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Bringing the New Zealand Curriculum to life

Throughout 2015, delivery of NZCPLD involved facilitators working collaboratively with school leaders, teachers, students and at times whānau to develop or review their local curriculum. This included 380 teachers and 4384 students from a wide range of diverse learning environments in the North Island. Unpacking a rich, relevant and personalised curriculum can be a multilayered, yet rewarding process, as the 27 schools found out as they engaged with the NZC PLD in 2015.

Selwyn teacher

The project aimed to strengthen the capability of schools, leaders and teachers to achieve continuous improvement that accelerated the progress for all students, and in particular, priority groups of students. The NZC PLD supported leaders and teachers to strengthen the use of data and recognised the importance of teaching as inquiry to help achieve desired learning outcomes for all learners. Through a variety of delivery methodologies, facilitator work collaboratively to:

  • acknowledge what schools were already doing well
  • keep visioning and data at the heart of all decision making
  • model inclusive partnerships with students and whānau.

Who was better off?


Progress in schools was most evident when regular and positive involvement of school leaders in NZC PLD, resulted in:

  • promotion and support of professional learning, PLD plans and regular review of progress towards goals
  • improved capacity to strengthen collaboration that builds teacher capability to improve teaching and learning
  • increased focus on learning-centred relationships with students and whānau
  • shared or distributed leadership is also recognised as a powerful catalyst for sustainable change.

Peter Barker


Through a process of teaching as inquiry, teachers developed a deeper knowledge of differentiation and what this means to meet the needs of all students. Teachers now use a range of data and evidence, including student voice to closely monitor priority learners and plan appropriately for acceleration.


Selwyn learners

A vast majority of schools support improving student achievement through strengthening teaching and learning activities that connect learners to the NZC key competencies in real world contexts. In schools where an authentic, personalised curriculum is evident; there is a strong sense of relationships, identity and culture. Students are given a voice and have a sense of ownership in what and how they learn. One principal, Peter Barker reflects, If you continue to put children at the centre of everything you are doing, you can scale mountains really. Those learning centred relationships…….are absolutely critical.

A clear majority of schools use evidence of achievement for priority learners to set ongoing targets that demonstrate next steps in their learning. An increased number of students understand and are able to articulate these steps in a range of learning contexts. Kura and schools use robust evidence to demonstrate improved engagement for all priority learners, where a clear majority of students (significantly more than half) are able to articulate what they are learning, why they are learning it, how they will know they have learnt it and state their next steps for learning.

Challenges recognised

Selwyn Children 1

Growing leaders is an integral outcome for the project, as is growing teachers as leaders of learning, with a strong expectation around collaboration and shared expertise. Challenges that see schools become minimally effective or ineffective in their ability to implement the NZC, include a lack of understanding about:

  • curriculum
  • true collaboration
  • shared leadership
  • valuing teachers
  • valuing student and whānau voice
  • accelerating progress and achievement of target students.


Selwyn Pou

Selwyn School (Rotorua) is a dual-medium school with 84% Māori on the role. Two years ago we brought you the story of how they developed their Marau ā-kura in, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa at Te Kura o Herewini and now, Principal Peter Barker shares how the whole school community is coming together to bring their vision for learning to life. He shares, What we lacked has been a clear direction for our school but we’ve got that now in terms of our shared vision and NZC support and development we’ve had has been particularly beneficial in terms of putting a structure around that our vision. This includes developing the NZC for English medium learners, partnering with the local community, supporting teachers' individual PLD needs and growing internal leadership - all with support of NZC PLD. As Peter Barker comments, The picture at times had been quite scrambled for us in terms of lots going on, but the support of the NZCPLD has been crucial in tying those loose ends together and providing the framework by which we can continue to move forward. For more on this story, see the trilogy of videos below. 

Financial literacy

Links between learning areas should be explored. This can lead, for example, to units of work or broad programmes designed to develop students’ financial capability, positioning them to make well-informed financial decisions throughout their lives. (Page 39 New Zealand Curriculum). The development of financial capabilities as an integrating principle across essential learning areas are a key focus of the workshops provided by North Island Financial Capability facilitators. School leaders and teachers learn ways in which they can develop future-focussed learning through financial capabilities by embedding these in their school based curriculum. The integration of financial capabilities provides opportunity for strengthened capability to engage with community to review, design and implement their school curriculum reflecting the intent of NZC and the place of Financial Capabilities in classroom programmes.

Ardmore marketing

Where to from here?

Current and future foci within the NZC PLD initiative will see schools being supported to:

  • provide wide-ranging opportunities for collaborative inquiry and the application of new learning in practice
  • build capability and collective capacity in evaluation and inquiry (evidence informed, data driven practices). 
  • establish teacher profiles, so that teachers, see their fundamental role as evaluators and activators of learning. (Hattie, 2012)

On reflection

As a result of the NZC PLD, schools now have a strong focus on culturally responsive pedagogies (including effective use of digital technologies) with an emphasis on growing leadership and teacher capacity (through a process of inquiry) across the school. With a stronger input from students and whānau, schools now plan for and shape effective practice that is best fitted to their learners. Policy documents research and thought-leadership that has helped shape these shifts include:

For more information about New Zealand Curriculum PLD, visit the NZC project page or contact Kay Stevenson.