Curriculum Advisory Group

Learn about the Curriculum Advisory Group and its members.

Background of the Curriculum Advisory Group

Following the independent review of Tomorrow’s Schools, the Government agreed to establish a Curriculum Centre within Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga | Ministry of Education, supported by a Curriculum Advisory Group. The Secretary for Education announced that Te Poutāhū | Curriculum Centre would be in place on 4 October 2021. As part of getting ready for Te Poutāhū we called for expressions of interest from people to be a part of a new Curriculum Advisory Group to help us provide strengthened and inclusive curriculum leadership and expertise.

The name of this rōpū is a working title and we will announce their te reo Māori name which encapsulates the priorities and work of the group.

Purpose of the Curriculum Advisory Group

The Curriculum Advisory Group (CAG) is helping to strengthen our national curriculum leadership by providing expert advice on the direction for the curriculum work programme.

They will take a strategic view across the collective impact of the curriculum work programme and provide us with advice about how learners, ākonga and educators experience Aotearoa’s curriculum system.

The CAG will draw on innovative research and on-the-ground knowledge, bringing diverse voices from across the education system into the curriculum work programme to strengthen our focus on:

  • equitable outcomes for all ākonga and their whānau
  • giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • the rights of the child.

The CAG’s advice represents the interests of all parts of the education system from early learning to senior secondary (including NCEA) in both Māori and English-medium. They won’t do this alone, however, and will work with our other advisory and reference groups who are already working hard across a range of pathways and curriculum priorities. These groups will support the formulation of the CAG’s advice as well as offer the sector and wider communities’ opportunities to engage deeply in the curriculum work programme.

Getting this right will ensure our National Curriculum meets the needs of all learners and ākonga across the breadth of the education system (from early learning to senior secondary schooling, in both Māori and English-medium).

Selecting the Curriculum Advisory Group

It is essential that the CAG brings knowledge, expertise and mana to this mahi and we would like to share with you some of the criteria which helped us to identify and select our expert CAG members.

We know the CAG, as a collective, needs knowledge, expertise and experience across the breadth of education pathways. Our priorities were deep knowledge of:

  • Te Marautanga o Aotearoa
  • The New Zealand Curriculum
  • Te Whāriki
  • Te Whāriki a te Kōhanga Reo
  • Mātauranga and te ao Māori
  • Te Reo Māori
  • Lived experience of curriculum ‘in action’
  • Ākonga Māori in English-medium settings
  • Inclusive education (including for learners with additional needs)
  • Te Tamaiti Hei Raukura
  • Pacific education.

This is a broad and varied set of qualifications. This means we have looked for candidates who brought cross-system expertise (i.e. knowledge of several of these priority areas) or candidates who had cross-medium expertise. We hope this will help the CAG come together as a cohesive and collaborative collective, focused on the strategic direction of the entire curriculum system.

We are pleased to have assembled a group who have a mix of proven experience and others growing their skills. This balance will help us bring fresh ideas and continue to develop curriculum leaders of tomorrow.

Our members have proven track records of collaborative leadership. This means our team have the skills and experience to work together to elevate all voices across the curriculum system.

Meet the Curriculum Advisory Group

Curriculum Advisory Group

Sarah Martin


 Sarah Martin in front of a buildingSarah Martin is the Foundation Principal of Stonefields School, Auckland. With over 20 years’ experience she is a collaborative and forward-thinking educator who has a real commitment towards equity and improving outcomes for all learners. She has held several different leadership roles including leading a kāhui ako and more recently chairing the Cognition Education Trust. She has much advisory experience, most notably as a member of the Ministry’s Curriculum, Progress and Achievement Ministerial Advisory Group. She is motivated about the important work of the CAG to ensure children are engaged in a curriculum that is worth learning, future oriented and enables children to thrive. Her fresh approach to curriculum and strategic thinking made her the ideal candidate to lead this group in its important mahi going forward.

Alexandra Gunn

Alexandra GunnAlexandra Gunn is an associate professor of education with particular expertise in early childhood education, inclusive education, teacher education and assessment at the University of Otago. She began her career as a teacher in not-for-profit and community based early childhood settings with children aged between birth and school-age. Over time her interests in the broader education system have given shape to her research and teaching. Alex was a member of the Ministerial Advisory Group for the Early Learning Action Plan and has provided us with extensive advice on early learning education policy. We were thoroughly impressed with Alex’s sector knowledge and fresh insights on early learning curriculum, as well as her knowledge of inclusive education.

Amanda Picken

Amanda PickenAmanda Picken is the Deputy Principal of Wellington East Girls’ College and comes to the CAG as a respected school leader and school curriculum pathway lead. Amanda brings a deep understanding of pathways through schooling with a curriculum view on vocational education. Amanda comes with 20 years’ experience working as a teacher, school senior leadership and in the education advisory space. This broad experience has allowed Amanda to develop a holistic view across the educational sector. She is a strong champion of secondary education and equity of success in education for all learners. In joining the CAG, Amanda hopes to be able to contribute her experience and knowledge of curriculum implementation and to work with people from all sectors of education to provide a strategic approach for curriculum design and implementation at a national level. 

Āwhina Gray

(Ngāti Wehiwehi, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Manawa, Ngā Puhi)

Āwhina GrayĀwhina Gray has taught in the primary, intermediate, secondary and tertiary sectors. She continues to tutor part-time at Te Wānanga o Raukawa, a position she has held since 1995.
She has been involved with NCEA since its inception and is currently panel lead for NCEA Hauora i roto i Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. She is Director of Gray and Gray Associates and has been involved in a variety of Ministry of Education initiatives in both long and short term projects, including professional development for Māori teachers. Āwhina is currently a
member of the Rōpū Whāiti, an advisory group responsible for guiding the design of the refresh of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.
The opportunity to contribute to the thinking about curriculum design and development in Aotearoa is Āwhina’s motivation for joining the CAG.

Charles Rolleston

(Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa)

Charles RollestonCharles Rolleston is the Kaihautū Māori at Evaluation Associates | Te Huinga Kākākura Mātauranga, a professional learning and development provider. Charles comes with 18 years’ experience in leadership and advisory roles at the Education Review Office, Ministry of Education, Institute of Professional Learning (University of Waikato) and CORE Education. His current work focuses on honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, organisational change, curriculum, assessment, and impact on the equitable outcomes for ākonga. He is deeply committed to drawing from his professional experiences in both Māori and English medium settings to support the refresh of our national curriculum.

Claire Sinnema

Claire SinnemaClaire Sinnema is an Associate Professor at The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. Claire’s research and advisory work (including in New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, Norway, and Croatia) focuses on educational improvement and, in particular, the design and evaluation of curriculum policies and the realisation of those policies in practice. She is an experienced contributor to reference and advisory groups for national education agencies in New Zealand and beyond, including the OECD. She was appointed to the New Zealand Government's Ministerial Advisory Group on Curriculum, Progress and Achievement (2018-) and served on the Welsh Government's Curriculum and Assessment Group (2019-). Before pursuing her academic career, Claire was a primary school teacher and Deputy Principal. Claire looks forward to working with others in, or connected to, the Curriculum Advisory Group at this exciting time for curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand.

David Taufui Mikato Fa’avae

(Tongan and Samoan ancestry, born in Niue and raised in Aotearoa New Zealand)

David Taufui Mikato Fa’avaeDavid Taufui Mikato Fa’avae is the son of Sio Milemoti and Fatai Onevai Fa’avae. David is a Pacific Education Lecturer at Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato. David's research and writing focuses on the complexities associated with the implementation of Indigenous methodologies and methods in dominant research contexts. As a former secondary school teacher in South Auckland and an experienced teacher educator in Aotearoa and the Pacific, he brings sound understanding to exploring how the New Zealand Curriculum and the Initial Teacher Education (ITE) space can capture the lives and languages of Pacific learners that ensure communities thrive and flourish. David also brings leadership experience to the CAG from his time as a member of various professional societies, including the NZ Teachers Council’s Pacific Steering Group, the regional Network of Pacific Educators (NOPE), and the OCIES New and Emerging Researchers Forum Committee.

