The findings of this evaluation highlight what some early learning services and schools were doing to support oral language learning and development in the early years. They highlight the need for additional guidance for services and schools to increase awareness of the importance of oral language in the wider context of the curriculum and children’s learning.

Services and schools varied in their positioning of oral language as a formal and intentional part of their curriculum and teaching programmes. In some, it was a central thread and a priority for teaching and learning. In others, it was not given sufficient formal consideration. Both national curriculum statements (Te Whāriki50 and The New Zealand Curriculum51) provide a framework for oral language teaching and learning. However, there is a lack of specific guidance supporting these frameworks to help teachers implement a responsive and well-articulated curriculum that promotes oral language learning and development for children from birth to eight years of age. For services, there are few guidelines in the early childhood curriculum around the importance of both home language maintenance and second language acquisition. In schools, the guidelines and principles for oral language in Learning Through Talk52 are not visible in The Literacy Learning Progressions.53

ERO found that assessment of oral language learning varied across services and schools. A systematic approach to evaluating oral language teaching and learning in many of the services and schools was also lacking.

In some of the services and schools, teachers did not have regular opportunities for professional learning and development related to oral language. ERO also identified issues in services and schools in several regions with access to special education services, and speech language therapy in particular. The early intervention specialists in some areas tended not to work with children with oral language concerns under the age of three, and some specialists (such as Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour) worked only to support learners in schools.


Next Steps

ERO recommends that leaders and teachers in early learning services and schools:

  • use resources such as Effective School Evaluation: how to do and use internal evaluation for improvement54 and those about teaching as inquiry55 evaluate the extent to which their curriculum strengthens oral language learning and provides evidence of children’s progress and achievement
  • make better use of existing resources, such as Much More Than Words56 and Learning Through Talk57 to promote and support children’s oral language learning
  • use assessment approaches and tools, based on shared understandings and expectations for oral language learning, to notice, recognise and respond to the linguistic strengths and needs of all learners
  • offer rich, broad learning opportunities to support children’s oral language learning and enable them to develop oral language capabilities foundational to their learning across the curriculum.

ERO recommends that the Ministry of Education develops a more coherent and systematic set of curriculum expectations, assessment tools and resources for oral language in the early years (0-8 years) to support children’s learning across the curriculum.





50        Ministry of Education. (1996). Te Whāriki, He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa. Wellington: The Ministry.

51        Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: The Ministry.

52        Ministry of Education. (2009). Learning Through Talk: Oral Language in Years 1 to 3. Wellington: The Ministry.

53        Ministry of Education. (2010). The Literacy Learning Progressions: Meeting the reading and writing demands of the curriculum. Wellington: The  Ministry.



56        Ministry of Education. (2011). Much More Than Words. Wellington: The  Ministry.

57        Ministry of Education. (2009). LLearning Through Talk: Oral Language in Years 1 to 3. Wellington: The Ministry.