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What is curriculum?

Purpose | Welcome | Suggested approach | Farewell


To share key information about the national curriculum and to plan for review, by:

  • considering key information about the curriculum
  • discussing ministry priorities - Māori achievement, Pasifika education, and special needs
  • making connections with what curriculum means to parents and community
  • learning about iwi, hapu and whānau knowledge, expectations, and concerns in relation to the curriculum
  • sharing with parents/community some work they are doing that reflects the intent of the curriculum
  • planning workshops that will enable us to learn about The New Zealand Curriculum/Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and to review the school curriculum together.


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

Adapt your welcome to suit the diverse cultures and needs of your community. People might like to hear an appropriate whakataukī or join in a suitable song or a prayer for achieving the purpose of the workshop.

Ask students to share some of their schoolwork and discuss the different kinds of learning they do at school. Ask students to show how they develop competencies and the ways they use their prior experiences and measure their success. The students might talk about aspirations for the future. Encourage their parents and whānau to ask the students questions and to show appreciation.

You could display the Curriculum vision for young people on a screen.

You could show an inspirational video for example Shift Happens UK or Change is Good... You Go First

Suggested approach

1. Whole group

Briefly describe the purpose of this workshop (to share key information about the national curriculum and to plan how we will review our school curriculum together). Link this purpose to:

  • the community engagement statement on page 9 of The New Zealand Curriculum (maybe display an enlarged version)
  • the school community’s vision for supporting students through community partnerships (if this has been created)
  • any recent requests from parents for curriculum information
  • Ka Hikitia and the concept of Māori achieving success as Māori
  • Pasifika Education Plan
  • Special education needs.

Outline what will happen at this workshop.

Move into small groups, each with one lead parent and one lead teacher.

2. Small groups

Lead parents can use questions as discussion starters. For example:

  • How do you think your child's experience of school is the same or different to your experience of school? Why?
  • What do you think it is important for children to learn at school?
  • What qualities would you like your child to develop at school?
  • Why does curriculum need to change?
  • Who decides what learning (and whose knowledge and expertise) is included and what learning (and whose knowledge and expertise) is left out?

Start from what parents know – elicit their current understandings and beliefs about what the curriculum is and what it is for. The lead teacher records the group’s ideas about what a curriculum is and what it’s for, if appropriate.

Ask group members to share their own experiences of a school curriculum. Conversation starters could include the following questions.

  • Can you remember something you learned at school that was very relevant for you? Something that seemed not at all relevant? Did the relevance make a difference to your learning? If so, how?
  • Can you remember how school learning affirmed (or did not affirm) your cultural background and perspectives?

Share memories in the group. Keep notes of relevant stories.

Ask the group to think about what (and how) they would most like their children to learn at school. Brainstorm what’s important to the group and record their ideas on a chart. Then discuss why these things are so important to them and talk about whether they are or are not taught at the school already.

Analyse the ideas on a chart. You could ask questions like the ones below.

  • Do we want our children to learn information, skills, attitudes, or values or all of these?
  • What kinds of information or skills do we want them to learn?
  • Which attitudes and values? Whose attitudes and values are they?
  • How is “success” defined? Do we have different cultural perspectives on “success”?

Distribute handout A.

Word icon. Handout A: Quotes from the New Zealand Curriculum (Word, 43 KB)

Group members could read the four sentences of quote 1 and discuss them with a partner, bringing any questions back to the group. Ask “Who designs and revises our school’s curriculum?” and clarify that the school itself is responsible (The New Zealand Curriculum is a national statement of policy that provides schools with direction and guidance). But who is “the school”?

Briefly review your school’s community partnerships and/or vision and discuss how home and school work together as a school community.

If necessary, emphasise that research shows the importance of parents and families being active partners within the school community and co-constructing the curriculum.

Revisit the Community engagement statement (quote 2 on handout A). How does the group feel about taking an active role in helping create their school’s curriculum? Record their feedback.

3. Whole group

Lead parents report back to the whole group on:

  • what makes a curriculum and what it’s for
  • memories of what made a difference to their learning (and their ideas about what could have made a difference)
  • what their group would most like their children to learn at school.

Display the key messages where everyone can see them:

Key messages

  • Education is a partnership. Each school shapes its own curriculum to align with the values and expectations of its community as well as with The New Zealand Curriculum.
  • The New Zealand Curriculum is a statement of government policy for schools in the 21st century. It sets the direction and guides schools as they design and review their individual curriculum statements.
  • The New Zealand Curriculum begins with a vision statement describing the kinds of attitudes and qualities that we want to see in young people graduating from our schools.
  • The New Zealand Curriculum sets out some key values to be encouraged, modelled, and explored in all schools. (“The list is neither exhaustive nor exclusive.”)
  • Because every school community is unique, each school emphasises particular attitudes, qualities, and values in particular ways.
  • Every school’s charter should include an up-to-date vision statement for the school.
  • Every school’s vision statement should align with the vision of The New Zealand Curriculum.
  • Each school’s vision statement should also reflect the vision and values that are most important to that school’s community (including the students, the teachers, and the parents).

Word icon. Handout B: Key messages (Word, 40 KB)

Make explicit connections between:

  • the first key message and the group's ideas about what makes a curriculum
  • the second key message and group members’ diverse memories of what helped them to engage in their education and to learn
  • the final key message and what the group members want their children to learn – reinforce the idea that the curriculum document empowers parents to have their say in their school’s curriculum.

Revisit the purpose of this workshop (to share key information about the national curriculum and to plan how we will review our school curriculum together). Tell the group that future workshops may be held to share information about the curriculum and to begin work on reviewing and perhaps transforming the school’s curriculum.

Share your proposed sequence of workshops.

Word icon. Handout C: Suggested topics for curriculum workshops (Word, 32 KB)

Emphasise that it’s not too late to change the focus and that the workshops are flexible.

Gather data

At the end of the workshop, invite group members to reflect on the experience. They could share:

  • their general response to the workshop
  • highlights of the workshop
  • issues or problems that are priorities for them
  • matters that they would like the group or the school to consider.

Keep it short and simple – about 5 minutes is fine.

Teachers could note and discuss anything new they have learned in this workshop about parents’ knowledge, expectations, and concerns in relation to the curriculum.

Farewell and follow-up steps

Thank the group for coming and for sharing. This may involve a whakataukī, waiata, or karakia. Convey a sense of enthusiasm and show appreciation of everyone’s input and commitment.

Reinforce the idea that community and school are partners, in which both partners collaborate to support students’ success at school. To reinforce the idea of co-construction, invite people to volunteer or nominate others who could lead or co-lead aspects of future sessions.

Allow time for people to chat and share informally.

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Published on: 01 Apr 2020