The Pasifika Education Plan’s ‘compass for success’ places high priority on students’ presence at school. Presence includes not only attendance and retention, but also the incidence of disciplinary actions such as stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions.
ERO found that day-to-day school attendance was not a significant problem for Pacific students in just over 30 percent of schools. Retention levels in secondary schools were also improving. This finding is similar to those in ERO’s 2009 pilot evaluation where over a third of schools had few concerns about Pacific presence. Twenty eight percent of schools had improved presence resulting from a range of initiatives.
One school monitored the new entrants carefully and was flexible about the time children remained in the reception class. This flexibility meant Pacific children did not move into the mainstream classes until they were judged to be ready. They were closely monitored and supported to establish the habit of regular attendance in this class. Evidence showed that Pacific children with no ECE experience made major gains as a result of their time in the reception class.
In another school staff developed a partnership with Group Special Education (GSE) specialists, to work with the parents of Pacific students for whom other forms of contact had been ineffective.
Five mainly low-decile urban schools provided breakfast in a room where students could gather before school. The rationale for this was that students were more likely to come to school and once there, were more likely to be ready to learn if they were well feed.
At some secondary schools, mentoring of Pacific students supported their engagement in school, thereby reinforcing the importance of regular attendance and reducing the likelihood of behaviour incidents that could result in stand-down, suspension or exclusion.
Some schools do not monitor or have strategies in place to improve Pacific students’ attendance patterns over time. ERO found that almost 40 percent of schools either had insufficient evidence to make a judgement about Pacific students’ presence or had made no improvements since their last ERO review
For some schools, transience had a negative impact on Pacific students’ presence. In a few schools leaders attempted to find ways to deal with the effects of transience by focusing on catering for the learning needs of students affected by disrupted schooling.
Overall, schools showed a trend towards more stand-downs and fewer suspensions and exclusions. This suggested that schools recognised the value of earlier intervention to change behaviour. Many showed a reduction in the number of Pacific students involved in disciplinary action, while others reported low numbers or none at all.
Stand-downs and suspensions for Pacific students generally occurred more frequently in secondary than in primary schools. In some schools, Pacific students were not over-represented in suspension and exclusion data. In others a disproportionately high rate of disciplinary action meant absence from school for these students.
Issues related to suspensions, exclusions and expulsion indicated that engaging Pacific students was the fundamental challenge in some schools. Hence, initiatives to keep students in school were usually associated with measures to increase their engagement in learning and in the life of the school.
A mid-sized, decile 3 secondary school with 35percent of the roll Pacific students implemented a wide range of initiatives that significantly reduced the number of stand‑downs and suspensions. Pacific staff acted as positive leadership role models for students. A Pacific Pride initiative in the school enabled senior students to undertake leadership and mentoring roles to support other Pacific students. The engagement of Pacific students and their families with school was also encouraged through a teacher support and community liaison initiative.
Most other initiatives undertaken to improve Pacific students’ presence at school were generally aimed at improving all three aspects of Pacific education: achievement, engagement and presence as these are seen as interrelated. These initiatives are further discussed later in this report.
Two secondary schools initiatives had a high impact on Pacific students’ presence. One had developed indicators to guide the evaluation and analysis of data. The results of this self review were positive, showing increased attendance, dramatic improvement in engagement of the Pacific community; high participation in the homework centre and increased membership of culture groups. Analysed data supported these conclusions.
The other school had data to show improvement in Pacific student attendance and reduction in stand-downs and suspensions. Although these schools could not make a direct causal connection between particular initiatives and the impact each had, the overall effect on progress in Pacific student achievement was positive.
Few schools had formally evaluated specific initiatives. Most believed that through a combination of measures, Pacific students’ presence was maintained at a good level and that issues with individual students and families were dealt with effectively.
‘Engagement’ is a broad term covering a range of factors that combine to produce conditions where students are motivated to learn and achieve. Indicators of student engagement relate to factors associated with high quality teaching and assessment, students’ involvement in their learning, morale, perceptions about school, participation in decision-making, attitudes and behaviour.
To engage diverse groups such as Pacific students, teachers also need to have sufficient background knowledge, skills and awareness to form positive relationships and make meaningful connections between curriculum content and learners’ life experiences.
ERO found that Pacific student engagement had remained at a high level or substantially improved in 35 percent of schools or had improved in 31 percent of the schools. In 21 percent of schools engagement had not improved and in the remaining 13 percent of schools there was not enough information kept by the school to make a judgement.
