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An electronic journal for leaders in education
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Making a Bigger Difference for All Students: The Schooling Strategy 2005–2010, New Zealand

Special report

The New Zealand Government has developed a new schooling strategy to improve social and academic outcomes for all students. Making a Bigger Difference for All Students: The Schooling Strategy 2005–2010 has been prepared with input from the schooling sector and community interests, and will guide policy and activities across the sector over the next five years.

The Strategy goal is All students achieving their potential and the report sets out three strategic priorities to achieve this goal:

  • all students experience effective teaching
  • children’s learning is nurtured by families or whanau, and
  • evidence-based practice.

Strategic priority 1: All students experience effective teaching

This Strategy endorses a strong commitment among education professionals to continuous improvement in teaching practice. Among the many roles of teachers, emphasis will be given to supporting teachers to believe that they can facilitate learning for all students, and understand and implement approaches that will achieve this goal.

Priority will be given to actions that support teachers to collect, analyse and use helpful evidence about student progress across a range of outcomes. Emphasis will be given to supporting teachers to share and critique student achievement information, teacher judgements, and teaching practices within professional learning communities, and to engage with families/whanau on student learning.

The revision of the national curriculum will contribute to effective teaching by helping to clarify what is ‘worthwhile to learn’ and what ‘worthwhile learning’ looks like.

Professional development funding will be used to support quality assessment, professional learning communities and effective school–home practices. Professional development will cover principals and other educational leaders as well as teachers. It will be particularly important to learn from existing examples of professional development and learning that have led to improvements in students’ academic and social outcomes.

The work program agreed with the teacher unions as part of the 2004 teacher collective agreement offers an important opportunity to consider how professional development, career paths and in-service teacher qualifications can support ongoing professional learning. Forthcoming decision making on teacher workload and sabbaticals will offer an opportunity to shape the working environment for teachers and teaching.

The Teachers Council has an important role to play in setting standards for entry to the profession.

Links between early childhood education, tertiary education and schooling will continue to be strengthened. The focus will be on improving alignment of curriculum frameworks, and on supporting successful transitions between stages of education and from school to the workforce.

The implementation of the senior secondary school qualification system, including the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), will continue. Fully implemented, this qualification system will enable schools to offer diverse learning opportunities and to develop higher-level thinking skills.

The improvement of academic and social outcomes for Maori and Pasifika students, and for students with special education needs, will be a vital area of ongoing work. This work will be undertaken with teachers, principals, boards of trustees, teacher educators, researchers and communities.

This Strategy emphasises actions that support boards of trustees and principals to:

  • use evidence about student achievement, and knowledge about effective teaching practices, to inform strategic planning, priority setting and investment decisions
  • focus resources (including staff time, staff energy and funding) on what will make the most difference for the learning of all students
  • build their knowledge about effective educational leadership and governance.

The Strategy also emphasises actions that help principals to:

  • foster school cultures that promote engagement, inclusion, motivation and learning for all students, and the positive engagement of families/whanau
  • promote effective teaching practices and develop professional learning communities
  • ensure that rigorous systems are in place within schools to support and develop student teachers and beginning teachers.

Families and whanau support teachers and schools to meet their children’s learning needs. They do this when they take up the opportunities to engage with teachers about their children’s learning and when they share their knowledge of their children with teachers, to help teachers understand, and better meet, the children’s learning needs.

Strategic priority 2: Children’s learning is nurtured by families/whanau

Priority will be given to actions that support teachers, principals and boards of trustees to:

  • put in place practices that effectively link schools and homes
  • draw on the knowledge families/whanau have of their children, and their wider knowledge, to strengthen learning programs and student identity, learning and engagement
  • share useful information with families/whanau about student progress and about how families/whanau can help their children learn
  • provide opportunities for families/whanau to have input into the school’s strategic plans
  • share knowledge of effective educational and social services in their local areas.

The Government is committed to working with families/whanau to shape actions in a range of areas. The Parents and Families Communication Program (Team-Up) will provide better information about learning and schooling directly to families/whanau. This program will also develop quality material that will be available for use by other intensive support programs for those families/whanau that need it.

