Center on International Education Benchmarking

New Zealand: Governance and Accountability

Overview | Instructional SystemsTeacher and Principal Quality
Supporting Equity | Career and Technical Education | Governance and Accountability

Governance System

The Ministry of Education is the main public body in charge of education in New Zealand. It maintains control over policy development and standard setting for the three types of schools in New Zealand:

  • State schools, which are secular, wholly state-funded, and teach the state curriculum (state schools enroll approximately 85% of students);
  • State-integrated schools, also known as “Character Schools,” are former parochial or private schools which now are mostly state-managed, receive the bulk of their funding from the state, and teach the national curriculum, but also are free to teach their own special topics, including religious topics to maintain their ‘special character,’ do not have geographic zones, staff with more flexibility, and charge small attendance fees; (state-integrated schools enroll approximately 10% of students) and,
  • Private schools, which receive small per-student subsidies from the state but otherwise rely on tuition payments and are not accountable for teaching the state curriculum (private schools enroll approximately 5% of students).

In 2011, New Zealand introduced Partnership Schools, which are charter schools that receive state funding but are subject to fewer rules and regulations from the Ministry and can set their own curriculum, qualifications, pay rates for teachers, school hours, etc. As of late 2018 there were 11 Partnership schools in operation. However, in 2018, the government passed legislation which prohibits new Partnership school openings and requires current Parnership schools to either close or begin transitioning into Character Schools.

All schools, including state schools, are given considerable autonomy when it comes to the implementation of evaluation and assessment. Public and state-integrated schools are accountable to multiple entities: their communities, the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office (ERO), the New Zealand Teaching Council and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Private schools are not subject to accountability mechanisms such as the inspectorate system in exchange for the funding they receive.

The Ministry of Education has four regional offices and 16 district offices that are supported by a number of local offices across New Zealand. The Ministry is in charge of overall system monitoring and has the power to intervene in failing schools through an inspectorate system administered by its Educational Review Office. Each School Board is required to set its own student achievement performance targets as measured by teacher-designed tests, and conduct an annual review and self-assessment against the goals it has set for itself.

At the local level, schools are run by individual school boards of trustees, made up of the school principal, a staff representative, and elected parent and community volunteers. Boards of trustees are responsible for making staffing decisions, among others. At the secondary school level, the board must also include a student representative. These boards develop school charters, which are approved by the Minister of Education. The charters set school goals and objectives and establish assessment policies, while also outlining how the school will adhere to the National Education Guidelines. Within the school, the principal is responsible for day-to-day management and for part of the assessment of staff performance.

As part of the sweeping overhaiul of the education system proposed in 2018, the Ministry concluded that many boards of trustees were ill-equipped to perform all of the fiunctions the law required and instead recommended narrowing the role of local boards of trustees and creating regional Education Hubs, independent of the Ministry, that would provide services and support to schools. Each Hub would serve an average of 125 schools and would assume the legal responsibilities now held by boards of trustees, including principal and teacher employment, financial management, and budgeting.

Education Funding

Schools receive funding from the Ministry of Education in the form of teacher salaries and operational grants. Operational funding is calculated on the basis of a school’s student enrollment, year levels offered, socio-economic status of the community, and school location (degree of isolation).

New Zealand uses a decile system to target funding to schools with greater proportions of low-income students. Deciles are a measure of the socio-economic position of a school’s student community relative to other schools throughout the country. For example, decile 1 schools are the 10% of schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities, whereas decile 10 schools are the 10% of schools with the lowest proportion of these students. The lower the school’s decile, the more funding it receives. For more on this policy, see Supporting Equity.

In 2014, New Zealand spent 4.6% of its GDP on primary to post-secondary non-tertiary education expenditures, the fourth highest of all OECD countries. The US spent 3.5%. In 2014, New Zealand spent $10,267 UD per secondary student — less than the U.S.’s $12,995 per student.

While all state schools are ostensibly free to all students, many schools solicit voluntary contributions from parents to supplement government funding, typically adding up to a few hundred dollars a year.

Accountability and Incentive Systems

Schools in New Zealand are held accountable through an inspection system run by the Education Review Office (ERO), an agency of the Ministry of Education. The ERO reviews include an examination of data collected by the Ministry, schools’ self-assessments, and an on-site review that includes meetings with the board of trustees, leadership, teachers, and students. The ERO then produces a report that rates each school against standards for student achievement, student well-being, school governance, leadership, and teacher quality. Based on the review, the ERO places each school in three categories according to how often they will be reviewed: high performing schools are reviewed every four to five years, well-performing schools are reviewed every three years, and poor-performing schools are reviewed on an ongoing basis for the following one to two years.

Since 1997, New Zealand has had a performance management system for all school administrators and teachers. This is run by the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA), which provides uniform standards for teacher and principal performance in primary and secondary schools. Each school’s board of trustees is responsible for monitoring and assessing the school staff, and additionally for providing the staff with support and a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Boards are responsible for hiring, reviewing and terminating staff if the staff cannot perform their jobs appropriately. The Ministry of Education furnishes several awards each year to teachers and administrators who are particularly effective, in categories such as special education.

Support for Low-Performing Schools

The Ministry has the authority to intervene in schools identified as low-performing by the inspection system. The extent of Ministry intervention depends on the performance of the school, and can range from suggesting specialist help to dissolving the school board and appointing a commissioner to take over the school’s charter and operational oversight. Often, the Ministry will appoint a temporary “limited statutory manager” to take over the majority of the board’s duties until the school has sufficiently improved.

A 2016 report by an independent organization, the New Zealand Initiative, found that these interventions produced mixed results. The report found 185 schools (8 percent) were in the ERO’s lowest performance tier, with one-third (65 schools) failing to improve despite government intervention and 20 of those “persistently failing” for more than a decade.

The Investing in Educational Success initiative encourages more cooperation between schools through Communities of Schools that bring teachers and leaders from about 10 schools together to share information and improve their practice. In addition, as part of the 2014 scheme, a group of expert teachers and principals were to work with struggling schools and principals. The government provided $359 million NSD (approximately $260 million USD) over the first four years and $155 million NSD (approximately $112 million USD) a year after that. The funds will cover the salaries of Executive Principals and Expert Teachers who commit to working in struggling schools two to three days a week.

(2016, in equivalent USD converted using PPPs for GDP, by level of education for public institutions only, for all services) Source: OECD Education at a Glance 2019

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