New Zealand Schools: Ngā Kura o Aotearoa (2004)

Publication Details

This report of the Minister of Education on the compulsory schools sector in New Zealand pertains to 2004 (also known as the Schools Sector Report).

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

Date Published: November 2005

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 2004. It shows that New Zealand students are performing well, on average, and that we can be proud of having a world-class education system. Our students consistently perform at or significantly above international means. What is more, the results for 2004 show that our results are continuing to improve.

Student Achievement

The critical challenge facing schools is to continue to address underachievement. Māori and Pasifika students, those students with English as their second language and students in low decile schools tend to be over represented among low achievers. Research is clear that the achievement of these students can be lifted through effective teaching practices.

Results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) show significant improvements in the performance of Year 5 students between 1994 and 2002 in both mathematics and science. Year 5 students now perform at about the international mean in mathematics and significantly above the international mean in science.

TIMSS results show that Year 9 students have maintained their high level of performance, achieving above the international mean in both mathematics and science.

The National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) results for Year 4 students show significant improvements in oral reading, slight improvements in technology and performing music and stable performance in understanding music and reading comprehension.

NEMP results for Year 8 students also show significant improvements in oral reading, stable performance in performing and understanding music and in technology and slight declines in performance in reading comprehension.

At the secondary level, 15-year-olds performed significantly above the international mean in all four areas (reading, mathematical and scientific literacy and problem solving) of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The achievement of 15-year-olds did not change significantly between 2000 and 2003 in reading, mathematics or science.

An increasing proportion of senior secondary students are participating in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), with around 90 percent of all Year 11–13 students attaining at least one credit on the National qualifications Framework (NQF).

The proportion of senior secondary students gaining a Level 1, 2 or 3 qualification has increased each year since 2002. In 2004, 61 percent of Year 11 students, 74 percent of Year 12 students and 70 percent of Year 13 students gained an NCEA qualification.

School leaver data shows that students are now less likely to leave school with little or no attainment. In 2004, 13 percent of school leavers left school with little or no attainment compared with 18 percent in 2002.

Students are now more likely to leave school with University Entrance, a Level 3 qualification or Scholarship. In 2004, 32 percent of school leavers left school with these qualifications compared with 27 percent in 2002.

Engaging Students, Families and Communities

NEMP results show that students are generally positive about reading, music and technology. However, Year 8 students are less positive than Year 4 students. This decline in enjoyment of subjects as students get older is also found in TIMSS.

TIMSS shows that New Zealand students have levels of self-confidence in mathematics that are similar or higher than those of their international counterparts and that this has increased since 1994. Students were less likely to report positive attitudes to science, both at the Year 5 and Year 9 level.

Most 15 year-old students feel positive about their teachers, more so than their international counterparts do. Likewise, most students feel positive about working with their peers.

Indicators of engagement with school, including attendance, retention, belonging at school and believing that school has a value, show that around 80 to 90 percent of students are effectively engaged in learning. However, bullying remains a significant issue for many students, with between 63 and 75 percent reporting being bullied and international studies showing that New Zealand students have a higher rate of feeling unsafe than their international counterparts do.

There is a small group of students who can become severely disengaged in learning. Students from all backgrounds feature in this group, with Māori students and males being over-represented.

A small proportion of students (less than 1 percent in 2004) are either suspended or stood-down from school during the year. The Suspension Reduction Initiative has been successful in helping schools to find alternative ways to re-engage these students in learning.

The involvement of parents in their children's education, both at home and at school, has been shown to raise the achievement of their children. The Progress in Reading Literacy Study has shown that children with greater levels of educational resources in the home, those who have been engaged in a range of interactive early literacy activities in the home before they begin school and those whose parents hold positive attitudes to reading all have higher mean reading scores than children who have not had the benefit of these experiences.

Effective Teaching

Effective teaching results in students achieving academically, developing socially and gaining positive attitudes to education and learning.

Effective teachers tailor their practice to the learning needs of their students, provide learning environments that are welcoming, caring and linked culturally to the home life of students and ensure that all students have sufficient and effective opportunities to learn.

Good assessment practice is a critical element of effective teaching. The Assess to Learn (AtoL) programme focuses on assisting teachers to improve the quality of teaching and learning through formative assessment. Those participating in AtoL have found that greater use of assessment strategies need not be time-consuming as assessment becomes embedded as part of the learning process for the student.

A review by the Education Review Office (ERO) of the quality of teaching of reading in Years 4 and 8 found that over 80 percent of teachers were effective or highly effective in the use of teaching and learning resources, assessment of student achievement and engaging students with learning in reading. Areas where teachers were slightly less effective included the design and implementation of reading programmes (62 percent of teachers being effective or highly effective) and subject and pedagogical knowledge (71 percent being effective or highly effective).

ERO found that over 80 percent of Years 4 and 8 science teachers were effective or highly effective in the use of teaching and learning resources, the design and implementation of science programmes and assessment processes. They were less effective, however, in the use of assessment information (50 percent of teachers being effective or highly effective).

Professional learning opportunities enable teachers to maintain and develop their teaching skills. In 2004, 90 percent of teachers undertook some form of professional learning, with literacy being the most common area for both primary and secondary teachers.

Quality of Schooling

Boards of trustees are responsible for the governance of schools and, in particular, for establishing the strategic focus and specific student outcome targets. The two most common curriculum areas where schools had student outcome targets during 2004 were languages and mathematics. Eighty-four percent of schools had a target in the language curriculum area (mainly literacy targets), and 54 percent of schools had a target in the mathematics curriculum area (mainly numeracy targets). Less than 5 percent of schools had targets in the other curriculum areas.

The proportion of schools experiencing major governance issues remained small during 2004. Around 3.5 percent of schools were subject to some form of statutory intervention during 2004.

High-quality professional leadership is a critical factor in determining whether schools are effective. During 2004, around 92 percent of new principals took part in the First-time Principals Induction programme, providing focused support and professional development. Around 70 percent of all principals undertook some form of leadership professional development.

During 2004, there were considerable changes to the network of schools as a result of ongoing roll change. Primary rolls continued to decline, while secondary rolls grew in most areas of the country.

Government funding of schools continued to increase in 2004, both in nominal and real terms. The government spent $4162 million during 2004.

Most schools are in a healthy financial position, with 92 percent of schools having a healthy working capital ratio that would allow them to meet their short-term financial obligations from existing resources. Other financial indicators include the level of operating expenditure (57 percent of schools were in surplus), the level of public equity (68 percent of schools showed increases in public equity) and keeping within staffing limits (89 percent of schools did so).

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