New Zealand Schools: Ngā Kura o Aotearoa (2006)

Publication Details

This report of the Minister of Education on the compulsory schools sector in New Zealand pertains to 2006 (also known as the Schools Sector Report).

Author(s): Data Management and Analysis Division, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: September 2007

Key Findings


Ensuring that all students achieve their potential is the key goal for everyone involved in education. This report reviews the progress made towards that goal by New Zealand schools during 2006. It shows that significant gains have been made and that our education system compares very well internationally. New Zealand students consistently perform as well as or better than students in comparable countries.

While we have a world class education system, more work is needed to ensure that all students have the opportunity to reach their potential, that our teachers are well supported and that professional leadership is encouraged and developed.

Student Achievement

International studies show that New Zealand students continue to perform well when compared with students in other countries. However, there is a group of students who continue to underachieve compared with their peers. Focused initiatives in the areas of literacy and numeracy are making a difference to the achievement of these students.

Year 5–8 students at schools in the Literacy Professional Development Project are achieving at higher than the national average. The biggest shifts are for students in the lowest 20 percent of achievers. Year 9 and 10 students (both Māori and non-Māori) at the schools involved in Te Kōtahitanga are further ahead in literacy than would have been expected.

In 2006, progress was made in almost all areas of numeracy achievement by students at the schools in the Numeracy Development Projects.

International comparisons show that New Zealand students are well placed to meet the challenges they face on leaving school. The overall picture for 2006 school leavers shows that levels of achievement are continuing to increase.

After close to 20 years of little improvement, the proportion of students leaving school with little or no formal attainment has dropped over the past five years from 18 percent to 11 percent following the introduction of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. However, 22 percent of Māori still leave school with little or no formal attainment.

More school leavers now leave school with University Entrance or a Level 3 qualification. In 2006, 36 percent of school leavers achieved to at least a University Entrance standard.

Student, Family and Community Engagement

Engaging students in their learning from an early age raises their achievement and increases the likelihood that they will go on to further education. When students become disengaged from learning, they tend to do so before age 12, with their lack of engagement escalating in adolescence and at secondary level.

Connecting what goes on at school with parents, whānau and communities makes teaching and learning more relevant and effective. Research shows that families and whānau who monitor their children's progress at school are more likely to have children who are successful learners. A number of programmes and initiatives are aimed at developing our schools' ability to engage families and communities in this way. Team-Up is a programme designed to encourage, inspire and enable parents to help their children learn through every stage of the child's education.

Participation in education is fundamental to student engagement and achievement. Across most indicators of engagement, around 80 to 90 percent of New Zealand students are effectively engaged in schooling. A key indicator of continuing engagement is retention – the proportion of students who continue to attend school beyond the minimum school leaving age.

Māori students are retained in school to a lesser degree than non-Māori, and this continues to be a challenge.

The Innovative Pathways from School Project interviewed students at risk of leaving school who were participating in vocational courses in order to determine what encourages students who are disengaged to stay on at school and achieve. Offering a relevant curriculum to create more positive attitudes towards school and providing experiences of 'learning by doing' are two examples of approaches that these students said would increase their retention and transition to higher education.

Although most New Zealand school students are actively engaged in their learning, educators are challenged by the need to engage all students, including disruptive students, truant students, students with serious behavioural issues, gifted students and those with special needs.

Effective Teaching

In 2006, the focus continued to be on professional development to strengthen the role of assessment, improve classroom interaction and develop subject expertise. The Teacher Professional Learning and Development Best Evidence Synthesis demonstrates that opportunities for teachers to engage in professional learning and development can have a substantial impact on student learning.

Professional learning opportunities support effective teaching, which is a key influence on student learning and achievement outcomes. Effective teachers think about how to deliver the curriculum and the support they need for the subjects they teach. In 2006, The New Zealand Curriculum: Draft for Consultation 2006 was widely circulated within the education community. Following input from the sector, the final form is being published in late 2007.

The first few years of teaching are critical to turning newly qualified teachers into effective teachers. New Zealand has a good international reputation for its commitment to providing support to beginning teachers. However, research shows that the quality of induction in New Zealand primary and secondary schools is variable, with a significant minority receiving little or no advice and guidance. The introduction of the Specialist Classroom Teacher position in 2006 is supporting beginning teachers through their induction phase. It provides experienced teachers with an alternative pathway in their careers, aiding in the retention of these teachers.

Quality of Schooling

Schools work under the strategic guidance of members of their own community and other professionals able to contribute relevant skills and expertise. Boards of trustees work in partnership with the government and are accountable to both the government and the community. This collaborative school governance is an important contributor to the quality of schooling provided in New Zealand and the outcomes for students.

High-quality professional leadership is also a critical factor in determining whether schools are effective. Early results from the Ministry's Best Evidence Synthesis on School Leadership has found that the more leaders focus their influence, learning and relationships on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater the impact on student outcomes.

New Zealand schools are funded primarily by the government. There has been an increase in funding for schools over the past decade, with most of the additional funding going to staffing, operational funding (including property maintenance) and property capital works.

Schools plan for maintenance and capital projects using a 10-Year Property Plan. As part of a school's charter, the property plan is linked to, and should be consistent with, the school's vision and educational objectives for its students.Overall, most New Zealand schools were capably and effectively governed during 2006 and remain in a financially healthy position.

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