Schools that initiated strategies to improve parent and community engagement generally reported good results. Closer links encouraged regular and meaningful sharing of ideas. Partnership with the community brought opportunities for both teachers and parents to increase mutual understanding of how to support Pacific students’ engagement in learning. Effective initiatives made parents more confident about coming in to their local school, talking with staff and contributing to learning activities.
A decile 2 primary school with a 23 percent Pacific roll reported that more parents were involved in the school on a daily basis, helping with road patrols, breakfast club and cultural groups. Pacific parents and families also attended fono and school meetings in greater numbers than previously.
In another school, family attendance at school meetings increased from less than 16 percent to over 66 percent as a result of new strategies to engage with the Pacific community.
In a decile 1 primary school, with a 66 percent Pacific roll Pacific families had many opportunities to be part of school activities. They were regularly encouraged to talk about their aspirations for their children. The community requested Niuean teachers, and the board subsequently employed two. Families sought recapitation so their children could remain at the school for Years 7 and 8. Trustees surveyed all families’ opinions and got responses from all but one.
School leaders were responsive to ideas and suggestions arising from consultation. Other changes reflecting parents’ wishes included introducing a school uniform, free swimming lessons, specialist music teaching and provision for e-learning. The community strongly supported the way the school was managed and governed.
Improved literacy and numeracy achievement is the first goal for the compulsory schooling sector in the Pasifika Education Plan. ERO evaluated the quality of the school’s Pacific student achievement information and the extent to which the literacy and numeracy of Pacific students had improved since their previous ERO review.
ERO found that 58 percent of schools collected good quality assessment information (about all students including Pacific) and used this to identify students that needed support, and for some school‑wide decision making. However, many leaders had not designed or implemented processes to extract information about groups of Pacific students from their school-wide data.
Well over half of the schools did not know whether the literacy and numeracy achievement of Pacific students as a group had improved since their previous ERO review. Fewer that 20 percent of schools were able to show that their Pacific students’ literacy and numeracy achievement had improved since then. Within the 20 percent of schools seventeen percent had improved literacy achievement and 15 percent had improved numeracy achievement levels.
The 2009 ERO pilot report identified that the overall quality of Pacific achievement information collected was good in most schools, and high in five of the schools in the Auckland sample. However, a quarter of the schools did not have sufficient reliable data to inform their planning and teaching decisions for Pacific students. Just under half had set targets focused on improving Pacific students’ progress and achievement.
The results from ERO’s 2009 Pilot and this evaluation differ significantly. Firstly, in 27 percent of the pilot study schools Pacific students comprised more than half of the roll. In eight of these schools Pacific students made up more than two-thirds of the roll.
In this wider evaluation in just over half of the schools Pacific students made up between one and five percent of the roll. Many leaders in these schools identified issues with students’ privacy when attempting to report such a small data set to the board. Some of these leaders also felt it was not always useful to combine all students from the diverse Pacific nations and cultures into one group for data analysis, programme planning and future decision making.
In order to advance the progress of Pacific students, and evaluate the impact of initiatives in place for them, it is essential that schools know about their achievement. Given that PIRLs, PISA and NEMP data show that Pacific students are over represented in the lowest achievement levels it is particularly important that leaders and boards develop processes to review and take action on the achievement of these students’.
One school with a small percentage of Pacific students had a register to track achievement and progress. The register included a profile on each student, with information families had provided, assessment results, diagnostic information, identified strengths and next development needs, special abilities, and strategies to support ongoing academic and social development. School leaders were aware of the progress and needs of the small group of Pacific students.
In other schools where more than five percent of the roll were Pacific students, other factors contributed to a lack of information about how well these students had progressed since the last ERO review. Some schools that collected useful data had introduced new assessment processes since the last ERO review and therefore did not have baseline data with which to make comparisons over time. Others had collated good information but had not analysed or interpreted this data to make decisions about previous programmes or future decisions. A few schools did not collate enough literacy and/or numeracy data to extract information about Pacific students.
Most schools were involved in school-wide initiatives to improve all students’ literacy and numeracy achievement. These included parent reading and mathematics programmes, academic counselling, homework centres, reception classes (for new entrants), Duffy ‘Books in Homes’, a readers’ club, a summer reading contract and teachers engaged in action research.
Many leaders said that school-wide initiatives were addressing Pacific students’ literacy and numeracy needs. Some had evidence that these students had improved at the same rate as other students. Although the intervention could be seen as successful for many students, Pacific students often remained at the lower levels compared to other groups of their peers. These schools did not do anything to accelerate the progress of the Pacific students in those lowest levels.
Initiatives developed specifically for Pacific students generally included elements of Pacific cultures and languages, and often sought to increase parents’ involvement in students’ learning. Many leaders felt that increasing the emphasis Pacific culture and languages would result in improved achievement in literacy and numeracy for Pacific students. In these schools less emphasis was placed on developing and implementing high quality teaching practices that could accelerate literacy and numeracy progress and achievement
In a few schools ERO found professional learning and development approaches that did challenge teachers’ ideas and expectations about achievement.
This type of professional learning and development initiative was identified in a decile 2 primary school where Pacific students made up 35 percent of the roll. At the end of 2008, this school aimed to improve the early literacy of Pacific students in their first year at school. One of the school leaders was released to:
After identifying improved achievement for these students, the school’s leader identified the next step was for the project leader to follow the same approach with teachers in the middle and senior school.
One secondary school established a centre specifically designated as a place of learning and support for Pacific students. This was run in conjunction with an academic mentoring programme for Year 13 Pacific students.
Several secondary schools had extra English classes or Pacific literacy programmes as an alternative to learning other languages in Years 9 and 10. Teachers of these classes used students’ Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning (asTTle) information to guide planning, and their teaching targeted learning gaps that had been identified through the diagnostic testing.
Many schools catered for Pacific students whose English fluency needed to develop. This usually entailed employing a full-time or part-time specialist teacher, or a teacher aide. Twenty one percent of schools had at least one teacher aide of Pacific ethnicity. English as a second or other language (ESOL) programmes included:
A variety of initiatives involved the use of students’ first languages in school. The rationale for this practice was that fluency in one language was essential for developing fluency in another. Initiatives ERO observed included:
The following sections focus on what was happening in 12 schools had made the most difference for Pacific students.
Analysis of the statistical information showed that although the 12 schools were all urban they varied considerably in other aspects.
The statistics by themselves did not point to particular factors that distinguished the most effective schools. The approaches, practices and strategies adopted in these schools brought about improved achievement for Pacific students. The most commonly reoccurring factors that contributed to their success were effective self review, an inclusive and positive school culture, and valuing home-school partnerships.
Robust self review contributed to the good practice found in these 12 schools. Leaders and teachers collected, collated and analysed achievement information for groups including Pacific students, even when the roll numbers or percentages were low. Five of the schools had a Pacific roll of 10 percent or less, and three had fewer than 10 students. The schools with the small Pacific rolls carefully managed their monitoring to ensure they were well informed about these learners’ achievement. To avoid identifying individual students, reports to the board used general statements about students’ progress and achievement compared to national norms, without referring to year levels.
Boards set annual charter targets using their knowledge of how well Pacific students were achieving. Leaders and teachers planned and introduced interventions and programmes specifically targeted to Pacific students. These were evaluated by comparing achievement data over time, using surveys and considering informal anecdotal evidence. Trustees, leader and teachers expected improvement and high achievement and put appropriate measures in place to track progress towards reaching their targets.
School leaders created and maintained learning environments which recognised and valued diverse groups of students. Leaders set high expectations of staff and students. Appropriate professional learning and development supported teachers’ to implement effective practices in the classroom, and appraisal goals reflected school priorities.
School events and teaching reflected elements of Pacific languages and cultures. Students had opportunities to take part in cultural activities relevant to their families’ history. Such activities were regarded as an integral part of the schools’ own culture, and not as an ‘add-on.’ Pacific students had a sense of belonging and pride, and were happy at school. The school climate supported their engagement, learning and progress.
School personnel recognised the value of close, collaborative relationships with parents, families and communities. They encouraged Pacific families to stand for representation on the boards. Schools established links, networks and channels of communication in Pacific communities.
Parents were confident about coming into the schools and asking questions. They learned more about how to help their children at home and could contribute to planning and decision making as well as to activities in the schools. Effective home‑school partnership resulted in high levels of student and community engagement.
ERO found a wide variety of strategies introduced to improve students’ engagement. Schools mainly focused on developing cultural understandings, relationships, support programmes, transitions strategies and leadership opportunities.
Many schools, particularly in Auckland, participated in local cluster-based professional learning and development as part of Ministry of Education schooling improvement projects. These initiatives reflected the particular ethnic mix and social environment in each community. At the same time, schools that were working towards giving effect to The New Zealand Curriculum found that their preparation for this helped in increasing Pacific students’ engagement in learning and in the life of the school.
Initiatives to improve classroom practices and student engagement generally involved increasing teachers’ knowledge and awareness of Pacific cultures. Some schools referred to the integration of ‘Pacific pedagogies’ into teaching and learning. Teachers were expected to use Pacific languages (as in greetings), resources and content (integrating aspects of Pacific cultures) in the classrooms and around the school.
In a decile 9 school, eight percent of whose students were of Pacific ethnicity, a focus group had been formed to discuss how the school could promote understanding of Pacific culture in the school. The group included a Pacific teacher, Pacific parents and a Pacific student. The feedback and ideas from this group contributed to school planning and curriculum development. This approach produced a school climate in which Pacific student engagement remained at a high level.
Many schools offered Pacific cultural activities and performing arts. School leaders felt that students were more likely to gain a sense of belonging in a school when prominence was given to Pacific groups. Students experienced success and were able to take on leadership opportunities in the cultural activities.
In a decile 3 secondary school with 26 percent of the roll Pacific, many students from a range of ethnic groups participated in the Polynesian Club organised by senior Pacific students. All junior students took part in a Pasifika Day organised by seniors, with National Qualifications Framework credits available for this leadership role. A Pacific student chaired the college council. Pacific students enjoyed the opportunity to share their culture with other students in the college.
Pacific students in a decile 10 secondary school were also fully engaged in the life of the college, even though they comprised only four percent of the roll. They held leadership positions, including that of head boy, as captains of sports teams and in a range of cultural activities.
Pacific students were similarly well represented in leadership roles in a decile 6 secondary school with 11 percent of the roll Pacific students. The student representative on the board in 2008 was of Pacific ethnicity, and Pacific students were on the student council each year. Pacific students were strongly involved in school sport teams and in music groups in the school, such as choir, band, and the barbershop chorus.
A decile 6 school, where Pacific students comprised 15 percent of the roll, had maintained a high level of Pacific student engagement since their last review. Pacific contexts were evident in the curriculum, school routines and events. Pacific arts, crafts and stories were part of the everyday life of the school. Pacific students had leadership opportunities and were encouraged and supported to be role models for their peers. Relevant professional readings were readily accessible for staff and reading resources in Pacific languages were available for use by teachers, students and parents. Pacific parents were personally invited to school events and activities and were actively involved in.
In some schools the main development focus was on providing additional Pacific teachers and/or teacher aides to support Pacific students and their families. Some boards funded an additional staff member to fulfil a coordination, specialist or liaison role for Pacific students and their families. In these schools pastoral care networks were seen as important contributors to student engagement.
Initiatives to improve student language and communication skills were evident in a few schools. Teachers and leaders in these schools recognised that some of their Pacific students lacked fluency in English and in the language of their families’ countries of origin. Programmes included: setting up a student-run radio station that broadcast in Pacific languages as well as English; establishing bilingual units; and employing interpreters.
A few schools were operating playgroups on school property. This brought parents and young children into the school on a regular basis. Schools introducing playschools on their site aimed to help Pacific students and their parents become familiar and comfortable with the school environment, its people and its systems. They also wanted the children to socialise and learn with other children before starting school.
Homework centres or classes were in place in five schools, four of which were secondary schools. These were staffed by teacher aides and/or teachers, who supported and encouraged students with their learning.
Some schools invited high achievers from Pacific communities to speak to students. The fields these role models had gained recognition in and the experiences they shared with students showed possibilities and pathways to which Pacific students could aspire to.
Many schools did not know what impact their initiatives had on Pacific student engagement. Others reported in general terms about improved teaching, student engagement and achievement outcomes. In ERO’s 2009 report, ERO also found that most schools had only generalised or anecdotal evidence about the impact of their initiatives to improve student engagement.
In a few schools teachers and leaders provided specific data as evidence of engagement. This data was collected and analysed showing either:
Schools that are focused on increasing Pacific students’ achievement need board members that are interested in these students and know about their engagement, progress and achievement. They need to understand the actions being taken to improve outcomes for this group, and information to help them monitor progress towards achieving charter targets. Board members with awareness and understanding of the particular influences on Pacific students’ progress at school can make informed decisions about funding resources and teacher professional learning and development to contribute to progress.
ERO evaluated how well informed board members were about issues for Pacific students. Since each school’s previous ERO’s review, board members’ knowledge and understanding had remained at a high level in 10 percent of the schools and had substantially improved in 9 percent. A further 32 percent had improved or somewhat improved. In most of the substantially improved schools action had been taken to raise and maintain board members’ awareness of issues affecting Pacific students’ achievement. It was also used to help them set strategic goals for improving these students engagement in learning.
Seventeen percent of the schools had more Pacific board members than at the time of their school’s previous ERO review. Some school leaders adopted a proactive approach to recruiting Pacific trustees. In many of these schools Pacific communities had started to see the value of having a voice in school governance.
Many board members had participated in Ministry of Education professional learning and development workshops on the Pasifika Education Plan. Where schools were involved in activities with a cluster of neighbouring schools, board members often attended relevant sessions. Some also attended Pacific fono  linked to the plan and its implementation.
ERO found that of the 12 highest performing schools in this evaluation , eight had one or more Pacific representatives on the board. Meanwhile, of the 14 schools that were least effective in providing for Pacific students, only one had Pacific representation on the board. It seems likely that Pacific trustees have a positive influence on governance and management decisions concerning Pacific students.
Effective school leaders recognised the need to increase board members’ knowledge and understanding of Pacific students’ education needs. They reported regularly and fully, so that board members received information that showed how well Pacific students were achieving. These trustees were in a good position to set appropriate strategic goals and targets and make appropriate resourcing decisions.
In schools where steps had been taken to increase trustees’ knowledge and understanding of Pacific student engagement and learning, many boards demonstrated effective governance practices aimed at improving outcomes for these students. Strong community and school links enabled parent and community views to contribute to board planning. Trustees used achievement information to assist with developing and reviewing annual charter targets. Boards allocated appropriate funds for staffing and contextual teaching and learning materials to support the development of initiatives aimed at improving Pacific student achievement.
A further factor that contributes to student engagement is the extent to which parents and communities are involved in the life of the school and in their children’s learning.
ERO found that almost 30 percent of schools in this evaluation had sustained a high level of engagement with their Pacific community or had substantially improved their engagement. Thirty eight percent of schools could not provide evidence of improved engagement with their Pacific community. The remainder of the schools had somewhat improved their engagement with their Pacific community.
Many schools, especially in urban centres, developed home-school partnership programmes designed to improve relationships and communication and increase engagement with their Pacific community. Community pastors were often key contacts and churches were used for meetings because of the close connections that most Pacific families had with their churches. Schools employed interpreters to reduce any language difficulties. Pacific liaison staff provided a trusted channel of communication to sustain collaborative relationships.
Links between schools and Pacific parents, families and communities were established through fono, home visits, newsletters in Pacific languages, personal invitations to school events, and opportunities to play an active role in activities such as bilingual programmes, sport and performing arts.
Schools that placed priority on partnership with parents and families developed strategies to create and maintain links to the community. Effective links enabled schools to find out about Pacific communities’ aspirations and values. The relationship also encouraged schools and parents to share information about how to help each student learn, and fostered family involvement and participation in school activities.
A few schools had Pacific parent groups for consultation, communicating and involving parents in school activities.
In one school a Tongan PTA (Parent Teachers’ Association) had been formed, with a focus on supporting student learning at home.
In another school, a Samoan parents’ association met regularly, received formal reports on matters concerning Pacific students, and contributed to decision making about Pacific programmes. Close liaison was maintained with families through a range of activities such as a Pacific family day, Pacific NCEA nights and a fiafia night for leavers.
A Pasifika Parents’ Support Group in one school met regularly to organise events. Achievers’ Evenings were attended by parents, students and many staff to facilitate discussion on aspects of learning and student engagement.
Many schools neither monitored nor analysed progress for different ethnic groups. As a result the effectiveness of school-wide programmes to improve outcomes for Pacific students could not be evaluated. The lack of reliable systems and methods to evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives in these schools meant that resources may not have been directed where they could have the most impact on raising student achievement.
In most cases schools provided informal or anecdotal evidence about the success of initiatives that specifically aimed to improve Pacific students’ achievement in literacy and numeracy. In some schools, observed changes in teaching practice were seen as evidence of initiatives’ effectiveness. However, these schools lacked assessment information that could highlight actual improvement for Pacific students.
Schools that were involved in school-wide professional learning and development projects had often collated baseline data to measure student achievement in literacy and numeracy. They were therefore able to monitor the progress of individual students, cohorts and groups including Pacific students.
A few schools had data to show that Pacific student literacy and/or numeracy had improved over time through a range of initiatives. They could not formally attribute improvement to a particular intervention. However the fact that students had improved their achievement was important and could be investigated further to contribute to ongoing future developments.
Schools with strategic or annual targets for Pacific student achievement reported against these and used the data to evaluate the impact of initiatives. A good example of robust review of initiatives was in a secondary school whose close monitoring over time showed increased numbers of Pacific students achieving Level 2 NCEA. This improvement was attributed to the literacy and numeracy initiatives targeting Pacific students in Years 9 and 10 introduced over that period.