Refreshing The New Zealand Curriculum

'The New Zealand Curriculum' is being refreshed to make sure every child experiences success in their learning, and that their progress and achievement is responded to and celebrated.

To create this future, the goals for 'The New Zealand Curriculum' refresh and for teaching and learning are to:

  1. Honour our mutual obligations to and through Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  2. Create curriculum that is inclusive so that all ākonga see themselves, and succeed in their learning
  3. Make sure 'The New Zealand Curriculum' is clear about the learning that matters
  4. Make sure 'The New Zealand Curriculum' is easy to use for teachers.

The refresh will be phased from now until the end of 2025, to help make it more manageable for schools to implement the refreshed curriculum. Schools, ākonga and whānau will be supported through the change.

Due to the current context of COVID-19 there have been updates to the refresh timeline. Find out more about the timeline reset and what it means for the refresh of 'The New Zealand Curriculum' at Schools, kura and early learning given space to build back from COVID-19 - link)

Why we’re refreshing 'The New Zealand Curriculum' 

Watch the video to find out why we’re refreshing 'The New Zealand Curriculum', and the changes you can expect to see.


What's happening and when

During 2021–2025, 'The New Zealand Curriculum' will be refreshed in a phased approach. We’ll make sure our teachers and leaders have the supports they need to successfully implement the updated curriculum.

Download this leaflet for a quick overview [PDF, 1.6 MB] of why and how we’re refreshing 'The New Zealand Curriculum', and the timeline.

Accessible version of the leaflet [DOCX, 20 KB] with a quick overview of why and how we’re refreshing 'The New Zealand Curriculum', and the timeline.

Snapshot of what’s changing

(current 2007 New Zealand Curriculum)
(all parts of 'The New Zealand Curriculum' will updated to reflect the goals of the refresh)
Vision for Young People, purpose, and principles The vision, purpose, principles and will provide a call to action to design responsive local curriculum – to support all ākonga to succeed in their learning.
Learning area statements describe the knowledge and skills that are important to each of the eight learning areas, but they are not consistent or clear about the learning that must be covered. All learning areas will be refreshed and made clear about the learning that matters in a consistent ‘Understand, Know, Do’ framing. This will support schools to design local curriculum and make it easier to integrate learning from across the curriculum.
Learning area statements are not clear how they support the development of Mātauranga Māori, key competencies, literacy, and numeracy. Knowledge derived from Te Ao Māori will sit at the heart of each learning area, along with other knowledge-systems that reflect the cultural uniqueness of Aotearoa New Zealand. Each learning area will contain and be explicit about how it contributes to ākonga development of key competencies, literacy, and numeracy – meaning teachers can focus on teaching, learning and progress for every child.
The curriculum levels are not clear on progression. Each Learning Area has Achievement Objectives but these are not clear on showing progress, are inconsistent in their size and importance, and are therefore difficult to use when designing local curriculum that support ākonga progression. Curriculum levels will be redefined as progressions, and progress outcomes will replace Achievement Objectives.  Progression will be shown as five phases of learning. Each Learning Area will have one progress outcome per phase so that it is easy to see the next focus. 
The guidance section (this includes ‘The School Curriculum Design and Review, Effective Pedagogy) is based on 2007 known best-practice. The guidance will be updated to reflect the goals of The New Zealand Curriculum refresh, using latest evidence, research, and emerging best practice.
Teachers and kaiako use a range of methods to understand, respond to, and provide feedback on each students’ progress and achievement across the curriculum. Schools and kura have flexibility around assessment practices and discretion on the assessment tools they use. The Ministry provides a range of supports for this. To better support learner’s progress and achievement, digital Records of Learning (RoL) for all ākonga are being developed in line with the refresh. These records of learning will be collaboratively generated by ākonga, whānau and teachers. RoL will support teachers more easily respond to the learning needs of young people, recognising their unique identities, aspirations, and achievements. Ongoing focus will be to strengthen assessment tools. The current PLD priority of assessment for learning to support practice will continue.

Learning areas will be refreshed, starting with the inclusion of the new Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories content within the refreshed Social Sciences learning area, ready for schools to use in 2022. English, Mathematics and Statistics will be refreshed in 2022. Science, Technology and The Arts will be refreshed in 2023, then Health and Physical Education and Learning Languages in 2024.