Donovan Te Ahunui Farnham

Donovan Te Ahunui FarnhamDonovan Te Ahunui Farnham is a te reo Māori teacher, consultant and a strategic leader in Māori-medium education. His education was through the medium of te reo Māori, from kōhanga reo through to university. Donovan is an alumnus of The University of Auckland (Bachelor of Education: Huarahi Māori Specialisation) and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (Te Panekiretanga o te Reo). He is also a licensed interpreter and translator of the Māori language (Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori | Māori Language Commission).

Erana Haerewa

Erana HaerewaErana Haerewa is the Curriculum Manager of Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti, a full immersion te reo Māori early learning centre in Kaiti, Gisborne. Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti won the prestigious Prime Minister’s award in 2016 for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, proudly presenting a diverse curriculum that celebrates her Ngāti Porou iwi taonga tuku iho. Erana and her team are guided by the vision of Tā Apirana Ngata which is embedded and founded upon E tipu e rea mo nga ra o to ao. She holds vast experience in curriculum design, particularly the development of localised curriculum for Māori. Erana is motivated to provide equitable learning opportunities to all Māori tamariki. She also helps to design curriculum for her mokopuna who attend Kohanga Reo in Te Whānau-a Apanui.

Heather McRae

Heather McRaeHeather McRae is the Principal of Auckland Diocesan School for Girls. She is an experienced leader across a range of year levels. She was principal of Pakuranga College and was previously Director of Curriculum and High School Principal at the Western Academy of Beijing. Heather brings international experience of curricula, having led developments at a range of international schools and been involved in the oversight of several education projects throughout the world. Heather is passionate about a living and evolving curriculum design that incorporates the past, present and future of learning to create a deep belonging to heritage and culture as well as international mindedness. Heather brings much leadership to the CAG as the immediate past President of the Executive of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools (AHIS) and former Chairperson of the Executive Board of the Independent Schools of New Zealand (ISNZ).

Lesley Rameka

Lesley RamekaLesley Rameka is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Waikato’s Division of Education. Lesley has worked in early childhood education for over thirty-five years, beginning in te kohanga reo before moving into academia. Lesley’s cutting-edge research is committed to supporting Māori educational success and achievement. Her research interests include: Māori early childhood education, Kaupapa Māori Assessment, Curriculum development, Māori pedagogies, Māori and Pacific Infant and Toddler provision in ECE, utilising traditional Maori knowledge to support ecological sustainability. Lesley brings a wealth of early childhood education knowledge and advisory experience to the group, and is a proven problem-solver.

Melini Fasavalu

Melini FasavaluMelini Fasavalu is the Principal of Waimahia Intermediate School, Auckland. Melini holds over 25 years of teaching and leading in South Auckland schools, with a big focus on inclusive education. Impressively, Melini was awarded the Fowlds Memorial Prize for the top master’s thesis at the University of Auckland’s Master of Educational Leadership programme. Like Sarah, Melini is also a member of the Cognition Education Trust.

Tahau Thompson 

(Ngaati Hauaa / Ngaati Paaoa) 

Tahau ThompsonTahau Thompson is the leader of curriculum – Te Pane o Te Tari Reo Māori at St Paul’s Collegiate, Hamilton. In this role, Tahau is responsible for the school’s curriculum management, Māori achievement, professional development and Te Pou Tikanga. Tahau is a transformational leader within mainstream schools progressing Kaupapa and mātauranga Māori. He also brings experience from several trusts and boards and was a Teach NZ Change of Career scholarship recipient and is a graduate of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo.

Virginia Crawford

Virginia CrawfordVirginia Crawford is the principal of Fraser High School, Hamilton. She is an experienced educator and was formerly the lead principal for the Māori-medium, immersion and
dual-medium He Waka Eke Noa Kāhui Ako. In her role
as a high school principal, Virginia works closely with
local iwi to provide educational partnership opportunities for Waikato principals. This initiative helps local school leaders
better understand how to lead in an authentic partnership with Māori, giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Virginia believes
in the transformative power of education and wants to contribute towards a tikanga which advances culturally responsive
systems of learning, teaching programme planning, assessment, and implementation.

Further information

We will provide updates on the mahi of the group as it evolves. 

In the CAG’s ongoing role as advisors, and to avoid placing too much pressure on individual members we expect there will be times when we are required to refresh CAG membership. 

We will advise any opportunities which may become available. 

If you have questions about the Curriculum Advisory Group, email

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