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Making decisions - designing your school’s curriculum


Designing your school’s curriculum, applying the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum and your own unique vision by:

  • reviewing current documentation of the school’s curriculum and considering how well this curriculum aligns with your current vision and values and with the The New Zealand Curriculum principles
  • identifying and prioritising changes that will lead to closer alignment as well as empowering students
  • updating the school charter and other relevant documentation and also recording decisions as an action plan
  • planning to evaluate the actions and to continue the process of curriculum design and review.

Key messages

  • Each school shapes its own curriculum, based on the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum.
  • The principles of The New Zealand Curriculum put students at the centre.
  • The principles shape students’ learning.
  • All curriculum in New Zealand schools should be consistent with the eight principle statements.
  • Schools use the principles to plan and review their school curriculum.
  • The community engagement principle emphasises that the curriculum should have meaning for students, connect with their wider lives, and engage the support of their families, whānau, and communities.
  • Schools need to construct a curriculum that is consistent with the principles and they therefore seek the input and support of the students’ families, whānau, and communities. The New Zealand Curriculum invites you to try out new ideas and approaches, building on current best practice.


Welcome the parents and families. Allow time for chat and perhaps offer refreshments.

Suggested approach

Present some current documentation of your school’s curriculum that is worth reviewing and not too long so that it will be relevant and clear to parents as well as teachers.

1. Whole group

Briefly describe the purpose of this workshop: "to review and improve our school’s curriculum, applying the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum and our own unique vision". Remind the group that The New Zealand Curriculum encourages students and their families to have a say in the development of their school’s curriculum.

Read the first two paragraphs of The school curriculum: Design and review, which emphasise that each school should shape the curriculum to suit their particular students and community.

Hand out "A suggested process for curriculum review" so that everyone can see the suggested review process. As a group, discuss the process, revise it if you want to, and decide which parts of the agreed process the group can complete tonight and when (and by whom) the other parts will be addressed.

Summarise any work that the group has already done together on the school’s unique vision and values and on the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum. Display and review the key messages.

Move into small groups, each including both parents and teachers, and provide each group with a part or all of the "current documentation of the school curriculum" that has been selected. Each group could consider a different document, or they could all look at a single important document.

2. Small group (step 1)

Decide how your group will use the principles to review the school’s curriculum as illustrated in your document/s.

You could start by viewing the two diagrams in Update 3, under "Putting students at the centre" and "Embedding the curriculum principles in the school’s culture". Jointly construct a similar diagram relating the principles to the purpose of your document. Then review the document to find where the principles are included. Have the principles and the school’s updated vision statement clearly displayed.

Notice and record any principles that are foundations of this part of the school’s curriculum and identify any of these that are not well addressed and need priority consideration. As a group, discuss what this may mean about the school culture and how important these principles are to all group members. Record thoughts.

Identify and record changes to your document that would lead to better alignment with the curriculum principles and your school vision and would prepare your children better to live in a rapidly changing world. Check that these changes also address Māori enjoying success as Māori, Pasifika education, and students with special needs.

3. Whole group (step 2)

Have each group report back on principles that could be better addressed and suggest changes to existing documents. Record this information on a board that all can see. As a whole group, discuss the issues and decide on priorities for changes.

Identify ways to involve the students in this part of the process, for example, by discussing suggested changes with them at home or in class, sharing their feedback with the wider group, and finding ways to act on it (or to enable the students themselves to act on it).

4. Plan ahead (steps 3–5)

Step 3

Plan to update the documents you have discussed (and, as soon as possible, all other curriculum-related school documents) and to make the updated versions available to the whole school community. This may include placing them in the school foyer, on the school's website, and/or at a further home–school partnership meeting, or another means of communication that has been effective with your school community.

Record an action plan, including in it all the actions that follow from the decisions taken at this workshop. The action plan should say who will take each action and by when. See "Make decisions" for some ideas about developing an action plan within a home–school partnership.

Step 4

Discuss how your school (students, parents and whānau, and teachers) will evaluate the actions and continue the cycle of curriculum design and review. Link the ongoing cycle of curriculum design to the ongoing cycle of teaching as inquiry. The New Zealand Curriculum’s teaching as inquiry approach can be adapted for this planning (see above "Make decisions" – Plan for a flexible and sustainable approach).

Farewell and follow-up steps

Thank the group for coming. This may involve a whakataukī, waiata, or karakia. Remind everyone of the follow-up steps in the action plan. Show appreciation of everyone’s input and commitment to ensuring that your school curriculum brings the principles alive for your students.

Allow time for people to chat and share informally.

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Published on: 01 Apr 2020