Findings

Of the 76 percent of schools managing curriculum change well, 63 percent of the 245 primary and secondary schools were making good progress towards giving effect to The New Zealand Curriculum and a further 13 percent were already giving full effect to changes.

Of the remaining 24 percent only three percent had not yet begun to give effect to The New Zealand Curriculum. In individual classes, in some of these schools, teachers had considered aspects of some of the new processes needed such as integrating new technologies, being guided by the curriculum principles and integrating key competencies.

Considering that schools were not expected to be fully implementing The New Zealand Curriculum before February 2010, this overall finding reflects high levels of engagement with the intent and principles of the curriculum.

School leaders’ preparations for giving effect to The New Zealand Curriculum

Many school leaders were well under way or had begun processes associated with giving effect to The New Zealand Curriculum. They fully understood the need to develop a wide range of processes associated with preparations for The New Zealand Curriculum and had a clear plan for embedding each process across the school. These leaders acknowledged that although some of the processes were completed or successfully implemented, others required further development.

In some schools there was no evidence that leaders had formally focused on particular processes necessary to give effect to aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum by 2010. In these schools some of the processes listed below were evident in individual classrooms but not formalised school-wide.

Table 1 shows the extent of progress made according to indicators based on The New Zealand Curriculum framework [1]. Those judged as under way were either developing or beginning to develop the following processes.

Table 1: Percent of leaders’ progress with processes associated with preparations for The New Zealand Curriculum

Progress with processesWell under wayDeveloping or beginning to developNot Evident

Reviewing school learning statements

42

52

6

Choosing appropriate achievement objectives

36

54

10

Considering links between learning areas

35

57

8

Integrating key competencies

46

50

4

Aligning assessment processes

29

62

9

Considering progressive learning stages

29

61

10

Integrating new technologies

37

57

6

Being guided by the curriculum principles

42

49

9

Aligning school-wide systems

32

56

12

What aspects were going well?

Schools’ progress with the different preparation processes varied according to the priority that leaders had given to each aspect. Integrating key competencies into teaching and learning programmes, for example, was well under way in almost half the schools.

Many leaders had made good progress with other processes such as reviewing learning statements and considering how the curriculum principles would be explored and included in the school’s own curriculum.

In the schools where progress towards implementation was well under way, the positive results of effective leadership and organisation were clearly evident. These included:

  • timely and useful professional development, led from within the school or provided by an external source, that contributed to shared understanding and school-wide implementation of agreed strategies;
  • strong parent, whânau and community involvement in developing the school curriculum, through consultation, whânau groups, cultural and sporting events;
  • priority given to recognising and responding to ‘student voice,’ by giving learners opportunities to contribute to decision making and planning;
  • high levels of collaboration among teachers;
  • appropriate provision for the integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) into teaching and learning school-wide;
  • well-established formative assessment practices, to help students take increased responsibility for their own learning and progress; and
  • integration and embedding of school values and key competencies into teaching and learning.

Two schools that were well under way

One of the schools whose leaders were well under way with organising teaching and learning to give effect to The New Zealand Curriculum was an integrated Years 7 to 15 secondary school.

Preparations for implementing The New Zealand Curriculum began in 2007, when the acting principal and deputy principal attended Ministry of Education road shows for guidance to begin discussions in the school. Curriculum leaders and former students then organised workshops to review the school’s values. Later that year, the board surveyed the community as part of the appointment process for the new principal, and also surveyed parents, students and teachers about aspects of school life.The 2008 strategic plan incorporated the reviewed vision and values and provided for increased ICT capability of staff. The school was also involved in AToL [2]. professional development, which gave a strong foundation for using an evidence-based approach to teaching and embedding effective teaching strategies already evident in parts of the school.Teachers responded positively to the professional development programmes over the last three years. They had a good base to build on, but the most notable aspect was the way that they were putting the students at the centre of learning processes.Some of the practices that ERO observed were: personalising the learning for each individual student through one-to-one conferencing, providing constructive feedback about students’ next steps in learning, inviting students to share their prior knowledge, and working with students to develop and agree on the learning expectations.

One of the primary schools that was well under way with preparations was a Years 1 to 8 school in a provincial town.

