The Education Review Office (ERO) has published three national evaluation reports since 2009 exploring aspects of Pacific learner achievement and recommending next steps for improvement.

The Ministry of Education (the Ministry) and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs have worked together to develop the 2013-2017 Pasifika Education Plan. This strategic document aims to raise the achievement of all Pacific learners. Although some Pacific students achieve academic success with National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualifications, not all do. As a group, their overall results are below the national norms for achievement, notably in NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy, and NCEA Level 2 and University Entrance. As such they are identified as a group of priority learners.

2012 report

Disappointingly the most recent report 1  stated that:

Although ERO found positive practices in some schools, there were no significant system-wide changes evident in the way schools were responding to Pacific students, despite the widely recognised disparities in education outcomes for these students.

Concerns remain for the effective provision of education for Pacific learners.

In the 2012 report, ERO identified some of the factors most likely to be evident in schools that were catering well for Pacific learners. These included setting targets for achievement of Pacific learners, helping teachers to engage culturally with Pacific learners, monitoring student achievement, mentoring individual students, and establishing partnerships with parents and the community. The success of these five factors depended on overall strengths in:

  • leadership, where school board and leaders are well informed and focused on finding ways to get the best possible outcomes for their students
  • review and improvement processes which use a wide range of high quality data, including indicators such as attendance data, to determine effectiveness of interventions and to inform target setting and resource allocation
  • curriculum development that is not only responsive to the culture of Pacific learners, but is also engaging and effective
  • relationships with Pacific families and the community in order to support and motivate the learner through mentoring and identifying realistic learning pathways.

2013 report

In this current report, ERO analysed the most recent ERO review reports and file notes for 25 secondary schools with large Pacific populations. ERO also looked at the associated charter documents, other national evaluation reports, 2  the Ministry’s reporting on Pasifika Education Plan (PEP) progress; and the New Zealand Qualification Authority’s (NZQA) data about schools and students’ achievement.

This report explores the relationship between the five factors, identified in the 2012 ERO report, and actual achievement levels in the 25 schools. ERO noted other practices which contributed to Pacific learners’ success. The report also shares current research about best practice in schools and, specifically, research about improving outcomes for Pacific learners.

Five most successful schools in this study

At five of these schools ERO found that Pacific learners were achieving at or close to the national norms for achievement of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 1 literacy and numeracy, NCEA Level 2 and University Entrance.

These schools provided high quality programmes, tailored to the needs and aspirations of Pacific learners and their parents. Overall strengths were also identified in these schools’ leadership, review and improvement practices, curriculum development, and relationships with Pacific families and the community.

The five schools where Pacific learners achieved well each had a clear vision and the capacity to bring that vision to life. Sound partnerships with the community, together with high quality achievement data, informed decisions about the curriculum. Good self-review processes enabled school leaders to determine what was effective in engaging and improving outcomes for their students and to make refinements as necessary for ongoing improvement. Strength in leadership brought all these aspects together, resulting in the capacity to bring their vision to life.

In many of the schools where Pacific learners did not have good levels of achievement the five factors were not working together coherently or one or more were lacking. Typically in these schools, review and improvement practices needed to be strengthened.