Equity and excellence in student outcomes

The number one challenge facing the New Zealand education system is to achieve equity and excellence in student outcomes.

Our school system is characterised by increasing diversity of students and persistent disparities in achievement. Although many young people achieve at the highest levels in core areas such as reading, mathematics and science, the system serves some students less well.

Young people attending the same school can experience widely divergent opportunities to learn. This within-school inequality is amongst the highest to be found anywhere and is strongly related to achievement  disparities.1

The single most important influence on students’ achievement and progress is the effectiveness of the teaching they receive.2 The evidence tells us that some teaching practices are much more likely to promote learning than others, and that teacher experience does not necessarily equate to teacher expertise.

One way of addressing this variability is to focus the system on collaborative expertise and student progression.3 In collaborative cultures, all members of the community share responsibility for the success of students. Teachers are given the necessary support, time and resources to collaboratively diagnose students’ learning needs (and their own, too) and to plan and evaluate teaching programmes and strategies.

The Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako initiative provides an important opportunity to build knowledge and expertise, stimulate improvement and innovation,4 and improve teaching and learning through collaboration.




1        Schmidt, W., Burroughs, N., Ziodo, P., & Houang, R. (2015). The role of schooling in perpetuating educational inequality: an international perspective. Educational Researcher, 44 (7), 371–386.

2        Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality teaching for diverse students: Best evidence synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

3        Hattie, J. (2015). What works best in education: The politics of collaborative expertise. London: Pearson.

4        Ainscow, M. (2015). Towards self-improving school systems. New York:  Routledge.