The principal had led the development of the school’s curriculum since 2006, when a timeline and processes for designing a framework aligned to The New Zealand Curriculum were agreed by the board and staff. Since 2006, annual action plans successively incorporated the strategic priorities in line with the implementation plan.

The 2008 strategic plan reflected the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum, with a focus on student learning. The plan incorporated local values, key competencies and learning area priorities identified through extensive consultation with the community and students in 2006 and 2007. By the end of 2008, a conceptual framework for the school’s implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum was adopted. The school had developed a clear pathway for the full implementation of the curriculum in 2010.

One of the 2009 targets was to move staff from a big picture understanding of The New Zealand Curriculum to the adaptation required for their school. Staff worked collaboratively on the development of the school’s own curriculum, with a shared understanding of what was required. This work entailed substantial externally facilitated professional development.

Regular board reports included discussions about the curriculum. In November 2009, teachers presented the “School-Based Curriculum,” which evolved from the framework of The New Zealand Curriculum, the interests of the community and the needs of the students. The comprehensive plan integrated a vision in which students were at the heart of teaching and learning. Specific goals were that students experience success, develop thinking skills, become independent and self-regulated learners, and communicate effectively.

The school’s curriculum focused strongly on high quality teaching. This embodied the integration of agreed values and key competencies, ICT, formative assessment practices, evidence-based teaching, cooperative learning and outdoor education. Literacy and numeracy learning was identified as the basis for all teaching. The key competencies of Managing Self and Relating to Others were embedded in the school’s plan to give priority to thinking skills, physical activity, and relationship development in their teaching and learning.

The key success factors in this school were leadership, collaboration, professional development, collegial discussion and decision-making, and effectively engaging the board and community.

These two examples demonstrate how leaders had to pull together many of the elements needed for curriculum change in schools where good progress had been made in preparing to give full to effect to The New Zealand Curriculum.

What schools had done to move towards implementation

Strategic management

Some of the schools that were already giving effect to The New Zealand Curriculum had been helped by starting on their preparations early. They had used the long lead-in period effectively, giving ample time to engage in wide consultation and discussion before developing plans and consolidating new ways of thinking about teaching and learning.

In other schools, robust and well-embedded self-review practices meant that alignment to The New Zealand Curriculum was ‘business as usual.’ In a context where collaboration and self review was a feature, it was not a huge leap to use what teachers and leaders already knew about students, their learning and their community’s perspectives to plan for giving effect to The New Zealand Curriculum.

Many schools had made good progress by following an agreed implementation plan. This approach contributed to steady, continuous development, and ensured that they were ready to give effect to The New Zealand Curriculum in February 2010. Effective action plans strategically and clearly outlined detailed steps, timelines and the people responsible for agreed actions.

Consultation

Consultation with parents, whānau and local communities had been an initial step for most of the schools that were already giving full effect to The New Zealand Curriculum. These schools used a variety of methods to find out what parents wanted the school to do for their children and what was important in their school’s particular context. Feedback and information from surveys, hui and meetings provided a solid foundation for developing a vision, a set of relevant values, key competencies and achievement objectives to integrate into subsequent planning. Schools that succeeded in engaging the interest and support of their communities, including Mâori communities, were in a strong position to strategically advance their progress.

Reviewing vision and values

Formulating an updated vision and set of values for the school were typically an early step towards implementation. Often this entailed telling different groups in the school community about the expectations associated with designing a school curriculum that aligned with The New Zealand Curriculum. Following consultation, responses from parents and whānau, staff, student and board members were collated, then vision and values statements were developed to encapsulate the most important aspects.

In the schools that were giving effect to The New Zealand Curriculum, school leaders included teachers in discussions and decisions about the curriculum from the outset. Effective leadership and school-wide professional development were usually vital in this process. Many schools formed local clusters for this purpose. Clusters gave them the added advantage of understanding shared values and priorities, enabling smoother transitions for students moving between local schools.

The following example of a school’s progress demonstrates how effective change management helped move it into a position where it was able to give full effect to The New Zealand Curriculum in 2009. The school is a small rural secondary school.

Over a three-year period, broad consultation helped to gain insight from a variety of sources. Parent-teacher evenings had a time for discussion and decisions about The New Zealand Curriculum. A meeting of parents took place to establish the school’s values and vision and to formulate ideas for the strategic plan. Newsletters continued the information sharing so parents had a clear understanding of the key competencies. The whānau support rōpū [3] was a valuable forum for consultation with the Māori community.

