ERO: Pacific learners disproportionately impacted by Covid-19

New research published by the Education Review Office shows Covid-19 has disproportionately and significantly impacted Pacific learners.

“Pacific communities have experienced higher levels of Covid-19, impacting on their learners. Pacific learners have also faced greater barriers to learning as they were more likely to say they wouldn’t have access to a device to learn from at home,” says ERO Chief Executive and Chief Review Officer Nicholas Pole.

“Pacific learners and communities have been remarkably resilient in facing the challenges of Covid-19. However, we found that Pacific learners were disproportionately impacted. Two thirds of Pacific learners live in Auckland where schools have been closed more than three times the number of days than the rest of the country.

“There is a risk that Covid-19 will have long term impacts on Pacific learners.”

Pole says there are already some concerns about the impact the disruption has had on engagement in education.

“Attendance rates for Pacific learners are falling behind other groups – at the end of November last year attendance for Pacific students was only 47 percent. Our report shows that Pacific learners’ achievement also fell in 2021.

“In addition to this, Pacific learners also told us how the pandemic had continued to impact them in terms of anxiety and being overwhelmed transitioning in and out of lockdowns,” says Pole.

Despite the impact of Covid-19 on education in NZ, Pacific learners’ families, communities, and schools have been outstanding in supporting learners, Pole says. Pacific learners reported feeling supported by the adults in their lives and had people they could talk to if they had wellbeing or learning concerns. They were more likely to say they received extra support from teachers following lockdown and there has also been an increase in Pacific families’ engagement with their children’s learning, according to ERO.

The new research provides examples of ways teachers, schools, and whānau worked to support learners during the pandemic – something that ERO Pule Pasifika Taulea’leausumai, Violet Tu’uga Stevenson says should be celebrated and drawn on.

“We have seen schools implement flexible timetables to help learners manage education and other responsibilities, such as working or helping out at home. We have also seen schools innovate to make culture a visible part of learning, celebrate pride in Pacific cultures, and working to make strong connections with Pacific learners to better understand them.”

“We recommend that schools continue to do these things, along with taking proactive action to prioritise support for Pacific learners. This could include programmes to catch up learning, combined supports for wellbeing, achievement and attendance, and supporting students to continue with their learning while balancing family commitments,” says Tu’uga Stevenson.

But schools can’t do this alone. With evidence of Covid-19 continuing to disproportionately impact Pacific communities, now is the time for action to ensure Pacific learners are not further disadvantaged in the long term, says ERO.

It recommends that education agencies work together to develop a specific response to raise achievement for Pacific learners. This needs to address lost learning, helping those learners who are behind to catch up, and must focus on the essential areas of literacy and numeracy.

ERO says it will also work specifically with those schools where Pacific learners’ progress and achievement has declined to help them to find ways to improve Pacific learner outcomes, exploring and using the good practices in this report.

You can read the full report here: Learning in a Covid-19 World: The Impact of Covid-19 on Pacific Learners | Education Review Office (

ERO has also produced a short summary with the key findings: Learning in a Covid-19 World: The Impact of Covid-19 on Pacific Learners – Summary | Education Review Office (

And a guide for school leaders and how they can support Pacific learners: Learning in a Covid-19 World: A guide for supporting Pacific learners | Education Review Office (

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