Annual Report 2023

The Annual Report 2023 outlines the Ministry’s key achievements over the past year and details progress against long term outcomes and objectives. It includes non-financial performance information and the Ministry’s financial statements.

  • A copy of the full report is available for download, along with the Vote Education Section 19B report in Relation to Non-Departmental appropriations for the year ended 30 June 2023.

Annual Report 2023 and Section 19B report

Introduction from the Secretary for Education

By the beginning of this reporting period many of the most restrictive requirements to manage the COVID-19 pandemic had been lifted. It quickly became apparent that returning to so-called ‘normal’ was unlikely, and that the scarring caused by the pandemic would have a lasting effect on education, as with other parts of society. Regular school attendance fell to an all-time low as children and young people were at home with illnesses (not just COVID-19). Educators were, of course, not immune. Early learning services and schools had to make a range of challenging decisions to manage staff shortages. aggravated by fewer relievers being available, and many having returned to full-time employment while the borders were closed.

During the past year Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga | Ministry of Education (the Ministry) has focused, with the sector, on presence, participation and progress.

Presence, in particular school attendance, received significant investment, including funding directly to schools and communities to support local efforts and solutions to reconnect ākonga (students) with learning. Attendance will continue to be challenging as parents, ākonga and teachers will heed the advice “stay home if you are sick.” Anecdotally, we also know of some young people who are working at night or early mornings to support their families, which interferes with their attendance. From attendance officers we are hearing about a complex range of barriers to attendance that need a family-centred, wrap-around approach to resolve. Responding to these multiple challenges requires effort from our colleagues in health, social development and Police, as well as parents and communities. The creation of Regional Public Service Commissioners convening public service agencies to work on agreed priorities has streamlined working across government.

Getting young people to attend school is a first essential step; having them participate in learning depends on their lived experience when they are there. Teachers and leaders who know their students well, connect with their families, understand and respond to their identity, language and culture, and have inclusive practices, make school the best place to be. There is a groundswell demand for professional development that builds teachers’ capability and capacity to meet the diverse needs of learners. This is evidenced by over-subscription to opportunities such as Te Ahu o te Reo Māori, investment in trauma-informed practice that helps educators manage challenging behaviours, as well as collaboration among teachers and principals on issues of common interest and concern in clusters or more formal kāhui ako.

Presence and participation are needed for ākonga to progress in their learning. Several decades of stagnation in literacy and numeracy, as measured domestically, put the spotlight (exacerbated by COVID-19) on progression against the New Zealand Curriculum (the Curriculum). The Curriculum refresh, Te Marautanga redevelopment and the NCEA Change Programme (interrupted by COVID-19) have been ramped up again during the past year.

All of the changes we need in the education system are implemented by the workforce, so engaging them as we have developed attendance strategies and plans, curriculum content and the NCEA Review has been critical. Inevitably, that means that work is developed iteratively as we put material out to be tested and challenged. This can mean that things take longer. But as the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” The rights and wrongs of what happens in our schools — what gets taught, by whom, and how — are all hotly contested within the profession and beyond, more so than in early childhood services or in the tertiary sector. Such levels of interest are to be welcomed. But while the Ministry of Education cannot please everyone, we do engage very broadly with the profession, young people and experts, as we develop various policies and develop curriculum, resources and development opportunities that are fit for purpose.

I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed, formally or informally, to the development of these major change programmes and who will champion them in the future, to grow both equity and excellence in our system.

While there is a tendency to focus on schools as the compulsory sector, the experiences that children have in early learning services play a critical role in shaping how they will be present, participate and progress in their learning. I am very mindful that the early learning sector has undergone a lot of change and disruption over recent years. I acknowledge the willingness of early learning sector representatives to work with us to identify policies and practices that can help in the short term as well as maintain a commitment to the longer-term needs of the sector.

Within this context, the Ministry itself needs to be fit for purpose to provide both the support and the challenge that our system needs to shift toward equity and excellence. In April 2023, the Ministry made its most significant structural changes in 30 years, implementing the new structure of Te Tāhuhu to support Te Mahau. The powerhouse of Te Mahau is its integrated teams, a mix of inter-disciplinary expertise including schooling, early learning, curriculum and learning support, and drawing on new resources such as Leadership Advisors. Te Mahau is beginning to provide greater frontline support to schools and early learning services, with our wider organisation providing the critical functions and support that enable this.

All of this has been taking place within an increasingly tight fiscal environment. This will continue to provide us with both opportunities and challenges, as we further sharpen our focus and prioritise doing those things that will make the biggest difference to presence, participation and progress.

Thank you to my staff who bring their best selves to work every day and who are committed to improving outcomes for all; those who work with early learning services and with children with additional learning needs; those who provide leadership and curriculum support to the workforce; and those who provide data, resources, technology and property directly into the system. Finally, a very special acknowledgement to our teams in Tai Tokerau | Northland, Tai Rawhiti | Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay and Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland for their remarkable work during and following the floods and cyclone.

Iona Holsted

Te Tumu Whakarae mō te Mātauranga | Secretary for Education

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