Over the same time staff surveys and discussions were an important part of the consultation. Meetings and discussions during this period encouraged positive changes in staff attitudes. Consequently, teachers were open to adopting new strategies and to focusing on lifting student achievement.

Professional development was wide-ranging and substantial to promote change in effective literacy teaching, ICT, key competencies, evidence-based teaching, learning strategies, developing a suitable curriculum to suit local needs and developing distance education with video conferencing.

The board was well informed about The New Zealand Curriculum. As part of their regular meetings, trustees had numerous sessions about its implications for them. The board rewrote its charter according to the views gained from the consultation.

As part of cluster activities with other schools, students had wider subject choices through video conferencing. Teachers were up-skilled through subject learning circles in the cluster.

A three-period, daily timetable was trialled to give students more time to engage in their learning. Teachers also trialled units of learning and as result felt more confident about their lessons. Teachers were ready to implement The New Zealand Curriculum, with some minor areas to be completed.

One of the schools giving full effect to The New Zealand Curriculum in 2009 had placed particular emphasis on developing a learner profile that reflected the local community. This is an urban contributing primary school.

Consulting with parents and the community started in early 2007. Surveys were ineffective, especially for some groups in the community. Instead, the board adopted the strategy of putting up ‘graffiti boards’ for parents and whânau to contribute anonymously when they were in the school. This proved effective, and rich data were collected. From 2007, school leaders and trustees ran two meetings a term with all parents, and one a term specifically for whânau to discuss The New Zealand Curriculum.

Material and feedback gathered were collated and rationalised alongside the ideas of teachers, leaders, trustees, and teacher aides. Several teacher-only days were used to help teachers clarify their understanding of the school’s vision and values.

Students brainstormed a learner profile of what a graduate should look like. Parents added to this and the ‘T-(school name) Learner’ was born. Reporting to parents then included this learner profile. Students, teachers, parents, trustees and community had ownership of the T-Learner. Views and ideas gained during the consultation process were incorporated into the T-Learner profile and curriculum.

Leaders used diagrams to indicate relationships between elements in their school’s curriculum. These showed how principles, values and key competencies dovetailed into the T-Learner profile and the learning areas. All groups in the community have knowledge and shared understanding of the school’s new curriculum.

In addition to the T-Learner profile, local components of the curriculum included the local history, Mâori myths and legends, local geography and problem-solving inquiry activities in the local area.

The T-Learner profile guided all the school’s planning and actions and gave a clear sense of direction.

What aspects were slower to develop?

School leaders in around 10 percent of schools had yet to develop some aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum. These included:

  • aligning the implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum with school-wide systems;
  • deciding which achievement objectives to give priority to in their long-term teaching plans;
  • formulating how students’ learning stages or pathways would build on earlier learning or experiences;
  • determining how existing assessment processes aligned with the school’s curriculum; and
  • considering how the curriculum principles were to embed in the school’s curriculum.

In one school, reviewers commented that the principal needed to focus on raising the quality of teaching practice in parts of the school. Although there were some examples of high quality teaching, systems such as appraisal needed to be aligned, successive stages of learning and different learning areas needed to be linked, and the curriculum principles needed to be applied across the learning areas. The principal was doubtful about the sustainability of changes made, which highlighted the lack of progress with integrating and embedding new developments.

What factors were impeding preparation?

A variety of factors was associated with some schools’ slow progress towards implementation. The major challenges included both internal and external factors that some schools perceived as impediments over which they had no control.

Leadership

Ineffective leadership was a common feature of schools that had made little or no progress with organising teaching and learning. In some schools the principal had insufficient knowledge of The New Zealand Curriculum. Other principals were unmotivated and did not think it was important to review their school curriculum, or stated a belief that they were already doing what was required. Alignment to The New Zealand Curriculum was not evident in practice.

Having a new principal was seen as a challenge by some schools, but others perceived this as an advantage, as the new leader quickly embarked on a plan of action.

Leadership did not always rest with the principal. In many schools, the changes were managed by a team of teachers or by a distributed leadership structure. However, when principals did not recognise a need for action, they did not formally delegate responsibility or clearly support developments. In these circumstances, getting teachers motivated and fully involved in curriculum review and development was another critical challenge.

