Section Two

What did a coherent curriculum look like in practice?

The following commonalities were evident in schools where the senior curriculum was effectively addressing the requirements of NZC and NCEA:

  • responsive curriculum
  • authentic contexts for assessment
  • providing a sound foundation for senior learning - Years 9 and 10
  • sense of self and place - wellbeing
  • empowering learners
  • careers education and relevant pathways
  • working with the community.

Responsive curriculum

The successful schools took steps to address the restraints of timetabling and resisted or confronted the potential impact on student learning of ‘siloed’ subjects. Students and teachers understood learning was the focus and although assessment was important, it did not drive the programme. Students were engaged in learning they were interested in and/or led to their chosen pathway. They had genuine choice about and within their courses.

In these schools, a responsive and flexible timetable allowed students to access the course they needed. Teachers reviewed course content and pedagogy to respond to the students in front of them, rather than ‘dropping’ standards or excluding students from the subject of their choice. These schools did not require prerequisites (specified grades or levels of achievement) so that students had open entry into the senior subjects they wanted to study.

“School is here to serve the students. The system exists to help them move through society. Credits are for the school.” Year 12 student, Logan Park High School

“Here they fit the NCEA into the learning rather than the learning into NCEA. If the kids are interested and engaged, they will get the results without counting the credits.” Year 12 student, Logan Park High School

It is interesting to note that the schools visited by ERO had made varying decisions about senior programmes of study. In some cases, schools had trialled integrated programmes but this was not widespread. On the whole, senior subjects remained separate disciplines, with content and assessment that led to University Entrance.

The following example shows how Waitakere College responded to the challenge of raising participation and achievement in senior courses.

Serving the student-pathways

Staff at Waitakere College reviewed and improved senior courses that allowed students to keep their options open. Teachers were aware teenagers change their minds about their further learning or career, but wanted to enable this flexibility without students needing to ‘drop’ a subject. Mathematics, English and science classes were organised to give students the knowledge required, at the level required, to access further education in that discipline. The school had been active in responding to the Waitakere District Health Board initiative promoting health sciences as a pathway for Pacific and Māori students. Teachers addressed the perception that physics was a difficult subject by revising the content of courses and reviewing their approach to presenting the necessary content. The student-centred approach resulted in multiple physics classes in Year 12 where previously only one class existed, and a lift for this group of students in NCEA achievement at Year 11.

Teachers at Te Puke High School trialled a cross-subject class for students in Year 11.

Integrating subjects in the senior school

In 2017, two teachers at Te Puke High School trialled an approach where science and mathematics teaching was combined and students were assessed using standards from both subjects in one Year 11 class. Teachers planned together and determined who would take the lead in a particular aspect of the curriculum. When reviewing the approach the teachers found they had attempted to cover too much subject content. They had tried to include all the standards from each subject offered to other Year 11 students. The teachers concluded this approach provided a potential model for developing cross-curricular delivery in senior school.

In 2018, one of these teachers offered a course combining technology and science, where the assessment was contextualised to build on students’ ideas and interests. The teacher interviewed students about their interests and passions and grouped them together to complete a major task matching their ideas. They and their teachers looked at the matrix of standards available and selected those relevant to the task the students had chosen. Students who spoke to ERO could explain why they had chosen specific standards from science, technology, history, legal studies and geography. Students also focused on self-management, entrepreneurialism and collaboration, which were competencies local businesses had identified as desirable.

Students explained: “we were able to pick our own group and group task, then found the standards/credits that would fit. We understood what was in the standard. It was pretty much what we were doing in our activity.”

However, these students maintained they still wanted to learn things covered in other, traditional classes. “But I like doing a maths class and English as it is important to get the credits.” 

Timely and relevant assessment

Most schools understood the relationship between their curriculum and the competencies of the NZC. They took steps to integrate and deepen learning at senior levels, although this often occurred in academic counselling times when students discussed their progress with their tutors. Schools made serious efforts to apply assessment only at stages that suited the contexts for learning. Some schools successfully used standards across different areas of the curriculum: within subjects and across subjects.

