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Coherence principle

The coherence principle is one of eight principles in The New Zealand Curriculum that provide a foundation for schools' decision making. The coherence principle calls for schools and teachers to deliver a curriculum that:

  • links across and within learning areas
  • provides smooth transitions into school, through school, and beyond
  • offers clear learning pathways and progressions. 

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Transitions: Students at the centre
Staff at the Mt Roskill campus create positive transitions between schools by placing students at the centre of the transition process. You can use the ideas in this video to review how you transition your students into, through, and beyond your school. 

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NZC Update 9 – Effective learning pathways
The case studies in this Update illustrate some of the ways in which teachers plan collaboratively, make links within and across learning areas, and align expectations.

PDF icon. NZC Update 9 (PDF, 2 MB)

Prompt - Mythbuster.

The coherence principle cannot be achieved through the actions of one teacher alone. It requires whole school planning and procedures, and collaboration across schools, to ensure that its three key aspects – connections, transitions, and pathways – are brought to life. 


Student on playground.

Transitions spotlight
This spotlight focuses on transitions, an important component of the coherence principle. It provides videos, questions, group activities, and opportunities for personal reflection to help you ensure positive transitions for your students and their families.

Coherence checklist
The coherence checklist helps schools consider how they use the coherence principle as a foundation of curriculum decision making. There are three sections to the checklist: connections, transitions, and pathways. The checklist is available as a Word document download. By marking the tick boxes, schools will be able to identify where they sit in relation to each statement. 

Word 2007 icon. Coherence checklist (Word 2007, 37 KB)

School stories 

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Howick College – The innovation stream
Learn how teachers at Howick College have adopted a new integrated approach to learning in a mainstream secondary setting.

Fraser High School – Curriculum integration
Teaching and learning has been revitalised at Fraser High School through curriculum integration and the use of authentic contexts. Senior secondary students have worked across learning areas to produce a visual culture magazine. 

WAPA 2020 cluster – STEAM in the junior school 
Teachers involved in the WAPA 2020 cluster support their students to transfer knowledge and skills from a range of learning areas to their STEAM projects. Learning is also linked to the NZC values and key competencies.

Whangarei Girls' High School – Being an enterprise school
Education for enterprise is embedded across all learning areas at Whangarei Girls' High. This ensures a connected curriculum where students can transfer skills, knowledge, and competencies across disciplines, and encounter new learning a number of times and in different contexts. 


The Catlins Area School – Aviation studies
Students at The Catlins Area School are working towards exciting new career opportunities in the aviation industry. A community consultation had seen the need to develop engineering related opportunities for students, so aviation training fitted nicely into this larger picture.


Manurewa Intermediate – MI Graduate Profile
Manurewa Intermediate share how they have developed a Graduate Profile. 

Cobden School – Developing a Graduate Profile to underpin teaching, learning and assessment
This story illustrates how Cobden School has created a Graduate Profile to improve teaching and learning for the students in its community. 

Tomarata School – Developing our leavers’ profile
Learn how the community of Tomarata School has created a school leavers’ profile by exploring and defining what a future oriented learner looks like.

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Cross-curricula and personalised learning
The context of Samoan Independence Day is used across the curriculum to help Pasifika students build on what they know and make connections between learning areas.

Literacy standards and physical education
In this video, Mangere College heads of English and health and PE, Sandy Harris and Nikki Johnson, describe a cross curricular approach to introducing literacy unit standards and gathering naturally occurring evidence across both learning areas.


Engaging whānau through Māori graduation
Growing an educationally powerful partnership with whānau has been a key priority across the Mt Roskill campus. This story explains how the development of Māori graduation ceremonies has led to deeper community connections and growing pride in students' educational journeys.

First steps in transition programme
Associate principal Mark Whitford describes Glen Eden Intermediate’s transition programme and how this approach has built positive relationships with contributing schools, families, and the wider community.

Other transition components
In the second part of the Glen Eden Intermediate series, Mark Whitford details the school’s transition programme from term 4 into the new school year.

Smooth transitions for students with special education needs
Students with special education needs experience positive transitions at the Mt Roskill campus thanks to the collaboration and close relationships between teachers, support staff, therapists, and parents.

Vertical curriculum planning
Sarah Hynds, teacher from Laingholm School, explains how whole-school planning increases collegiality, ensures smooth transitions between curriculum levels, and increases teachers’ understandings of learning progressions.


Leading cross school professional learning
Staff at the Mt Roskill campus are working to provide coherent pathways for their students through the various schools. Learn how they joined forces to ensure smooth transitions and support greater student achievement.

Choosing your own path through NCEA
Kristan Mowat, head of media studies at Logan Park High School, describes how her school empowers students to set goals and make choices. Students can select their learning pathways through flexibility with NCEA internals and externals, and the standards that match their interests and needs.



NZC Update 4 – Literacy, numeracy, and the key competencies across the curriculum (PDF)
This Update, published in December 2010, focuses on the key competencies and the framework they provide for developing knowledge, skills, and attitudes in literacy and numeracy.

PDF icon. NZC update 4 (PDF, 1 MB)

Creating a connected curriculum
In this blog, Celia Fleck explains the importance of making connections in your local curriculum and offers practical suggestions on how you can connect your learners to the health and physical education learning area.

This blog focuses on making connections within and across curriculum learning areas – an action endorsed by the coherence curriculum principle. The blog offers a survey, reflective questions, and stories to help you think about ways that you can build a more connected curriculum at your school and in your classroom.

Building Conceptual Understandings in the Social Sciences – Approaches to Building Conceptual Understandings
This book provides ideas and examples of how teachers can build learners’ understanding of key social sciences concepts at levels 1–5 of the curriculum. It explains how concepts can provide a powerful tool for learning across curriculum areas as students construct networks of connected knowledge around powerful ideas.

Senior social sciences – Connections between subjects
This resource page offers ideas on how to make connections between social sciences and other curriculum areas, and how to help students understand how their learning in senior social studies can connect to their lives outside school.

How are connections made to prior learning and experience?
This tool enables secondary teachers to explore how well they know their students and the learning they are undertaking in other subjects or learning areas.

Assessment Online – Moderation
This section from Assessment Online provides information on the theory of moderation, and practical advice on the ways schools might go about setting up moderation processes to improve consistency of practice.

Deeper learning: Why cross-curricular teaching is essential
In this Edutopia article, Ben Johnson calls for groups of teachers to pool their talents, resources, time, and efforts to maximize coherence, relevance, and connections among learning areas.

The value of generalists
Political and economic commentator Rod Oram talks about the value of generalists in a world of specialism. Rod believes the New Zealand education system contributes to producing successful examples of these: people who can work across a wide range of issues and subjects to bring coherence.


Preparing students to leave school
Preparing for the future is an integral part of the curriculum in years 9–13. This Inclusive Education Guide provides support for teachers to use flexible approaches to personalise the curriculum for students.

Transitions: Managing times of change
Successful transitions are planned and implemented by a collaborative team. The strategies suggested in this Inclusive Education Guide can be applied to any period of transition and setting.

Exploring the connections between the NZC and Te Whāriki – Part 1
In this blog, the first of a two part series, we explore the connections between The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Whāriki to better support children’s learning as they transition from early childhood education into primary school.

Connections between the NZC and Te Whāriki – Part 2
In this blog, the second of a two part series, we continue to investigate the connections between The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Whāriki to better support children’s learning as they transition from early childhood education into primary school.

This blog focuses on transitions, an important component of the coherence principle. It provides questions, resources, tools, practical advice, and stories to help you ensure positive transitions for your students and their families.

NZC Update 24 – Supporting learners in years 7–10
This Update is designed to help schools ensure positive transitions, with continuity and clear direction, for learners in years 7–10.

Evaluation at a Glance: Transitions from Primary to Secondary School (published 10/12/2012)
This national report combines current research with findings from recent ERO reports about students' transitions between and through schools. The report discusses the important pastoral care and learning support processes needed for successful transitions.

Easing the Transition from Primary to Secondary Schooling: Helpful Information for Schools to Consider (published 30/10/2012)
This report is the last in a series of three. Each report presents findings from a Ministry of Education project "A Study of Students' Transition from Primary to Secondary Schooling".

Transitions in early childhood education – Into, within and beyond
Leaders in early childhood education from Canterbury University have prepared seven pieces of thinking on transitions. Each piece is shaped to be a provocation for the reader. Reflective questions for the reader are woven into the text.


NZC Update 9 – Effective learning pathways (PDF)
This Update is designed to help secondary schools review their curriculum to ensure that all students experience effective pathways throughout their learning.

PDF icon. NZC Update 9 (PDF, 2 MB)

The Graduate Profile (PDF)
A Graduate Profile, as described in Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, is a collective vision for student learning that is shaped by whānau, hapū, iwi and kura. This resource explains the why, who, what, and when of Graduate Profiles. 

Career education and guidance in New Zealand schools
Career education and guidance in New Zealand schools offers support to schools on providing effective career education and guidance in years 7 to 13. It outlines a set of career management competencies young people need to develop, and suggests an effective model of career education that can be used.

Youth Guarantee: Vocational Pathways
The Vocational Pathways are a tool that provides a clear framework for vocational options, supports better programme design and careers advice, and improves the links between education and employment.

Career Kete: Dream and Discover
This teachers' guide and student worksheets aid the design and delivery of career learning in years 7–8. Dream and Discover helps students gain awareness of themselves and their futures, and prepare for the move to secondary school.

Career Kete: Explore and compare
This teachers' guide and student worksheets aid the design and delivery of career learning in years 9–10. Explore and Compare helps students make subject choices through a process of learning and career planning.

Secondary Schools: Pathways for future education, training and employment (published 25/06/2013)
This report follows on from ERO’s 2012 report on careers education, Careers Information, Advice, Guidance and Education (CIAGE) in Secondary Schools. This second report investigates how well 74 secondary schools have prepared their students for future opportunities in education, training, and employment.

Ko te Ara Mahi/Your career
These two posters present the concept of "career" in a Māori context. They provide Māori students and their whānau with a way of looking at career development.

The magic of myths – teachers' guide and sample stories
The magic of myths resource gives ideas for using kōrero pūrākau – Māori myths and legends – to connect with students about their future pathways.

Pasifika Dreams
Pasifika Dreams is a resource designed to help Pasifika young people capture their dreams for the future.

Published on: 06 Apr 2020


Support packages are available for all eight curriculum principles: