Curriculum at the heart of teaching and learning

Issue: Volume 101, Number 8

Posted: 30 June 2022
Reference #: 1HAUt7

Ellen MacGregor-Reid, Hautū | Deputy Secretary for Te Poutāhū, the Curriculum Centre of Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga | The Ministry of Education, talks to Education Gazette about the vision for curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand – and the work that’s underway to get us there.

Ellen MacGregor-Reid, Hautū | Deputy Secretary for Te Poutāhū |Curriculum Centre.

Ellen MacGregor-Reid, Hautū | Deputy Secretary for Te Poutāhū |Curriculum Centre.

Ellen MacGregor-Reid has welcomed the calls in recent years for the Ministry of Education to have a clearer and stronger presence in curriculum.

“We need a space and a place in the Ministry that clearly focuses on curriculum and the supports and services that go around curriculum. Our ambition is to have a curriculum centre that’s known and trusted as the steward of national curricula for Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Ellen, who has been with the Ministry for seven years, most recently taking the reins of
Te Poutāhū, following the Ministry’s reorganisation after the Tomorrow’s Schools Review in 2019.

Origins of Te Poutāhū

Calls for a nationally based curriculum centre to provide curriculum leadership and expertise emerged from the Tomorrow’s Schools Review in 2019. There were also calls for a stronger focus on supporting early learning services, schools and kura at a local and regional level, through the establishment of an ‘education services agency’.

Fast-forward to today and that agency is now Te Mahau, with its three frontline groups spanning northern, central and southern Aotearoa. The curriculum centre is Te Poutāhū and is part of Te Mahau.

Picture a whare. Te Mahau is the front porch, accessible and visible. Te Poutāhū is the pou at the front of the whare – part of Te Mahau, and one of the main and enduring supports for education. And Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga is the central ridgepole that runs the length of the whare, with its enabling functions sitting within the whare.

Clarity, flexibility and responsiveness

The Curriculum Centre has been described by some as one of the main supports for education, leading the evolution of our curricula, providing systems and processes for curriculum associated assessment, and, with Te Mahau, developing and providing curriculum focused services that work for teachers and kaiako.

“What we need to build towards is being a place that works with the profession, for the profession, to provide curriculum supports and services that are high quality, that teachers, kaiako, leaders, tumuaki, want to use and that provide educational benefit to ākonga. The profession will want to use the curriculum supports and services we offer if they’re helpful, useful, clear, locally relevant and if they actually reflect the realities of being in a learning environment. People don’t have to use the services we’re offering.– they can choose what they do or don’t use in delivering teaching and learning and the curriculum,” says Ellen.

One of the major steps for Te Poutāhū, along with the refresh of the schooling curricula, will be the overhaul of TKI (Te Kete Ipurangi), replacing it with a modern online platform with curated resources, to be piloted next year. Over the next two years the focus will be on providing clarity in the curriculum documents about the most important learning, common practice frameworks that people can use – particularly in literacy and numeracy –and online and regional supports for teachers and kaiako.

“One thing we’re really clear about in Te Poutāhū is that we want to have an ongoing focus on curriculum,” explains Ellen. “We have work occurring in support of Te Whāriki, we have the refresh of The New Zealand Curriculum and redesign of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, and we also have the change programme for NCEA.
We recognise that’s a lot. So, we want to have a curriculum centre that is constantly keeping an eye on our curriculum and on our assessment systems and evolving them incrementally, so we don’t have to go through big change programmes again. And some of that insight will come from the trusted relationship between Te Mahau regional curriculum expertise, which we are growing, and schools and services.”

Growing expertise

Te Poutāhū is intentionally placed within Te Mahau to allow that relationship to flourish and that regional expertise to grow.

The Curriculum Leads – 38 and counting – are based all over the country and play an important role in supporting teachers and kaiako in the use of the national curriculum and to design their marau ā-kura and local curriculum.