The Government will continue to work with community interests, including its iwi partners, communities in School Support initiatives, Maori through the Hui Taumata Matauranga, and Pasifika communities through the Pasifika fono. It will also support links between business and schools.

Coordination among cross-government welfare agencies will continue to be improved with regard to interventions to reduce family poverty, violence, child abuse and health-related barriers to learning. Relevant interventions include Opportunities for All, Strengthening Families, the Primary Health Care Strategy, Working for Families and Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa.

Strategic priority 3: Evidence-based practice

Members of the school education community require evidence from a number of sources to inform their professional judgements and practice. Evidence-based practice connects teachers, principals, boards of trustees, teacher educators, families/whanau as well as specialist support services and policy makers in a collective commitment to building and renewing knowledge. It offers a shared language that enables the development of communities of learning and improvement. Interaction and mutual learning of this type can help ensure improvement is sustained over time.

Evidence is needed not only of effective pedagogy but also about students’ thinking, behaviour, achievement and their lives outside school.

This Strategy emphasises activity that supports teachers to improve their practices continually by:

  • basing their practice on principles of 'what works' from research evidence and adapting it to their classroom context
  • appraising the effectiveness of their teaching by collecting and analysing helpful evidence about student progress across a range of outcomes
  • using this evidence to refine their practice to improve student academic and social outcomes
  • drawing on student perspectives about how they learn
  • drawing on the knowledge of students’ families and whanau, and sharing the evidence that lies behind their practice with families and whanau
  • working in professional learning communities with colleagues, specialists, teacher educators and researchers.

To support evidence-based practice, the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative and the Best Evidence Synthesis program will both continue. There will also be a continued emphasis on developing online opportunities for sharing information and knowledge among education professionals.

More emphasis will be placed on identifying where students are currently doing well, learning from the practices that have supported this and sharing such good practice. For instance the available evidence shows that students in wharekura (Maori schools) are achieving well, which suggests there is an opportunity to learn from the practices used in these settings.

This Strategy emphasises actions that support families and whanau to:

  • ask teachers for feedback about the progress of their children and how they can help
  • ask schools for feedback about how student learning needs are being addressed across the school and about progress being made to meet the schools’ performance targets
  • recognise that the knowledge they have of their children is a form of evidence and share this with teachers.

Evaluating progress

The Government will monitor improvements in student academic and social outcomes and opportunities at a national level by drawing on NCEA and NEMP trend data, and the PISA, PIRLS and TIMSS international comparative studies. It will monitor trends in average achievement levels, the gaps between high and low achievers, and other indicators of student social outcomes.

The Government will evaluate how initiatives linked to this Strategy have helped improve student academic and social outcomes and opportunities. For instance evaluations will seek to answer questions such as:

  • the extent to which teacher professional development and learning associated with the literacy, numeracy and ICT strategies is having a positive influence on teacher practice and student outcomes, and whether improvements are sustained over time
  • how assessment and other resources are supporting teacher and school practice and student outcomes
  • the extent to which the existing Maori Education Strategy, the Pasifika Education Plan and the Action Plan for Special Education contribute to improved academic and social outcomes for these students.

Schools can monitor improvements in student academic and social outcomes and opportunities by:

  • drawing on their school-wide student achievement information (including, in the case of area and secondary schools, the attainment of qualifications by students)
  • monitoring student engagement indicators such as attendance, stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and early leaving exemptions
  • surveying the experiences of teachers, students, and families/whanau.

The Government and schools will be able to demonstrate alignment of their behaviours and efforts with those signalled in this Strategy by showing how strategic priorities are reflected in:

  • Government schooling initiatives
  • Ministry of Education planning documents
  • Education Review Office national reports of schools’ operations and performance
  • school self-reviews, charters and strategic plans
  • feedback from families/whanau and communities.

Overall the Strategy will mean significantly improving opportunities and outcomes for students currently underachieving, while continuing to improve outcomes for high and average achievers across all dimensions of knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and identity.

This article consists of edited extracts from Making a Bigger Difference for All Students: The Schooling Strategy 2005–2010. 


Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Teacher evaluation
School and community
Professional development
New Zealand
Mäori Education
Educational planning
Educational evaluation
Education policy
Education finance
Curriculum planning