New Schools approach: From concept to reality

Published: 18 May 2021
Early learning

ERO’s role is to ensure that New Zealanders can have confidence in our education system. ERO wants every school to be a great school and a great place to learn for every learner. We all acknowledge that schools are busy, complex entities with competing priorities and multiple demands on their time and resources. In order to support schools in this challenge, ERO is adopting a new way of working with the sector.

This is the year that the rubber hits the road - when we move from the concept of the new Schools Operating Model to reality.

What is the new Operating Model?

The new operating model employs a developmental evaluation approach that reflects individual schools’ context, culture and needs. The intention of the approach is to inform decision making and action that grows and evolves school performance. It aims to strengthen the capability of all schools through embedding evaluation in the schools own strategic and annual planning cycle.

The intention is to better support schools in understanding how they are performing, where their strengths lie and those areas where further focus, innovation and effort is required to continue to improve outcomes for all learners. We want to ensure that schools focus their efforts and attention on those things that we know most improve learner outcomes and that the evaluation process is integrally linked with improvement.

An ERO evaluation partner will work alongside each school to gain an informed picture of your school’s context, strengths and priorities for improvement. The intention of this collaborative approach is to use evaluation to inform forward focused planning and action. At the heart of our focus will continue to be equity and the quality of teaching and learning.

It is very much a team approach where ERO’s Evaluation Partner actively involve senior leaders and other key school stakeholders as appropriate in the evaluation process. Through this we want to support schools in strengthening their own internal evaluation capability and to grow their own insights and understanding of the school’s performance. At the end of the evaluation phase evaluation partners will work with schools to identify key priorities going forward and assist in identifying potential sources of advice and guidance where this is appropriate.

Schools with the greatest needs and challenges will have more ERO evaluation support as part of their improvement journey.

Consideration of a school within its wider network and community is woven throughout the new Operating Model, which will also identify opportunities to undertake evaluations at a community level, or across multiple schools to assess their collective impacts.

Over time ERO will increasingly make tools available for schools themselves to undertake assessments of where they are at and where action is most needed. We are beginning this with the redevelopment of the Board Assurance Statement (BAS) and tools which will support your understanding of your performance and practices in relation to the government’s recently released National Education Learning Priorities (NELPs). This New Zealand Council for Education Research’s Teaching and Leadership Practices tool is freely available to schools who wish to examine the effectiveness of leadership and teaching practices within their school context.

The model aims to ensure that parents and communities are well-informed about educational outcomes and the schools improvement pathway. This will form the basis of ERO’s public reporting.

We are listening and learning

Commencing in Term 4 last year, we started our new model with 75 schools from across New Zealand.

This included schools of varying sizes and types, to achieve a cross-section of the New Zealand school system. This year, we have welcomed more schools into the new evaluation approach. You can see a list of all the schools who are currently participating

ERO’s approach will continue to be iterative as all schools are introduced to the new Operating Model, allowing us to learn as we go and gain real-time feedback from schools and our evaluators. Key sector stakeholder groups are working with us to provide feedback on what’s working well and where more refinement is required.

ERO staff continue to work hard around the country to engage with the sector on our new model, to listen and to act on the feedback received.

ERO has also commissioned an external evaluator (Dr Delwyn Goodrick) to look at the new approach. Dr Goodrick is presently surveying schools from the first tranche to capture their feedback on their experiences. The findings from this work will be shared with the sector once completed and will be used to make further improvements in the way we work.

Feedback from the first tranche of schools

We began 2021 with a visit from Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti to one of the schools working alongside us in piloting the new model.

Hillcrest High School has been partnered with ERO Evaluation Partner Neil Harray, who has already made several visits.

“It is a much more positive way of working and developing the relationship,” says Principal Kelvin Whiting. “What all schools want is to do their job better. Having an Evaluation Partner and that longer-term relationship will help to build trust and the partnership. It is the way forward.”

Our Partnership Profile videos feature feedback from Kelvin and other principals.

We are in the waka together

This is a new way of working that demands significant change of us all, and ERO is committed to showing schools that we’re working in a way that helps them achieve better outcomes.

We share a commitment to put the learner at the centre, to equity and excellence in outcomes for all learners, and an understanding that quality education is a right for every New Zealand child and young person.

We are hopeful that the sector sees the opportunity, value and the potential that the new model will deliver, and we look forward to working with you.

Ko te Tamaiti te Pūtake o te Kaupapa: The Child - the Heart of the Matter

For more information, our website contains further resources such as a quick-reference Go-To-Guide and Newsletters for Schools.