A Review of the Education External Evaluation Services

Brian Donnelly Education Review Office


A Review of the Education External Evaluation Services




Whaia te iti kahurangi

(Strive for the Ultimate)

Honourable Brian Donnelly

Minister Responsible for the
Education Review Office

Honourable Wyatt Creech

Minister of Education

Honourable Paul East

Minister of State Services

Tena Koutou,

Tena ano koutou e noho mai
na i raro i te maru o te kawanatanga.

We are pleased to present you
with our Review of the Education External Evaluation System. Over the
last three months we have considered some 260 submissions, heard forty
oral presentations and held twenty four meetings to meet and talk with
principals, centre managers and boards of trustees members.

The contributions of those
who made submissions was invaluable in drawing our attention to the
perceptions of the practitioners and their varying responses to the
Education Review Office. It has been necessary to comment on and clarify
a number of misunderstandings about the nature of audit and review and
the processes adopted by the Education Review Office.

We have been fortunate in having
access to a body of literature on School Improvement and School Effectiveness
which led us to adopt the theme self-management, self-review, self

The recommendations presented
for your consideration are intended to clarify, refine and redirect
the focus of review. Retaining the audit function of the Education
Review Office was never in question. Our intention has been for
the system to deliver accountability while preserving autonomy in the
pursuit of excellence in education. We commend the recommendations
to you.


Margaret Austin Apryll Parata-Blane Wayne




  1. This report on the
    Review of New Zealand's Education External Evaluation System follows
    the four Terms of Reference approved by Cabinet and conveyed by the
    Minister responsible for the Education Review Office when he appointed
    the Review Panel. It examines the methodology and effectiveness
    of the Education Review Office's operation and considers the matters
    drawn to its attention in relation to self-review, the significance
    of external evaluations for schools and early childhood centres, how
    the Education Review Office determines satisfactory performance in schools
    and centres and how the Office communicates its findings.
  2. The Panel reports
    wide support for the Education Review Office's role as the independent
    external evaluator of New Zealand's pre-tertiary educational services.
    The intention in this review is to focus attention specifically on the
    enhancement of effective teaching and learning. In this regard,
    the Panel notes the vital importance of the Education Review Office
    communicating its evaluation philosophy and practices. The Panel
    recognises that its recommendations will place short-term demands on
    the professional leaders in schools and centres although it is convinced
    that the ultimate gains will be worthwhile. There is an onus of
    responsibility on all the key players - the Ministry of Education, the
    Education Review Office, schools and centres - if New Zealand is to
    achieve the quality of education outcomes the community deserves.
  3. The Panel was requested
    to keep its recommendations fiscally neutral and it is confident that
    this has been achieved, although there are some Budget implications
    for the future for the Ministry of Education. The recommendations
    are wide ranging and give effect to the request that the review maximise
    the effectiveness of the Office.
  4. A number of major
    issues have been identified. The Panel considered the legal framework
    under which the Education Review Office operates as set out in the Education
    Act (1989) and the Public Finance Act (1989). These are discussed
    at length, were found to be adequate and no change is recommended.
    Changes are recommended for parts of the Education Act (1989) to accommodate
    changes to the charter requirements and powers of entry to Hostels.
    The present exemption of Boards of Trustees from the provisions of s.41
    (2) (f) of the Public Finance Act should remain but comparable accountability
    will be met through a requirement for three yearly strategic plans with
    annual statements of performance indicators in Board Charters.
  5. The guiding theme
    adopted by the Panel is self-management, self-review and self-improvement.
    Although the National Administration Guidelines specify that Boards
    of Trustees are to maintain an on-going programme of self-review, the
    Panel found that the effective implementation of self-review in schools
    and centres is in its infancy at present and will require developmental
  6. The proposed recommendations
    have three possible outcomes:
  • eliminating the
    misunderstanding about the nature and importance of accountability,
  • enabling schools
    and early childhood education centres to move through self-review to
    self-improvement and
  • ensuring that the
    requirements of the Public Finance Act can be met without the need to
    engage in annual audit of Statements of Service Performance.
  1. The Charter, as
    set out in s.61-64 of the Education Act, (1989), exists in schools and
    centres but it has failed to emerge as a functional document guiding
    their operation. Schools and centres should be required to insert
    Three Year Strategic Plans into their Charters along with the preparation
    of annual Statements of Performance Indicators. The Annual Report
    of the Boards and centres would be made against the plan and the indicators.
    The plan and indicators would also be used by the Education Review Office
    for evaluation and audit purposes.
  1. The Panel welcomes
    the intention of the Education Review Office to move to Accountability
    Reviews. The Board Declaration should continue to be used for
    compliance purposes, to allow the Education Review Office to focus on
    the real business of educational effectiveness and outcomes. The
    Education Review Office, however, must communicate to schools and centres
    its intentions as it puts in place the accountability review process.
    A national strategy in this regard must be implemented as a priority.
  2. The Education Review
    Office is an evaluation and audit agent which values its independence
    and integrity, a view that has widespread favour and support.
    Therefore, it would be inappropriate for the Education Review Office
    to have an advice and guidance function, or to be involved in enforcement.
    The Panel has commented on the need for a hierarchy of advice and guidance
    responses involving, for example, the Ministry of Education, the Advisory
    Services including consultancies, an 0800 Help Desk, and the Internet.
  3. The National Evaluation
    Reports are generally held in high regard, considered informative and
    helpful in describing best practice and in drawing attention to
    developmental issues which affect schools and centres. They stimulate
    debate on issues that, while acknowledged by practitioners as being
    important, are not necessarily the subject of ongoing discussion.
    These reports must continue.
  4. Concern has been
    expressed about Maori Education and the Education of Maori. The Panel
    recommends that the Education Review Office give priority to these areas
    in their assessment of both provision and effectiveness as well
    as in producing a national evaluation report in 1998.
  5. Negative attitudes
    to students with disabilities persist in some New Zealand schools. The
    Panel has recommended that the Education Review Office focus on Special
    Education in the 1998/99 year and produce an Evaluation Report on provision
    and practices.
  6. The reporting process
    of the Education Review Office was considered at length. Boards
    of Trustees, Principals and Teachers seem unaware that the oral report
    is an exit exercise undertaken by reviewers after which the review team
    analyses its findings and forms judgements on them. The Panel
    recommends changes to the timing and content of these reports including
    clarification of the dispute resolution procedure. Three months
    should elapse between receipt of the unconfirmed report, its confirmation
    and subsequent release to the media. This will allow for negotiation
    on points of difference, preparation of an action plan by the Board
    of Trustees and a management report on implementation to address the
    recommendations in the report. These progressive actions would
    be included in the confirmed report. The Panel recommends that
    the report contain an introduction prepared by the school or centre
    describing the context in which it operates, brief details of significant
    achievements since the last review and issues on which the school or
    centre is working.
  7. The Panel endorses
    the policy of all confirmed reports being public documents which are
    available to the media.
  8. The Panel views
    with alarm the degree of misunderstanding and misinformation about the
    nature and function of the Education Review Office which exists in the
    field. Many submissions revealed a lack of knowledge of the ongoing
    oversight and annual review of performance of government department
    chief executives by the State Services Commission. The Ministry
    of Education and the Education Review Office have a responsibility to
    communicate and disseminate information and to ensure that it is understood.