Achievement 2013-2017 has helped schools become more responsive to the issues affecting student achievement. Most of the schools in this review reported to ERO that their involvement in Achievement 2013-2017 had in some way helped them to improve their focus on individual students. In some cases schools have made significant changes to their operations.

Sixty percent of the target students across the 129 schools achieved NCEA Level 2 in the 2013 academic year. While it is not possible to know for certain how many students would have achieved NCEA Level 2 without additional support, the fact that well over half of the target students achieved NCEA Level 2 in 2013 is a strong indicator that the initiatives schools had developed were effective. This includes both the initiatives which schools already had in place and those they introduced as part of Achievement 2013-2017.

ERO found particular areas where school practices were well developed. In most schools additional emphasis was on providing a set of pastoral supports for students in the target cohort.

Most schools were providing students with a supportive adult who showed interest in their progress, systematically monitored their achievement and was on hand to help navigate them to success.

Schools also found ways to provide additional learning opportunities for students, this included the more strategic use of study leave times and even, in some cases, offering additional tutorials during weekends and holidays.

ERO also identified some challenges associated with Achievement 2013-2017 and the overall efforts of schools to improve student achievement. At least some of these challenges are likely to be addressed as the implementation of Achievement 2013-2017 progresses and the Ministry advisors and schools have more time to consider the long-term issues that emerge from a focus on a target cohort.

The main challenges discussed in this report include how schools can:

  • build constructive (long term) relationships with families and whānau
  • extend the number of staff within the school involved in targeted support
  • provide an increasingly relevant curriculum that engages students.
  • improve self review through using data about students, achievement, pathways and destinations

These four challenges are all closely linked to how schools review their efforts as part of Achievement 2013-2017. ERO found that while schools could reflect on the issues raised by their support for target students, they had generally not carried out formal self review of their efforts.

It is a missing component of the Achievement 2013-2017 process that the short-term gains made by schools may not be sustained in schools without a clear review and development plan.

Such planning can potentially sustain the improvements made by schools and extend these practices to more staff and all students. Good planning linked to effective self review can also help identify the ‘big issues’ affecting student engagement and achievement and point to areas where a school could innovate. A considered approach to self review, for example, can use what has been learnt in supporting a target cohort and identify what the implications are for a secondary school’s curriculum at Years 9 and 10.

Next Steps

As part of the Ministry’s redesign of the approach for 2014 ERO discussed the emerging findings from the review. The Achievement 2013-2017 initiative now includes the following changes in 2014:

  • The Ministry has refined and clarified expectations for advisers through regular meetings between Ministry managers and advisers.
  • The advisers started working with schools during Term 1, 2014 to ensure that students were identified and supported earlier.
  • The advisers clarified the approach and the requirements for schools through workshops or face-to-face meetings with leaders in all schools involved early in the year.
  • A student tracking spreadsheet was redesigned to align more closely with schools’ Student Management Systems.

To promote a longer term strategy the approach has extended more widely across teaching staff and into Year 10 to identify and support students earlier. ERO also recommends that the Ministry develop and introduce a self-review framework for schools taking part in Achievement 2013-2017.

ERO recommends that all schools supporting students to lift their NCEA achievement actively build and sustain a long-term focus by:

  • formally reviewing to improve:
    • the school’s curriculum
    • achievement, pathways and destinations
    • relationships with families/whānau
    • pastoral care
    • careers education and support.
  • ensuring that more staff are involved in school initiatives and approaches that help raise achievement for target students.
  • providing ongoing Professional Learning Development (PLD) that supports teachers to actively monitor students’ progress and provide targeted teaching in all classrooms.