This more innovative approach seemed to depend on the confidence and experience of teachers to understand the purpose of a standard and to be able to design tasks that showed students’ skill and knowledge in an appropriate task. Not all teachers had such experience or confidence. Innovative approaches also depended on the understanding and support of NZQA moderators to confirm the validity of assessment tasks they were not familiar with.

“[As a system] we tried to stuff NCEA into subjects right from the beginning - now we risk stuffing it into integration. We need to revisit what NCEA was there for and the value given to key competencies.”

Principal, Te Puke High School

The following example illustrates how the rūmaki at one school offered students learning and assessment in real-life contexts.

Using standards in authentic contexts

The rūmaki at Western Springs High School provided a model of how subjects could be integrated and how achievement standards could be used flexibly to support student learning and pathways. Students in the rūmaki followed a curriculum that located them in their environment. In Years 11 and 12, students took some classes in the wider school, outside the rūmaki. In Year 11, students predominantly took internal standards because they offer greater creativity, rather than “learning for exams [external standards].”

One teacher ERO spoke with was a specialist in science and Te Reo who supported Te Reo speakers acquiring specialist science knowledge and language (English) in the senior school. The teacher aims to have students transition confidently between Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Pākehā, and proceed to tertiary or employment with cultural intelligence and competency.

The teacher approached science from the Māori perspective, as a way to show relevance to the students and to locate their learning in their own culture. The teacher used the flexibility of NCEA in biology where students could relate it to their day-to-day living. They used local examples/context for the curriculum, including contemporary issues such as kauri dieback. Tasks to assess the standard were modified to suit the issue the students had pursued. Moderation of assessment was written in Māori and English.

Senior students undertaking science courses in the rūmaki were assessed using standards from disciplines other than science, such as English, philosophy and geography. Students were deliberately taught to fashion their work to meet the different requirements of each subject’s standard. The teacher saw that presenting work in two or three different areas was not an issue. Students gained from the experience of understanding the conventions of different disciplines.

 “They think about it differently and broaden their horizons.”

Staff in the rūmaki established an active partnership with whānau. Family members attended the school to support students with their learning.

Sound foundation for senior learning - Years 9 and 10

In the schools where the senior curriculum was coherent, programmes in Years 9 and 10 included deliberate teaching of the skills, competencies and capabilities of the NZC. This was achieved in many cases through a collaborative approach to learning. Teachers planned together and included key competencies in their teaching. Some schools had integrated the curriculum at Years 9 and 10 and were attempting to move this integration into the senior school. They saw the potential and benefits for students in a programme that transferred knowledge and skills between learning areas. A few schools offered NCEA in Year 10 but the schools where the focus on NZC competencies was most evident had a policy of extending students’ knowledge and learning experience rather than on accelerating their achievement of NCEA credits. These schools did not offer NCEA in the junior school.

Leaders provided teachers with release time to work together planning programmes and discussing the outcomes of this planning in relation to student achievement and progress. These meetings identified how well students were acquiring skills and competencies, rather than subject content.

Southland Girls High School had taken a unique approach to planning the junior curriculum as shown below. 

Starting with the junior curriculum

Southland Girls’ High School’s curriculum review began in 2004, following a Ministry-led network review that changed the school’s status to include Years 7 and 8 students. For senior leaders this was a “catalyst for wholesale change” to design the curriculum from Year 7 upwards to Year 10. It was important to reassure the community about twenty-first century learning possibilities for students in the newly established school. The most innovative aspect of the curriculum was the implementation of ‘learning packages’ at Years 7 and 8. These packages included achievement objectives to provide authentic learning. The packages covered a big idea or theme where skills and knowledge could transfer from subject to subject. The school extended this approach to Years 9 and 10 where students could choose their ‘option subjects’ and the levels of mathematics, science, and English, depending on their needs, interests and abilities.

One course students could select in Year 10 focused on global issues. Students told ERO they followed their own interests in this course and gained insights into issues around them and in the wider world. They enjoyed thinking widely about things that affected society.

“It definitely takes us to other areas of learning and furthers our knowledge.”

“Teachers can then see that we are more confident learners.” Students

A different approach to the junior curriculum, below, illustrates how a school integrated subjects to increase students’ engagement and achievement in Years 9 and 10. Leaders wanted every student to have the necessary skills and capabilities to succeed in the senior school. 

