Leading the change

Issue: Volume 96, Number 2

Posted: 13 February 2017
Reference #: 1H9d61

New Secretary for Education Iona Holsted says that changing what we do and how we do it is the way to meet the challenges facing the New Zealand education system.

Newly appointed Secretary for Education Iona Holsted is excited to be charged with leading the sector at a time of significant change.

“For me, signing up to this role is a great opportunity to work with the sector to achieve equity and excellence for all learners,” she says.

“I know that sector leaders, the team at the Ministry, teachers, school leaders and others are just as committed as I am to boosting student achievement and providing children and young people with a first-rate education.”

As the former Chief Review Officer and Chief Executive of the Education Review Office (ERO), Iona says she learned a lot through the evaluative and evidence lens that continues to inform her thinking.

“I have been very fortunate to have seen so much to be proud of in the New Zealand education system."

“There are thousands of dedicated professionals working in the early learning, compulsory and tertiary sectors. There are also thousands of parents who give their time, largely unpaid, to govern the system and support their children.”

Iona says our very best students more than equal the best in the world.

“One of the high points in the education calendar is the scholarship awards. It’s not that the recipients are simply the brightest academically, but typically they play sport, have out-of-school hobbies, and contribute to their schools and wider communities."

“They stand confidently and speak with humility. Contrary to popular belief these young people do not all hail from so-called elite schools – they come from across the board.”

Most of our young people emerge from school and post-school study well equipped to enter their preferred job and the number of Māori and Pacific students leaving school with NCEA Level 2 has risen, Iona says.

“However, it remains a fact that achieving excellence and equity in student outcomes is the major challenge facing the New Zealand education system."

“Doing more of the same will not address these issues. Our system needs to step up and respond to the challenge by changing what we do and how we do it.”

So what objectives has Iona set for the next four years?

“The future of an excellent and equitable education system lies in creating learning pathways that meet each child’s need from 0–18 and beyond,” she says.

“Communities of Learning (CoL) are the organisational and resourcing model to support a responsive local curriculum centred on learner needs. They provide the framework and opportunity to share knowledge and expertise, stimulate improvement and innovation, and improve teaching and learning through collaboration."

“Supporting the establishment and success of the CoL is a top priority for the Ministry. More than half a million children are now benefitting from their schools and ECEs being part of CoLs and I look forward to this number continuing to grow."

“While it will take some time to connect early learning services to CoLs, even ahead of formal connections, the adults in the system need to join up to ensure seamless transitions from early learning to school.”

Iona says CoLs help to support personalised learning pathways.

“We have launched the Learning Progressions app that describes learning progressions across the curriculum from years 1–9. This app describes the characteristics of learning at every step in The New Zealand Curriculum. This provides teachers with a ready resource upon which to make judgements about learning progress and take deliberate teaching actions to advance their progress."

“I also want to ensure we have a renewed focus on helping parents and whānau to become engaged in their children’s learning. Parental engagement is not a nice to have; there is considerable evidence to show that it is critical to achievement for all students.”

Iona says the review of funding for early learning services and schools, and the proposed changes to the Education Act are also designed to target funding where there is the greatest need.

“These initiatives are all designed to ensure every New Zealander receives the exceptional education experience that they deserve, and I know all of us in the sector are committed to ensuring that happens.”

About Iona Holsted


After two and a half years as the CEO and Chief Review Officer of the Education Review Office (ERO), Iona has taken on the role of Secretary for Education and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Education.

Born in the east coast town of Tolaga Bay and raised up the road in Whakatane, Iona Holsted left school at 16 and enrolled at Hamilton Teachers’ College.

Her first primary teaching job was at Owairaka School in Auckland, before moving to Wellington to become the full-time president of the Student Teachers’ Association of New Zealand.

Iona returned to teaching for several years before going to work for the Public Service Association negotiating employment contracts. She later headed the Newtown Union Health
Service and then went into public service, first with the State Services Commission, then the Ministry of Social Development, before joining ERO.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 12:46 AM, 13 February 2017

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