Otara School links literacy success to education partnerships

by Ngā Haeata Mātauranga The Annual Report on Māori Education 2007/08


This case study focuses on Wymondley Road School principal Tone Kolose and his school’s experience of boosting the literacy achievement of its mostly Māori and Pasifika learners. School data shows more than 50 per cent of students in years 4 to 6 are writing at or above the national norms – a significant improvement on the previous year.

The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga for Māori-medium education provide the framework for what students need to learn during school to achieve their potential and participate fully in adult life.

Literacy and numeracy skills are the foundation for continuing learning and provide access to other parts of the curriculum. For example, literacy and numeracy are needed to interpret and interrogate scientific concepts.

National and international studies show that some New Zealand students are not developing the literacy and numeracy skills they need during primary school and are not progressing in line with their peers.

There is a high proportion of Māori students, Pasifika students, and students from poorer communities who are not developing these skills. For example, research shows that by the end of year 1, literacy achievement for many Māori children (in English-medium schools) is lower than for any other ethnic group, even when their starting point is similar. However, it also shows that these differences do not necessarily occur if teaching is made more effective through professional development and support.

Other studies also emphasise the importance of effective teaching, showing that when teachers have low expectations of their Māori learners, those learners achieve less than other students after a year at school even when their starting point was similar.

Principals and boards of trustees are responsible for the educational achievement of every student in their school. Teachers need to have the skills and tools to address the needs of every student in developing literacy and numeracy skills and to see this as the key measure of their teaching success.

Students who are behind their peers in literacy and numeracy development on entry to primary school can often catch up when the right support and teaching is provided.

Parents need to know what literacy and numeracy skills their child requires to continue their learning, what the school and teachers are doing to address any issues, and how they, as parents, can provide support. Where students are not achieving, schools need to identify options to better support and engage them.

The findings of the Educational Leadership Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration provide more insight into improving literacy and numeracy outcomes. The research shows large gains in achievement through school and home initiatives that support learning. It shows that bringing family and community knowledge into the classroom and using that knowledge as resource for the school can effectively strengthen teaching, decrease disparities across different curriculum areas, enhance learner identity, and raise achievement.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Education is planning to implement National Standards in literacy and numeracy to describe what every student should be able to do by a particular age or year at school. This will include providing guidance for teachers on rates of progression, so that every student can be assessed and their progress recognised, wherever they are in relation to the standards.

Reflective questions

These questions might guide you as you read the case study.

  • Improving the literacy achievement of Wymondley School students has been an important long-term focus at the decile 1 primary school. School leaders have focused on improving teaching practice and developing strong education partnerships. How could you improve the literacy and numeracy teaching practice of your staff? How could you develop effective education partnerships that are focused on effective literacy and numeracy teaching and learning at your school? What programmes and research could help you achieve this goal, and why?
  • Research shows there are a range of home and school interventions that have been particularly successful for Māori learners. Reading Together (for English-medium schools) is one, and Tatari, Tautoko, Tauawhi (a phonological awareness programme for Māori-medium schools) is another. Identify the support you have available for your Māori learners. Could it be strengthened and improved this year?
  • Tone emphasises the importance of using data to improve teaching practice and upskill, inform, and inspire his education partners. In what ways could your school do the same? Who could help you achieve this goal?

Further reading

National Standards

Strengthening Education in Mangere and Otara (SEMO)

Analysis and Use of Student Achievement Data

Education Counts Māori Education homepage


Ministry of Education (February 2009). Ngā Haeata Mātauranga The Annual Report on Māori Education 2007/08. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

This report starts the process of reporting on Ka Hikitia Managing for Success Māori Education Strategy 2008–2012, which sets out the Ministry’s strategic approach to achieving education success for, and with, Māori.

Tags: Partnerships and networks

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