This report identifies the actions which school leaders, boards of trustees and teachers can take to help Years 9 and 10 students to be engaged, active and successful learners. Overall, this report notes that there are improvements needed in most secondary schools’ practice in three broad areas: using achievement information well; planning to improve outcomes for priority students; and building learning partnerships with students.

Secondary leaders and teachers urgently need to improve their practice in using literacy and mathematics assessment information for planning, implementing and reviewing the curriculum for all Years 9 and 10 students. Firstly, leaders should develop a coherent and timely system for gathering and sharing high quality relevant achievement information as students transition to secondary school, and as they progress through secondary school. Secondly, teachers, with the support of leaders, should analyse and use the data collected about Years 9 and 10 students’ strengths and next learning steps to intentionally develop programmes that foster their achievement and progress. Finally, leaders must make sure that boards of trustees have good quality information about Years 9 and 10 students so they can prudently allocate resources for those that need additional support. Trustees need to know how well the resources they have allocated have impacted on the achievement and progress of these students.

It is particularly critical that those students who are not currently achieving as well as they should be – Māori and Pacific students, students with special education needs, and those from low socio economic backgrounds – experience an education that lays the foundations for their future economic success, and their wellbeing as citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand. Teachers and leaders need to know that while these priority learners are at school they are achieving well and are progressing at an appropriate rate. Secondary schools need to lift their performance in monitoring the achievement and progress of Years 9 and 10 students and in evaluating the impact that programmes and initiatives have had on their learning.

Addressing the needs of priority learners is a fundamental step in tackling the current disparity that exists in our education system, yet most secondary schools do not implement coherent processes for doing this. It would be useful for the Ministry of Education to clarify for secondary schools its expectations for monitoring student achievement and progress at Years 9 and 10, and the use of students’ achievement information to plan programmes that take account of their learning needs and strengths.

In many schools there is a need to create more opportunities for Years 9 and 10 students to take responsibility for aspects of their literacy and mathematics learning. Students should be involved in planning to improve their achievement and progress. The vision of students becoming confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners cannot be achieved without purposeful opportunities for this to happen.

Literacy and language and mathematics and statistics PLD is currently available to teachers in some secondary schools. It would be wise for secondary leaders to evaluate the extent to which the focus of PLD should also be on building pedagogical practices that can be applied across a range of learning areas, subjects, and disciplines. This includes building teachers’ and leaders’ capacities to engage in high quality inquiry practice, interpret and use assessment information to plan for, and with students, and promote literacy and mathematics across the curriculum.