Schools in New Zealand were required to implement The New Zealand Curriculum from February 2010. During Terms 3 and 4, 2010 ERO, at the request of the Ministry of Education, evaluated the extent to which the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum were evident in schools’ curricula and enacted in classrooms. The findings of this evaluation were presented in ERO’s report Directions for Learning: The New Zealand Curriculum Principles, and Teaching as Inquiry (May 2011).

During Terms 3 and 4, 2011 ERO conducted a further investigation of a new cohort of 113 schools to determine the extent to which the curriculum principles were now evident in schools. ERO studied 200 classrooms in these schools to evaluate the enactment of the curriculum principles.

As reported in 2011, there was considerable variability in the extent to which the curriculum principles were evident in the schools reviewed. In about a third of schools, the principles were highly evident. There was some evidence of the principles in 35 percent of schools, and minimal or no evidence of the principles in 33 percent of schools.

Although the percentage of schools where the principles are highly evident is similar in both evaluations, it is disappointing that in this evaluation a greater percentage of schools displayed minimal evidence of the principles in the school curriculum and in classrooms.

The curriculum principles were more likely to be highly evident in primary schools than secondary. Secondary schools generally have greater focus on the individual learning areas of the curriculum, rather than taking the holistic approach to curriculum review and design afforded by the principles.

Schools where the principles were highly evident were more likely to have had support from external professional learning development facilitators, who helped their understanding of the principles. Only a small number of the schools where the curriculum principles were not so evident had accessed relevant external professional learning development. Consequently the curriculum principles were generally not well understood, and teachers had received limited support from leaders for incorporating them into their classroom planning. If any professional development had taken place, it was a one off occurrence.

Surprisingly, in some schools, although little work had been done to foster implementation of the principles at school wide level, they were nevertheless evident in some classrooms. This was due to individual teacher curriculum management and delivery, rather than good school wide leadership.

The relative implementation of individual principles was similar in both evaluations. The principle most evident was high expectations. This incorporated both learning and behavioural expectations. The next most common principles were inclusion; learning to learn; and community engagement.

The Treaty of Waitangi, coherence, cultural diversity and future focus principles, in that order, made up the remaining four principles evident in schools’ curricula. This mirrors the earlier findings. It is of note that the Treaty of Waitangi principle has moved from being the least evident principle to having a middle ranking.

This report provides examples of good practice for the four principles that were least evident in schools and classrooms. It also suggests steps to address the least evident principles.

The curriculum principles are expected to be the foundation of curriculum decision-making at each school. When they are used well the principles put students at the centre of teaching and learning by fostering the design of a curriculum that includes, engages and challenges them. When the principles are not fully enacted, students do not have opportunities to experience a broad and deep curriculum that caters for their interests, strengths and learning needs, and promotes their independence, self responsibility and engagement. It is unlikely that learners from diverse cultures or those that need additional support will accelerate their progress in schools that are not focused on the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum.