Education Minister Erica Stanford says teachers need better clarity after review into new history curriculum

The latest review into New Zealand's education shows students are being taught more about local history, but less about global events. 

Meanwhile, the Education Minister says teachers need better clarity on curriculum, and how to deliver it. 

The research from the Education Review Office (ERO) found despite the new Aotearoa New Zealand's (ANZ) Histories Curriculum being taught in all schools, not all of its contents are being covered. 

"Teaching New Zealand's histories became a requirement for students in Years 1-10 at the start of last year and schools have been working hard to implement it," Head of ERO's Education Evaluation Centre Ruth Shinoa said.  

"Parents welcome this, with two-thirds of parents seeing learning about New Zealand's histories as being useful for their child's future.

"At the end of last year, we found that three-quarters of schools are teaching it at all year levels and just over half of students enjoy learning about New Zealand's histories."  

However, ERO also found that not all of the content is being taught yet.  

It discovered schools are prioritising local histories rather than national events, and schools are also teaching less about how New Zealand's histories link with global contexts.  

"ERO found that students are more than twice as likely to enjoy ANZ Histories when they are learning about New Zealand's place in the world," Shinoda said.  

The review found teachers are overwhelmed by the scale of the changes needed in the new curriculum.  

Schools are finding developing their curriculum challenging and time-consuming, often struggling to understand what is required and not having the key skills needed.  

"We welcome the work schools are doing to teach New Zealand's histories but recommend that clearer expectations are provided about what needs to be covered to ensure all areas of the curriculum are taught," she said. 

"Teachers and schools also need a more explicit curriculum and more "off the shelf" content that they can use." 

One of ERO's key findings discovered only 62 percent of parents think their child sees themselves represented in their education of history. 

"Some want the learning to include more national events and global histories, as their children are interested in global events and New Zealand should not be seen in a vacuum," the summary read. 

Based on the findings, several lessons were identified to ensure balanced content and to support the implementation of curriculum changes in other learning areas. 

One of the lessons suggests teachers must keep engagement levels high, by teaching about relatable people, places and events. 

"Teachers report positive impacts on student participation, and students from all backgrounds report learning in ANZ Histories helps them connect to "being a New Zealander"," the summary read. 

"Students, especially Māori and Pacific students, enjoy learning ANZ Histories, and teachers and parents and whānau see students are engaged in their learning." 

Another recommends teachers include national and global context in the history being taught. 

"Teachers are often interpreting ANZ Histories as the history of their immediate area, and Māori history. This has led to a lack of focus on the histories of Aotearoa New Zealand more broadly, and the histories of all people who call it home." 

The finding suggests teachers would benefit from getting advice on the benefits of giving more attention to: 

  • Knowledge of history and the social science skills involved 
  • Māori history 
  • The histories of other people who call/have called Aotearoa New Zealand home 
  • The history of their immediate area 
  • The history of Aotearoa New Zealand more broadly 
  • Aotearoa New Zealand's place in the world 
  • Global relationships and connections 

The ERO report confirms that teachers need better clarity on curriculum and how to deliver it, according to Education Minister Erica Stanford. 

"Despite the hard work of teachers, education achievement and attendance have declined significantly in the last few years," she said. 

Stanford said the report into the ANZ Histories curriculum "reinforces that to turn around New Zealand's declining levels of achievement, we need a gold-standard curriculum that provides clear guidance to teachers about what students should be learning each year at school". 

The report found that because schools had been prioritising ANZ Histories, other subjects like geography and economics had been crowded out. 

ERO found teachers had been overwhelmed by the scale of change required, and did not have the skills or time needed to develop bespoke, local curriculum documents. 

 A key finding was that while most schools were teaching some of the new curriculum, many were struggling with being expected to design localised curriculum and linking New Zealand histories to the global context. 

"We need to move away from a postcode lottery where what you learn at school depends on where you live and who your teachers are," she stressed.  

"It is through a nationally developed curriculum that we can ensure all students develop the knowledge and skills they need to successfully gain secondary school qualifications, which lead to better employment and tertiary study options."

She said her expectations for schools to write curriculum documents themselves will be reduced. 

"I have already appointed a Ministerial Advisory Group to review the curriculum for English and Maths, and provide advice on a national curriculum in these areas." 

Stanford said an announcement on a new approach to the Curriculum Refresh programme will be made before the end of April. 

"This will include a clear focus on effective implementation, learnings from ERO reporting, sector feedback and a relentless focus on doing better for our young people."