Part 4: Improving how information is used

Education for Māori: Using information to improve Māori educational success.

In this Part, we discuss:


The education sector recognises that it has much to do. It is going through a transition in how it views and uses information.

A planned and more joined-up approach is needed to support the better use of information. To put those plans into effect, there needs to be strong leadership. This includes leadership in schools to set goals and targets for Māori student achievement.

Capability and capacity to use information better will also need to be enhanced.

The education sector needs to have a clear understanding of how to use hard and soft information together to better support the goals of Ka Hikitia.

The education sector will need to ensure that it builds its collaborative arrangements to improve the sharing of practices and information, and also to take the opportunities presented by a unique student identifier.

The scale of the problem

The education system is made up of many people and organisations that collect, process, create, distribute, and use information. Overall, this system supports most students to be successful, and more students are becoming successful each year.

However, many students do not achieve success – and a disproportionate number are Māori.

Factors that need strengthening to use information better

We identified two significant factors that contribute to the education system using information better. They are:

  • education sector leadership and school leadership; and
  • capability and capacity to use information to make decisions.

Providing leadership about the use of information

Improvements need to be driven by a clear understanding throughout the education sector of how using performance and other information supports the goals of Ka Hikitia. Leadership at all levels is needed to improve the collection, quality, and active use of hard and soft information.

This challenge includes improving the accessibility of information and sharing information throughout the education system for the specific purpose of improving Māori student achievement. This means improving:

  • the range of information;
  • the systems used to collect and analyse the information; and
  • guidance provided to schools on how to consistently collect and use information.

To help overcome these challenges, an identifiable and joined-up strategic and planned approach is needed. This is important for managing and using information throughout New Zealand's highly devolved education system.

The Ministry, ERO, NZQA, and Careers New Zealand have their own strategic commitments to improving Māori student achievement. Using information plays a part in each of their strategies. However, we could not find a joined-up strategy or plan about how these agencies would share and use information together. Nor could we find a strategy or plan that showed how these agencies and schools would share and use information to improve Māori student achievement.

In our view, managing information throughout the education system would be improved by a planned approach that:

  • ensures that information is properly cared for and valued;
  • provides clarity, direction, and shared goals about the purpose of collecting information;
  • provides clear responsibility and accountability for the ownership, security, quality, management, and sharing of information; and
  • enables more consistent, effective, and efficient use of information to make a difference for Māori students.

Showing leadership on the use of information in schools

The National Administration Guidelines require each school to convey to its community its plans and targets for improving the performance of Māori students.12 It is reasonable then to expect that school charters would contain these plans and targets. As part of our audit work, we looked at 553 school charters to find out whether they had achievement targets for Māori. Of these charters, 23% had no achievement targets for Māori students.

Schools that had low proportions of Māori students on their roll tended to not have identifiable targets and goals for improving Māori student outcomes in their charter.

Having a small proportion of Māori students on a school roll or knowing that those students are doing as well as other students is not a substitute for seeking ways to continually improve Māori student achievement.

Figure 18 shows that there are also strong regional differences in the proportion of schools that do and do not have identifiable targets and goals for improving Māori student outcomes in their school charters.

Figure 18
Schools with targets and goals in their charters to improve Māori student outcomes, by region, 2014

Figure 18 - Schools with targets and goals in their charters to improve Māori student outcomes, by region, 2014.

Source: Our analysis of school charters.

In the same review of school charters, we looked for whether schools had plans to improve staff knowledge about Māori students. Figure 19 shows that schools that set targets and goals for Māori students tended to have plans to increase staff knowledge about Māori students.

Figure 19
Relationship in school charters between setting goals and targets and a focus on increasing staff knowledge, 2014

Plans to increase staff knowledge about Māori students
Goals and targets for improving Māori achievementNoYesTotal
No 12% 11% 23%
Yes 14% 63% 77%
Total 26% 74% 100%

Source: Our analysis of school charters.

We looked at school charters to see whether they contained five actions we had identified that aim to improve student achievement and relationships with whānau. We found wide variation between regions. Figure 20 shows this, using information from two contrasting regions.

Figure 20
Actions in school charters that aim to improve Māori student achievement and relationships with whānau in two regions

Actions in school charters that aim to improve Māori student achievement and relationships with whānau in two regions.

Source: Our analysis of school charters.

Some of the schools we visited set separate achievement targets for Māori students, and others did not. In our view, some improvement in strategic leadership in schools is still required.

Improving the capability and capacity to use information

During our visits, we asked schools about the analysis and reporting they did about Māori achievement. The amount and sophistication of analysis and reporting varied widely. In our view, the different levels of ability to use information reflected the different organisational cultures, time available, and skill set.

We have summarised three main features of analysis and reporting that we saw at the better-performing schools we visited. They are:

  • Leading from the top helps – School leadership and the boards of trustees at better-performing schools actively use information about student achievement. We found considerable variability in the extent to which school boards of trustees actively use information to progress the objectives of Ka Hikitia. In some schools, boards do not use information at all. In our view, it is difficult to build and practice a culture of actively using information if it is not led from the top.
  • More detailed analysis of achievement information within the school – Better-performing schools analyse in detail the achievement of different groupings of students, whether by year, gender, ethnicity, learning needs, or level of transience.
  • One size does not fit all – Better-performing schools focus on individual students in terms of goal setting and teaching practice. As one interviewee said, being specific to an individual student, "One size fits one."

Figure 21 lists some of the types of analysis and reporting that helped schools to focus on improving Māori student achievement.

The education sector's capability to use information effectively needs to improve. During our audit, people told us that:

  • We are still learning to use data, and understand it. Quite a shift (staff member of Wellington-based agency).
  • Many of us don't know what question we should be asking, to get the right data, to answer the right questions (staff member of Wellington-based agency).
  • Schools struggle to identify what data they have and what to do with it (an adviser to schools).
  • Teachers are only starting to understand data use (school principal).

Figure 21
Examples of analysis and reporting of Māori educational success in schools we visited

Analysis and reporting to the board of trustees
  • Frequent reports to the board of trustees on "targeted children's progress".
  • Periodic reporting to the board of trustees about the progress of high-risk students.
  • The board of trustees uses information about educational success to set key performance indicators and vision.
  • Summary report of school-wide achievement is produced three times a year. The report compares Māori and non-Māori achievement. The report is provided to the board of trustees.
Analysis and reporting by defined student groups
  • Tracking of the progress of students with high needs or specific learning needs with an individual form that records the interventions made for those students and the effect of those interventions for each student.
  • Segmentation of students into cohorts and then analysis of the relative changes in achievement for each cohort between years.
  • Class-by-class comparison of progress against a Māori achievement plan using assessment information.
  • Reporting on each year group's progress (for years 1 to 6) against the school's te reo objectives for each year group.
  • Weekly review of achievement data for specific student cohorts.
  • Trend analysis of achievement by different ethnic groups.
  • Summary report of school-wide achievement produced three times a year. The report compares Māori and non-Māori achievement. The report is used by senior teaching staff.
Analysis and reporting at the individual student level
  • Principal reviews summary of student achievement after five-week targeted exercise that results in the principal working with individual teachers to question teaching practice and what can be improved.
  • Statistical information used to identify priority learners and their potential learning needs.
  • Teachers review student achievement information daily and weekly.
  • Individual student learning plans with achievement targets informed by a student's performance in the previous year. Student progress against the plans is reviewed each term.
  • Summary report of school-wide achievement produced three times a year. The report compares Māori and non-Māori achievement. The report is used by senior teaching staff and is provided to the board of trustees.
  • Periodic review of achievement at a subject departmental level.

Source: Our school visits.

The education sector understands that its capacity to use and act on the information needs to improve. Schools prioritise their time and effort on fundamental issues such as the welfare and safety of children. In some schools, this can consume a lot of time, including senior leaders' time.

Māori student achievement varies between similar types of school. Not every school needs to respond equally to improve its leadership or raise its capacity and capability to use information. Those schools that perform less well should be a clear priority for receiving support and assistance to improve their leadership and information practices.

Improvements under way

Improvements are starting to happen. The education sector, led by the Ministry, understands the importance of good quality information to inform its decision-making. Although there is much to do, the sector is going through a transition in how it views and uses information. We have seen positive examples that support this change in approach.

We have seen such examples throughout the education sector:

  • In its Statement of Intent, the Ministry said that improving the range and use of achievement information is one of its main outcomes.
  • The Ministry is leading a project to improve student management systems and how they share data.
  • Careers New Zealand has been redeveloping its engagement with young Māori, with a special focus on improving the flow and quality of information.
  • The Ministry has strengthened its quality assurance processes for policy development so that it uses the best available information from throughout the Ministry.
  • Initiatives (for example, Communities of Learning) in the school education system provide support and professional development to grow the capability and competencies to use information effectively.

We have not seen evidence of how the examples above and other initiatives contribute to a joined-up and strategic approach that transforms how information is collected, used, and shared within the Ministry and throughout the education sector. It is important that the Ministry ensures a joined-up approach to developing its use of information.

To encourage the sharing of information, the Ministry and agencies are working together through a mix of formal and informal arrangements. This will establish what information the education sector has, what can be shared, and how that can be done appropriately.

People spoke with enthusiasm about the meetings and sector forums held under these arrangements and felt they were adding value. However, no one pointed us to an identifiable outcome. We agree that there is a time and place to establish relationships and share information. We expect these meetings to develop quickly and lead to a more defined result.

Unique identifier and pipeline analysis

The national student number enables the Ministry, agencies, and schools to collect detailed information about a student, and the interventions and funding that student receives. It also enables comparisons with educational achievement.

The Ministry and the Treasury have used individual student information for some analysis to understand the effect of educational success on life outcomes and lifetime use of government-funded social services.

This type of "pathway" analysis is easier to perform and more accurate when an individual's contact with different parts of the education sector and other social services can be uniquely identified. The existence of a unique student identifier is an important and positive building block for this better use of information.

One of the main reasons this type of analysis has been limited to date is because information about who is participating in which initiatives, and the direct cost of participation in those initiatives, is not collected systematically at the school level or centrally. It is not possible to identify who is participating in specific initiatives, including whether the participants are Māori, or what the cost of their participation is.

In our view, the ability to do a "pathway" type of analysis at an individual student level will increase over time. This presents an opportunity for the education system to really understand educational achievement for Māori and other students. However, this enhanced use of information requires better cost information and softer cultural information, as identified earlier in our report.

Recommendation 4
We recommendthat the Ministry of Education work with education agencies and schools to ensure that there is effective leadership and common understanding of the purpose and use of information to improve outcomes for Māori students. This includes:
  • ensuring that school charters have targets for Māori achievement, where appropriate;
  • having a planned approach to improve the quality and use of information;
  • taking stock of information the education sector has and how it is used; and
  • encouraging the education sector to work together to ensure that staff have the capability to use information effectively.
Recommendation 5
We recommend that the Ministry of Education improve practices to collect, analyse, use, and share information about Māori educational achievement. Priority should be given to:
  • sharing effective collection and analysis practices throughout the education system to improve Māori student achievement;
  • sharing practices so that schools use information and enquiry effectively to improve Māori student achievement;
  • improving the way schools collect student ethnicity data, which should include updating the Ministry of Education's ethnicity data collection guidance and examples; and
  • improving the availability of important and relevant cost information to inform decisions about investing in initiatives to improve Māori student achievement.

12: Issued under section 60A(1)(c) of the Education Act 1989. National Administrative Guideline 1(e): in consultation with the school's Māori community, develop and make known to the school's community policies, plans and targets for improving the achievement of Māori students.