Teacher buy-in

Gaining the commitment of the entire teaching staff was mentioned as a challenge in some schools. In some of these schools there remained pockets of apathy and resistance to curriculum change. In others, monitoring was not in place, and leaders did not know the extent to which teachers were starting to align their practice with The New Zealand Curriculum.

In some cases, teachers had not been consulted about the school’s vision and values and consequently perceived these as imposed on them. In others, teachers were not fully aware of the intent and principles underpinning The New Zealand Curriculum and were therefore unenthusiastic about taking on something new and having to make changes to their teaching practice.

Limited understanding and a lack of ownership of the direction that their schools were taking meant some teachers had opted out of development processes. The lack of commitment resulted in an inconsistent quality of teaching evident within and among schools nationwide. With the use of student achievement information to make decisions about teaching and learning programmes and other effective teaching strategies such as formative assessment, the quality of learning for students in these classrooms was at risk in the longer term.

Slow start

In some schools, ineffective leadership resulted in a late start on the preparation processes. Some schools had yet to consult with parents and whânau, staff, students or the community. This meant that reviewing the school’s vision and values and considering how best to integrate the key competencies were either delayed or were proceeding without considering the views of the groups that would be affected by changes to the school’s curriculum.

Some of the schools that had not yet begun, or had just begun, to give effect to The New Zealand Curriculum had not consulted their communities, which meant that they could not respond appropriately to local aspirations and priorities.

Review and design

Some schools had difficulty reviewing their curriculum documentation and designing new frameworks aligned to the learning areas. Leaders in these schools saw this as a complex process: reflecting The New Zealand Curriculum principles and local contexts, integrating key competencies and making links across the curriculum. This was a significant challenge for some, particularly where school-wide understanding and commitment were not present. Some schools perceived external factors such as high staff turnover and lack of allocated time as challenges that hindered their progress.

Time

A few schools that had been slow to start were under pressure to complete their preparations by February 2010. Teachers at some small schools expressed concern about time pressures as the work had to be done by perhaps one person, who might also have a full teaching and management load. Even with three teachers, some small schools felt the amount of work needed to move towards full implementation adversely affected the time they normally devoted to teaching. Some schools felt that the demands made of them in the given time frame were too onerous.

Staff turnover

A few school leaders or trustees said that high turnover of teachers had hindered their progress. Staff who left had gained knowledge, awareness and skills through professional development, and they took these with them. New staff either had limited knowledge of and previous experience with The New Zealand Curriculum, or they came with different contextual knowledge from other school settings. In both cases, focused induction processes were required, and not all schools had theses.

Only some leaders in schools with high staff turnover recognised the necessity to keep relieving staff informed about developments and changes. When new or relieving teachers were not fully briefed, some schools’ overall progress was hindered. Some schools saw staff turnover as a disadvantage as they tried to make progress.

Teaching to promote student learning

An important measure of how well organised schools were was the extent to which effective teaching was evident across each school. ERO’s evaluation of each school’s readiness, therefore, included an investigation of teaching and learning practice. Reviewers looked for effective teaching with reference to indicators developed from The New Zealand Curriculum and the Ministry of Education’s Best Evidence Syntheses. In particular, ERO wanted to know what proportion of teachers were:

  • using student achievement information to make decisions about teaching programmes;
  • creating a supportive learning environment;
  • making new learning relevant;
  • making connections to students’ prior learning and experience;
  • encouraging reflective thought and action;
  • facilitating shared learning; and
  • providing students with sufficient opportunities to learn.

Effective teaching practices

ERO categorised schools according to whether all or most, some, or no teachers were putting each of the above indicators into practice. Table 2 shows the percentage of schools in each of these categories in terms of the practices listed.

Table 2: Extent to which teacher actions were promoting learning in each school

Teaching practices

All or most teachers

(percent of schools)

Some teachers

(percent of schools)

No teachers

(percent of schools)

Using an evidence-based approach to teaching

61

32

7

Creating a supportive learning environment

97

3

0

Making new learning relevant

82

17

1

Making connections to students’ prior learning and experience

84

15

1

Encouraging reflective thought and action

70

28

2

Facilitating shared learning

78

19

3

Providing sufficient opportunities for students to learn

91

8

1

In well over half the schools, all or most teachers were using the practices listed. In particular, in 97 percent of schools all or most teachers were promoting student learning by creating a supportive learning environment. Many teachers were also making strong connections to students’ prior learning and experience and were making new learning relevant.