Integration for learning

At Te Puke High School, teachers designed an integrated curriculum to enable students in Years 9 and 10 to increase their engagement in learning, and to sustain the strategies for learning they had experienced in the contributing school. Leaders consulted teachers, students as well as teachers from the contributing school, and the wider business community.

Leaders planned the changes over several years, to take advantage of new learning spaces designed as part of a significant rebuild of the school. Well-considered planning prepared teachers and students for the new approach in an innovative environment. Some teachers found the change challenging. Leaders understood the urgent need to undertake good planning for the open learning spaces, and provided PLD to set the context for integrated learning with teachers.

Leaders gave teachers increased release time for collaborative planning, and encouraged teachers to think of the whole student and the whole school, beyond focusing only on their specialist subject.

A timetable change provided longer learning periods enabling teachers to give students a greater variety of activities and opportunities for deeper learning. Sixty to 70 students and their teachers worked together in each learning space. Teams of Years 9 and 10 teachers from English, mathematics, social studies, physical education and health and science were timetabled in the same line so that these subjects were taught in collaboration. Teams undertook evidence-based inquiry about the learning needs of their students to improve the attention given to each student’s learning.

Assessment included student self-assessment that allowed for reflection on their wellbeing. NCEA assessment was not used in the junior school. Teachers saw the inclusion of key competencies as vital to the junior curriculum. One senior leader was continuing to build on and embed previous PLD about relational pedagogy. The intent was to inform improvements to the curriculum through research and extending culturally responsive pedagogy.

The approach of a teacher at another school shows how key competencies could be the focus of a programme to develop students’ ability to manage their learning through contexts they were highly interested in. 

A focus on competencies

At Amuri Area School, students’ choices of learning contexts increased their engagement in learning. ERO observed a Year 10 social sciences class, where students chose the topics for study and the contexts they would focus on. The teacher’s planning for the topics took account of the overall goals of the unit of study and the key competencies and capabilities students would focus on during the term’s investigation.

The teacher displayed an outline of the year’s programme, highlighting the overall goals and key competencies for each term, which students referred to. The focus on skills and capabilities constituted an important part of the assessments of students’ achievements. The teacher determined which capabilities should be formally assessed and which could be completed as observations in class. The teacher encouraged students to see deeper connections between this subject and other learning areas. 

Changing school structures

In many of the schools, systems helped teachers to support students’ progress through school. Leaders had developed appropriate structures such as whānau/ako times, academic counselling and career education at all levels of the school. Typically, the traditional 15 minute form time had become a 30‑35 minute period, several times a week, with a lower student-to-teacher ratio. In addition, teachers had undertaken PLD about how to make use of these extended times to understand and support each students’ progress, achievement and wellbeing. Teachers knew students as learning and social individuals.

As well as longer times for academic counselling, these schools had introduced longer learning times. In the longer learning periods, teachers trialled and reviewed different approaches to make good use of this time. Students who spoke to ERO noticed the positive shift in teacher practice in these extended periods. The classes gave students more hands-on experience, and greater opportunity for discussion. It allowed more time for the teacher to work with individuals or groups of students. The following example shows how Wellington East Girls’ College reworked the timetable and teacher planning to implement the revised junior curriculum. Leaders were strategically moving the new systems into the senior school.

Changing the school structures to allow for innovation in practice

In 2007, the newly appointed principal of Wellington East Girls’ College, with senior leaders, began the revision of the curriculum. Having to demolish and replace school buildings to meet building codes for earthquakes was an unexpected challenge in 2011. This provided an opportunity to review teaching and learning in the school. Leaders identified strategic priorities to provide learning that was student centred, personalised, authentic, contextualised, involved students as active learners, and fostered student agency.

The school’s timeline for full implementation of new teaching approaches started with students in Years 9 and 10. ‘Hubs’ were formed to enable multi-level, collaborative teaching. Teams of ‘core’ subject teachers planned together and worked to reinforce student learning, based on knowledge of student needs. Before starting collaborative teaching, subject teachers identified the essentials of their subject. These discussions determined which skills and competencies were most important and subject content was secondary. Teachers were then able to identify where skills and competencies could be foregrounded to students consistently, and transferred across the subject areas. Leaders then challenged teachers to employ this approach in their specialist subjects in the senior school.