The refreshed curriculum will support the right of all ākonga, including those with disabilities and learning support needs, to experience rich and responsive learning.

All other parts of 'The New Zealand Curriculum' will be refreshed and tested in 2022, including a refreshed Vision for Young People. Mātauranga Māori grounded in te ao Māori, and te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, alongside other knowledge systems that reflect the cultural uniqueness of New Zealand, will be woven throughout. This will uphold our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and help all ākonga to feel valued and see themselves in their learning.

Each refreshed learning area will be explicit in how it contributes to the development of key competencies, literacy and numeracy for learners. They will also include their own purpose statement, link to the updated Vision for Young People, outline the learning that matters (Understand, Know, Do) and what progress in that learning looks like. It will provide teachers and kaiako with clear actions, and help them actively design their local curriculum or marau ā-kura to support all ākonga to succeed in their learning.

The guidance section (which includes ‘The School Curriculum Design and Review, Effective Pedagogy’) will be updated to reflect the goals of the refresh, using the latest evidence, research and emerging best practice.

Understand, Know, Do framing and progressions model

As part of the Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curriculum content, we developed a new learning area structure: “Understand, Know, Do” and have used a progressions model instead of curriculum levels. This ensures that for all ākonga the learning that matters, and how it contributes to the Vision for Young People, is clearly outlined.

The Understand, Know, Do framing and progression model will be used for refreshing all learning areas.

Understand, Know, Do visual which shows the three separate strands woven together to form a single braid, which is labelled ‘the learning that matters’.

Each thread of the Understand, Know, Do framework illustrated above has a separate focus. Teachers design learning experiences that weave these elements together so that student learning is deep and meaningful, creating the learning that matters.

You can read an article about the Understand, Know, Do framing in action at Sylvia Park School, and listen to a podcast by principal Barbara Ala’alatoa.

Understand, Know, Do: a framework to inspire deep and meaningful learning – Education Gazette(external link)

The progression model is the structure used to show progress in the Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories content. We have redefined the current curriculum levels as phases of learning in a progression model.

The progressions model ‘chunks’ the learning so that the progress described in 'The New Zealand Curriculum' is easily seen, and teachers and kaiako have the clarity required to design local-curriculum or marau ā-kura to support the progress of ākonga. The progressions model covers five phases of learning throughout schooling – years 1-3, years 4-6, years 7-8, years 9-10 and years 11-13. Each phase of learning will be supported by resources, including exemplification to show what progress outcomes look like in practice.

The progressions model gives clarity about the direction of learning and the key outcomes that matter across the phases, enabling teachers and kaiako, ākonga and whānau to know what is important through the progression.

The draft curriculum content for Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories shows what changes to 'The New Zealand Curriculum' might look like, including the Understand, Know, Do framing and and progressions model.

Read the Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories content(external link)

See the available supports and resources for Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories(external link)

Transcript: Understand, Know, Do - Sylvia Park NZSL

(The video begins with various exterior shots of Sylvia Park school, basketball courts, kids playing outside, murals, art projects and community gardens. Upbeat music plays.)

Sylvia Park is located in Mount Wellington in Auckland. We've got about 540 kids at the moment, it's big but it's not that big that you don't get to know every single family and every learner in the school.

(A title screen appears reading: The New Zealand Curriculum, Understand, Know, Do framing and progressions model)

(Barbara Ala’alatoa, Principal of Sylvia Park school sits in a classroom and speaks to camera)

‘Understand, Know and Do’ is really the framing for the curriculum refresh.

(An infographic appears of the Understand, Know, Do model. Three separate strands, Understand the big ideas, Know rich contexts for exploring the big ideas and Do practices that bring rigour to learning, all plait together with the title ‘the learning that matters’)

It's quite different from the previous curriculum that we've had. I think one of the things though that it lacked was some structure around the things that are most important and

‘Understand, Know and Do’ provide that structure.

(An infographic appears with three boxes, the first reads ‘Understand, the big ideas’)

‘Understand’ is about the big, enduring ideas that connect students to their learning, it’s these big ideas, these concepts that help ensure that learning is not just important but relevant and necessary for our learners, and not just for them but for their whānau, their friends, their community and beyond.

(On the same infographic, the second box reads ‘Know, Rich contexts for exploring the big ideas’)

Knowledge is really important, no enquiry would be valid without our students acquiring knowledge. In a social science context this knowledge might be related to events, stories, people in the local rohe, hapu, iwi, there’ll be local and regional, national stories that are important to learn about and so that learners have an understanding of the things that have shaped the world in which they live.

(On the same infographic the final box reads ‘Do, Practices that bring rigour to learning)

I’m really excited to see the ‘Do’ part. These are processes by which we ensure that students develop multiple perspectives on a controversial perspective, that they’ve sourced valid and reliable information from a whole range of sources. That they’ve sorted and synthesised ideas, actions or events, that they’ve had to compare and contrast knowledge and ideas, and that they’ve taken action as a result of this rigorous learning that they’ve undertaken.

(Much like the first infographic, the three boxes then form three separate strands that plait together under the title ‘the learning that matters)

‘Understand, Know and Do’, they really weave together, they’re all equally important and it’s when we get that balance right, we know our students have the best chance of being engaged and being engaged in the things that really matter and that are relevant for them, but also at the same time are developing a sense of themselves, the communities they live in and what has been important and what has shaped those places and spaces.

(A title screen appears reading: Progressions model, redefining the current curriculum levels)

One of the really exciting things about the curriculum refresh is that we have looked at progression in a much more child-centred way.

(A new infographic appears with the title: Progressions model, redefining the current curriculum levels. Under this are different age brackets reading years 1-3, 4-6, 7-10, 11-13)

So rather than a kind of year-on-year look at progress throughout a curriculum, it's chunked up now so we look at progression in terms of years one to three, four to six, seven-eight, nine-ten and eleven to thirteen. So we’re matching what we do, that matches their development rather than a kind of year-on-year thing. I think what’s really good about the progressions too is that it will provide for teachers, for people who are in the planning and design part of the curriculum, some clarity about what that will look like, we can’t second guess this stuff anymore. We really need to understand what that looks like at those ages and stages and we need to get expert at doing it so that our children in turn are becoming very expert in it. I think the transparency is hugely important and I think the transparency will be fantastic for not just teachers, for planning and design and implementation around the curriculum. But for whānau, I think you know, our whānau need to be able to walk into a school and say “what does the learning journey look like for my children when they come here?”, if you were coming to this school you’re going to spend eight years here. By the time that they leave in year eight we expect to be able to show you a very sophisticated toolkit that these children have developed as a result of being on a journey about an increasingly sophisticated way of learning.

(A title screen appears reading: Understand, Know, Do framing in practice, examples from Sylvia Park School)

Something that we did when we looked at ‘Understand, Know and Do’ as a staff was to look at what we currently did and we made links between what we currently did and what ‘Understand, Know and Do’ and what was really surprising and really helpful for everybody was to say, ‘oh, we're actually doing quite a bit of it already’. So I think it's really important to start with doing, you know, it's kind of a stock take and a review of what you do and then thinking about what is this truly asking us to do and finding those links and then seeing, so what are the opportunities and the bits that may not be quite there. We did an enquiry that was about, we knew that the centenary of World War I was coming up, so we knew it was going to be a big deal in the communities, we knew there was going to be celebrations everywhere and we also knew that if we said to our kids “we’re going to do World War I centenary, it was a hundred years ago” that most of them would go, “that’s got nothing to do with me”. So the big idea was how would we make that relevant to our children knowing that was going to be relevant in our community, relevant to quite a few people in our community actually. So what we did is we came up with a question, so an enquiring question that children could investigate. So it was ‘keep calm and carry on, how do we deal with conflict?’ And then if you think about the ‘do’ part of it, one of the things that we did because it was a social science enquiry was designing how do you get children to engage in and develop their learning in the context of an enquiry around conflict. So, the idea of coming up with things like a human timeline helps them to develop a set of skills to be able to tell the story but also, it brings them into it and they get to dress up and they get to stand in the shoes of those people and tell the story. But it doesn’t begin and end there, it also goes on, it provides them the platform to talk about, so what do I learn from what I’ve learnt about my own  response to conflict, about what happened in World War I? What can I do now in terms of the way in which I act differently because of what I’ve learnt. They use the platform to be able to say how I will be, somebody who mitigates or supports people through conflict and so they end up taking action as a result of their learning because they’ve engaged in it, and they’ve been down in the trenches.