Less strongly evident overall was teachers’ use of student achievement information to plan teaching and learning programmes. Fewer than half of the secondary schools had all or most teachers following this approach. In 64 percent of primary schools, all or most teachers were using an evidence-based approach.

What were teachers doing particularly well?

Schools where all or most teachers were already putting effective strategies into practice were also well advanced with giving effect to The New Zealand Curriculum. Many were integrating agreed values and key competencies into their planning and teaching.

The areas of greatest strength in primary schools were different to those in secondary schools.

Primary schools where effective practices were well embedded

In primary schools, teachers were doing particularly well in involving students in their own learning. Increased use of formative assessment practices enabled students to identify their next steps for learning, set realistic targets and take responsibility for their own progress. Gaining and responding to student ideas and views in learning programmes was widespread, and student-led learning activities were well embedded in many primary schools.

Further strengths in primary schools included: developing planning templates and guiding documents that helped teachers give effect to The New Zealand Curriculum, creating a positive learning culture school-wide, integrating ICT, and fostering a collaborative development approach among staff.

Formative and self assessment is effectively used at all year levels. Teachers confidently give oral and written formative feedback to students. Stepping stones in each student’s writing book inform them of their current learning level, and next steps are identified in their learning intentions. Students assess their own learning on separate sheets which are attached to their books. [small rural full primary]

The school has focused on integrating students’ self-management competencies across learning areas. Students confidently talk about their achievement and progress in this key competency. The learning culture is one where students are actively encouraged to take ownership of their own learning. [large urban contributing primary]

Teachers have a commitment to developing a school culture in which students are encouraged to be self managing, accountable and responsible for their choices. The culture is characterised by teacher-student relationships that contribute positively to engagement.

[medium- sized full primary in small urban centre]

Secondary schools successfully giving effect to The New Zealand Curriculum

In many of the secondary schools, teachers benefited from regular, useful professional development related to implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum. This was sometimes facilitated internally, either by a leader or teacher with relevant knowledge and skills, or sometimes by an external provider. The main focus in many schools was on the key competencies: understanding them, integrating them into teaching and learning programmes and monitoring them. This involved a major change of approach in many secondary schools where good progress was evident.

Secondary teachers and curriculum leaders were engaged in ongoing review of departmental documentation to align the school’s curriculum to The New Zealand Curriculum framework. They focused particularly on learning areas, cross-curricular links, and integrating key competencies. In some schools, leaders had developed useful practical planning guidelines for teachers, with the aim of increasing consistency with which high quality teaching was implemented school-wide. The following examples show what teachers were doing particularly well.

Teachers and departments use weekly professional development time to develop a big-picture overview of The New Zealand Curriculum and its implications. They have:

  • worked in departments reviewing and developing unit plans that reflect The New Zealand Curriculum principles, values, key competencies and achievement objectives using a staff-developed common template;
  • examined assessment practice and increased opportunities for student choice and goal setting to give students more responsibility for their own learning;
  • focused on school-wide learning and cross-curricular integration to help students to see connections between learning areas;
  • written cross-curricular schemes of work for an integrated programme in the junior school;
  • worked extensively on reflecting on how they teach as opposed to what they teach;
  • based professional development on effective pedagogy;
  • integrated ICT into planning and programmes; and
  • used external research-based evidence to support the extensive whole school professional development led by the principal.

[large urban secondary]

Senior leaders are making links between appraisal and The New Zealand Curriculum, with three goals selected for each teacher directly related to aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum. English, science, social science, physical education and languages teachers are trialling evidence-based approaches and modelling for colleagues and students their role of ‘teacher as learner.’ The principal is also sharing in assemblies and newsletters how teachers reflect on their practice and continue to learn so that they can find ways to improve. An increasing number of teachers are promoting a ‘what I’m learning and why’ approach with students. [medium-sized urban secondary]

What factors contributed to effective implementation overall?