Hub teachers discussed individual students’ strengths, interests and needs across the subject areas. They began to talk about “our class”. This developed a growing emphasis on the student at the centre and shared responsibility for students.

“We want teachers to be interested in ‘who’ as well as ’what.’ We want to foster deeper learning, related to the real world. We need to know students as learners.”

“The Hub is a lever. We had just done consultation, in 2007, and written the first strategic plan. We wanted to be less teacher focused, more authentic, use real-life settings, offer more choice and break down subject siloes. This gave enough room to consider special design and curriculum design.”


Students have considerable opportunities to follow their interests through the topic choices in hub classes and in later years. Students enthusiastically recalled opportunities they had to learn about social issues such as disadvantaged groups in New Zealand, and institutional racism and homelessness in the city. Shared internet sites and parent portals allowed teachers, students and parents to follow the progress of the class.

Early on, staff identified the timetable as one of the barriers to providing a modern curriculum. Longer learning times and changes in teaching approaches have resulted from these discussions. Students recognised how teaching improvements made learning more engaging for them.

“We’ve noticed the difference. All classes this year are engaged for the 90 minutes - more time to practise and to review. Lots of class is discussion based. A lot more collaboration - maths, more variety, making a video explaining a concept - we can look back later for exams. The teacher tries different ways to have us understand.”

“There are no exams in Year 10. We eased into NCEA in Year 11. It isn’t a huge step up.”            


This approach was supported by the formation of ako (tutor) groups, which included deliberate attention to addressing the continuation of focus on key competencies into the senior school.

The hubs and ako groups are designed to make each student visible to themselves and adults to know the student as a learner, all in the hub will work with you and your needs - teachers plan together over and over again, during the week. The aim of this is that all students will move into Years 11 and 12 with barriers to their learning [identified, addressed] and resolved, with the student and family, i.e. they will have equitable access to the senior school.”


Sense of self and place - wellbeing

An evident feature of the curriculum in schools that combined subject content with competencies was the approach the school took to supporting students to develop key competencies through their sense of belonging and connectedness. The junior programme (mostly Years 9 and 10) in these schools focused deliberately on students’ knowledge and perception about their own place in society, built a sense of belonging, and then moved outwards. A combination of strong social sciences programmes and the pastoral support offered by whānau or ako groups appealed to students and actively included attention to the values and competencies of NZC.

In several schools with a coherent senior curriculum the social sciences learning area connected students strongly to their own identity and to wider social issues. Students told ERO they valued this connection and encouragement to think deeply about issues affecting their lives and the lives of others. In senior years, the curriculum in some schools enabled students to focus their learning on the wider community and global issues. Teachers provided contexts for learning which allowed student choice. This approach heightened students’ sense of the relevance and importance of the curriculum and they valued the opportunities to discuss, argue and to learn from others. This approach clearly enacts the vision and values of the NZC.

An example from Wellington East Girls’ College illustrates the effectiveness of this approach. A class explored the experience of young women refugees in the school, involved the community in this learning, and produced a play based on these experiences. Students found this learning very engaging.

The way teachers in the Rūmaki at Western Springs focus the curriculum and student achievement on local, relevant topics successfully locates students as learners in their own environment and culture. Similarly, students at Rotorua Girls’ High School experience a curriculum that connects them to the qualities of their local role model, building their own sense of identity. Both examples are described in detail earlier in the report.

The senior English courses offered at Waitakere College mean students choose to learn in relevant, current contexts with which they identify.

Students enjoyed deep learning in authentic context. Changes in senior English arose from the head of department examining Year 10 students’ reports and discussing their interests and preferences with them. This identified that boys, in particular, tended to receive positive comments more frequently in physical education and health. Subsequently the English teachers established a Sports/ English course to engage these students. The department offered other themed English courses according to students’ interest. Year 10 teachers talked to their students about the English courses on offer, such as Pacific Voices, Digital English, Classical Literature, and Humanities English about social justice and social change. The Humanities English course was popular with students and linked to the school’s vision of having “our graduates recognised as thinkers, contributors and participants in the local, national and global community.” Classes were not streamed, as teachers differentiated their approach for the different abilities within the class. These changes, made in 2016, resulted in an increase of about 20 percent in overall achievement at Level 2.

