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High expectations principle

High expectations principle 
"The curriculum supports and empowers all students to learn and achieve personal excellence, regardless of their individual circumstances."

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

  • has high expectations for all students 
  • offers teaching practices and learning opportunities that enable students to meet those expectations
  • recognises students' prior knowledge and skills
  • enables all learners to achieve to their full potential. 
Students putting up their hands.

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The principle of high expectations
This NZC Update supports schools to explore and enact the curriculum principle of high expectations. It provides information, stories, guiding questions and useful links.

Prompt - Mythbuster.

It is important that schools avoid defining high expectations in terms of academic outcomes alone. The New Zealand Curriculum points to a range of outcomes that are valued by our society, including social skills and outcomes related to well-being and cultural identity. Schools should consider how they can develop high expectations that reflect New Zealand’s bicultural foundations and growing cultural diversity.


Ensuring high expectations for all learners
This chart from NZC Update 22 – The principle of high expectations includes statements about high expectations and guiding questions to help you consider what each statement implies for your particular context. The chart, available as a PDF download, can be used in a range of ways: 

  • by your entire school community, including students, parents, families, whānau, and iwi to identify areas of strength and possible next steps 
  • by teachers to generate discussion and classroom actions
  • by school leaders to inform strategic planning.

PDF icon. High expectations chart (PDF, 249 KB)

MASAM spotlight
Use this spotlight to engage in professional learning about Māori achieving success as Māori. Explore what MASAM means to you and work together with your staff to devise ways to be more culturally responsive.  

Growth mindset spotlight
Use this spotlight to explore growth mindset and find strategies to help you build a culture of growth mindset in your own classrooms. Find short videos, group activities, and opportunities for personal reflection.

School stories 

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Clendon Park School – Māori achieving success as Māori
This school snapshot explains what Māori achieving success as Māori looks like at Clendon Park School. 

Papakowhai School – Using the MASAM framework
Papakowhai School use the MASAM self review framework to help ensure they are delivering a culturally responsive curriculum. Principal Mark Smith explains how the framework has supported his school’s journey in enabling Māori students to achieve success as Māori.

McAuley High School – Community problem solving
McAuley High deputy principal Louise Addison shares her own and her students’ experiences with community problem solving and how this links to the high expectations principle. 

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Setting high expectations – Naenae College
Teachers and leaders describe how they set high expectations for Māori students who are engaged in learning opportunities that are relevant and engage them in focusing on the moral dilemmas that affect their environment and community.

Creating a culture of excellence
Alec Solomon, subject specialist leader of physical, health and outdoor education at Albany Senior High School, discusses how he supports students to excel by creating "a culture of excellence".

Developing whānau priorities at Te Kura o Hiruharama
The staff, board, and whānau at Te Kura o Hiruharama worked together to identify their priorities for student achievement. Together they devised a profile of an ideal Hiruharama graduate that encapsulates their aspirations and high expectations.

Striving for personal excellence
Sue Ngarimu-Goldsmith, principal at Te Kura o Hiruharama, explains how a whakataukī was used to inspire the thinking behind the school's mission "Striving for personal excellence". This whakataukī ensures that the principle of high expectations guides curriculum decision making at the school.

Effective pedagogy for our Māori and Pasifika students
Staff at Sylvia Park School view all their students as capable learners and expect excellence. In this film they discuss the strategies they use to lift achievement and accelerate progress for Māori and Pasifika students.

Student goal setting and parent engagement
Goal setting and community workshops are some of the initiatives that have been introduced at Pomaria School to improve educational outcomes for students. This story describes how teachers, parents, and whānau work in partnership to help all students achieve personal excellence.


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How to develop high expectations teaching (online PDF)
This resource outlines the key differences in teaching practices between low expectation and high expectation teachers. It provides helpful, practical teaching strategies to move towards high expectation teaching. 

Māori achieving success as Māori – what’s your community’s vision?
This blog explores the following questions: What does it mean, to enjoy success as Māori? What does it look like and how would we know if it's happening or not?

High expectations in your classroom
This blog examines how the principle of high expectations can be brought to life in the classroom. It presents four practical strategies that teachers can apply to unleash the potential of all students.

Great expectations: Embedding a growth mindset in our school culture
In this blog, Liz Koni shares the highlights of her ten week sabbatical, part of which was looking into building a culture of high expectations and embedding a growth mindset.

Raising the bar with flexible grouping
In this blog, Christine Rubie-Davies challenges the practice of grouping students by ability, arguing that it constrains learning. Instead Christine recommends that teachers use flexible forms of grouping to ensure that all students are challenged and engaged.

The more teachers expect, the bigger the gains
This article by Professor Rubie Davies highlights three things that teachers can do to create a high expectation classroom – use flexible forms of grouping instead of ability groups, foster a positive classroom climate, and set clear learning goals.

The Pygmalion Effect: Communicating high expectations
In this blog, Ben Solomon discusses the Pygmalion Effect – where positive expectations influence student performance positively, and negative expectations influence performance negatively. Ben offers practical ideas for teachers on how to communicate high expectations to all students.

Leading Local Curriculum Guides: Assessment for learning 
This guide focuses on informal assessment for learning in the classroom to inform teaching and learning, including selecting appropriate assessment tools for equitable and positive outcomes for all students. It will support you to review your assessment policies and procedures and can be used for ongoing review.

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Effective teaching for Pasifika students – High expectations
This film clip explores the impact of high expectations on Pasifika students. You can use the set of accompanying questions to help you reflect on high expectations and achievement for Pasifika students at your school.

He Kākano film clip – Setting expectations
Sir Sidney and Lady June Mead embrace a Māori potential approach as they challenge schools and students involved in He Kākano to raise their sights for Māori achievement.

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Assessment Online
Information to help school leaders and teachers in gathering, analysing, interpreting, and using information about students' progress and achievement. The emphasis is on the formative use of assessment to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both respond to the information it provides.

Assessment for learning 
This section of Assessment Online explores assessment for learning practices. At the heart of assessment for learning is the concept that students who truly understand and are involved in their learning will experience accelerated rates of achievement.

Gifted Learners
This website supports schools, teachers, students, and parents in assisting gifted and talented students to reach their full potential academically, emotionally, and socially.

Inclusive Education – Guides for schools
This site provides New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions, and resources to support learners with diverse needs.

Pacific STEAM
Use the resource to encourage students to study Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Maths (STEAM) subjects and carry their ancestors' legacy into the future. Five short videos and downloadable posters that illustrate how Pacific peoples were always scientists, technologists, engineers, artists, and mathematicians.

Teacher Expectation Project
Completed in 2013, the three-year TEP evaluated the effects of raised expectations on student academic and social outcomes.

Updated on: 25 Mar 2020


Support packages are available for all eight curriculum principles: