ERO’s findings indicate that more than half the schools that had participated in ALiM and ALL between 2010 and early 2013, and had ERO reviews in Terms 2 and 3, 2013 were making a difference for students underachieving. Many of these schools had low underachievement. In particular, Māori and Pacific students, and English language learners who were underachieving were targeted for support and experienced success.

This investigation’s findings were similar to those in ERO’s report Raising achievement in primary schools (June 2014), about the key features of a school’s improvement plan and the role of leaders to design and implement a plan that enabled more students to achieve with less inequity across the school population. The plans need to build leadership, teaching, evaluative, relationship and curriculum capabilities as well as focus on short-term supplementary supports to accelerate progress for students. Both reports found that the foundation needed was:

  • teacher knowledge of curriculum, expected progressions and acceleration
  • leader knowledge of organisation change.

ERO found that the effective schools that had participated in ALiM and/or ALL had involved teachers in formal collaborative inquiry. These teachers expected to critique the effectiveness of their practice and make changes. Many were very humble about what they realised they had not known. The teachers and leaders of these schools understood that the reading, writing and mathematics demands of the classroom curriculum needed to guide the design and implementation of the supplementary support. Teachers were using information gained from closely monitoring students’ learning to design and implement classroom and supplementary support instruction. One complemented the other.

The ALiM and ALL design features of a school-based inquiry team, external mentoring, and formal collaborative inquiry into short-term intensive supplementary support influenced the outcomes in effective schools. A key challenge for these schools is the transfer of learning so best practice from the trials is transferred to expected practice of all teachers.

ERO’s findings highlight the challenge for leaders in less effective schools to develop an improvement culture that is deliberate and relentless in finding effective ways to respond to underachievement. Leaders need explicit support to understand that the ALiM and ALL initiatives are about changes to the school’s short-term and long‑term responses to underachievement, and that a formal collaborative inquiry into the trial would support these changes. They will also need support to design and implement improvement plans that build teacher and leader capability and help students accelerate progress, and systems that link leadership expectations with teacher practices.

Some schools were overwhelmed by their underachievement. Many of these schools were low decile. The initiative, ALiM or ALL, may not be the best Ministry response for these schools. Instead they could benefit from in‑depth and long‑term PLD that includes key features of ALiM and ALL that support intensive inquiries into progress and acceleration and the development of a long-term school improvement plan.

All schools can benefit from working with appropriate outside expertise. However, the expertise should respond to school strengths and needs. ERO recognises that ALiM and ALL providers are also the providers of Ministry PLD. A key challenge for these providers is the transfer of learning about accelerated progress from ALiM and ALL to all PLD. Appendix 3describes the improvement shifts for each group of schools so more students and teachers can benefit from a focus on acceleration of progress. Any Ministry provided support needs to be aware of these needs.