Our brief trip to
New Zealand highlighted some surprises and innovations. The
group highlighted the following interesting comparisons with
the UK education system.
Funding and bench
Schools were significantly
better funded than schools in the UK. Levels of staffing and
resources also seemed to be much higher, though, in general,
this was not the case with ICT. Funding depended on the socio-economic
make-up of the school’s catchment area. This, over a five-year
period, could give a school in a low socio-economic area up
to 200% more funding per year than a school in a high socio-economic
area. All schools we talked to saw this system as fair and equitable.
Decile 10 schools were better able to gain sponsorship and community
funding, which offset this differentiated government funding.
The group’s view was that this was a significant improvement
over the UK system and its reliance on Free School Meals data.
Parents were asked
for (and paid) additional cash contributions in many schools.
These payments covered a range of purposes, e.g., extra materials
for technology, textbooks and writing materials, after school
classes and clubs, specialist computer rooms, and even individual
There was intense
competition for places in some schools. Schools were able to
draw up their own catchment area resulting in an ‘observed’
lottery for places if numbers were too high! This open competition
resulted in some very lavish/ expensive school prospectus and
open enrolment and a lack of LEAs, or any similar support structure
seemed to lead to lack of collaboration across schools, though
a group of decile 10 secondary schools had successfully approached
government for additional funding to challenge disaffection
through a collaborative project.
Teachers) appeared to have greater autonomy in the running of
their school, with flexibility to set curriculum (within agreed
national guidelines) that met the needs of the community. Some
principals were from a business background and seemed more entrepreneurial
in obtaining sponsorship, without the need for City Colleges,
Excellence in Cities, and Education Action Zones, etc. Examples
included top name sports coaching, and excellent sporting facilities
in one school, and excellent ICT/media facilities in another.
Principals and the
Senior Management Teams (SMTs) were well-read and well-informed
about current educational research. Many had taken part in Continuous
Professional Development (CPD) or research experiences which
are being translated into school strategy and practice. The
CPD opportunities were available, and were being taken up, and
with fewer government initiatives and a non-prescriptive national
Curriculum, SMT were more able to pursue their own CPD, with
a resulting benefit to the school.
A key effect of
the larger budget in New Zealand schools was the significant
non-teaching time enjoyed by SMTs, particularly in primary schools.
This led to teams of staff being actively supported with planning,
development, delivery and administration by their SMT team leader.
Another effect of this budget was the use of specialist subject
teachers, e.g., D & T, Music, PE. This gave greater timetabling
flexibility and non-contact time for teachers, enabling them
to meet and plan together with their SMT Team Leader. This resulted
in more confident, knowledgeable and relaxed staff.
Schools had a successful
Performance Management system which, linked to CPD, was valued
by teachers. Its in-depth nature and the time available to non-teaching
SMT to carry it out, made for clear goals and targets for staff,
which was then backed up with appropriate CPD linked into departmental
and school plans. It would seem that the UK’s own emerging system
is based on the NZ model, and one can only hope that UK teachers
will see an equal value in it.
With no LEA’s each
school’s Board of Trustees (Governing Body) appeared to have
greater power and accountability in the running of the school,
to the point that, if following inspection a school was found
to be failing, then its Board would be replaced.
There seemed to
be fewer teacher/ staff meetings than in the UK, and many of
those took place in school time. There was greater emphasis
on meetings being used for joint planning, rather than for information
Given the theme
of the visit and our expectations, we were surprised at the
very limited use of ICT to support literacy, numeracy, etc.,
though there were some notable exceptions, particularly in the
use of multimedia packages. There seemed to be no real government
or local ICT strategy. This left ICT provision and development
down to individual school priorities. The result was that, in
general, in the schools we visited, the use and provision of
ICT was behind the UK.
It was reassuring
to see that, as in UK schools, expertise and confidence in the
use of ICT varied. However in many of the schools visited, a
personal ICT target was included into teachers’ Performance
Where good practice
was seen, then ICT was successfully integrated into teaching
programmes rather than as a discrete ICT lessons, with pupils
showing real independence and innovation in its use.
There was much wider
cultural diversity in schools than we had expected, one school
having 29 nationalities. Together with the high turnover of
Pacific-rim and Asian students, this made ESL provision a major
issue for secondary schools in Auckland.
The value placed
on Maori culture and language was surprising.
There was great
emphasis on sporting achievement. Many primary schools started
each day with at least ten minutes PE. Secondary schools were
proud of the number of All Blacks they had produced, and their
success in local sporting contests.
There was a respect
for teachers and teaching that some of the group felt we were
losing in the UK. This was evident in community support, pupil/
teacher relationships and the whole learning environment.
The New Zealand
National Curriculum was less prescriptive and seemed less compartmentalised
in primary, with greater emphasis on learning goals and basic
cross-curricular skills. Children were given more responsibility,
from an early age, for their own learning and environment. Emphasis
seemed to be placed on managing learning, rather than teaching.
Standards of teaching and the pace of lessons may not have found
favour against Ofsted criteria; however, the surprise for us
all was was that learning was as good as it is in the UK!
In general, pupils
were also more independent learners. There was a greater tolerance
of what would be unacceptable behaviour in the UK which seemed
to be challenged in less disruptive and confrontational ways.
Pupils were asked, not told; those not listening were not asked
to listen but those who were, were praised.
The plans developed
by primary teams with their extensive SMT support were less
detailed. Similarly secondary department schemes lacked the
detail of our own.
The use of pupil
performance data to inform teaching was in its infancy, though
some good use was being made of standardised tests in the partnership
of decile 10 schools.
Teachers were less
stressed than they are in the UK, which is possibly the result
of fewer government changes and initiatives. This led to a more
calm and relaxed teaching environment, backed up by a brighter
school environment, with buildings in a good state of repair
and decoration. Primary and intermediate classroom environments
were lively and vibrant, despite a lack of displays with double/
examples of pupils being used in a support role were: peer tutoring
- sixth formers helping with lessons or mentoring younger pupils;
‘Expert pupils’ in primary who were trained in ICT applications
(or who were already knowledgeable) who then taught other pupils.
Yes, we have used these ideas as well but they had been formalised
in New Zealand.
There was not as
much emphasis placed on Reading Recovery as was expected. It
appears to have been internalised by schools and ran alongside
other schemes and catch up programmes.
Facilities and support
for staff are better than the UK, e.g, business cards, microwaves
and dishwashers in staff rooms, development of resources.
The range of professional
publications, Internet pages and centrally produced teaching
resources were much more in evidence than they are in the UK.
commented on the calmer, less confrontational style they observed
and many want to try out some of these ideas in their own classrooms.
Others have identified ideas for promoting greater independence
through their teaching, and making children more aware of the
learning outcomes involved. Many of the primary teachers have
already undertaken activities with their pupils resulting from
their experiences in New Zealand, or the teaching materials
they brought back.
As the group continues
to disseminate the outcomes of the visit across their schools,
their EAZs , and the LEA, they are becoming clearer and more
articulate about the key outcomes and learning from the visit,
insights into teaching and learning, planning styles, behaviour
strategies, children as independent learners, the integration
of ICT, professionally informed managers.