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Students leaving school better equipped

15 November 2005

Students leaving school better equipped for the future

The latest report-card on New Zealand schools shows students are leaving school better equipped for employment or further education, Education Minister Steve Maharey said today.

The Schools Report 2004 is an annual report on the performance of New Zealand schools, including achievement, quality of schooling and effectiveness of teachers.

Steve Maharey says the report provides a positive endorsement for schools around the country. "The results show students are more likely to leave school with a qualification, and are performing to higher standards than ever before. There have also been solid improvements in standards of literacy and numeracy."

Highlights from the report include:

- The percentage of students leaving school with an NCEA Level 3 qualification or Scholarship, increased by 18.9 percent since 2002

- The percentage of school leavers with low levels of attainment has dropped by 30 percent since 2002

- Literacy and numeracy standards have improved, including a 24 percent improvement in Year 4 oral reading and a 13 percent improvement in Year 8 oral reading since 1996

- Suspension rates have declined - a project which worked with 86 schools with high suspension rates has reduced the number of suspensions by 40 percent since 2000

- The international standing of New Zealand's education system remains high, with students consistently performing at or above the OECD average.

Steve Maharey said the report reinforced the need to ensure every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential. “We are continuing to focus on the factors we know make a difference for all children: effective teaching, engagement of students and the involvement of parents in their children's learning."

"NCEA is clearly having a hugely positive impact on student achievement. As well as better recognising and rewarding achievement, it is encouraging more students to stay at school by giving them the option of completing their qualification over two years."

The report is available on


Key Findings in the NZ Schools 2004 Report

Student Achievement
Results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) show significant improvements in the performance of Year 5 students between 1994 and 2002 in both mathematics and science. Year 5 students now perform at about the international mean in mathematics and significantly above the international mean in science.

TIMSS results show that Year 9 students have maintained their high level of performance, achieving above the international mean in both mathematics and science.

The National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) results for Year 4 students show significant improvements in oral reading, slight improvements in technology and performing music and stable performance in understanding music and reading comprehension.

NEMP results for Year 8 students also show significant improvements in oral reading, stable performance in performing and understanding music and in technology and slight declines in performance in reading comprehension.

At the secondary level, 15-year-olds performed significantly above the international mean in all four areas (reading, mathematical and scientific literacy and problem solving) of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

An increasing proportion of senior secondary students are participating in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), with around 90 percent of all Year 11–13 students attaining at least one credit on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

The proportion of senior secondary students gaining a Level 1, 2 or 3 qualification has increased each year since 2002. In 2004, 61 percent of Year 11 students, 74 percent of Year 12 students and 70 percent of Year 13 students gained an NCEA qualification.

School leaver data shows that students are now less likely to leave school with little or no attainment. In 2004, 13 percent of school leavers left school with little or no attainment compared with 18 percent in 2002.

Students are now more likely to leave school with University Entrance, a Level 3 qualification or Scholarship. In 2004, 32 percent of school leavers left school with these qualifications compared with 27 percent in 2002.

Engaging Students, Families and Communities
NEMP results show that students are generally positive about reading, music and technology. However, Year 8 students are less positive than Year 4 students. This decline in enjoyment of subjects as students get older is also found in TIMSS.

TIMSS shows that New Zealand students have levels of self-confidence in mathematics that are similar or higher than those of their international counterparts and that this has increased since 1994. Students were less likely to report positive attitudes to science, both at the Year 5 and Year 9 level.

Most 15-year-old students feel positive about their teachers, more so than their international counterparts do. Likewise, most students feel positive about working with their peers.

Indicators of engagement with school, including attendance, retention, belonging at school and believing that school has a value, show that around 80 to 90 percent of students are effectively engaged in learning.

A small proportion of students (less than 1 percent in 2004) are either suspended or stood-down from school during the year. The Suspension Reduction Initiative has been successful in helping schools to find alternative ways to re-engage these students in learning.

The Progress in Reading Literacy Study has shown that children with greater levels of educational resources in the home, those who have been engaged in a range of interactive early literacy activities in the home before they begin school and those whose parents hold positive attitudes to reading all have higher mean reading scores than children who have not had the benefit of these experiences.

Effective Teaching

Effective teaching results in students achieving academically, developing socially and gaining positive attitudes to education and learning.
Effective teachers tailor their practice to the learning needs of their students, provide learning environments that are welcoming, caring and linked culturally to the home life of students and ensure that all students have sufficient and effective opportunities to learn.

Professional learning opportunities enable teachers to maintain and develop their teaching skills. In 2004, 90 percent of teachers undertook some form of professional learning, with literacy being the most common area for both primary and secondary teachers.

Quality of Schooling

Boards of trustees are responsible for the governance of schools and, in particular, for establishing the strategic focus and specific student outcome targets. The two most common curriculum areas where schools had student achievement outcome targets during 2004 were languages and mathematics. Eighty-four percent of schools had a target in the language curriculum area (mainly literacy targets), and 54 percent of schools had a target in the mathematics curriculum area (mainly numeracy targets). Less than 5 percent of schools had targets in the other curriculum areas.

The proportion of schools experiencing major governance issues remained small during 2004. Around 3.5 percent of schools were subject to some form of statutory intervention during 2004.

High-quality professional leadership is a critical factor in determining whether schools are effective. During 2004, around 92 percent of new principals took part in the First-time Principals Induction programme, providing focused support and professional development. Around 70 percent of all principals undertook some form of leadership professional development.

During 2004, there were considerable changes to the network of schools as a result of ongoing roll change. Primary rolls continued to decline, while secondary rolls grew in most areas of the country.

Government funding of schools continued to increase in 2004, both in nominal and real terms. The government spent $4162 million during 2004.

Most schools are in a good financial position, with 92 percent of schools having a healthy working capital ratio that would allow them to meet their short-term financial obligations from existing resources.


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