ERO’s findings make it clear that no feature alone led to improved outcomes for Pacific learners. Rather several features must work together coherently for improvements to be made and sustained. The five key factors and other features noted can be summarised under these broader categories:

  • leadership
  • review and improvement processes
  • responsive curriculum
  • relationships.

These are expanded below.

Leadership to enact goals

Successful schools were committed to improvement, and held high expectations for Pacific learner achievement. They were sufficiently flexible in timetabling and resource allocation to enable a range of interventions to be considered and implemented. Success came with the professional capability of leaders and staff to enact their goals.

Review and improvement processes1 based on evidence

Schools with high quality, longitudinal data about student achievement throughout the school, used this to make resourcing, curriculum and teaching decisions based on sound evidence. The effectiveness of interventions and teaching practices was measured and ongoing planning reflected fine tuning of the interventions.

A responsive curriculum

Successful schools had developed a curriculum that was contextually appropriate and sensitive to the cultural knowledge and strengths of Pacific learners. They took into account the needs and aspirations of students and parents.

Relationships between school and community

Successful schools had powerful partnerships between students, teachers, parents, mentors and the wider community to support students. Leaders ensured that they established an appropriate school curriculum and targeted learning pathways for students.

Features working together

Schools exhibiting these features had high levels of achievement for their Pacific learners. Most commonly the ERO reports for the less successful schools identified deficiencies in the quality of data analysis and use, self review and relationships.

Progress towards meeting the specific needs of Pacific learners seems to be better in these 25 schools than was reported in ERO’s Improving Education Outcomes for Pacific Learners.2 That 2012 report identified that only a “small minority” of schools effectively included Pacific themes and contexts in their curriculum or had specific initiatives to support Pacific student engagement. In contrast, about one-quarter of the schools in this study had contextualised or authentic learning and strategies in place to support Pacific learners.

Nevertheless, there remains considerable cause for concern in the overall provision for Pacific students and their achievement. It is essential that schools develop a deeper understanding of the diverse interests and needs of Pacific learners in order to engage them and achieve the targets for success.