to recognise that they have a stake in the future, and a role and responsibility as citizens to take action to help shape that future.’ 11

This was the least evident of all the principles at school curriculum level in classrooms’ curricula. It had not been adequately examined and discussed with teachers by school leaders and therefore most of its aspects were not understood. There continues to be some confusion amongst teachers about the relationship between future focus and 21st century, or e-learning, and lifelong learning.

The environmental sustainability aspect was still the best understood. This was especially evident in primary schools, through enviroschool programmes. This may also be a reflection that the curriculum value of ecological sustainability has tended to overtake the full intent of the curriculum principle of future focus. Many schools provided students with opportunities for leadership and encouraged behaviours which contribute to good citizenship. These opportunities were sometimes linked to aspects of sustainability through projects such as environmental cleanups or stream monitoring.

Enterprise and globalisation were the least evident aspects of the future focuscurriculum principle. Facets of enterprise were apparent in a few primary schools that provided students with opportunities for authentic learning contexts, often through the PrEP12 schemes. At one school every class planned a business enterprise, which they implemented. In another, students made and sold goods as part of a mini chefs’ programme. ERO’s report on enterprise education provides a detailed discussion of this aspect of future focus. 13 Globalisation received some limited attention as an aspect of the social sciences or as a peripheral issue as part of an inquiry learning topic.

In secondary schools sustainability was also the most visible aspect of future focus. Enterprise received some attention in specific curriculum areas, in particular business studies and the technologies, and through the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) programme. Similarly, globalisation was evident in curriculum areas such as the senior social sciences and economics, but was not usually a key aspect of learning across the school.

Most secondary schools provided students with the opportunity to develop their leadership potential as an aspect of citizenship. In some special character schools the notion of citizenship linked to service was highly developed and actively promoted. These schools were also more likely to link globalisation to a concept of global service.

Further professional learning opportunities are required to assist schools to fully understand the significance of this principle.

Coherence

Establishing a coherent learning programme is as much a process as a principle.

‘If students’ learning opportunities are integrated and cumulative, rather than fragmented and rushed, learners are more likely to be engaged and successful.’ 14

In schools where coherence was strongly evident this was the end-point of extensive curriculum development. ERO found some indication that the degree of coherence at school and classroom level develops as the revised curriculum beds in.

In secondary schools coherence requires a coherent careers programme that links to learning pathways, with particular attention to subject choice and allocation. A recent study 15 indicated that many students did not understand the full implications of their National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) course choices and that this was particularly an issue for Māori and Pacific students. Inappropriate subject choices in early and middle years at secondary school results in an inability for students to follow suitable pathways and take courses that prepare them to achieve their career aspirations.

This study also indicated that parents and whānau were often not fully involved in their child’s choice of school subjects, either through their lack of understanding of the implications of subject choice or lack of opportunity provided by the school. Consequently, they were unable to support their child to make choices that strengthened their opportunities for future training and employment and enabled them to realise their full potential.

In primary schools where coherence was strongly evident, students were provided with clear learning pathways and progressions that allowed for a smooth transition into and through the school, and on to intermediate or secondary school. It was reinforced by a consistency of practice across the school, including moderation of assessment practices, a common language of learning and shared planning. In classrooms, teachers ascertained students’ prior learning and experience and established links to this. An effective curriculum tracking system monitored the learning of individuals and groups.

Coherence was less evident in schools’ overall curricula than in individual classrooms. In many schools it manifested at classroom level, primarily by establishing cross-curricular links, often through an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning. This was sometimes reinforced by using the Key Competencies to provide an integrated focus across curriculum areas.

Where students were not provided with a coherent approach they did not experience learning that built progressively on their understandings and skills, and made links between knowledge acquired in different learning areas. They were less able to move smoothly between schools and classes.

In a few secondary schools ERO observed effective practices for establishing curriculum coherence and/or ensuring students successfully negotiated their desired learning pathways. These practices included:

  • individual student’s learning pathways that were clearly documented and monitored by the careers department throughout the student’s time at secondary school
  • students being appropriately supported to meet learning goals included in their individual careers/education plans
  • a dean following a year group through their time at secondary school to foster a coherent approach to knowing and meeting students’ needs
  • all teachers of a particular class meeting regularly to coordinate their approach for individual learners
  • homeroom teachers at Years 9 and 10 providing an integrated approach to curriculum delivery
  • teachers working together to plan and implement an across-the-curriculum literacy focus or cross-curricular learning units.

Having implemented The New Zealand Curriculum, schools should now review their curriculum structure and teaching and learning processes to ensure that students experience progressive and coherent learning pathways and best teaching practices.