New Zealand Schools: Ngā Kura o Aotearoa (2005)

Publication Details

This report of the Minister of Education on the compulsory schools sector in New Zealand pertains to 2005 (also known as the Schools Sector Report).

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

Date Published: October 2006

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 2005 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

New Zealand students continue to perform well when compared with students in comparable societies. Students in very few countries perform better than New Zealand students in reading, mathematics and science.

For many years, schools have faced the challenge that some students do not achieve as well as their peers. This has been particularly true for Māori and Pasifika students, students for whom English is not their first language and students in low decile schools.

Research has indicated for some time that the achievement of these students can be lifted through effective teaching practices. The consequences of applying research-evidenced best practice are now appearing in a number of studies.

International comparisons such as the Progress in Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) show that New Zealand students are above average in reading and mathematics but considerable diversity of achievement exists. A number of initiatives have been developed as a result. These include the Literacy Professional Development Project and the Numeracy Development Project. As a result of these projects, gains are being made, particularly by those students who begin with the lowest levels of achievement.

The impact of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), introduced between 2002 and 2004, can now be measured. Between 90 and 93 percent of students are participating, depending on their year level. The flexibility of NCEA is allowing students to build up credits over time towards a qualification.

During 2005, 62 percent of Year 11 candidates, 74 percent of Year 12 candidates and 67 percent of Year 13 candidates gained an NCEA qualification. By the time they leave school, the majority of students have gained a qualification or significant credits towards one. In 2005, only 13 percent of school leavers left with little or no attainment. This is an improvement since 2002, when 18 percent of school leavers had little or no attainment.

Engaging Students, Families and Communities

Most New Zealand students are positively engaged in learning. Most students attend school regularly and stay on at school beyond the years of compulsory schooling. Seventy-nine percent continue into tertiary education.

The Competent Children: Competent Learners project reveals that positive learning environments are characterised by insightful feedback, relevant teaching, challenging work, learning at a student's pace, and avoiding too much emphasis on student comparisons.

An increase in negative attitudes becomes evident as students proceed through their schooling. The National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) results reveal substantial differences in engagement between Year 4 and Year 8 students: student enjoyment of learning decreases with age. The reasons for this, which are complex, are explored in Chapter Two.

International evidence shows that the longer students are positively engaged in schooling, the better the outcomes for them later in life. Staying on at school in the senior years of secondary school is linked with improved health, stable employment and higher earnings (as well as reduced offending during late adolescence). In 2005, 80 percent of 16-year-olds stayed on at school, but this reduces to 60 percent of 17-year-olds and only 13 percent of 18-year-olds. But these percentages are somewhat misleading, given that 79 percent of school leavers become involved in tertiary studies within five years of leaving school. Over the past ten years, the proportion of students going directly from school to a tertiary education has increased, rising from 47 percent in 1998 to 58 percent by 2004. However, most of this growth has been in lower level courses such as certificates.

But what about those students who continue to have difficulties with engaging with what most schools offer? During 2005, over 3,500 students were involved in alternative education. A disproportionate number of these students are young, male, and Māori. About 75 percent are aged fourteen or less, about two-thirds are male and some 60 percent are Māori. Chapter Two examines some of the initiatives that are responding to the challenges these students represent.Progress is being made with engaging families and communities in the education of their children. The 2005 ERO evaluation of the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS) notes that effective schools encourage everyone in a school's community to become involved in their children's lives as a team, working together. The evaluation reports that 73 percent of schools are effectively consulting with their communities.

Effective Teaching

The effective teaching of diverse students is having a major impact on raising student achievement. Diversity, in this context, includes not only different cultural backgrounds but also differences of gender, socio-economic background, special needs and giftedness.

The focus on research-evidenced best practice in teaching in the areas of literacy and numeracy is having a significant impact.

The focus on literacy is being supported by the Literacy Professional Development Project. Teacher involvement is leading to improved outcomes for students, with the lowest achieving students showing the greatest improvements.

The Numeracy Development Project is also bringing about improvements in achievement. Almost all teachers of Years 1 to 3 students and a growing number of teachers of Years 4 to 10 students are involved.

Another major change lies in the area of teachers making use of Information and Communications Technologies ( ICT). Schools are now better resourced for ICT, and teachers are more confident of their skills in ICT use.These and other initiatives have led to improved teaching and, consequently, improved student achievement, but the Education Review Office (ERO) has nevertheless consistently identified the use of assessment information as an area where teachers could be more effective.

Quality of Schooling

Most schools were capably and effectively governed during 2005. Only a small proportion (3.9 percent) experienced major governance issues, and the majority of these schools (56 percent) recognised this and sought assistance.

In addition to governance, professional leadership is critical to ensuring the effective day-to-day running of a school and the quality of its teaching and learning programmes. Chapter 4 discusses a range of professional development initiatives that principals took part in during 2005. This includes the First-time Principals Induction Programme (used by 95 percent of new principals) and programmes for more experienced principals (Principals' Development Planning Centre and Principal Professional Learning Communities).

Schools had increased resources available to them in 2005. Government funding to schools increased by 8.8 percent on a per-student basis between 2004 and 2005 (compared with an inflation rate of 3.1 percent). Overall, the government spent $4,533 million on state and integrated schools in 2005.

Overall, most schools are in a healthy financial position, and this has improved in 2005. Ninety-four percent of schools had a healthy working capital ratio that would allow them to meet their short-term debts from existing funds, up from 92 percent in 2004.

Other indicators of good financial management have improved during 2005. Sixty-four percent of schools had an operating surplus, compared with 56 percent in 2004) and 73 percent showed increasing public equity (68 percent in 2004).

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