This section focuses on the main influences on the approach taken by the schools that had made the most progress. It builds on an earlier section in this report that looked at what schools had done to move towards implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum. The schools that were making good progress or giving full effect to The New Zealand Curriculum shared some common factors that contributed to their overall effectiveness.

Three key factors typically associated with good progress towards implementation were:

  • strategic professional leadership;
  • collaborative staff; and
  • clear student focus.

Strategic professional leadership

Many of the school leaders who were open to change and improvement in their school’s curriculum began their preparations for implementing The New Zealand Curriculum early on. It was not always the principal who led the way; sometimes the principal delegated curriculum leadership to another senior leader, and sometimes to a nominated group of teachers, in a distributed or extended leadership approach.

Vital tasks were to develop an action plan and establish a culture of professional learning among staff. In schools that had made good progress, these plans specified the steps required to complete each major development area, including timelines and people responsible for their completion. With comprehensive action plans, school leaders were able to consult and inform staff, trustees, students and parents of the direction the school was taking, what stage they were at, and how different groups in the school’s community could contribute. Consequently, school leaders were in a strong position to gain the support and commitment of the whole school community.

Collaborative staff

In many of the schools whose leaders established a clear strategic pathway for the review and development processes, a culture of professional learning had evolved. Teachers knew how they could and would be involved in the preparations for implementation. They had a common understanding of what The New Zealand Curriculum expected of them, and they had a say in the design of learning programmes that reflected their local context. Professional learning and development was regular and relevant, supporting teachers as they worked towards implementation.

As a result of these strategies, teachers were at the very least cooperative, and at best enthusiastic and committed. They understood that review and design processes presented them with opportunities to respond more meaningfully to the needs and aspirations of the students and community.

They collaborated in a variety of ways, by:

  • working alongside each other to review teaching and learning programmes;
  • engaging in professional learning conversations;
  • sharing ideas, research and effective practice;
  • modelling for colleagues effective strategies, including formative practices; and
  • trialling proposed units of learning.

Clear student focus

The centrality of the learner was evident in the culture of schools that had made good progress towards implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum. This was reflected at each step of the preparation process, beginning with initial consultation. Students were asked for their thoughts, opinions and suggestions in relation to teaching and learning. They were told about The New Zealand Curriculum and what it meant for them. They had opportunities to contribute and comment, and their perspective was valued. Students saw that their views had been considered in decision making.

Teachers’ knowledge of and commitment to effective pedagogy meant that they kept the learner in the forefront when planning and implementing learning programmes. Instead of focusing solely on content, they aimed to give effect to strategies known to help students learn.

In some schools, the three key factors contributing to effective implementation (strategic professional leadership, collaborative staff and clear student focus) were interwoven, and combined to form a solid framework for giving full effect to The New Zealand Curriculum.

What overall factors hindered the implementation of effective teaching and learning strategies?

Schools that had not yet begun to give effect to The New Zealand Curriculum generally had in common a critical factor that had resulted in a slow uptake of effective teaching strategies – ineffective curriculum leadership.

Often, principals who lacked the knowledge, motivation or commitment to lead preparation processes also neglected to delegate this responsibility to others. Consequently no one in these schools provided the stimulus for action or ongoing strategic momentum to change teaching strategies.

Factors associated with ineffective professional leadership were interlinked and included a lack of:

  • action (for example, limited professional development);
  • shared understanding of vision and values and how these were to be reflected in teaching;
  • teacher buy-in to the need for changes in their practice;
  • monitoring of teaching practice;
  • consistent quality in the teaching across the school; and
  • school-wide cohesiveness of teaching programmes.

Each of these contributed to teachers’ slow progress towards implementation of effective teaching. In a small number of schools these challenges were compounded by dysfunctional relationships in the school community: between the board and principal, between leaders and staff, or among teachers.

As reported in a previous section, some schools attributed the limited implementation of effective teaching across the school to external factors such as insufficient time, high staff turnover, or a new principal. In a small number of schools leaders and teachers said that the introduction of national standards may put pressure on them or distracted them from work on The New Zealand Curriculum. Most schools, however, faced these challenges, responded appropriately to them, and continued to make progress with implementing effective teaching and learning strategies. The fact that these factors were seen as obstacles that could not be overcome was generally a further reflection of ineffective leadership.