Ministerial Advisory Group

Established to review the English and mathematics and statistics learning areas.

The Minister of Education established an independent Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) in December 2023 to review drafts of the refreshed English and maths learning areas in the New Zealand Curriculum.

After considering the initial report from the MAG, the Minister has announced the timeframes for delivery of the national curriculum and the design principles to underpin work to strengthen it so it is knowledge-rich and underpinned by the science of learning.

The Minister was satisfied with the recommendations provided in April, and has determined that the final report referred to in the Terms of Reference for the MAG is no longer required.

Ministerial Advisory Group: Report – March 2024 [PDF, 982 KB]

Terms of reference [PDF, 269 KB]


A brief biography of each of the members is set out below.

Michael Johnston (Chair)  

Michael is a cognitive psychologist with experience in a variety of roles across the education sector. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the New Zealand Initiative where he leads the workstream on education. Michael has held academic positions at the University of Melbourne and Victoria University of Wellington, where he was Associate Dean (Academic) in the Faculty of Education. He has published research on human cognition, literacy acquisition and educational assessment. Prior to his time at Victoria, Michael was the Senior Statistician at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, where he developed technical processes for NCEA, including the grade score marking system for external examinations. He contributed to Ministry of Education policy work for the NCEA literacy and numeracy co-requisites and designed the framework for the Progress and Consistency assessment tool. He is a current member of NZQA’s Technical Overview Group on Assessment. 

Barbara Ala’alatoa (member)  

Barbara is a New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) refresh Coherence Group member for the New Zealand curriculum refresh project. She is the former Principal of Sylvia Park School and is currently an Education Consultant. Prior to this, she worked as a lecturer and senior lecturer at Auckland College of Education and as a primary school teacher. She has also chaired the National Ministerial Leadership and Teaching Quality Workstream and been a member of the National Workforce Policy Advisory Group and National Curriculum Advisory Group which had a real focus on progress and achievement and building leader and teacher capability. She has chaired the Boards of Te Kura (2019 to 2022) and Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (2015 to 2019) and was on the Independent Taskforce on the Review of Tomorrow’s Schools. Her current role is chair of Ako Mātātupu Teach First NZ.   

Christine Braid (member)  

Christine is a facilitator at the Institute of Education, Massey University with expertise in junior reading. She contributed to the New Zealand curriculum refresh specifically on literacy and is currently leading the Literacy@Massey training programme, where she works with teachers across New Zealand to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to significantly improve children’s literacy outcomes. She has a background as a primary school teacher and literacy facilitator, and more recently as an educational researcher in the area of literacy. She was part of the Massey University Early Literacy Research Project and lead facilitator on the Ministry of Education contract for teacher training in TEPiL.  

James Chapman (member)  

James is an Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University.  His research interests include literacy learning difficulties, cognitive-motivational factors associated with low achievement, and learning disabilities Reading Recovery. James is an experienced researcher and university teacher based at Massey University. As well as having over 150 publications in peer-reviewed journals and books on learning disabilities, literacy learning issues, dyslexia/literacy difficulties, and cognitive motivation factors in learning and achievement, James has been an advisor for the University of Canterbury Better Start Literacy Approach research and was a member of the Ministry of Education Literacy Experts Group.     

Melissa Derby (member)  

Melissa is a Senior Lecturer teaching early literacy and human development at the University of Waikato. She is the co-Director of the Early Years Research Centre, hosted by the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research at the University of Waikato. Melissa completed her PhD in Education at the University of Canterbury, and her project was a part of A Better Start National Science Challenge. Her primary area of research is in early literacy, in particular exploring the role of whānau in fostering foundational literacy skills. 

Fiona Ell (member)  

Fiona is an Associate Professor in School of Curriculum Pedagogy, University of Auckland. She is a Lead subject matter expert for the Mathematics and Statistics writing team for the New Zealand curriculum refresh. Fiona was a member of the Royal Society Expert Panel on Mathematics Education from January to July 2021. She undertakes research in the area of mathematics education and prepares teachers to teach primary level mathematics and statistics.   

Gaven Martin (member)  

Gaven is a Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Massey University, and Chair of the New Zealand Mathematical Research Institute. He is the former head of the New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study and chaired the Royal Society Te Apārangi Royal Society Panel 2021 providing advice to the Ministry of Education on refreshing the mathematics and statistics learning area of the New Zealand Curriculum. The Royal Society’s report was titled "Pāngarau Mathematics and Tauanga Statistics in Aotearoa New Zealand".  

Elizabeth Rata (member)  

Professor Elizabeth Rata is a sociologist of education in the School of Critical Studies, Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. She is Director of the Knowledge in Education Research Unit (KERU) and leads the Knowledge Rich School Project which focuses on national curriculum design. 

Audrey Tan (member)  

Audrey is a mathematics educator with more than 20 years' experience helping primary and secondary school students to achieve significantly improved outcomes.  With a deep belief that everyone can learn maths, Audrey has, for many years, advocated a more pragmatic approach to teaching maths in primary schools.  Her professional learning and development for educators in a school setting focuses on effective teaching practices that are supported by the cognitive science of learning to raise both teacher confidence and student achievement. Audrey holds a B.Sc. Honours degree in Mathematics from the University of Canterbury and a Ph.D. in Pure Mathematics from the University of Cambridge.  She was a member of the NCEA Numeracy Subject Expert Group and has contributed to the New Zealand curriculum refresh as a Subject Matter Expert.   

Iain Taylor (member)  

Iain is an experienced Principal and educational leader. For the last 15 years he has led Manurewa Intermediate School as Principal. In this role he has worked to improve student attendance and achievement and was recognised for his service in 2017 as recipient of the Prime Minister’s Supreme Educational Excellence Award. Outside the classroom, Iain has led the New Zealand Principals’ Federation as their president and worked on the ERO Advisory Board.    

Lorraine Taylor (member)  

Lorraine is an experienced Primary School Principal and mentor /coach for other principals. She is currently the principal of Silverstream School Upper Hutt after serving in principal roles in 3 Rotorua primary schools. Lorraine has been involved in Ministry of Education work for a number of years, notably in the development and testing for the Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT).  

Helen Walls (member)  

Helen is a professional learning facilitator and researcher specialising in the teaching of writing, structured literacy, school-wide data analysis, formative assessment and feedback. She has 20 years’ experience working in schools. Helen assists schools to plan effective programmes which are closely aligned with student needs. She is passionate about supporting teachers, sharing evidence-based methods that will engage with every student.

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