Leading Transformative Education Reform in New Zealand Schools


The vision of New Zealand’s Ministry of Education is to “lift aspiration, raise educational achievement for every New Zealander”. However, our national statistics show us that this goal remains elusive for many students, particularly those who identify as Māori. In order to both raise the educational achievement of all students, and to reduce the disparity between our Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, we need a comprehensive system of school reform. Over 20 years of research and developments have led to the development of a model of educational reform: ako: critical contexts for reform. Ako is a term in te reo Māori (Māori language) that describes a reciprocal teaching and learning relationship, where educators and students learn from each other. The reform is grounded in a commitment to equity, excellence and belonging for all, and to working towards the twin success trajectories of learning and achieving for the future, and ensuring students’ identity is strong and secure. The three contexts for reform are: cultural relationships for responsive pedagogy; home, school and community collaborations and adaptive expertise driving deliberate professional acts. When school leaders focus coherently on all three contexts, reform and student progress is accelerated.

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  1. 1.

    The title of the Ministry of Education contract was Kia Eke Panuku: Building on Success (see https://kep.org.nz). The initiative was commonly known by the sorterned version Kia Eke Panuku which is used in the remainder of this paper.

  2. 2.

    Kāhui Whakaako formed one of two advisory groups in Kia Eke Panuku, comprising leaders from eight schools. The name establishes this as a group (kāhui) who wish to contribute to and engage in on-going learning (whakaako).

  3. 3.

    Fuller details on the nomination, confirmation and the responses provided by the students are reported on the Poutama Pounamu website: https://poutamapounamu.org.nz/student-voice.

  4. 4.

    ESA is an assessment based on finding information in prose text consisting of skimming and scanning for information and notetaking and organising information.

  5. 5.

    asTTle is an assessment tool, developed to assess students’ achievement and progress in reading, mathematics and writing. The mathematics assessments have been developed primarily for students in years 5–10, but because they test curriculum levels 2–6 they can be used for students in lower and higher year levels.


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Correspondence to Elizabeth Eley.

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Eley, E., Berryman, M. Leading Transformative Education Reform in New Zealand Schools. NZ J Educ Stud 54, 121–137 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40841-018-0122-7

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  • School reform
  • Equity
  • Excellence
  • Belonging