At Years 9 and 10, the English course deliberately focused on making reading and English interesting and rewarding. Students were encouraged and expected to make decisions for themselves, and not rely on teachers. Courses did not mirror NCEA, instead they prepared students for future success by making sure students had the skills and dispositions to succeed.

Shirley Boys High School provides an example of making sure students have a sense of belonging at school. This has been a priority for the school.

A focus on wellbeing

Shirley Boys’ High School vision outlines a commitment “to providing high quality learning that prepares each young man for their world.” At the forefront of this vision is “The Shirley Man, the concept that requires learning to be at the centre of everything we do.” This vision explicitly includes a focus on students developing the school’s stated values of: curiosity and opportunity, personal resilience, improvement, positivity, the community, and Manākitanga.

The idea of the Shirley Man had been in the school for some time. However, it had recently become the focus for a systematic curriculum development to highlight the qualities and competencies young men should acquire while at the school. Leaders considered aspects of the NZC such as “all round, confident, connected lifelong learner” and sought to look deeply at what that meant in practice for the school, for employers and for further study. The school’s timetable was altered to provide an extended tutorial time to enable students to fully explore the features of the Shirley Man. A sequential programme was planned for the full year and was supported by PLD for teachers about building and measuring wellbeing.

Students learned to explore values, to develop relationships, set goals for their learning and receive career guidance and course counselling. The expectation was that these competencies were part of learning in the senior school, in classes and in the wider school curriculum.

Students spoke about the benefit of older students passing on what they know about the school values to younger students in this house-based system.

“Once you step into Shirley Boys’ you are not just in a school. You are in a brotherhood.”

“Building relationships is the most important aspect of the school.”


Empowering learners

Schools where the curriculum most effectively demonstrated coherence in the senior school supported students to reflect on their own learning and their developing competencies. The students had opportunity to reflect on teaching practices and schools systems. In some cases, the school made good use of these reflections: responses and information gathered from students were acted on by teachers to improve their delivery and to improve aspects of the school. Students were able to contribute to course planning, to their own progress and pathways and, in some cases, to designing their own assessments, because they knew what was expected and were encouraged to have a say in decisions affecting them.                                               

ERO found students in some schools understood the NCEA standards well. They were familiar with the purpose of the standard and, with support from their teachers, could vary the assessment tasks they completed to match their direction and interests. In these cases, students benefited from the flexibility of NCEA. This guided approach to managing their pathway, assessment and credits meant students were more likely to value their learning and understood assessment could be applied in a variety of contexts.

Effective academic counselling /ako programmes clearly added to the sense students had of being in partnership with teachers about their own learning. Students spoke to ERO about how they valued these interactions with their teachers.

The following examples show how different schools engaged students in their own learning.

Students tracking their own progress

Teachers at Southland Girls’ High School identified the need to establish whether a student had made a year’s worth of progress in a year. As a result, leaders and teachers put a plan in place to more accurately support students to know how they were achieving and progressing. Each learning area took responsibility for identifying what would be a measurement of a year’s progress at each level. In some subject areas, such as languages, this involved considerable effort to identify suitable, valid measures of progress. The languages department staff worked together to identify and describe progressions for speaking, listening, reading and writing in each of the languages taught at the school. They designed a framework of indicators students used to reflect on their progress and in discussion with their teachers to set future learning goals. This promoted self‑management.

The process of working out indicators of progress has changed over time in some learning areas as teachers improve their skills in identifying the knowledge and skills required to show a year’s progress. 

Empowering learners

Albany Senior High School aims to nurture, inspire, and empower students through relationships, responsibility and respect. A distinctive feature of the school that remained a central component of the curriculum is the impact project where students design their own projects. The impact project was timetabled for Wednesday so a whole day could be devoted to the project. Some students identified Wednesday as the most important day because they could follow their own interests into projects well outside their usual courses.

Every project had a designated mentor (teacher) and experts from the community could work with students in specialist areas. Four principles guided the impact project development:

      • student ownership and agency
      • substantial learning beyond the classroom
      • quality product
      • participating and contributing with the community.

