Influencing the future of curriculum development

Issue: Volume 101, Number 14

Posted: 1 November 2022
Reference #: 1HAXb5

The Curriculum Advisory Group (CAG) is committed to supporting teachers and kaiako by finding ways to build more trust between Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga | The Ministry of Education and the sector. Two key members are co-chairs Sarah Martin and Āwhina Gray.

Following the independent review of Tomorrow’s Schools, the Government agreed to establish Te Poutāhū | Curriculum Centre within Te Mahau as the leader of national curriculum and assessment for Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Āwhina Gray

Āwhina Gray

In 2021, to help with this work, there was a call to New Zealand’s leading curriculum innovators to express their interest in being part of the newly formed Curriculum Advisory Group (CAG). Two such innovators are Sarah Martin and Āwhina Gray, who are now the co-chairs of the CAG. 

The CAG’s purpose is to provide fresh perspectives and strategies to the Ministry on how to strengthen curriculum leadership, especially in building a learner/whānau curriculum system in which ākonga can see themselves every day.

Āwhina and Sarah are excited about the potential of their roles and about the CAG as a whole.

“This focus on curriculum is such a beautiful opportunity. It is the heart and soul, in my view, of ensuring our young people are served; they’re exposed to stuff that really matters,” says Sarah.
“It’s real. It weaves the critical knowledge and the capabilities, skills, dispositions, that are going to set our young people up to thrive and to flourish.”

Sarah adds to this, saying, “We are looking at coherence across the three curricula, we want curriculum to act as a lifeblood and enable a consistent experience for all learners and their whānau.”

Transitions and progressions

Part of this work involves looking at the best ways to achieve seamless transitions through the education systems where learning experiences are built on, leaving none of the prior learning behind. 

“I think we have to do better as a system to keep [learning] pathways as unobstructed as possible and make sure that the experiences of whānau and ākonga along the way aren’t lost or become irrelevant,” explains Āwhina.

This is where the composition of the group is helpful, as their different perspectives can assist in creating a holistic view of the education experience.   

“I think for a group like the CAG and [its] advisory role, you need the different voices and the different perspectives to create the picture and to appreciate the picture,” says  Āwhina. 

“It’s about clarity for teachers, clarity for learners and their whānau about the learning that should not be left to chance,” adds Sarah.

The CAG has been looking at where they can add the most value and be most influential. A priority theme is providing advice around the concept of progression and progress across curricula. 

“How do we build a system that is trustworthy, builds confidence and informs us about the extent to which it is improving?” asks Sarah.

Sarah Martin

Sarah Martin

Bicultural collective

Another key theme is the notion of a bicultural and indigenous curriculum, especially one that reflects partnerships and respect for local knowledge.

Āwhina views one of the hallmarks of an indigenous curriculum is the ability to equip whānau and tamariki for the future while still retaining traditional values.  

“Mātauranga grows like any knowledge, and it must. In order to contribute and be sustainable, knowledge needs to grow and be dynamic and organic. At the same time, we don’t want to lose what is important.”

CAG’s members represent all parts of the education system from early learning to senior secondary (including NCEA), for both English and Māori medium settings. 

Āwhina likens it to having a networked system, much like a city that needs infrastructure, access and pathways that are clearly signposted to enhance a learner’s agency. The curriculum infrastructure needs to make it easy for learners to move between education settings and mediums, without impacting progress. It also needs to provide universal entitlement and access for all learners.

“We’re finding opportunities in the current structure and making recommendations as to what might need to change to enable it to keep serving communities in a way that’s going to be responsive in the future,” she says.

Experienced educators

Both Āwhina and Sarah are experienced educators. Āwhina started teaching at the age of 19.

“If I could go back now to when I was a 19-year-old teacher, I’d be more focused on student learning rather than my teaching.”

Since 1997, she has worked almost exclusively in the Māori medium sector and has been involved in a variety of Ministry of Education initiatives including the initial re-development of  Te Mātauranga o Aotearoa in the 1990s through to the current redesign of the marautanga and resources to support the revised mātauranga as well as working with kaiako in the Māori medium community. 

“The Māori medium PLD community is small, so we know each other well and often work closely together. The relationships we have with one another as individuals and across organisations is a real strength. It’s very much a collective.

“There is no hierarchy in the CAG. We might be coming from different perspectives, but we’re all starting in the same place trying to find the spaces that we can have influence and put energy into as a group.”

Sarah went into teaching 25 years ago and has had many memorable experiences during this time. Her goal has always been to make learning real and engaging for those the system has often not served.

“Kids are often our biggest teacher. How do we ensure that all learners see themselves in the learning and are excited every day to come to school? Creating a seamless curriculum experience for ākonga has great potential to help us achieve this.”

Sarah went on to do exemplar work and take on leadership roles while promoting education reform both in New Zealand and overseas. She is the foundation principal of Stonefields School in Auckland and was appointed to the CAG after involvement with the Curriculum, Progress and Achievement Ministerial Advisory Group.

“That was a really neat opportunity to think with diverse sector colleagues about curriculum and progress. That is the reason I was keen to be involved in this work [CAG]. I wanted to see the continuation of some recommendations.”

Curriculum is at the heart of setting ākonga up to thrive and flourish.

Curriculum is at the heart of setting ākonga up to thrive and flourish.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:20 pm, 1 November 2022

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