In New Zealand we are fortunate to have a top performing education system that gives most of our children the opportunity to reach their potential. But it is not all of our children that the system serves well.

There is still a disparity between the achievement levels of different groups of students. Despite many and varied initiatives over the years, our education system continues to fail certain groups of students including many Māori and Pacific students, students with special education needs and students from low income backgrounds.

This report gives us an insight into what some primary schools are doing to address this disparity. It shows that, by taking deliberate and well focused action to raise the achievement of their students, schools can make a difference. The report includes evidence of considerable improvement in the capability of teachers and leaders to use assessment data to target and respond to students achieving below expectations. Māori and Pacific students, and English language learners that needed support to accelerate their progress were targeted, and experienced success.

Such action is a vital contribution to the Government’s target of 85 percent of 18 year olds achieving National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 2 or equivalent by 2017. Primary schools need to ensure that their children are leaving at a level that enables them to succeed at secondary school.

At the same time, half of the sampled schools could be doing better. There needs to be a deliberate move away from a ‘more-of-the-same’ approach, where strategies that are not working continue to be applied. All schools need to be encouraged and supported to try something different. This report shows us that change is possible; that with confidence and capability schools can try different approaches that will result in improved achievement.

Diana Anderson

Chief Review Officer (Acting)

June 2014