For each principle, teachers developed rubrics to show student progress towards the planned outcome, for both the quality of the project, and the skills developed.

Students did not enter for NCEA credits in their projects, with the exception of a small number of students who chose Gateway on Wednesday to pursue their interest in a pathway, without disrupting their specialist subjects. Teachers and students considered not using NCEA assessment allowed for creativity in the impact projects. Some students ERO spoke with felt credit-driven in their specialist subjects and did not want this in their impact projects.

A key element of the school’s commitment to students developing their self-management for ongoing learning was evident in the school’s tutorial programme.


At Albany High School considerable time was given to tutorials that enable students to develop a learning relationship with a significant adult who also built a relationship with the student’s family. Tutorials arose from the need for a school-wide approach to catering for each student. Leaders identified that some students arrived in the school with pre-conceived ideas of themselves as a failing learner. Tutors generally mentored their group of 15 to 18 students from the time they arrived at the school until they left. Where possible a teacher from each faculty took a tutor group in each of the physical spaces so students could consult them about their work.

The timetable provided 200 minutes in the week when tutors and students could have “conversations that matter about learning.” Over time, the tutorial had developed specific structures and milestones to underpin what happened during this time. Discussions covered planning, goal setting, and choosing the right subject so the student had an academic map/plan in place. This was an opportunity for teachers and students to develop and share language about learning. 

Set tutorial requirements were followed to check each students’ progress throughout the year, review learning goals, and report to parents. The tutor also liaised with students’ specialist subject teachers to build a rounded picture of each individual, over time.

The way a teacher at Rotorua Girls’ High School designed the course and arranged assessment shows how flexibility is possible when students understand the standards.

Reviewing programmes in response to students’ needs

At Rotorua Girls’ High School, a teacher successfully took account of students’ experiences when reviewing and improving a senior course. Recently, the teacher in charge of art and technology realised students who were taking more than one subject in the learning area were burdened with completing several portfolios in Term 4. She subsequently undertook an inquiry to identify ways to adjust her approach to solve the pressure point for students. The solution was to organise the completion of design assignments earlier in the year and to assess the work, using standards appropriate to the student’s interests and direction. The teacher was familiar with standards that could be applied as assessment at different levels and for different tasks.

The design course started with skills, which were tracked, then later, student progress was tracked against the task and the standards selected for that student. This tracking meant the teacher knew who needed more support and what skills they could develop and be assessed against.

“We don’t do one standard at a time. We do a project that brings in all the standards into one final task. This means the project provides deeper learning. In the first term the learning is all about the skills and not assessment. Having students do one project that matches their interests and strengths, and encompassed 20 credits in one task meant the leader monitoring students credits had to trust that I didn’t have credits coming in all through Terms 1 and 2 but we would succeed by the end of Term 3. It also meant students then had more time to work on other art or photography portfolios they were trying to complete.” Teacher

The design course was open entry, so the teacher had to differentiate the programme to accommodate this. Students could refer to video clips the teacher had recorded to learn and practise specific tasks, at their own speed. This meant some students could catch up and others could extend their learning.

Careers education for relevant pathways

An important feature of the success in providing a coherent curriculum in these schools was the status and importance given to careers education. Careers knowledge, competencies and career advice were seen as powerful components of course planning and of ensuring successful outcomes for students at senior levels. The career curriculum in these schools was embedded in the timetable from Years 9 to 13, with students’ development of competencies monitored over that time. These schools, and students and parents, saw the connection between the careers programme and NZC competencies. Careers teachers were included in leadership meetings about curriculum and were able to share their knowledge of individual student pathways and aspirations to groups that made decisions about school systems, structures and pedagogy.

These schools also took responsibility for ensuring students could access relevant pathways beyond secondary school.

The example below shows how Amuri Area School successfully provided relevant pathways and skills through working with the community.

Amuri Area School made curriculum changes in response to increased student retention at senior levels, and to increase engagement of students from Year 10. The senior curriculum combined school-based, online and real-life, contextual learning for students. These ways of learning increased student self-motivation.

