Monday, October 10, 2016

The New Zealand Curriculum - is it time for a discussion?

History and Reflection

On November 6 2007, the New Zealand launched the New Zealand Curriculum (Revised).  Reading back over the press release a few days ago brought back memories of the excitement and, yes, reservations, we had about yet another change in education.  Afterall, some of us had not long graduated and got used to using the rather large seven documents to plan the learning for and with our students.  We didn't yet realise what freedom and creativity - and ownership this new curriculum would offer our schools and communities.

The National Government introduced the idea of National Standards in 2008 when they came to power and implemented them in 2010.  Basically, schools did not have the chance to be able to fully implement one major change - the first major curriculum change in many years - before another major change was enforced.

There have been posts written on the Key Competencies in the past, particularly around the difficulties in implementing them and the confusion that can arise.  See for example - NZCER - Shifting Thinking.  Reading this post in particular, it's easy to see how they became a checklist. Some schools went the way of checklists and others looked at ways of developing progressions around the KCs.  There are many incredible resources around the KCs but I don't think we've ever had the time to properly explore them as was intended before the next initiative arrived.  I know as part of the leadership team in a school we were under incredible pressure to try and get everything going while feeling somewhat blindsided by the intent of National Standards.

Key Competencies and the Original Intentions and Purposes
"The New Zealand Curriculum...Puts the key competencies at the heart of the curriculum."

The original intent of the revised curriculum turned seven documents into one and placed a strong emphasis on the Key Competencies which were designed to be at the heart of the learning.
Unfortunately, in many cases, they've often become a checklist often on the back of a report issued to parents twice a year.  For many they are not living and breathing competencies that are embedded across the learning areas.  Is this the fault of this schools, the teachers?  No, I don't believe that at all.  There is so much emphasis placed on reaching the 'National Standards' that this has been to the detriment to the Key Competencies and the other gems that are in the first part of the NZC.

In this video from 2012, Dr Julia Atkin speaks about the power of the New Zealand Curriculum.  It's worth viewing and sharing as a great reminder.
Expressing the Essence of the New Zealand Curriculum -

So What Happened?

The New Zealand Curriculum was due to be implemented in our schools by 2010.  Unfortunately, that same year National Standards were introduced.  As everyone knows there was enormous opposition to these.  The main issue being that they were not national and they were not standard. The fear around national testing, to name just one issue was palpable and justified.  The end result, due to the sheer volume of information and requirements that headed the way of schools and teachers was that the revised curriculum never stood a chance to be fully developed and celebrated for the unique opportunities and the unique and valuable document that it is.

Sir Ken Robinson has spoken for many years about the state of education globally and the dangerous path we're heading down.  One of the saddest things about what he says is that everything he speaks about in terms of what could be possible is what we actually have in our national curriculum - as long as we don everything we can to preserve and protect it.

Read through the first part of the curriculum again and then watch Sir Ken's presentations in relation to the curriculum.  If you're like me, you'll have more than a few 'aha' moments.  We can't let this gem slip through our fingers.

Sir Ken Robinson - Schools Kill Creativity.

What should we be doing? What can we do?  What are our options?  We know that we need to follow government policy but not to the detriment of our passion for learning and teaching and that of our students passion for learning and teaching.
We know all the arguments about the school models that are phenomenally successful - and the ones that aren't.  The ones that we seem to be following, and the ones that we should be following.  While we need to be fighting against these I think we need to be careful that we use our energy positively to also fight to retain what we have now.

So many schools are doing incredible things for the teachers, their students and their communities, but there are also schools who are struggling.  We can't ignore this - we hear and read the conversations all the time.  We need to maintain our positivity and fight tooth and nail to keep the amazing educators we have the absolutely outstanding system we have.

The New Zealand Curriculum, if allowed to flourish in the way it was intended to in 2007 WILL meet the needs of ALL learners.  It's just that it was NEVER GIVEN A CHANCE when the government changed. Was this deliberate?  I don't know...

So What Are We Doing About It? Where to From Here?
Let's do something about it!
We're really interested in creating conversation around the New Zealand Curriculum and returning the focus to what was intended back in 2007.  We want to find ways to support teachers in their schools to remain passionate about what they do so they don't feel swamped and stressed by a profession that they were so excited to become a part of at the beginning of their career.
Please help us start the conversation by completing our short survey. We'd love to start a Twitter chat - at this stage it looks like it will be once a fortnight on a Wednesday from 7.30 - 8.30pm.  If you've never participated in a Twitter chat before, that's not a problem.  Check out the links below to find out more.  Lurking is encourage until you feel confident too.  It's a great place to discuss ideas and get support, and also to create a strong community to encourage change.

New to Twitter?  Try these resources to get started...
EdchatNZ - can't go past our go-to site for help and support.
Getting Started - Why use Twitter for powerful professional learning?  How to get started, etc.

One last word from Sir Ken Robinson...  (Not necessarily a new model - let's just value the one that hasn't had a chance to shine...YET...)

The Need for A New Model in Education


  1. Justine, you have stated the mission so eloquently. I love the point you make about putting our energy into retaining the good that we do have and realising the often untapped potential of our curriculum. Count me in on this journey, I look forward to the conversations.

  2. Thanks Meg. I think we're onto something here and it's so worth fighting for. It makes me sad to read so many posts from teachers who are under so much pressure due to the focus on assessment. We need to turn the tide but in a positive way that puts the focus back where it needs to be. The conversations are going to be challenging and fantastic!

  3. Agree ladies, this post is timely as I see more schools becoming immersed in meeting the National Standards. Good schools have always had benchmarks for achievement and in reality that is all NS are, benchmarks.
    The power of the KCs has been overlooked as we've scrambled to be seen as achieving schools based on what I refer to as Assessment Statues, casting students in marble based on one or two tests or samples. I removed NS talk from my class last term and focused on creating, making and problem solving; when we stepped back and looked at achievement through conferencing every single student had made significant progress. I look forward to robust conversations around the magic of the KCs

  4. The 2007 NZC should have changed learning and teaching very significantly, but the 2011 report showed that few schools and educators have changed their strategies and styles. So in 2015 I wrote a free eBook
    Understanding and implementing the NZ Curriculum.
    In 2016 that eBook was followed by
    Theory and practice of engagement, learning and assessment aligned to the NZC.
    To obtain either or both email
    How many teachers in your school understand the key competencies, the capabilities, or the need for wicked problems? How many know about how to teach Thinking? Or the universal design for learning? How can we manage student learning and assessment effectively and ensure alignment?