(Visuals of Sylvia Park School’s values are shown, each value is written on a mural with photos of the students. The values include Ignite, Explore, Sort/Synthesis, Create and Celebrate)

That ‘Understand, Know, Do’, when you put it all together when you make it as big and as exciting as it can possibly be, it will shape your existence, it will create the culture of your school and it will create a culture that is about children, about a community and about what they can do and will do in the future. If we get the ‘Understand, Know and Do’ part right I really think that our kids will be able to, not just survive in the world but to be able to thrive because they're wise, because they're knowledgeable, because they know how to act on the things that are important to them.

(The video ends with a title screen reading: Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga, Ministry of Education)

Rolling out tools, resources and supports for teachers

It’s essential that we make sure teachers have the right tools, support and guidance, and know how to shift curriculum practice to support all ākonga to succeed.

There are a range of initiatives to support teaching and learning in this refresh. They include: 

  • An Online Curriculum hub will replace Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) for English medium, and we’re improving Kauwhata Reo for Māori medium. The refreshed curriculum, alongside new resources for teaching and learning, will be located on the hub. The new hub and other resources will help support boards, teachers and kaiako make sense of the new curriculum and progress models, what learning matters, and how to teach it. It will combine resources from early childhood to senior levels, spanning the entire national curriculum. It also answers the call for a centralised platform with faster, easier access to up-to-date and fit-for-purpose tools, quality curriculum content and support, to deliver more equitable and excellent outcomes for learners. 
  • Records of Learning for 'The New Zealand Curriculum' will help learners, parents, whānau, teachers and boards of trustees to understand each learner’s progress, strengths, and needs. They will also help teachers more easily respond to the learning needs of young people. They will recognise students’ unique identities, reflect their aspirations, and celebrate their achievements. Records of Learning will be collaboratively generated by ākonga, whānau and teachers. The development of the Record of Learning has been aligned to the refresh of 'The New Zealand Curriculum', with the first release planned for 2024. 
  • Curriculum Leads are the Ministry’s frontline introduced in May 2021, and are now available to support leaders and teachers in the use of the national curriculum and to design their marau ā-kura and local curriculum. 
  • Te Ahu o te Reo Māori, is a programme that encourages the education workforce to grow their confidence in using te reo and integrating it into the learning of all ākonga and students. See Te Ahu o te Reo Māori 2021.
  • Literacy & Communication and Maths Strategy, key strategic shifts to strengthen the teaching of literacy and mathematics for ākonga are needed, read more about Literacy & Communication and Maths Strategy announced in March 2022. 
  • Capability building supports, such as new resources, webinars, training modules and tools, leadership guidance, and sets of teaching and learning materials for teachers to help them design rich and meaningful marau ā-kura and local curriculum for all learners to will be created throughout the refresh to support teaching and learning. 
  • Strengthened Networks of Expertise will provide vital support for teachers and leaders. Collaborative inquiry is one of the most powerful ways to influence change and practices that best support teaching and learning. Positive change can come about for individual learners, their communities and at a system level. Read about Networks of Expertise.(external link)

How the refresh will support other changes in Education 

From 2021, as part of the Revised Education Act, school boards are required to have plans, policies and local curriculum that reflect local tikanga, mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori.

Education and Training Act 2020

The work we are doing to refresh 'The New Zealand Curriculum' and support its implementation will help schools to meet this requirement and the requirements of the National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP).

The Statement of National Education and Learning Priorities

Who we’re working with

Since 2019, when Minister Hipkins first signalled the need for change, the Ministry has been working with people from the education sector and wider communities to understand how to make improvements to the national curriculum that will ensure our students succeed. We will draw on this knowledge as well as other expertise to co-design curriculum content at all stages of the refresh and our wider curriculum work programme.

We will be collaborating with a number of groups to work with us on this curriculum change.

Who we’re working with

More information and how to get involved

If you have questions or comments about refreshing 'The New Zealand Curriculum', want to get involved or be updated on opportunities to have a say, email us at

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