As part of the recent curriculum development, the school values were identified and rubrics developed to outline “what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like” when the values were lived. The rubrics were linked to key competencies. Students used a self-evaluation tool to track their own progress in developing school values, as the starting point for discussions about their goals.

The school had an innovative approach to providing learning experiences for students who were not following a pathway to university. The career teachers had established a longstanding arrangement with Ara Polytechnic allowing students ready access, from Year 11, to relevant courses. The school timetable was revised to provide long blocks of time for learning, and to allow students to be out of the school without jeopardising their other subjects. Students had employment opportunities in the community, with local industries. The school worked hard to provide relevant opportunities in a small, rural community.

We are breaking down the exterior walls of the school.” Careers teacher

Albany Senior High School’s career programme shows the positive impact its approach had on student progress.

Senior students took on significant leadership roles supporting younger students to understand possible career pathways at Albany Senior High School. Year 13 students were trained by the head of the careers department as associate tutors to provide career guidance to students in Year 11. These student leaders were observed and mentored by the tutor teacher. Careers staff identified that the younger students were highly engaged during the career education facilitated by their older peers. The practice also helped Year 13 students to deepen their knowledge of career pathways.

This example from Waitakere College illustrates the importance of a sound careers programme.

Senior students at Waitakere College were very well supported to make informed decisions about their courses. The Vocational Pathways department now includes careers and Gateway staff, as well as staff from various academies. This ensured students, parents and teachers were familiar with the processes to support decisions about course selection and applied them consistently. Careers programmes were taught at every year level and the staff were in frequent contact with leaders of learning areas about curriculum decisions. When students went for guidance about pathways, they could speak to anyone in the department and receive well-informed advice. These teachers also carried out interviews with each Year 11 student and their families as part of their Year 12 course selection processes. During these interviews, staff worked with the student and their family to back map from the student’s aspirations to develop course possibilities and goals for subsequent years. 

Each student participating in a Vocational Pathways course had an independent programme designed to respond to their strengths and interests monitored by the department. A broker interviewed students, their teachers and prospective employers to match the student to the best employment opportunity. “What does the student need to be successful?” This resulted in high levels of credibility in the community about the readiness of students to have employment experience. The Vocational Pathways staff worked closely with the nearby polytechnic to review teaching approaches for younger students and to help students adjust to requirements at tertiary level. The department successfully sought additional funding to help students post-school, in the belief that finding “funds from so many pockets” was not the child’s concern. 

Working with the community

Aotea College offers an example of how the school built relationships with its community to improve coherence. 

Building community collaboration

The appointment of a new principal and provision of new buildings provided the catalyst for curriculum development at Aotea College. The principal’s initial priority was to establish close relationships with the local iwi, Ngāti Toa, and with other educational institutions in the Porirua area. Listening to the concerns of iwi about education then moving to action as a result of this consultation helped the college improve cooperation and collaboration across the secondary schools, as well as with iwi, Te Wananga and local polytechnics. School goals and direction are now aligned to the Ngāti Toa education strategy. The school’s curriculum leaders and teachers reviewed their department’s vision and purpose and aligned these with the school’s charter.

At the same time, the school developed a locally based curriculum, connecting students with parts of their community they are not always familiar with. This provided authentic learning contexts and also enables a more seamless transition for students into tertiary study as they become more familiar with institutions and learning in real-life contexts. Senior students are accessing learning in local tourism at NCEA Levels 3 and 4, health science with links to the local School of Nursing and carpentry at NCEA level 2.

Forensic Science is offered in Year 9 and this course makes use of the college’s close proximity to the Police College.

The community and teachers contributed to decisions about the design of learning spaces. In preparing for the new learning spaces, the leaders carefully considered the types of spaces needed to achieve the desired learning and teaching outcomes and this informed the design brief.  Leaders worked with the whole staff to design learning for new Hui Ako/whānau classes, based on the principles, values and key competencies of the NZC. Consultation with local iwi representatives from the beginning of the design process helped with decisions about how the NZC should be enacted in the school, and in naming the newly established whānau groups.

The college is a relatively young college (40 years) and is part of a very young city – Porirua city (50 years). The curriculum provides an opportunity to deepen the connection between young people and the values, people and history of their community.