Aotearoa New Zealand Histories going well but not great, reports ERO

ERO’s new report on the progress of the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum finds certain areas lacking.

In early April the Education Review Office (ERO) released a report on the progress of the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum, which became compulsory for years 1 – 10 in 2023.  

The report focused on four key inquiries: what is being taught, what is the impact on students, what is the impact for teachers and what is the impact on parents and whānau.  

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It found that although students are enjoying and engaged with ANZ Histories, teachers have been focused on local Māori history to the detriment of national and global events. The report recommends additional guidance for teachers including a more explicit curriculum and “off-the-shelf” content and exemplars.  

The expectation of engagement with local iwi and hapū was also found to be unrealistic for some schools. Around half have no or otherwise limited engagement with local hapū and iwi due to capacity constraints.  

Assessing student progress is also a challenge, and schools reported being in differing stages of implementation: not all schools are teaching the curriculum at all levels.  

Teachers report being overwhelmed by curriculum design requirements. Photo: AdobeStock by Dmitriy

Teachers reported enjoying the curriculum change and seeing high levels of student engagement. However, they also report feeling overwhelmed at the scale of change required and the time needed to develop local curriculum.  

Parents and whānau say they were largely unaware of changes to the curriculum and little consultation was undertaken. Although they are largely supportive of ANZ histories, they say more global context is needed and sensitivity is required.  

Māori and Pacific students report higher engagement and enjoyment with ANZ Histories, however students of all ethnicities found the content strengthened a “New Zealand” identity. Learning and engagement was heightened when students saw themselves reflected in the content. ERO recommended explicit guidance for teachers to enable a better connection from local context to national and global events.  

“It is important that histories are linked to global contexts and ERO found that students are more than twice as likely to enjoy ANZ Histories when they are learning about New Zealand’s place in the world,” said Ruth Shinoda, head of ERO’s Education Evaluation Centre.  

The ERO also found that schools are currently overtly focused on new content and neglecting teaching key skills such as critical thinking.  

Speaking to RNZ, Education Minister Erica Stanford said that the report on ANZ Histories points to wider issues in the curriculum.  

“We have a very high level, vague, inconsistent curriculum that lacks specificity, lacks detail, and is not all in the same place. This puts a lot of work on teachers to develop their own local curricula… it leaves learning to chance,” said Stanford.  

Erica Stanford says more explicit guidance in the curriculum is needed. AdobeStock by terovesalainen

Stanford said that explicit guidance from the curriculum was needed, which would free-up teachers from needing to learn curriculum design and ensuring they were able to do the job of teaching, such as “adding the magic, the excitement, tailoring the lessons to the kids in front of them.”  

Chris Abercrombie, President of PPTA Te Wehengarua said the ANZ Histories curriculum was a “huge improvement” on previous teaching. However, he said there is a clear need for more support for teachers to ensure “the curriculum content is covered in full. 

“These are momentous changes and they will take time to tweak and improve.”  

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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