“As we build more Curriculum Leads and expertise locally on the ground, that will not only be a place of support, it will equally be a place of insight for
Te Poutāhū,” says Ellen. “We need to know: what do people need? What’s going to help? Early learning services, schools, kura – they’re busy places, there’s a lot going on. One size does not fit all. And what we think might be a great product, a really helpful curriculum support, actually might not be hitting the mark. So having that regional network of curriculum expertise that is working with early learning services, schools, kura, that can come back to us in the Curriculum Centre and say, ‘Hey that’s a great idea but maybe try something a bit different’ or ‘How might we think about tweaking it?’

“If we’re going to have supports that people want to engage with, want to use and that are actually worth their salt in terms of making life easier, then the only way to do that is authentic partnership.”

The interface between the Ministry and the sector is becoming increasingly supple, which is helping to inject more expertise into the work at hand, says Ellen.

“We now have a lot of curriculum expertise feeding into our work. We have a whole range of curriculum advisory groups made up of teachers, leaders, educational experts. And equally we have staff in Te Poutāhū who have the lived experience of being in the early learning setting, being in the classroom, grappling with the multitude of issues that teachers face every day.”

Bicultural and inclusive

This expertise is helping inform the curriculum refresh. Feedback from the profession and the Ministerial Advisory Group has called for the schooling curriculum documents – The New Zealand Curriculum and
Te Marautanga o Aotearoa – to provide more clarity about the learning that needs to happen, as well as the flexibility for localisation and for innovation.

The Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories and Te Takanga o Te Wā content are a live example of the curriculum refresh in action, says Ellen.

“If we take these two curricula, that content reflects what people can expect to see as the new framing around ‘Understand, Know, Do’ and provides more clarity around progression. At the same time, it must be localised so that content has been done in a way that gives the clear signposts for the types of learning that should occur and some of the topics that should be covered. But it also provides the space for those local histories to be told. And really importantly, for local iwi to tell their stories, and for their stories, which they own, to be told in a way that is authentic to them.

“So, when we think about the supports for Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories and Te Takanga o Te Wā, yes, there are some of those national level supports, but also we’re really looking at how we work with our Curriculum Leads, with iwi and with the wider local community to provide that richness of local story and local context.”

Ellen gives the examples of conversations with the Chinese community in Otago around the experiences of Chinese miners, and in Auckland, with Pacific communities about the stories that are important to them, and right across the motu, bringing to the fore stories of iwi, by iwi.

“The work of the Curriculum Centre needs to be inclusive, it needs to be bicultural and it needs to properly reflect Te Tiriti.”

Towards a more accessible NCEA

Inclusivity is a common thread across the work happening in curriculum and NCEA.

Of the seven key changes that will be introduced as part of the NCEA change programme, one of the important ones is to make it more accessible.

“The NCEA change programme is about making sure the NCEA system is evolving to give those coherent pathways for young people so the qualifications they get reflect the most important learning,” says Ellen. “It’s also about making sure how assessment occurs is inclusive so that assessment tasks aren’t unknowingly preventing some students from taking part in assessment.

“So, if you have a physical disability, how might assessments in Chemistry be done in a way that you can still demonstrate that you have the chemical knowledge and the full understanding, even if due to some form of physical disability you’re not able to complete all of the actual experimental tasks on your own? How might the assessments be done in a way that all students can demonstrate their knowledge and competence in learning without an assessment task excluding them?

“How can Mātauranga Māori be reflected in what is assessed? How can our local knowledge, our local context be reflected in what is assessed? How do you have those assessment tasks reflect the identity, language, culture here and be inclusive, be bicultural, be engaging, and really importantly be credentialing the most important learning?”

Listen and respond

The answers to these questions are being sought in the mahi Te Poutāhū is undertaking in partnership with the sector. Ellen, while conscious of the volume of work underway, is excited about the vision, and committed to the journey ahead.

“In five years’ time, I hope we’re at a place where the sector can say that Te Mahau provides clarity about what is going on, that teachers, kaiako, tumuaki, say, ‘You know what? The curriculum is looking pretty good. This is exciting; we want to work with this. The services we get from Te Mahau and Te Poutāhū help us in delivering this curriculum.’ And I hope that they would say that we listen to them, and that we change as we can and as we need to.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:03 am, 30 June 2022

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