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Setting the direction

Setting the direction provides guidance on what should be driving curriculum change at your school. It is a useful section for schools wanting to establish needs and priorities for the curriculum design and review process.

How can you lead change effectively?

Leading change cog.

Changing your school’s curriculum is likely to be a challenging and sometimes messy business. While packaged solutions might seem the easier route, the most meaningful learning outcomes for your students will be achieved when you work collaboratively with your teachers, students, parents, families, whānau, and communities to design a curriculum for your particular needs. Effective leadership is crucial to this process.


Educational Leaders – Leading change
This section on Educational Leaders offers information and ideas for leading change. The following resources might be of particular use for school leaders engaged in curriculum design and review:

Rethinking school-wide self-review: a New Zealand model and application
Cashmere Primary School in Christchurch was already well set up in terms of school development and review processes. Principal Jacqui Duncan used her sabbatical time to think about ways to advance the school's practices of critical school-wide self-review.

Educational leadership in action
14 primary school principals took part in a Ministry of Education-supported initiative that asked them to connect the educational leadership model (ELM) described in Kiwi Leadership for Principals with a project they were implementing in their own schools. This resource gives you a summary of each principal’s change project and a link to the PDF and Word file of the full report.

Educational leaders media gallery
The Ministry of Education’s website for school leadership offers a range of videos to support and inspire principals and middle leaders in the process of curriculum change.

Mangere Central School: leading learning
This school story from the Educational Leaders website looks at how leadership capacity at Mangere Central School in South Auckland has developed and grown through a determined focus on the practices of the school’s middle leaders. The story has been developed as a resource that school Professional Learning Groups (PLGs) can use to reflect on their own practices around raising student achievement. It contains a pecha kucha* (narrated by the teachers of Mangere Central School), a written narrative which examines the school's learning journey, and a series of tools developed by the school and included here for other teachers to adapt. The narrative has been shaped into sections with reflective questions so that PLGs can discuss the points raised.

* Pecha kucha is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each. This format keeps presentations concise and fast-paced.

Secondary middle leaders – Curriculum design and review
This section guides school leaders through the key components of the NZC and offers processes to lead review and set goals. It provides research, discussion tools, and examples to support curriculum change. 

Secondary middle leaders – Leading change
This section supports school leaders in leading a team, and focuses on how to effect change that improves teaching practice and lifts student achievement. It provides research, discussion tools, and examples to inspire effective educational leadership. 

Ruia – Teacher appraisal for Māori learners' success
A resource for principals and other school leaders who want appraisal to lead to deep learning for teachers and to educational success for Māori students.

An effective middle leader is...
In this short film clip, secondary middle leaders talk about the qualities of an effective middle leader.

Key research and publications

Leading from the Middle: Educational Leadership for Middle and Senior Leaders
This publication describes the qualities, practices, and activities middle and senior leaders need to lead in ways that enhance learner outcomes.

School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why Best Evidence Synthesis
The school leadership BES is a synthesis of 134 New Zealand and overseas research studies or reviews. The big finding of this BES is that when school leaders promote and/or participate in effective teacher professional learning this has twice the impact on student outcomes across a school than any other leadership activity.

Kiwi Leadership for Principals
The main purpose of Kiwi Leadership for Principals is to present a model of leadership that reflects the qualities, knowledge, and skills required to lead New Zealand schools from the present to the future. At the heart of the model is a clear focus on how we can work together to improve educational and social outcomes for all our young people.

Supporting school improvement through effective teacher appraisal
In 2013 the Education Review Office (ERO) evaluated the quality of teacher appraisal systems in schools using online surveys of principals and information from 200 school reviews. This report presents the findings of ERO’s evaluation of schools’ approaches to teacher appraisal.

Important messages

Several key messages have emerged from the stories schools have been telling about their journey of curriculum design and review.

Get started and give it time

  • It is important to get started. Reviewing one part of the curriculum invariably leads to thinking about the other parts.
  • There is no single way to review a school’s curriculum.
  • Time is a major consideration. It takes time for teachers to understand the need for change, and to adapt their practices.
  • Curriculum design and review is complex - you won't necessarily find what works best right away.
  • It helps to embed small changes and then build on them.

Build on what you are already doing

  • It helps if you build on what is already happening in the school, for example, professional development learning about ICT or assessment.

Make student achievement a priority

  • Each school will need to keep revisiting its curriculum, asking itself to what extent its intended achievement outcomes for students are being met.
  • Staff need to work collaboratively to determine conditions for learning that could strengthen the impact of the school's programmes and practices.

Examine the messages in the national curriculum

  • The parts of the curriculum all potentially interact with each other. It is important to explore these links when working out what the curriculum will look look like for your students.
  • The curriculum is as much about the 'how' and 'why' of learning as it is about content.

Engage the community

  • Engaging parents, families, whānau, and the wider community helps to establish a collective sense of purpose and direction.

Have strong leadership

  • Strategic leadership is vital. 
  • It is important to think whether school structures are supporting change or are getting in the way.
  • The school’s curriculum, charter, and annual plan should be closely aligned.
Setting the direction cogs. Leading change. Know your community. Know the curriculum. Know your learners.

Important considerations for curriculum design and review

Next – Know your learners 

Published on: 18 Apr 2014