2015/16 Annual Report

Chief Review Officer's overview

For the New Zealand education system to fully achieve its potential, policy makers must have access to rich in-depth information about the system's performance - what's working and what isn't.

The Education Review Office's task is to provide teachers, parents, whānau, policy makers and the sector's other stakeholders with that information. On any given day, we have about 160 reviewers in schools and early childhood services, in classrooms, evaluating information and talking to teachers, principals, boards, students and parents.

In 2015/2016, ERO completed 1,259 reviews of early childhood education services and 702 reviews of schools across the country. ERO's review information is used to promote better educational practice, inform debate about national education issues and provide assurance to the Government about the quality of education provision in New Zealand.

The purpose of internal and external evaluation is to improve education outcomes for all children and to ensure schools are accountable for their stewardship. ERO first introduced school evaluation indicators in 2003, revising them in 2010 and again last year. ERO's school evaluation indicators and accompanying resources, finalised in July 2016, have been well received by the sector. They focus schools and ERO evaluators on the things that matter most in improving student outcomes. We will be developing similar evaluation indicators for early childhood education services in the coming year.

Fundamentally, the purpose of an ERO review is to evaluate how well placed schools and early learning services are to achieve equitable and excellent outcomes for all children.

In the last year ERO revised its approach to reviewing primary schools to emphasise the focus on equity and excellence. Our first evaluative question is: "How effectively does this school respond to Māori children whose learning and achievement needs acceleration?" We do this because research shows that schools that accelerate achievement for Māori generally do so for all. Acceleration is about students making more than one year's progress over a year. Our evaluation also asks about other children whose learning needs to be accelerated and we report on the overall conditions that lead to quality learning outcomes for all children. We completed 135 reviews in primary schools under the revised approach in 2015/2016 and we will be extending this approach to intermediate and secondary schools in the next two years.

Sustained improvement in the education system relies on leaders being able to observe what is happening for children, make sense of it, take action and follow up to ensure positive outcomes. In 2015/2016, ERO and the Ministry of Education further developed Effective School Evaluation, an internal evaluation tool for principals, teachers and boards which will help build upon that capability.

ERO also produced a series of evaluative studies looking at a range of topics from quality in early learning services to how well a selection of secondary schools were using vocational pathways. A recent independent survey shows that these reports are used especially by early learning managers and school principals to reform and change their practice.

In 2015/2016, we developed a professional learning and development programme within ERO to contribute to the quality and consistency of evaluation practice. We will continue with our own programme of regular internal evaluations to identify and guide further improvements.

This year, ERO, along with the other education system agencies, produced an Education System Stewardship Work Programme in response to the Education System Blueprint. This Blueprint was developed through the State Services Commission's Performance Improvement Framework (PIF) of the education system. The work programme will focus first on improving engagement with learners, parents, communities and employers; and making information and data more accessible, efficient and relevant.

We have supported the establishment of Communities of Learning by providing contextual reports for 84 Communities of Learning and have delivered workshops to build several communities' evaluation capability.

In 2015/2016, for the first time in a decade, ERO held a two-day professional forum for all ERO staff that featured speakers from across the sector, including the Minister of Education, and focused on our evaluative insights as a catalyst for change.

It has been a busy and important year, laying the foundations for future practice. I especially want to thank all the staff of ERO for their efforts, and also to thank our colleagues and stakeholders for their support. So long as we keep the child at the heart of the matter we will achieve equity and excellence across the system.

Ko te Tamaiti te Pūtake o te Kaupapa
The Child - the Heart of the Matter.


Our purpose, activities and role

Purpose of the Education Review Office (ERO)

Our evaluation insights are a catalyst for change so that every child achieves success as a lifelong learner. 

ERO’s core activities

The Education Review Office (ERO) is a government department established in October 1989 under the State Sector Act 1988. The Chief Executive of ERO is the Chief Review Officer.

Under Part 28 of the Education Act 1989, ERO is required to review the performance of pre-tertiary education providers in relation to the educational services they provide. Review Officers are statutory officers designated under the Act. They exercise powers of entry, investigation and reporting.

At the system level, ERO carries out evaluations of education sector performance and policy implementation, and reports to the Minister about practice in the pre-tertiary sector.

In summary ERO's core activities currently include:

  • National Evaluations - on system-level issues including sector performance, policy implementation and pre-tertiary educational practice
  • Education Evaluations - scheduled external evaluation reviews carried out with schools and early learning services to complement and strengthen their own internal evaluation processes
  • Special Reviews - carried out where a matter needs to be reviewed and reported outside regular reviews
  • New School Assurance Reviews - carried out to provide assurance to new school boards and their communities that the school has undertaken suitable administration processes and curriculum preparation
  • Private School Reviews - carried out under section 35I and Part 28 of the Education Act 1989
  • Partnership School Reviews - readiness reviews and subsequent assurance reviews under individual partnership school agreements
  • Homeschooling Reviews - reviews of programmes for students exempt from enrolment at a registered school, undertaken in the context of section 21 and Part 28 of the Education Act 1989 and usually at the request of the Ministry of Education
  • Communities of Learning Reports - as part of the Government's Investing in Educational Success Initiative. These include tailored reports for each community, bespoke reports for schools receiving the Principal Recruitment Allowance, and national reports on trends and issue
  • Teacher Practising Certificates Audit - From 1 July 2015, ERO has been contracted by the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (the Education Council), to undertake an audit of appraisals for the endorsement of teacher practising certificates.

Equity and excellence and whakataukī

ERO's role in the education system

ERO promotes equity and excellence in the education system by using its review and evaluation processes to improve the quality and effectiveness of the pre-tertiary education system.

ERO's review officers are in schools and early learning services (ECEs) every day. Our primary goal is to raise the level of student achievement and wellbeing by improving the quality of teaching and learning, governance, internal evaluation and leadership.

New Zealand's education system is well regarded internationally. Education participation and student achievement are rising overall. Many students excel.

However, there are disparities. While many of our children and young people achieve well, there are others who are less well served by our system. And despite different approaches and interventions over the years, these disparities persist. ERO has been working with other education agencies to tackle this challenge and put in place initiatives that will make a difference. The Chief Review Officer is a member of the Education System Stewardship Forum that is chaired by the Secretary for Education and includes membership from six other system agencies.

ERO is developing the resources and capability to ensure that its extensive knowledge and expertise has an increasingly positive impact, particularly on the quality of early learning services, schools and Communities of Learning to raise achievement for all.

The Government's Better Public Services targets for the education sector focus on participation and student achievement. They are to:

  • increase participation in early childhood education to 98 percent
  • increase the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification to 85 percent by 2017
  • increase the proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees (Level 4 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework) to 55 percent by 2017.

ERO contributes to these priorities through its influence on how schools and early learning services perform. ERO identifies what works, establishes indicators for success, and uses its evidence to influence change in individual parts of the system, as well as the system as a whole.

ERO will continue to use its wealth of knowledge about what works for children and young people (0-18 years) to influence the direction and decisions within the system.

This is a photo montage of different school children