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Student Achievement Function (SAF)

School-initiated supplementary supports

Design elements

Target for support (strengths and needs)

Student Achievement Function (SAF)
English and Māori-medium SAF practitioners are based within each of the ten regional offices as front line staff to support schools and kura.

Regional Offices work with schools and kura to identify urgent needs. 

SAF Practitioners focus on assisting their schools to raise student achievement and improve their capability in one of five key areas: evaluative, instructional, organisational, cultural and linguistic intelligence and educationally powerful connections with parents, family and whānau.

SAF Practitioners work alongside individual schools and kura through an intensive 26 week programme to address the urgent needs.

Expected outcomes

The SAF practitioner facilitates schools and kura to build their own capability to:

  1. accelerate achievement levels of priority student groups including Māori students, Pasifika students, and students with special education needs
  2. increase their capability in at least one of the five key areas
  3. increase their capability to lead and embed change
  4. implement and continue an inquiry based approach into their performance and to drive sustainable changes within their school and kura
  5. contribute to the Ministry’s Ka Hikitia goal of 85% of all 18 year olds achieving NCEA level 2 by 2017
  6. contribute to the Ministry’s Pasifika Education Plan goal of having 85% of year 1-10 Pasifika students meeting literacy and numeracy expectations, including achieving at or above in national standards (years 1–8)
  7. contribute to the Ministry’s Success for All target of having 80% of schools and kura demonstrating highly inclusive practices by 2014.

Delivery design (who, how long, interactions)

There are SAF practitioners working with approximately 600 schools and kura annually in both English and Māori medium settings.

Schools and kura selected to work with the SAF are done so at the regional level in conjunction with ECP and senior advisors as well as any other relevant stakeholders with Māori, Pasifika, or special education expertise.

The programme was set up in early 2011 and is a permanent part of each regional office..

How will the support contribute to classroom practice (tier 1) and school capability?

The SAF and classroom practice and school capability are in direct correlation. 

The SAF process involves the school and kura leaders in conjunction with the practitioner using an inquiry based model to evaluate their performance in the following five capabilities:

  1. Organisational
  2. Evaluative
  3. Educationally powerful connections with parents, family and whānau 
  4. Instructional
  5. Cultural and linguistic intelligence

Through this process the school or kura, in partnership with the practitioner, will focus on one of these areas of capability and create a plan to implement sustainable change as outlined above.

Each capability has an impact on classroom practice to a greater or lesser degree depending on which capability is chosen to work on. However, teaching as inquiry is fundamental to raising student achievement for our priority student groups.

Fidelity elements (small groups, one on one, timing)

Practitioners work at the individual school or kura level. Within a school or kura the practitioner will have involvement with the Board, senior management team, and change team members who are made up of teachers, community members, iwi, and parents.

Practitioners anticipate working with schools and kura for a 26 week period when a sustainability plan will be developed, which will outline ongoing support. Practitioners will continue to visit to see how schools and kura are progressing with their sustainability plan.

How is support monitored and measured in terms of outcomes?

Accountability and reporting focuses on both long and short term outcomes:

  • The SAF records student achievement data at the beginning and end of the involvement with a school or kura as evidence of shifts in levels of capability and student achievement. This information can then be correlated to show system shift both regionally and nationally.
  • All projects are recorded and monitored through a Management Control System that is able to report on the number of priority students the SAF is working with at an individual, regional, and national level as well as providing a repository for other key information.
  • Nationally, the SAF is held accountable for its progress via the Ka Hikitia, Pasifika Education Plan, and Success for All action plans.

What needs to be sustained?

Schools and kura must carry on using an inquiry-based approach to learning that is centered around ako, and which focuses on the needs of students.

By using an inquiry-based change management approach, school and kura leadership teams are able to carry out their own evaluations on their capability in the five capability areas and work on implementing sustainable change programmes.

Roles and responsibilities for the support

What are the conditions for successful delivery?


  • Expertise in literacy/maths/leadership.
  • Focus on self review and acceleration.


  • Show willingness to increase effective classroom practice (literacy/maths) and effective leadership (literacy/maths, evaluative, organisational and relationship capability).
  • Active participation in all workshops and school based learning.


  • Understand purpose and limitations of programme.
  • Identify schools and kura.
  • Support schools and kura as they enter and leave the programme – to help with coherence with school curriculum and self-review practices, including the charter.

Scope and size 

How many people facilitate/lead the support?

45 practitioners working nationwide with oversight from their Manager Education and Director of Education.

How many teachers/students does the support work with in New Zealand annually?

450 schools/kura per year.

What is the reach of the support in terms of regions (that is, where does it operate)?

The SAF operates nationally through all ten Ministry regions. 

Who funds the support?

Ministry of Education

Who manages the support?

Managers Education in the regions.

How is the support accessed (process)?

Schools and kura are selected through an internal process at regional level 

How is the support or programme described to schools?

As above.

What data is used to support access decision? 

Data obtained from Senior Advisors working in the Regional Offices including student achievement data, charter information, ERO reports.

Monitoring, evaluations and improvement 

What data is provided for system monitoring?

Practitioners must complete a scoping document, have an agreed project management plan and support the change team to develop a change and improvement plan, and sustainability plan.

These documents will describe issues and root causes identified by the change team and include the agreed change and improvement plan. These plans will include a clear monitoring and review process to determine progress against targets and outcomes. 

Has the support been evaluated? When and what are the key findings?

No external evaluation has been carried out to date. This is due to be undertaken in the next 12 months. 

How does the support train its facilitators/teachers (PLD, manuals, tools)?

A practice manual is provided to all staff and training in the tools developed to support the practice methodology is undertaken during initial induction. 

Ongoing training and development is provided for all staff, including monthly regional training sessions, individual development plans, and national training as required. 

How is their effectiveness of facilitators/ teachers monitored?

Projects are monitored for quality of analysis and solutions by lead practitioners. Practitioners’ performance is regularly assessed through the usual performance management processes.

What issues do the sector or support report as issues about delivery and access?

The sector has provided positive feedback to the Ministry about the programme, in particular, the focus on individual students who are not achieving. Some people report that the 26 week timeframe could be extended.  

Updated on: 25 Aug 2014

PLD is changing

Professional Learning And Development (PLD) is changing – What it is focused on, who delivers it, and how schools, kura and CoL can access it.

Initial changes are rolling out now.

Find the latest information about the new PLD system: Education Services – PLD

System of support

Identifying learning needs. Resource selector. Impact of changed practices. Designing learning for school context. Integrated system of support for students. Achievement information triggers response.